The Green Bay Packers defense is starting to live up its potential and all the hype fans heard throughout the offseason is becoming a reality. After a disappointing performance in Minnesota in Week 1, the defense has put together two consecutive strong performances that resulted in two victories.
In the last two games, the defense has allowed a total of just 22 points and the Packers have been able to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks in those two games. Plus, the defense was able to defeat the Buccaneers without their best cornerback in Jaire Alexander who suffered a groin injury early in the game and did not return.
The Packers defense didn’t allow a touchdown to Tom Brady and the Bucs until the final drive of the game when defensive coordinator Joe Barry went to a prevent defense and Tampa Bay finally moved the football by passing short and taking what the defense gave them. Overall, in this game, the Green Bay defense held an offense led by Tom Brady to just 285 total yards and only gave up one late-game touchdown.
The pass rush has been quite good with Rashan Gary, Preston Smith and Kenny Clark each ranking in the top six in the league in pressures entering the game in Tampa Bay according to Pro Football Focus. Against the Bucs, the Packers managed three more sacks and four hits on the quarterback to go along with five tackles for loss.
Clark had a big game, recording two sacks and two hits on the quarterback while Gary managed a sack in his third consecutive contest and also managed a quarterback hit. Preston Smith didn’t record a sack but was helpful in freeing up his teammates to get to the quarterback throughout the game.
While Clark and Gary got the sacks, Barry did a good job of mixing up his blitzes. He sent Quay Walker or De’Vondre Campbell and even his safeties on occasion. By sending five players after Brady and mixing up who was coming and from where, the defense was even able to keep an experienced pro at reading defenses like Brady off balance.
The secondary did a great job adjusting after Alexander was hurt early in the contest. Keisean Nixon took over at cornerback and played the slot while Rasul Douglas moved back outside along with Eric Stokes. While the Bucs were shorthanded at wide receiver due to injuries, the Packers secondary limited Brady to just 6.5-yards per attempt, a very low number for the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
Nixon who is known primarily for his play on special teams, was in on seven total tackles and forced a key fumble in the second half for the Packers. The combination of Nixon and Shemar Jean-Charles came through for the Packers in this game and were instrumental in holding Brady and the Bucs to just 12 points.
The Packers run defense also improved this week against Tampa Bay. After allowing the Bears to run through them, the defense held Leonard Fournette and the Bucs rushing offense to just 34 yards on 14 carries, a paltry 2.4-yards per rush. The tackling was also much better against Tampa Bay than it was the previous week against Chicago. Tampa Bay had just one first down by rushing the football in the entire game.
For the second straight game, the Packers defense also came up big on third down. Brady is a master at keeping drives alive and making clutch, third-down completions. But on Sunday in the heat of Tampa Bay, the Packers defense held the Bucs to just 2-of-11 on third downs. That’s just 18.2 percent. For the season now, the Packers defense has allowed opponents to convert just seven times on 31 third-down opportunities. That is a 22.6 percent success rate which is the best ranking in the league through three games.
The defense can still get better and it will as Walker gains more experience, the unit gels more as they get comfortable with one another and Alexander returns to the lineup.
But through three games, the Packers defense has showed what it is capable of when it plays its type of game. Now they need to go out and be consistent in the coming weeks and continue to play strong defense until the offense catches up. If that happens, this Packers team can be a contender again in 2022.
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