The Green Bay Packers got their first win of the 2018 season Sunday in a thriller against the longtime rival Chicago Bears. The game was filled with many ups and downs. The first half had all of us worried that we were looking at a blowout loss, or worse, an injury to Aaron Rodgers. To all of our surprise we saw Rodgers emerge from the tunnel to start the second half and put on an amazing performance. I have to admit that this was one of my all time favorite Packer games, which is saying a lot. It was filled with every emotion possible when watching a game. Excitement turned to anger, which turned to sadness, which turned to hope, excitement again and finally the feeling of a Packers victory. As excited as I was after the win I was equally excited to break down the tape, specifically how Pettine’s defense did. Lets dive in and take a look at some good, and not so good, things that the Packers defense did on Sunday night.
Lets start with the defensive line. Pettine showed multiple front calls throughout the game, mostly a double 3 look. A double 3 is a nickel front with both interior defensive lineman in a 3 technique, or outside shade of the guard. When base personnel was on the field, like in the above clip, it was usually a bear front call. Its the same look with the interior defensive lineman because they are still in their 3 technique position, but the only difference is that a nose tackle is added in to the front.
Pay close attention to Kenny Clark in the nose tackle position. We were all expecting a big year out of Clark and he didn’t let us down on Sunday. Watch how he uses his offset arm to shed the block of the center, stay square, locate the ball carrier and make the tackle. It was the perfect combination of using leverage and finishing the play.
Next lets look at Mo Wilkerson. I have to admit, Wilkerson didn’t impress me at all during this game. Watch his rush here. He plays this rush way too tall. At the snap of the ball you can see that he is playing up and down. His helmet is above the helmet of the tackle and he finds himself laying in the dirt at the end of the play. He has to play with better leverage and quicker instincts. His ball get-off seemed too slow here as well. Compare his rush to Mike Daniels’ rush. Daniels rips across the face of the guard at the snap almost before the guard can get a hand on him. Every pass rush should be a relentless pursuit to get to the quarterback and play assignment defense.
Lets move on to the secondary play. Kentrell Brice stepped up big time in this game. He turned some heads during camp and has shown that he is capable of being a solid defensive back. The thing I noticed on this play is his break on the ball. He takes his read step, sees the #3 receiver run a hitch and then comes screaming downhill on his break to the ball. He is almost there before the ball makes contact with the receivers hands. This is a great example of vision and quick instincts.
I was interested to see what coverage calls Pettine would go with inside the red zone. Here he shows a soft cover 2 to the short side of the field. Kevin King is the flat defender with Brice playing the corner route over the top. King’s read in this coverage would be the #3 receiver, who happens to be the back. He sees him take off in to the flats and breaks hard on the route, preventing the touchdown. I liked the coverage call because it is able to take away everything that Chicago wants to do here.
We hardly ever saw quarters coverage called by Capers during his time in Green Bay. I was glad to see Pettine run some on Sunday because I feel like it does a good job of taking away a lot of things that the offense wants to do. The key to a successful cover 4 is pattern match reads. Rather than simply dropping to a zone – known as a spot drop – pattern match coverage requires that players read another player to get a feel for the routes being run. Corners tend to read the #2 receivers because they usually tell you what the route combination will be. The defense does a good job matching up well with the routes and forces Trubisky to tuck and run.
Throughout the game the run defense struggled with maintaining the cutback run. This comes from, in my mind, only putting one inside linebacker in the box against 1 back sets. I noted this in my first film study of Pettine’s defense. He did the same thing in New York and Buffalo. It’s not a bad look, really. It matches up well with what he wants to do against the pass. However, the backside inside linebacker is almost always the cutback player. He is responsible for anything coming back his way. When a back gets a glimpse of daylight you better believe he is going to hit the cutback. With only one inside linebacker though, the next man who is responsible for cutback would be the strong safety. I like having to inside linebackers at 4-5 yard depth for this reason.
Martinez didn’t have his best game. He played tall at times, had trouble shedding blocks and got driven out too easily against the run. His drops in coverage looked solid but there will be some things that have to be corrected this week. It is the first game though, and I understand that sometimes it takes time to get back in to the swing of things.
All in all, the defense started out this season playing decent. I don’t know what Pettine said at halftime, but it must have lit a fire under them. Granted, one of the touchdowns given up was a pick 6 from Kizer, but the defense did not have the best first half. I felt like they turned things around in the second and showed us how good they can play together as a unit, especially on key downs.
The Packers take on the rival Minnesota Vikings September 16th at Lambeau Field.
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