Packers Defense Recap: A Solid Performance Against A Great Offense

PHILADELPHIA PA - JANUARY 09: Tramon Williams #38 of the Green Bay Packers intercepts the pass intended for Riley Cooper #14 of the Philadelphia Eagles late in the fourth quarter during the 2011 NFC wild card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 9 2011 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. The Packers defeated the Eagles by a score of 21-16. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

They weren't the greatest results (16 points, 352 yards allowed) this season for the Green Bay Packers defense, but it was impressive considering they did it against arguably the best offense in the NFC. The point total was depressed because K David Akers missed two field goal attempts, but they forced them to settle for a field goal attempt on three drives and stuffed them on a key two-point conversion attempt.

I had a lot of trouble picking a defensive MVP. Everyone played well, but even players like LB Clay Matthews (who had one sack and one fourth quarter stop on a 3rd and 1 that ended drives) were non-factors for much of the game. Maybe that's the nature of playing against the Eagles this season.

The biggest problem came on passes into the middle of the field. Almost the Eagles entire offensive output was on crossing patterns and passes down the hash marks. The Packers play man-on-man along the sidelines, but a zone in the middle. Whether the linebackers weren't dropping back far enough, or the safeties were dropping too far back, it's clear the Packers will need to make some adjustments to prevent the Falcons from exploiting the same things next week.

More after the jump, and more on this game from Bleeding Green Nation.

Four Quarters

The Packers blitz didn't always work, but it did on the first play of the game when LB Desmond Bishop came unblocked to QB Michael Vick's blind side for the sack. They made up for it with the first of many big plays to WR Jason Avant on second down, but then failed to convert on a short run by Vick. After a Packers special teams turnover (heads up CB Brandon Underwood!), the defense again held and the Eagles settled for the first of two missed field goals by Akers. The Eagles third possession was put in a deep hole when TE Brent Celek was called for holding, and they were forced to punt after only one first down conversion. 

The second quarter starts out with another stalled Eagles drive when a blitz pickup on CB Charles Woodson opened up the middle for Matthews, who recorded the sack. After a long drive by the Packers, the Eagles have their second (and final) possession of the quarter, and drive down the field for a field goal. It was set up by a 44 yard pass play to WR Jeremy Maclin, who came free across the middle on a crossing route. The bad news was that it set up the Eagles lone three points of the first half, but the good news was that the defense held the Eagles to only three points (they averaged 27.4 points per game during the regular season). 

After an QB Aaron Rodgers fumble sets them up at the Packers 24 yard line, Vick connects on a pass right up the middle to Avant, who beats CB Jarrett Bush for the touchdown. The Eagles drive for 36 yards on their second drive, but it stalls at the Packers 35 yard line, and the Eagles decide to pin the Packers deep rather than attempt another field goal into the wind. It leads to good field position on their next drive (starting at the Eagles 46 yard line) but it was almost stalled single handedly by Eagles RT Winston Justice (who was benched to start the fourth quarter) before Avant bails them a couple big receptions. 

After Matthews stuffs the 3rd and 1 rushing attempt by RB LeSean McCoy (who was largely a non-factor), Akers misses his second field goal attempt. The Eagles bounce back with a 13 play scoring drive which included big plays to WR DeSean Jackson, McCoy, and Celek. Vick takes it in himself on a quarterback run from the 1 yard line on 4th down. After Celek steps out of bounds on their first two-point conversion attempt, the second attempt blows up when LB Erik Walden and LB A.J. Hawk knock Vick down on a blitz (and he rolls his ankle on the play). His ankle looked fine on their next drive when he connects again with Jackson on a big play, but his final pass was underthrown in the end zone, and CB Tramon Williams went up for the game ending interception.

Individual Analysis

CB Tramon Williams. He was largely quiet as he did his job along the sidelines and prevented the Eagles from going deep. Until Vick couldn't wait any longer and he tried to force a deep pass that Williams intercepted. 

LB Clay Matthews. He dropped into coverage a lot and didn't have a monster game against a benched right tackle and his backup. But he ended up with a couple big plays on 3rd down and did put some pressure on Vick. 

NT B.J. Raji. I nominated him for game MVP because of their efforts against the run. Neither McCoy or Vick ran wild, and the Eagles struggled to convert on 3rd and short. A lot of credit goes to the man in the middle for making that possible.

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