Green Bay Packers: It's Time to Tackle a Big Problem

Bob FoxContributor INovember 13, 2013

Nov 4, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) rushes with the football as Green Bay Packers safety Morgan Burnett (42) and cornerback Sam Shields (37) defend during the second quarter at Lambeau Field. Chicago won 27-20.  Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Before the game against the Chicago Bears on November 4, the Green Bay Packers were 5-2 and had a lot of momentum, as the team had won four straight games.

Then, in the very first offensive series of the game, quarterback Aaron Rodgers fractured his clavicle on a tackle by defensive end Shea McClellin. That was a huge loss for the Packers, but the team still did enough offensively the rest of the night to be able to win the game.

Unfortunately, the defense took a major step back that nightand they are still backpedaling, especially after the loss last week to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Before the game with the Bears, the defense of the Packers was ranked 11th in the NFL and had given up an average of just over 331 yards a game.

The team was also ranked fourth in rushing defense, as the team had allowed an average of 83.6 yards a game.

That all changed after the performances by the defense in both the Chicago and Philadelphia games.

After those two games, the Packers have dropped seven spots in total defense in the NFL, the team is now ranked 18th in that category and are now allowing an average of 352.8 yards a game.

The biggest situation that has changed over the past two games is the run defense of the Packers. Green Bay is now ranked 13th in stopping the run and are giving up an average of 106.7 rushing yards a game.

The Packers have seen their run-defense average go up by 23 yards a game in just two games.

That's what happens when you allow Matt Forte of the Bears to rush for 125 yards and LeSean McCoy of the Eagles to rush for 155 yards.

But the things that really illustrate how bad the defense has been the last two games are the drives they have allowed in crunch time (crunch time being the fourth quarter).

The Bears went on a drive that lasted 8:58 late in the fourth quarter. That allowed the Packers less than a minute to score, as they were down by a touchdown.

The Eagles had the ball with 9:32 left in the game with a two-touchdown lead over Green Bay. The Packers never got the ball back.

Both drives were done via the run for the most part.

So, why is this happening?

For one, the outside linebackers and defensive ends aren't setting the edge outside in the run-game. Also, the secondary is whiffing on tackle attempts near the line of scrimmage. Finally, and most importantly, the tackling overall the past two games has been atrocious.

Yes, I know there have been injuries. Especially at outside linebacker. But that is no excuse.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Vernon Davis #85 of the San Francisco 49ers catches a twenty two yard touchdown pass over M.D. Jennings #43 of the Green Bay Packers in the first quarter at Candlestick Park on September 8, 2013 in San Francisco, Califor
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Now to add insult to injury, the secondary is also allowing big plays to occur via the pass—on plays that should definitely be made by someone in the secondary. Everyone is a culprit here. But the guy who sticks out like a sore thumb is safety M.D. Jennings.

Jennings is almost always a second or more too late to react on any pass thrown in his direction.

Bottom line, changes need to be made. C.J. Wilson needs to be activated to play, as he is one of the best run-stuffers on the team at defensive end.

The outside linebackers need to hold the edge in the run-game.

The secondary has to start making tackles, especially when defending the run.

Jennings needs to be replaced. But by whom? There are a number of candidates. Obviously Jerron McMillian couldn't beat out Jennings, so he's probably not the answer. The Packers could use Chris Banjo perhaps, or even put cornerback Micah Hyde at safety.

Whoever the new player is, they can't play any worse than Jennings has played.

Or why not work out veteran Ed Reed, who was just released by the Houston Texans? Reed is reportedly over his hip injury, and he brings a ton of experience, even if he is 35 years old.

Reed has played almost his entire career in the 3-4 defensive scheme and has 61 career interceptions, with seven of them being returned for touchdowns.

Bringing in a guy like Reed would basically be a half-year rental. General manager Ted Thompson is not prone to do this, at least in his current position, but he has done it in the past when he was pro personnel director for the Packers under Ron Wolf.

In 1996, the Packers signed wide receiver Andre Rison in the middle of the season, when the team was decimated by injuries at the position. Rison ended up playing a key role for the Packers as the team won Super Bowl XXXI.

The Packers are now at a crossroads. They are 5-4 and have to stop the bleeding, at least until Rodgers can come back.

It comes down to the fundamentals of tackling angles and tackling technique, at least for the defense.

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Wide receiver Golden Tate #81 of the Seattle Seahawks makes a catch in the end zone to defeat the Green Bay Packers on a controversial call by the officials at CenturyLink Field on September 24, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

It also comes down to having instinctive people in the secondary. Jennings is not instinctiveat least he hasn't shown that attribute up to this point.

The Packers are dead-last in the NFL in creating turnovers. The team has just eight turnovers in nine games with just three interceptions and five fumble recoveries.

That isn't going to change with Jennings playing a prominent role in the secondary. Ironically, Jennings has scored the only touchdown via a turnover by the defense this season, as he recovered a fumble and scored in the game against the Bengals.

But plays like that have been few and far between.

I'm sure most of you have heard the classic quote regarding the definition of insanity, which is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Something has to change this week defensively versus the Giants if the Packers expect to win.

A game in which Scott Tolzien will be making his first-ever start in the NFL at quarterback, just a couple of weeks after being called up from the practice squad.

Everyone has to do a better job if the Packers are going to get out of this two-game funk—the front office, the coaches and of course the players.

For that to happen, something has to change.


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