Everyone believed the defense would be different this year under Mike Pettine. They have shown flashes of playing at a championship level, and they have also shown flashes that makes you think Dom Capers is still calling the shots. They have been working through some injuries, sub-par safety play, below average edge rushers, and getting young players up to speed. However, the one consistent difference is this defense continues to get Rodgers the ball pack when it matters.
Against the Bears, the Packers were losing 17-0 at halftime. The defense had 5 drives in the second half. They held the Bears to an opening field goal in the second half. After the Packers first possession of the second half which they scored a field goal, the defense held them to two consecutive three and outs which led to back to back touchdowns for the Packers. The Bears only had the ball for a total of 3:50 in that time span. They then held the Bears to a field goal to keep the game in reach. The next possession Rodgers and the offense quickly took the lead, and the defense forced a fumble to seal the game. Not only did Rodgers and the offense needed the ball a lot the second half, but the defense had to stop the Bears from scoring touchdowns to have a chance which they did.
The other night was very similar, the defense looked absolutely lost in the first half giving up 24 points to the 49ers. The defense had 5 drives in the second half. After the Packers opened with a field goal, the defense held the 49ers to back to back field goals. Keeping them out of the end zone turned out to be huge because the Packers offense began stalling. The next three offensive drives for the Packers were a punt, turnover on downs, and punt. Losing by 7 and time dwindling, the defense came up huge the next two possessions forcing two consecutive three and outs which totaled negative yardage and only 3:19 off the clock. This gave Rodgers and the offense time to get things figured out and score the tying touchdown. After the ensuing kickoff which had an idiotic unnecessary roughness penalty, the 49ers had the ball at their own 47 with 1:49 on the clock. Green Bay had no timeouts, making a loss look to be apparent. The defense came up huge with an interception which led to Rodgers doing things only Rodgers can do to win the game. The offense stalled in the second half, and the defense answered the call.
Before this year, Rodgers and the offense needed to make every drive count, because they never knew if the defense would hold up their end. Twice this year after a struggling first half, the defense did more than keep the Packers in the game, they continued to get Rodgers the ball when he needed it. Also for good measure, they sealed both games with a turnover. Let’s not forget, the game against the Vikings should have been sealed with a turnover as well. They also shut out the Bills in dominating fashion. This would make the Packers 4-2 overall, which would give the expectations for this season a completely different feeling heading into the bye week.
The troubling aspect is starting both games in holes defensively by not being able to stop anyone. They cannot keep putting their selves in a position to have to dominate the second half. They also laid two eggs against the Redskins and Lions which are two games they should have won. This leads to the puzzling question of who are they? The bye week came just in time to figure that out, hopefully. But one thing remains certain, this defense knows how to get Rodgers the ball when he needs it. Too many times with Dom Capers led defenses, Rodgers and the offense never even got a chance at the end of the game to go win or tie. That era looks like it may be over. This defense knows the recipe to win games in clutch times, get Rodgers the ball at all costs.