It’s the elephant in the room any time you get to talking Green Bay Packers football.
The defending champions are playing superbly on offense, clearly. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is an absolute monster and quite obviously the odds-on early season favorite to claim the most valuable player (MVP) award. And the Packers are rolling pretty, in general, with a 7-0 start to the year heading into their bye week.
But something’s just not right about this team. And the players, for their part, feel it too.
“It felt kind of weird around here today,” Green Bay linebacker Desmond Bishop told reporters on Monday. “I mean, we’re 7-0, but it didn’t quite feel like that. I think it’ll never be right. We could be 16-0. The defense, if we don’t play up to our capabilities, we’re never satisfied.”
If you’re looking to critique the Packers, their one most notable flaw isn’t particularly hard to identify. It’s on the defensive end, it’s obvious, and everyone knows it.
The defending champs are just giving up way too many big plays for comfort. It’s a habit that hasn’t burned them just yet but, if they keep playing with fire long enough, it undoubtedly will.
Packers head coach, Mike McCarthy, came right out and addressed it with reporters on Monday.
“Defensively, we’re giving up too many big plays, and that’s the bottom line.”
As per STATS LLC (via Washington Post), Green Bay has allowed 36 plays of 20 or more yards this year. That total is the second largest in the NFL. The defense is also allowing nearly 289 passing yards per game to the opposition, also good for second-worst in the league.
Like ESPN’s Kevin Seifert said recently, if not for their league-high 13 interceptions this year, the Packers defense would be feeling the pain from their below average play on the non-Rodgers side of the ball a lot more than they currently are.
Mind you, as the wear and tear of a season kicks in, and the cold weather begins to hamper the offense’s production, the ineffectiveness of the defense, whatever it may be, will become a full blown epidemic.
Look, injuries are obviously a big reason for why the Packers defense has suffered through seven weeks thus far, but it’s still not a valid excuse. Morgan Burnett and Charles Woodson have been hurting, clearly. The absence of Nick Collins ad Sam Shields is noticeable, to say the least.
There are no asterisks in the loss column for competitive disadvantages caused by guys getting hurt, though – and the good folks of Green Bay know that better than anyone. The coaches must re-scheme, the players must re-adjust, and changes need to be made before it’s too late.
Fortunately, there’s still time.
“I do think we can play a lot better,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers told the media. “That’s an encouraging thing to me. We’re 7-0. We’re doing some things well but we aren’t as consistent as we need to be. There are segments when you’ll see us play for a couple quarters, and we’ll play like we want to look, and then we’ll have a quarter in there where you don’t want to give up the big plays that we’ve had.
“That’s the best thing about it, to be 7-0 and haven’t even come close to really reaching our peak and reaching our full potential,” Bishop said. “It’s a good thing. It’s something we’ve got to work on, and when we do reach that (potential), it’s going to be scary.”