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It's the Run Defense Stupid!

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I feel like I'm the only one who watched the game when I go around to the traditional media websites. It starts with Mike McCarthy's Monday press conference when he said he was "disappointed offensively with the red zone production". Then the Press-Gazette has a story with the headline "red-zone failure begin with Rodgers" and the Journal-Sentinel has the headline "Rodgers, offense stumble inside foes' 20-yard line."

Go read that junk if you want to blame QB Aaron Rodgers. He had two mistakes; first an INT in the Titans' end zone, and then a fumble deep in Packer territory. Not a perfect game. There were a bunch of other plays when he didn't make the perfect play. A lot of players were great at Tennessee, but I can't think of a single one that had a perfect game. I don't expect each game to be perfect, and they don't have to be perfect to win every game.

He had a great game. But it was the first time all season a QB threw for over 300 yards against the Titans, and his TD pass was only the 4th they've allowed in the first 8 games. Football Outsiders said Rodgers was the 6th best QB on Sunday.

The unit that came up short at Tennessee was the run defense.

The Packers are currently 30th in the NFL and allow 4.9 yards per rush attempt. By that standard, it was an average day for the run defense as Tennessee rushed for 4.9 yards/carry. Unfortunately none of the reporters asked specifically about the awful run defense in the press conference on Sunday or Monday, but they did ask about how DT Justin Harrell played in his first game back:

(Did you have a chance to watch Harrell at all, evaluate him?)
He was OK. He was OK. The one big run, he gets cut off from his gap responsibility.

It's unusual for McCarthy to specifically mention that a player screwed up. As I mentioned above, he said he was disappointed with the red-zone offense, but he didn't mention a single player in his response. Gap responsibility is something McCarthy has previously mentioned as a problem this season.

So the Packers are allowing 4.9 yards/carry and 146.4 yards/game, both lousy. I'm focusing on 3 losses; Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and Tennessee. In all three games, the run defense was bad and it folded late. Rodgers had a late pick in both the Tampa Bay and Atlanta games, but I'm still focused on the run defense because they knew those teams would run right at them and they still couldn't stop them.

Teams Total Rushing Yards Allowed Yards/Carry Rushing Yards Allowed on the Last Two Possessions Yards/Carry on the Last Two Possessions Points Allowed on Last Two Possessions Final Score
Tampa Bay 178 4.3 78 7.1 10 21-30
Atlanta 176 4.9 37 6.2 10 24-27
Tennessee 178 4.9 54 5.4 3 16-19

That's not a misprint. In all 3 losses, the run defense allowed (almost) the same yardage in each loss. And when I say the last two possessions, I'm not counting the last possession when Tampa Bay and Atlanta just had to kneel down. All three games were decided late when the run defense couldn't get the job done.

I'm not posting this to claim that the Packers should be 7-1. The Packers deserve their 4-4 record because they have a lousy run defense.

McCarthy isn't shuffling the lineup. He's putting the same guys out there every week, although he is giving LB Brandon Chillar more playing time at LB A.J. Hawk's expense. He believes in his players, but he knows they aren't getting the job done. I agree with him. It's not time to scrap the run defense and start over. It's time to coach these players, and adjust the defensive scheme. These guys can play a lot better.