Despite Critics, Don't Sell Packer Defense Short

Peter BukowskiSenior Analyst INovember 6, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 18: Johnny Jolly #97 and  Nick Barnett #56 of the Green Bay Packers celebrate a defensive stop against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on October 18, 2009 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Lions 26-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Packer fans are not happy with Dom Capers right now.

And they’re not the only ones. Players voiced their frustration following the loss to Minnesota, saying they were “handcuffed” to quote Cullen Jenkins.

Just don’t blame the defense for the Packers being 4-3.

You can understand the frustration when Green Bay showed no ability in two games to stop the Vikings offense, gave up a ton of points, and lost both football games.

Now, we are hearing from bloggers, writers, and fans that the Packers defensive rankings are inflated because they’ve played bad teams, and they don’t deserve to be considered a top tier defense. The Pack currently rank in the Top 10 in all four major categories: points, total yards, passing yards, and rushing yards allowed.

Critics will say those numbers are due to playing sub-standard teams, and if you look at the stats against the Vikings, they show the Packers really aren't that good.

They’re right about the stats, but they’re equivocating, and it’s not fair to this defense.

So since everyone wants to talk about the schedules, and the Packers in relation to the Vikings, let’s do that, and you may be surprised at the results.

The first contention fans make is the easy schedule the Packers faced outside of the Vikings. But the Packers, and Vikings, have played very similar schedules, rank on opposite ends of the league, and yet the Vikings are supposed to have an elite defense.

But take a look at the schedules. Each team has faced the Lions, Rams, and Browns. The Vikings gave up 933 yards and 40 points to those three, while the Packers gave up just 624 yards, and 23 points.

We know what happened in the head-to-head meetings, but both teams put up a ton of points, and a ton of yards. So those games are a wash.

You can’t count the extra game, because these rankings are based on a per game basis, not total. The only argument there would be that the Packers got some rest, and the Vikings didn’t. The difference is, the Vikings weren’t dealing with the same injury issues the Packers have been, so again, that ought to be a wash as well.

The rest of the schedule, so far, has been very similar. The Packers played a 4-3 Bears team, and a 5-2 Cinci team, both of whom have beaten the Steelers (to whom the Vikings fell just two weeks ago). The Vikings played 4-3 Baltimore, and 5-2 Pittsburgh, is this sounding familiar? Both the Packers, and Vikings, split their meetings, although the Vikes gave up 58 points, and Green Bay just 46.  

Now, consider the Packers have given up the fourth fewest total yards, and the Vikings the 19th fewest.

The Packers have faced Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson (Twice), Cedric Benson, and Stephen Jackson, and have given up just 13 yards, more on the ground per game than the vaunted Vikings rush D (The Packers rank ninth and the Vikings fourth).

This is defensive improvement. It was what Dom Capers was brought here to do. It isn’t the defense's fault the Packers can’t protect Aaron Rodgers. Last Sunday, the Packers' defense was constantly defending a short field, because the offense was putting them in horrible positions given their propensity to give up sacks, and penalties.

I hear you, there’s more to football than these rankings. Look at last season with the offense.

I get it.

The Packers couldn’t stop Brett Favre in either of the two meetings, and that hurts Packer fans. I know. But Favre has killed everyone this year. He’s playing at an elite level right now.

Green Bay ranks first in turnover ratio, and fourth in the league in interceptions. They have one of the best secondaries in the league, and they’re a Top-10 team statistically against the pass.

But the big criticism is, they’re not getting to the quarterback with just 11 sacks this season. Did you know 5-2 New England only has 12? Or 4-3 Atlanta only has 14? The Miami Dolphins are sixth in the league in sacks, and they’re 3-4. The Seahawks, and Redskins are tied for seventh in the NFL in sacks, and they’re a combined 4-10.

So to you who say stats aren’t as important as winning football games, I agree. Remember, the Packers are still very much in the thick of the Wild Car race, and have plenty of chances to separate themselves down the stretch.

The loss to Minnesota hurts, not only because it was a division game, but because Brett Favre was the QB. The division is all but out of reach, however, the schedule is still favorable.

Let’s not forget the Packers will likely go to 5-3 this week, and play a number of their wild card competition down the stretch, including a monstrous game against the Cowboys at Lambeau in two weeks.

Win the next two, and don’t make any big mistakes down the stretch, and the Packers are still in excellent shape to make the playoffs, not to mention finish with a top-ranked defense.

Fans need to push the images of Brett Favre out of their mind, and remember this was a 6-10 team last year killed by injuries, and inconsistency.

Aaron Rodgers has been sacked more than any quarterback in the league by far, and he’s still the highest rated QB in the league, not to mention how infrequently he’s turned the football over. A-Rod is the man who will have to step up down the stretch, create opportunities to score, and keep that defense off the field.

Consistency is the key. Play like a 10 defense every week, and it doesn’t matter what bloggers say, you are a Top-10 defense.

I don’t have to tell you what sorts of things defense wins.