Cardinals vs. Packers: Defensive Review

Jonathan Daniel

Like much of the year, the defense gave an up and down performance against the Cardinals. It was not as clean as many would like, but generally positive performances from so many young players gives hope for the future.

Many people seem to forget that in 2010 the Packers were primarily a defensive team. The offense had its moments to be sure, but the Packers sported the second best defense in the league that year during the regular season and more than one game was won based on the defense shutting down the other team for most of the game. During that year we talk about the injuries overcame, again most of which lie on the defensive side of the ball….it’s just that the offense came alive at the end of the year and during the playoff run to steal the show.

This year the Packers offense has been a bit more consistent than it was in 2010 and the defense has not been as good, but the parallels are still there to be seen. Once again the defense has to overcome injuries and has carried the team in more than one game.

Unlike that year though the defense has been a more up and down performance, which this week’s game highlights in spades. For another week the Packers’ defense gave up a boatload of yards to a second rate backup, John Skelton. Then again he needed to throw a high number of passes to get those yards, as well as count on Larry Fitzgerald to go into beast mode for at least one play. Otherwise the run defense was pretty good and the pass rush stayed fairly consistent throughout the game (although it would have been nice to see more pressure considering how bad the Cardinals offense line is right now).

The biggest story line still remains the young guys, and they came to play again last Sunday. It’s fun to watch all these rookies and second y ear players grow before our eyes and show so much promise for the future. There may be a future for the Packers secondary after Charles Woodson after all.

Pass Defense Review

Key Performances

John Skelton – 23/46 306 YDS 6.7 AVG 1 TD 1 INT 69.7 RTG

Larry Fitzgearld – 6 REC 74 YDS 12.3 AVG 1 TD 31 LG 12 TGTS

Andre Roberts – 4 REC 86 YDS 21.5 AVG 40 LG 7 TGTS

Casey Hayward – 7 TOT 5 Solo 2 Passes Defended 1 Forced Fumble

Davon House – 6 TOT 6 Solo 1 Pass Defended

Sometimes you need a careful eye when looking over stats. Raw numbers like the ones you see above need to be placed within the context of the game and contrasted against each other. For example, you could look and see that the Packers gave up 306 yards against Skelton and think that the Packers secondary had a horrendous day. Then again, if you notice that Skelton completed 50% of his passes and only had a 6.7 average for the day it doesn't look that bad. Same thing with Fitzgerald….if you take away his 31 yard touchdown (which was as much about Fitzgerald being amazing as it was about our defense being bad) then the numbers actually look rather good.

Of course controlling the data too much is disingenuous as well. Fitzgerald did turn in a high number of yards and so did Skelton. Skelton’s completion problems had as much (or maybe more) to do with his own receivers dropping the ball than it was great coverage on the part of the Packers. The young secondary personnel we keep raving about had their ups and downs. Casey Hayward also logged his first negative grade of his career according to Profootball Focus. I’m not sure I agree, although he did struggle a bit in coverage he also had his moments nearly intercepting two balls again and forced a fumble that was critical to stopping a drive for the Cardinals. Jerron McMillian and Davon House did not shut down receivers either, but were good at tackling at the point of attack and held generally sound coverage most of the day. I would give the benefit of the doubt to Tramon Williams. Holding a receiver the caliber of Larry Fitzgerald to what he did is no easy feat in the NFL…especially in this day and age.

The pass rush was present. There were two sacks on the day, and both came from defensive linemen. Mike Neal and Mike Daniels each logged their second sack of the season. Daniels and Neal also logged an additional QB hit as well. Erik Walden hit the QB three times, once again showing the ability to bring some pressure but often a step slow to actually getting the sack. He did get an interception and put together a generally strong day. Dezman Moses continues to impress with his pass rushing skills as well, registering a QB hit. On that play if Moses would of gotten there a step sooner it probably would of been a strip sack, but as it was he merely forced an errant pass. All this with the defense coping with a down day from Clay Matthews who spent most of the game limping and had to leave early. Not bad.

Run Defense Review

Key Performances

LaRod Stevens-Howling – 17 CAR 51 YDS 3.0 AVG 1 TD 11 LG

Mike Neal – 2 TOT 2 Solo 2 TFL

Mike Daniels – 2 TOT 2 Solo 1 TFL

Brad Jones – 9 TOT 6 Solo 1 TFL

For those keeping track at home, Brad Jones has now started three games at ILB since the injury to D.J. Smith. In those three games he has led the Packers in total tackles twice, which he did again this week with 9 total tackles. Why does it always seem that when a rash of injuries creep up at this position the backups play as good or better than injured starters did earlier in the year? Desmond Bishop out played Nick Barnett in 2010. D.J. Smith out played A.J. Hawk last year. Brad Jones is out playing D.J. Smith this year. It’s odd, but in a good way. Jones turned in another very good game for the Packers. The real story though might be the game played by defensive linemen Neal and Daniels who creep up in another part of this defensive review. Each of these guys are known for their pass rushing abilities and not their run stuffing abilities….that typically goes for Ryan Pickett and C.J. Wilson. But here they are this week each with some good tackles for losses and good play in the running game.

Special Teams – Kicking and Punting Review

Key Performances

William Powell – 3 KR 61 YDS 20.3 AVG 31 LG

Patrick Peterson – 4 PR 19 YDS 4.3 AVG 11 LG 1 Fumble

Tim Masthay – 6 Punts 255 YDS 42.5 AVG 1 TB 3 Inside 20 46 LG

Once again the special team units offer the most consistent performance of all the reviews. The Packers kick cover units held the Cardinals back deep most of the day. The punting units did well too, with Masthay having a strong day despite having one touchback. More impressive was holding one of the more dynamic returners in the league, Patrick Peterson, to virtually no yards in returns and capitalizing on his muffed catch.

Overview

Despite the Matthews injury, things are looking up on the defense. The Packers finally found someone besides Matthews to be able to rush the passer, and the pass rush stayed somewhat present after he left the game. Most importantly guys like Hayward, House, McMillian, and Daniels continued to grow and stack success with their contributions on the defensive side of the ball.

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