What started as a joke in training camp could actually become true heading into the final week of the regular season. The Green Bay Packers look like defensive football his team, despite winning his MVP at quarterback two times.
“We’re a defensive team now,” Aaron Rodgers joked in July. “It’s one of the best defenses we’ve had on paper.”
At the time, Rodgers fully expected the offense to get spanked on the practice field almost every day. For the most part, that turned out to be true as the offense adapted to life without Davante Adams while dealing with injuries.
The Packers, meanwhile, possessed what appeared to be a complete defense with seven first-round picks. learned that the game cannot be won on paper.
Coverage breakdowns and misunderstandings allowed Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson to explode for 184 yards and two touchdowns in a 16-point loss. Green’s gargantuan performance of his Bay defense was mind-boggling to say the least, judging by their talent. Unfortunately this was only the beginning of the disappointment.
The Packers suffered a five-game losing streak midway through the season that saw their defense fail a struggling offense and allow 23.8 points per game in that stretch.
Green Bay rejuvenated with an overtime victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10, but it was only for a moment. They lost the next two games by allowing Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill to dice them before Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts rushed for a franchise-record 157 yards at quarterback. .
Sitting from 4 to 8, everyone wanted an answer. Specifically, on why the defense played so poorly.
Frustration had settled in Joe Barry’s plan, which didn’t seem to make adjustments each week to change its predicament. Rather than parting with the defensive coordinator, he refused to nominate anyone and instead put the blame on everyone, including the players.
“You are never alone,” says LaFleur. “It starts with myself, then the assistant coaches, then the players.
Barry’s defense then began to tackle what they hadn’t been able to do for most of the season. It is to create turnovers. In his first 12 games of the season, the Packers forced his 12 turnovers. In their last four matches, they have matched on aggregate.
A 3-10 victory over the Chicago Bears in Week 13 boosted their confidence. After scoring a second-half touchdown to put him up 26-19, corner Keyshian Nixon ended the game with his first career interception.
After a bye week, Rams quarterback Baker Mayfield threw a costly interception to Rasul Douglas with the team down 12 points early in the fourth quarter. That came to Miami on Christmas Day, where Tua Tagovailoa unleashed his three interceptions in the second half and Green Bay won his 26–20 victory.
The next opponent is the same offense that Jefferson led in gaining 395 yards at the start of the season. Unfortunately for Minnesota, it won’t be the same defense.
The game opened with a 105-yard touchdown return from Nixon, then a 75-yard pick 6 from Darnell Savage. They had a double-digit lead before the Packers offense came out on the field.
For the rest of the game, Barry’s defense adapted to the NFL’s leading receivers, putting Jaia Alexander on him for most of the game and providing rolling coverage in his direction to provide a lot of help. Unable to rely on a top target, Kirk Cousins was strip-sacked by Kenny Clarke, who threw three interceptions and recovered a fumble.
During their four-game winning streak, the Green Bay defense forced nine interceptions and three fumbles. They’re also allowing an improved 17 points per game, and the coverage and communication miscues that plagued this unit earlier in the year are far less prevalent.
“The guys are playing with each other. Sure, communication is a big part of getting everyone on the same page and getting them out there and performing, but I think our players are doing better. , I think they are playing with more passion.
Meanwhile, the offense has done a good job of not relying on the Hall of Fame quarterback’s heroic play that has been needed over the past few years. Over the last four games, the Packers have successfully balanced his game between runs and passes, averaging 202 yards per game passing, compared to his 139 yards per game average on the ground.
For good change, Rodgers is not responsible for making all plays. He hasn’t thrown 300 yards yet in a game this season. To make up for the difference, his defense is producing turnovers at an incredible rate, making it much easier for him to have an offense where he can focus on maintaining efficiency.
For now, Rodgers no longer carries the weight of the offense, and the offense no longer carries the weight of the Packers. All the talk over the summer that Green Bay is defensively his football team may have finally come to fruition.
Story originally published on Packers Wire