Clay Matthews (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Two years ago, the Green Bay Packers finished 15-1 and had the number three ranked overall offense in the NFL. Their defense, on the other hand, was ranked dead last among 32 teams. Since the offense was so high powered and would score at a fast and steady rate, it gave the other teams many more possessions. With more possessions comes more yards and time spent on the field, which was part of the reason the defense was ranked so poorly. Lead or no lead, the Packers defense played like the worst defense in the league. There were several blown coverage’s, missed tackles, and just poor defensive play. That poor defense was part of the reason the #1 seeded Packers were beat 37-20 by the eventual Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants.
Last year, the defense took a step in the right direction, moving up ten spots to the 22nd overall defense. There were times when it looked like the defense had improved, but there were other times when that same defense looked lost. For example, take both games against the Minnesota Vikings during the regular season. Adrian Peterson ran wild for a combined 409 yards in the two games. Granted, Peterson was the NFL MVP and did finish only nine yards short of breaking the single season rushing record, but when Peterson was virtually the Vikings only offensive threat, there’s no excuse for a lack of defense.
In the first playoff game against those same Vikings, the Packers held Peterson in check for only 99 yards, thanks to the likes of safety Charles Woodson and linebacker Clay Matthews. The divisional round against the San Francisco 49ers was a different story. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick set a new quarterback playoff rushing record with 181 yards. Most of those yards came off the read-option run. Kaepernick had linebacker Erik Walden running around in circles, not knowing if he or running back Frank Gore had the football. For the second straight year, the Packers were bounced from the playoffs in the divisional round by the eventual NFC champions.
The beginning of the 2013 season will be a big test for Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his defensive players as they travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers. After the playoff game last year, Capers will have had over six months to figure out effective ways to stop the option. On the bright side for Capers, if he figures it out against San Francisco, it will also help out the defensive in week 2 as the Washington Redskins come to Green Bay. The Redskins also run a read option type offense with explosive quarterback Robert Griffin III. While the Packers defense has definitely shown signs of improvement, it still has a long ways to go to help bring its team a championship season. If the defense can keep improving, the championship will be coming sooner rather than later.