Vikings vs. Packers: Defensive Review

Wesley Hitt

The defense was uneven this week with the Packers failing to stop the run but stone walling the pass. In the end this was good enough to earn the W.

Let’s start with saying that the Packers defense is a fickle beast. AT this point we have seen just about every individual part of the defense be good to great, and we have seen every part of the defense be atrocious. For example, early in the year the Packers had a very good pass rush and could tackle with the best of them. The last couple weeks the pass rush has all but failed and the team struggled to get dudes to the ground. Early in the year the Packers struggled in allowing soft zones and getting beat deep. This past week the play was kept in front of them and it took miracle catches from a good TE for the opposing team’s passing offense to really do anything.

It’s been a roller coaster ride to say the least.

The worst part of defensive experience is that it’s still tough to get a good read on the defense. Part of this has to do with the injuries. Part of this has to do with the amount of young talent. In the end trying to figure out the defense is futile effort because it will probably change next week. Who knows, Clay Matthews could come back next week and suddenly the tackling will improve and some sort of pass rush will exist again….or then again Hawk may just decide to play like his hair is on fire like early in the season and the defense toughens against the run again. Who knows.

The good news is that more often than not the defense has found a way to maintain some sort of way to win most weeks. Better yet they have found a way to balance all these shifting flaws to become a solid defense overall. It’s what most of us were asking for coming into the season, just an average defense to pair with an explosive offense…..looks like we got half our wish, and that just might be enough for a good playoff run.

Pass Defense Review

Key Performances

Christian Ponder – 12/25 119 YDS 4.8 AVG 1 TD 2 INT 41.9 RTG

Kyle Rudolph – 6 REC 51 YDS 8.5 AVG 21 LG 8 TGTS

Jerome Simpson – 2 REC 25 YDS 12.5 AVG 18 LG 7 TGTS

Casey Hayward – 4 TOT 3 Solo 1 Pass defended

Davon House – 2 TOT 2 Solo 1 Pass defended

Morgan Burnett – 7 TOT 6 Solo 1 TFL 1 PD 2 INT

Forget the 119 yardage number. It’s lying to you. The real number you should think of when we are talking about the pass defense is 36, that’s the truer number…and the number that doesn’t include a quick garbage time push where the Packers were more concerned with preventing the big play rather than locking down receivers. But 36, that’s a pretty darn impressive number. It’s even more impressive when you think of how little pass rush there was on Ponder overall that day. He was only touched once, a QB hit from Mike Neal, and hurried a handful of times. Yet, the secondary did its job and blanked Ponder when he was trying to throw to anyone but a running back or Rudolph. Not bad.

What was bad was the pass rush….again. This is not something I have a big problem with the interior guys. Sure it would be nice to see Neal, B.J. Raji, and Jerel Worthy get some more pressure up the middle, but it’s a tall order to expect the pass rush to come from those guys alone week in and week out. An interior pass rush is there to set up the outside pass rush…and right now the Packers have zero outside pass rush. If this game does not land Erik Walden on the bench, nothing will. The tough part is that Frank Zombo and even Dezman Moses is not much better (although Moses is a significantly better pass rusher than Zombo and Walden). But please, don’t take this paragraph to mean that Ted Thompson has failed the Packers or doesn’t take this part of the defense seriously. He does. Any team 3-4 team that loses its top two OLB’s would be in the same spot. It’s frustrating, but we are just going to have to wait for Clay Matthews to get healthy and then hope that Perry can continue to develop and grow in the offseason program for next year.

Run Defense Review

Key Performances

Adrian Person – 21 CAR 210 YDS 10.0 AVG 1 TD 82 LG

Normally some notable Packer performances grace this section as well. This week we need to break from this tradition. We could talk about how many tackles this linebacker had, or how many TFL’s a particular defensive lineman had, but that’s all noise really. At the end of the day the Packers gave up 210 yards to a single running back. It doesn’t matter that AP is one of the best day (if not the best), no defense should give up that many yards to one player. I don’t care of Barry Sanders and Jim Brown find the fountain of youth and then merge into one perfect running back, you still should not give up that many yards.

Normally in this part of the review we don’t give out letter grades. Letter grades are subjective and squishy. What’s the difference from an "A" and a "B"? You probably have one idea, the person sitting next to you a different idea, and I have a third idea. It all makes for a nice conversation, but it’s also meaningless really. There is one letter grade that isn’t subjective though, one letter grade that everyone knows and it all speaks for itself. That’s F. When you give up 200+ yards to a running back your run defense has failed.

This week the Packers run defense is simply an F. Try again next week boys.

Special Teams Review – Punting

Key Performance

Tim Masthay – 4 Punts 166 YDS 41.5 AVG 0 TB 1 Inside 20 44 LG

The Ginger Wolverine put together another good day on Sunday. Not much else to day other than the punt units are still the most consistent group we have on the team this year.

Special Teams Review – Kick Coverage

Key Performance

Vikings returners – 2 KR 53 YDS 26.5 AVG 28 LG

Most of Mason Crosby’s kicks went to the back of the endzone and so there was not a return. The two returns that came out, one was pretty good for the Vikings and one was not so good. Overall, that’s a pretty good day from this group.

Overview

Once again the defense was a tale of two halves. This time it was the pass defense that was pretty darn good (helped along by a truly awful QB), and the run defense that was awful (victimized by a truly great RB). At the end of the day the defense made enough plays happen to ensure a Packers win, though which is always nice to type.

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