The Green Bay Packers’ fatal flaw is allegedly their run defense – A closer look at how they’ve played suggests they’ve been better than you think.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Green Bay Packers can’t stop the run. Their run defense will ultimately be their undoing in the playoffs.
That is criticism that comes with good standing. The last memory of their defense in the postseason is getting run over by Raheem Mostert and the San Francisco 49ers.
The Packers did little, if anything to address that this offseason. They added Christian Kirksey to their linebacking corps, but nobody else of significance in terms of draft capital.
They didn’t add anyone on their defensive line. It was mostly the status quo despite their embarrassing finish.
The beginning of their season, the Packers’ defense had some issues with slowing down opponents running games. They faced a bit of a gauntlet of opposing rushers.
Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara are on a short list for best running backs in all of football. The Packers faced them in two of the first three weeks of the season.
The Packers’ run defense reared it’s ugly head when the calendar turned to November.
Windy conditions forced both the Packers and the Minnesota Vikings to play a game really close to the vest. That’s the way the Vikings prefer to play regardless of the conditions.
What transpired was one of the more embarrassing performances in recent memory for Green Bay. Dalvin Cook carried the ball 30 times, totaled 168 yards, and three touchdowns. To add insult to injury, he had a receiving touchdown as well.
As that game ended, the questions persisted. Was the Packers’ season going to end again because they were unable to stop the most basic form of football?
They had four days to regroup before staring the team in the face that ended their season the year before. The San Francisco 49ers clearly saw what happened at Lambeau Field and were likely to try and emulate the same game plan.
The Green Bay Packers had to be ready. To their credit, they were able to limit Jerick McKinnon. The Packers blew out a 49ers team that resembled their JV squad due to COVID-19 and injury issues.
Since that game ended, the Green Bay Packers’ rushing defense has yielded the following totals to their opponents leading rushers.
Mike Davis 14 carries 59 yards
DeAndre Swift 7 carries 24 yards
Miles Sanders 10 carries 31 yards
David Montgomery 11 carries 103 yards (10 carries 46 yards if you remove a 57 yard run)
Jonathan Taylor 22 carries 90 yards
James Robinson 23 carries 109 yards
Some of those numbers are slightly skewed because of the way the Packers’ offense can hum, but that is going to be Green Bay’s best bet at stopping their opponent’s rushing offense anyway.
What is undeniable from the numbers above is how they’ve played better against the run. It’s not the strength of their defense by any stretch, but save for one big play, they’ve only allowed one 100 yard rusher.
The Bears’ 100 yard rusher was largely inconsequential to the outcome of the game because the Packers boat raced them out of the stadium.
If you remove the two 100 yard rushers, the Packers numbers are allowing 3.94 yards-per-carry to their opponent’s leading rusher.
With the two 100 yard games included, the Packers are only allowing 69.3 yards-per-game on the ground since November 15th. That is a significant improvement from the debacle from November.
There’s a variety of reasons for that. The Packers’ offense has been able to control some of the games they’ve played.
Some teams have abandoned their running game to attempt to attack the Packers’ porous pass defense outside of Jaire Alexander.
That is the key point that needs to be made. The Green Bay Packers will be getting a major test next weekend in Derrick Henry, but it’s their pass defense outside of Alexander that should be their biggest concern going into January.
Nobody is going to confuse this run defense with an elite unit, but they are trending in the right direction, and they deserve some credit for how they’ve played since Dalvin Cook diced them up in early November.