Green Bay Packers: Too early to worry about run defense


The Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears on Sunday and started the season 1-0 for the first time since 2011. The win was also against a divisional opponent, which makes it that much more important for the Packers as they march towards their goal of winning a Super Bowl championship.

Many fans are a little worried about one area of their team as they prepare for a NFC Championship rematch against the Seattle Seahawks, and it’s their run defense.

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Mike McCarthy said before the regular season that it could take the Packers a week or two to find their identity on defense. Whether he said that to give the defense a little leeway or if he was sincere is unknown, but fans are already worried about their defense.

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The Packers really struggled to get off the field on third down. They gave too many second chances to the Bears and it allowed the Bears to stay in the game until the very end. By not getting off of the field on third downs, the drive becomes extended for opposing offenses and takes the ball out of the hands of your best player,Aaron Rodgers.

It also wears down your defense, and a tired defense could come back to haunt a team later in the game. Luckily for the Packers, that wasn’t the case. But if the Packers were playing a far superior opponent, it could be a different story.

If the Packers were to struggle to get off the field against a team like the Seahawks or Patriots, the Packers really could have been in trouble. The Packers have to work on getting off the field on third downs and getting the ball back to their offense and Rodgers. One way of getting off the field earlier is doing a better job at stopping the run.

The Packers allowed 141 yards rushing to Matt Forte and 101 of those yards came in the first half. For a team that has Super Bowl aspirations, that is an unacceptable number. Mike McCarthy placed an emphasis on improving the rushing defense all offseason and in the first game of the year, the Packers didn’t put forth their best effort. At least it wasn’t based on the numbers.

So what exactly went wrong or why did the Packers struggle in stopping the run?

Some of it could be Sam Barrington coming out of the game due to an ankle injury. He’s a better run stopper than Nate Palmer. It also doesn’t help to lose your linebacker that calls out the plays and lines everyone up.

The biggest reason the Packers struggled on rushing defense could be due to two reasons. The first reason being the obvious and that was the Packers struggled to tackle the ball carrier. The Packers had too many missed tackles and Mike McCarthy said in his press conference on Monday that they counted double-digit missed tackles. That’s unacceptable for any defense.

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Luckily, that should be an area of the defense the Packers can work on, although it should have been worked on all offseason. The fact that it’s the first regular season game of the year, the Packers get a little bit of a pass. Now that the players have a full game under their belts, the defense has no excuse to not improve on their tackling.

It’s a fundamental and technique issue that will no doubt be a point of emphasis for the Packers this week in practice.

The second reason why the Packers rushing defense struggled against the Bears was the unknown factor. The Packers knew the type of running back Matt Forte was, but with new offensive coordinator Adam Gase, they were not sure how they would use Forte. It was difficult to scheme against the Bears new offense.

The perfect evidence in this is the adjustment the Packers made in the second half. They allowed 101 yards rushing in the first half from Forte, compared to 40 yards in the second half. The Packers were able to adjust to the unknown looks in the first half to improve in the second half.

Another positive that should be taken away from the Packers rush defense was the play from B.J. Raji and Mike Daniels. They were able to control their gaps and duties and performed their jobs very well on the defensive line. If you notice on a lot of Forte’s running plays, he either bounced the run outside or it was a toss or stretch play where he gained most of his yards.

If the linebackers and the rest of the back end of the defense can improve, the Packers have every chance to be good at stopping the run.

The Packers will face another tough test on Sunday against Marshawn Lynch, and also the risk of a running Russell Wilson. The Packers should be more prepared for the type of offense the Seahawks will run because of the familiarity with the team and the fact the Seahawks have played a regular season game.

So should Packers fans worry about their defense after one game?

As of right now, no. It is a little too early to really worry about the run defense. It is just one game against a new offensive regime. Plus, this was the first time that a lot of those guys on defense played together. What the Packers struggled with against the Bears can be fixed with game planning and working on fundamentals in practice.

No team really knows what they have the first week in the NFL and the Packers are no different.

But if the Packers struggle to stop the run like they did against the Bears, then maybe we can start to question the ability of the defense. The next two running backs the Packers face the next two weeks are Lynch and Jamaal Charles.

Even though those are tough assignments for the defense, they must show improvement against those players if they want to be a serious Super Bowl contender.

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