DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 24: Keiland Williams #34 of the Detroit Lions scores a fourth quarter touchdown past Morgan Burnett #42 of the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field on November 24, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. Green Bay won the game 27-15. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS: Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis | Week 12 DVOA Ratings. Their latest ratings are out and it looks like the Green Bay Packers are trending down. They've fallen well behind a team that's kicking the tires on any veteran quarterback, including players that should be retired and others that swear they're retired this time for good. Why are the Packers ranked behind the Texans? The culprit is their 26th ranked defense.
Football Outsiders ranks the pass defense 21st overall. Considering they've has had some very forgettable games, given up a lot of yards, and allowed 19 touchdown receptions, it's hard to say that they deserve to be ranked higher despite their league leading 22 interceptions. I'd still take the Packers secondary over some of the better ranked units.
The bigger problem is their 27th ranked run defense. What bugs me is that the 2008 run defense (the one that got former defensive coordinator Bob Sanders fired) was ranked No. 28 overall that season. That 2008 run defense sucked my will to watch the end of any Packers game. There was no clock that couldn't be run out against that 2008 run defense. How can the 2011 run defense be just as bad? Maybe it's not for a few reasons:
The 2011 defense isn't concerned about stopping the run. When the Packers started their game against the Lions on Thanksgiving, they came out in the nickel with only two defensive lineman. It might be their most common defensive alignment, and it begs teams to run against their smaller front seven. The Packers can go jumbo when they want to by playing Howard Green at defensive end, but that's the exception.
It's Aaron Rodgers's fault. The 2011 Packers don't have to worry about stopping the run because the offense is scoring nearly 35 points per game and their opponents aren't running much. Rodgers was good in 2008, but that was nothing compared to who he is now.
4.6 ypc in 2008 is worse than 4.9 ypc in 2011. That's too many ypc for any season, but in 2008, the Packers were also among the worst with 20 rushing touchdowns allowed, and 15 carries for more than 20 yards allowed. In 2011, they're slightly above average with only 7 touchdowns and 7 20+ yard carries allowed in their first 11 games. It doesn't feel as bad when they aren't giving up as many long runs or touchdowns.
The valleys aren't so deep. When the run defense stunk in 2008, it really stunk. Games against the Bengals, Vikings, and Panthers stand out as times when the run defense gave them no chance to win. In 2011, the only game that was in danger because of their run defense was against Adrian Peterson in Minneapolis. And they've never allowed more than 1 touchdown in a game this season.
So how bad is it really? Since the run defense held Matt Forte to 9 carries for 2 yards back on September 25, it's clearly declined. And they've been awful in their last two games (don't make me link to the LaGarrette Blount touchdown run). The tackling hasn't been good lately, but it's certainly something they can improve on over the next few games. While the stats are still similar, this 2011 run defense is not as bad as the terrible 2008 version, and I hope it stays that way.