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Packers’ Defense Shines On Big Stage Versus Giants – Week 5 Recap

Packers Defense - NFL Blake Derrick via


The Packers’ defense continues to save the day.

For most of the Aaron RodgersMike McCarthy era in Green Bay, it has been the offense that reigned supreme. They had a prolific attack that succeeded despite a lack of protection and help on defense. So far in 2016 the Packers defense has flipped the script.

The Packers Sunday night prime-time game against the Giants was billed as a battle of dynamic offenses poised to put up numbers, but the reality was far from imagined.

As usually happens when they play at Lambeau FieldGreen Bay started off fast in their opening drive.

Rodgers came out throwing with a purpose. He completed five of his first eight passes for 41 yards, two of those completions going to Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson respectively on 3rd and long passes. However, the biggest third down pick up on the drive came using his legs.

After two incomplete passes in a row, the offense was tasked with a 3rd and 10 from the Giants 17-yard line. Rodgers got to the line and surveyed the Giants defense. Unhappy with the look, he called a timeout.

After receiving the snap he took his drop, he dipped in and out of the pocket looking for the perfect throw. For the first time of many on the night the Packers offensive line gave him more than enough time. He couldn’t find an open man but used his underrated speed to just reach out for the first.

Two plays later, Rodgers would find his favorite target Nelson in the corner of the endzone to open the scoring. It was one of the only times in the game Nelson was able to break free and make a play.

It marked the 50th time the duo have connected for a touchdown. This ranks them second all-time in Packers history behind only Brett Favre and Antonio Freeman (57).

Eli Manning and the Giants offense got the ball with every fan in Lambeau expecting he dangerous offense to explode after two straight weeks of bad play. Again, reality isn’t always what we expect as the Packers defense had other plans.

Their first two possessions ended with punts. Manning completed four of seven passes on the drives, two of four to All-Pro wide-out Odell Beckham Jr. for 29 yards, but failed to make the throws he needed to put points on the board.

The Packers second drive was ended somewhat abruptly after they continued to move the ball as they did in drive one.

Running back Eddie Lacy got his number called on the first two plays, gaining runs of 11 and 12 yards consecutively. Rodgers than hit tight end Richard Rodgers for six yards and Davante Adams for 17 yards to put Green Bay inside New York territory.

After his 12-yard run, Lacy exited the game and was forced to go in and out the rest of the way because of ankle discomfort. He gained 81 yards on only 11 carries for the day.

A few plays later, Rodgers failed to hit James Starks on a screen pass, but as the Giants were subbing he hurried the offense to line to force a 12-men on the field penalty. He got his wish, and during the free-play found Randall Cobb in the end zone.  Off-setting penalties would help the Giants dodge the 7-point bullet as Green Bay was also flagged for not being set for 1 second before the snap.

On the next play, a visibly frustrated Rodgers made mistake number one and forcefully put a fastball just out of reach of an open Jordy Nelson. The ball tipped off his hands and fell into the lap of corner Janoris Jenkins, his first of two interceptions.

A few series later Rodgers made up for the mistake.

This time, he found Davante Adams on a deep route down the sideline. Rodgers was able to loft a perfect ball over the corners head to Adams, who than made a great effort in crossing the pylon before going out of bounds. Green Bay took a 14-3 lead on the play.

After a Giants field goal brought about by a bad punt, and then a quick 3 and out from the offense, the Packers defense would provide an impact play to stop New York’s momentum.

With the possibility of the Giants tying the game with a touchdown and two point conversion before the end of the half, it was crucial to get a stop. Enter rookie Kyler Fackrell.

On second down, Fackrell lined up at left outside linebacker, using his patented speed rush he beat struggling back-up tackle Bobby Hart to the edge. Fackrell hit Manning with a clean, punishing hit and forced the ball loose. Rookie Kenny Clark recovered the fumble. The strip-sack set up a Mason Crosby field goal as time expired to make the half-time score 17-6, rather than the possible tie game.

The young linebacker has made an impact in the short time he’s had on the field. Per PFF, the only 3-4 OLBs that have been more productive on 40+ pass rushes than Fackrell are Von Miller, Cornellius Carradine, John Simon, and teammate Nick Perry.

Perry made sure to make his impact felt throughout the game as well.

He recorded one sack, two quarterback hits, three quarterback hurries, and two stops Sunday night for the stout Packers defense. According to PFF, he sits as the 2nd ranked 3-4 outside linebacker behind only Von Miller. Thus far in 2016 Perry has five sacks, two quarterback hits, 15 quarterback hurries, and 12 stops.

Green Bay’s offense continued to struggle as the second half got underway. They only maintained possession for about three minutes in the quarter, running 6 plays for only 7 yards their first two drives.

During the stretch Rodgers threw 3 passes, unable to connect on any of them. For the game he went for a dismal 23 of 45 (51.1%) for 259 yards and a pair of touchdowns and picks.

Despite the struggles, the offensive line again gave the MVP more than enough time to make plays. Rodgers was completely free of pressure on 34 of his 47 total dropbacks. Center  J.C. Tretter, right guard T.J. Lang, and left tackle David Bakhtiari all provided excellent individual performances.

PFF ranked Tretter and Lang each 2nd at their positions with grades of 86.5 and 82.7 respectively. Bahktiari finished the game with a grade of 82.3, which was good enough for 5th in tackle rankings. They remain ranked the top rated pass blocking line in the league.

The defense was more than prepared to pick up the slack of the offense.

Even with missing starters in the secondary, corners Damarious Randall and Sam Shields, they were able to bottle up a talented Giants offense with their constant pass rush.

Besides the aforementioned Fackrell and Perry, safety Micah Hyde and linebacker Clay Matthews also added sacks on Manning. Currently, the Packers defense is averaging 3.5 sacks per game at the moment, and if extended through 16 games that would give them a projected total of 56. Last season, the vaunted Broncos defense ranked 1st with only 52.

The Giants wouldn’t get anything resembling a successful drive against the dominate defense until the 4th quarter.

With under five minutes remaining Manning completed seven out of nine passes for 58 yards, and finished off their only scoring drive with an eight yard touchdown to Odell Beckham Jr to make the score 23-16. Beckham barely scraped his foot in bounds before falling out of the back of the end zone on a fully extended catch on a high throw.

It was another highlight reel reception to add to his growing list, but it was his only impact play of the game.

Back-up corners  Ladarius Gunter and Quinten Rollins were aided by safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett in containing Beckham. He was held to five passes for 56 yards and the late game touchdown.

Following the score Green Bay needed just one first down to ice the game. After two unsuccessful plays, Rodgers looked to his most reliable target on the day, Randall Cobb.

Cobb ran a perfect out-route to the sideline as his defender fell to the ground. Rodgers rolled his direction and found him for the game clinching first.

He was able to gain 13 yards on the play, but paid the price for the effort. As he went to the ground a defender hit him from behind and curled his spine up into a ball. He was able to walk off the field and is believed to be fine.

Cobb was able to put up the best game of his season catching nine passes for 108 yards.

It’s also important to mention that just like the first three weeks of the season, the Packers defense against the rush was a blaring bright spot. New York only was able to rush for 43 yards total, and they were almost always forced to run laterally because of the penetration up front.

So far in 2016 the Packers defense ranks first in rushing yards per game (42.8), rushing yards per attempt (2.0), and total yards rushing (171) while only giving up one run of 10 yards or more, fewest in the NFL.

This will create the ultimate match-up of strength vs strength next week as the leagues number one rush offense, the Dallas Cowboys, come back to Lambeau with revenge on their mind for their controversial loss in the 2014-15 playoffs.