As hard as it was to watch, I knew I had to go back and look at some defensive tape from Monday night’s loss to Detroit. It was a hard game to stomach, but you have to evaluate the good, and the bad. I know many fans are calling for Dom Capers’ job right now, and I honestly can’t say that I blame them. I know tensions are high but these types of lapses do happen. If you have read my articles in the past you know that I am a Capers fan. Hopefully things can turn around, and I think they will. However, like many others, I am growing restless. You want to see a defense go out and get things done, and it feels like we haven’t seen much of that in the past two weeks.
The main objective of any defense is to get off the field quickly and get the ball back in the hands of the offense. This means that third down is crucial. Any successful defense wins on third down, and Monday the Packers did not do that. Lets go to the tape and look to see how the defense fared on third downs.
Here is the first third down of the game. The Packers are in a cover 3 look on a third and long situation. The defense is facing 3 vertical routes, which would be a typical call for offenses in this situation. The key for the corners is to have inside leverage so they can also use the boundary as another defender. Watch Davon House squeeze the receiver toward the boundary and play it pretty well. The coverage was played well but this play – and drive – was killed by a mental error and a bad penalty with the Mike Daniels headbutt. Not a very smart play. Emotions must be kept under control in all circumstances, and it cost the defense on this play.
Here is a third down play earlier in the game. The defense looks like they are rotating into a cover 6 look, where one side is playing cover 2, and the other side cover 4. The thing that hurts this play is that there seems to not be enough underneath defenders. In my opinion, this is not the time to bring pressure, and I usually am all for bringing pressure. This may also be more of a man coverage look underneath, with Damarious Randall covering the receiver across the formation. There may have been a breakdown in communication here. Davon House passes off the #1 receiver who finds the soft spot in the coverage. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix plays it well, but there was a breakdown with the underneath defenders.
Another early third down play. Detroit comes out in a 3X1 set with the Packers in their dime personnel. The #2 receiver runs a flag route, and the Packers are playing a 2 under look; that is, they are playing man coverage with 2 deep defenders for help. Some wondered why the safeties were playing so deep here. The thing is, they must play this deep in order to give support to the underneath defenders. Damarious Randall plays him pretty well and has pretty good support over the top. I would have liked to see him turn quicker once the ball was thrown, but they do a good job in squeezing the receiver toward the boundary. A penalty killed this play as well, with Clay Matthews jumping offsides. That, to me, is one of the most frustrating penalties of all time.
This was one of the most frustrating calls to me, and as you know, I generally always defend Capers’ play calling abilities. The defense goes with 6 man pressure, playing cover 3 behind it. If you look at the top of the screen though, you can see that this is a 3rd and long situation. I understand that he wants to get pressure to force the bad throw, but sending 6 is very risky. If you send 6, then you are only left with 3 deep defenders and 2 underneath players. If Capers wants to send 6 man pressure, I think it would be safer to play man coverage behind it. With the way the defensive backs have fared though, a 3 deep look might be better. Had this ball been thrown better it would have been a first down, or at least close to a first down. Matt Stafford tries to fit the ball between Blake Martinez (an underneath defender) and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who is playing the middle third. The defense avoided a big play here.
3rd and 4. The defense shows a three deep rotation look sending 5 man pressure. Detroit sends 2 vertical routes and a wheel route by the #1 receiver. A wheel route is an out and up look. The receiver will look as if he is running in the flats and then turn up and go vertical. Damarious Randall bites on the initial route, and once the receiver turns to go vertical, Randall is beat. He has no support over the top, so once he is beat, he is beat. This also is a stand out play by the receiver who makes a great catch. The vertical route by the #2 also draws the nickel player out and there is no help. This was a pretty disheartening play.
Another cover 3 look on 3rd down vs a 3X1 set. Capers’ again here is sending 6 man pressure. The problem with cover 3 is that the flat area becomes very vulnerable. Kevin King reads the #2 receiver and breaks quickly – too quickly – and runs himself out of the play. With only 2 underneath defenders, this type of play is hard to defend running cover 3. Again, I get that you want to get pressure, but there is a time to do it.
I think we’re starting to see a trend.
3rd and 7. The Lions come out in another 3X1 set. I think Detroit ran a lot of 3X1 sets because it is one of the hardest offensive sets to defend. The defense must make checks to account for that third receiver. The defense shows a cover 1 look with Kevin King matched up on the #1. The Packers send 5 man pressure and King plays it pretty well. Usually, Capers will turn to a man coverage look inside of the 30. King gets turned around a little, but makes an athletic play to recover. We have seen so much 5-6 man pressure on third down, but one thing is in common; no sacks. The front is almost as much to blame as the secondary. If you are sending constant pressure, you must get the quarterback down. We didn’t see that in this game. The secondary can only hold them for so long before things start to go wrong. If that happens, it might be better to only send 4 and play more of a cover 2 look.
We’ll look at two more plays. Stay with me.
Third and long situation and again we see 5 man pressure. The rush is very wide, and the tackle simply rides out the stunt. The defense shows a two deep look. Kevin King, the corner, reads the #2 receiver. Once the receiver breaks out, King plays that route, which leaves the #1 receiver open. I find it a little different that Capers would play cover 2 behind a 5 man rush, where we usually see him play a 3 deep look. We see here why it is hard to play 2 deep behind that pressure. This was one of the worst out of any of the third down plays.
Lets end on a good note. 3rd and goal situation, and the defense stuffs the play. Blake Martinez particularly does a good job here, coming downhill and stopping the sneak. This, unfortunately, was the highlight of the defensive performance against Detroit.
A lot of bad things happened in this game defensively. That’s no secret. The thing that frustrates me the most is that the defense played this poorly coming off of a bye week. I’m not like most. I still don’t want to see Capers gone. Though I usually defend his play calling abilities, I did question a lot in this game. What was called, in the situation that it was called, did not make much sense to me. Since the offense is without Aaron Rodgers, the defense needs to step up in a big way. Let’s hope for a turnaround against Chicago.
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