Packers Defense Comes Through in the Clutch, Despite Obvious Flaws

Pat O'DonnellContributor IINovember 8, 2011

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 2: Willis McGehee #23 of the Denver Broncos is tackled by several defenders including Ryan Pickett #79 of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 2, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
Scott Boehm/Getty Images

For most of this year, the Packers' defense has been extremely difficult to watch.

From the torching by Drew Brees in the second half of the opening game against the Saints to the overall success to the likes of Sam Bradford of the Rams and Christian Ponder of the Vikings, this year's version of the Packers' defense has been abysmal.

At times, they remind you of East Tennessee State playing against LSU. There are receivers wide-open in embarrassing fashion.

Statistics also tell much of the story. The Packers rank 30th overall in yards given up per game and second-to-last against the pass. Their middle-of-the-road ranking of points given up per game (22.4) would be much worse if the offense wasn't as proficient in avoiding turnovers.

Aaron Rodgers has only thrown three interceptions compared to 24 touchdowns, and the offense and special teams have only lost four fumbles.

As head-scratching as it's been to consistently watch every team the Packers have played virtually move the ball at will, the Packers' defense has not been without its positives. They are leading the league with 16 interceptions and are second to the 49ers in passes defended, with 66.

They are also showing a clutch gene when it comes to making pivotal stops at the end of games like the 2010 version did throughout the playoffs. Unfortunately, the defense has only themselves to blame for being in that position in the first place. 

The Packers' inability to make defensive plays and get opposing offenses off the field has caused double-digit leads to all but evaporate in every game but three this season.

The games against the Rams, Broncos and Falcons were the only ones in which the defense maintained the team's lead or increased it in the second half.

This trend actually goes back to last year's playoffs in which the Packers, at some point in the game, held at least two-touchdown leads against Philly, Chicago and Pittsburgh only to have to make game-saving stops in each situation.  

Some of the blame fell on the offense's ability not to add to the lead, but they were able to do that this past Sunday by jumping out to a 21-point fourth-quarter lead against the Chargers.

But even a lead like that proved again to be just safe enough.

Until the 2011 version of the Packers' defense improves its pass-rushing, tackling and secondary responsibilities, much of the same will ensue.  For now, it seems the Packers will have to outscore opponents and allow their defense to continue to make game-ending stops.

After all, it is this strategy that has led the Packers to a franchise-record 14 straight wins.