Packers' Defense, Please, Pick it up Already!

Matt KonkleContributor IDecember 2, 2008

So you say the Packers aren't that good?  Well, that's only half right.  When your team is No. 5 in the league in points scored and are holding a head-scratching 5-7 record, the blame needs to go to the defense. 

Not to say the Packers haven't had their struggles elsewhere (two long fourth quarter kick returns by the Panthers, a too-little-too-late decision to finally cut the punter that's been struggling all season, untimely offensive turnovers and stalled drives, etc.), but the defense just hasn't been able to step up with the game on the line.

The Packers' ability to stop the run varies week-to-week.  One week they are bad stopping the run and the next week, they are awful. 

Gap discipline is nonexistent when it comes to the big men upfront.  They are too easily forced out of the way, or simply abandon their gap responsibilities chasing after the running back, opening up the cutback lane. 

That wouldn't be as big of a problem if the linebackers would just take good angles to the guy with the ball, but they don't always do that.  Too often a linebacker will look to attack, running downhill, but end up chasing.  And the secondary, they can't get off those wide receiver blocks or they will just flat out miss the tackle.

Stopping the pass is the Packers' strength on defense, except when it's third down or when the game's on the line.  Too many times, especially on third and long, and especially on third and long, the opponent will convert. 

The secondary can't be blamed much for that because really, it's the lack of a pass rush that's hurting the team. 

Aaron Kampman did a good job getting two sacks against Carolina last Sunday, but those were legitimate coverage sacks.  Rushing four doesn't get the job done, and when the Packers blitz, the extra guys usually don't get there either.  Kampman has done a decent job getting 9.5 sacks on the season. 

However, the Packers only have 20 sacks total on the season, which ranks 26th in the NFL.  It's not hard for the opponent to realize doubling up on one guy will cut the Packer's sack production in half.

However, the biggest problem facing the Packers' defense, as previously mentioned, is the ability to close out a game.  Green Bay had the lead late in the game versus Minnesota, Carolina, and Tampa Bay, yet they allowed the opposition to score, take the lead, and win the game. 

They were tied late against Tennessee, allowed the Titans to drive from inside their own 10-yard line into field goal range, where they would miss the field goal, only to again allow the Titans to drive down the field in overtime for the game-winning field goal. 

And against the Falcons, the Green Bay offense managed to tie the game in the fourth quarter only to have the defense allow Atlanta to score 10 consecutive points thereafter.

Protecting a lead is something good defenses can do.  If a defense can't stop an offense when it really matters, then 5-7 is what you get.