The Green Bay Packers defense is finding ways to keep their team in games week after week but had some mental lapses in their week 15 game in Baltimore. Although they won and secured the NFC North and a playoff berth, they surrendered 30 points to backup quarterback Tyler Huntley playing place of the injured Lamar Jackson. It’s worth noting that the defense was without Kenny Clark and his presence was missed.
Putting the defensive performance in context, the defense not only played without Clark, but is also missing Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander. Their replacements have stepped up in their absence and this game was more about mental mistakes that can be cleaned up if they play another dynamic quarterback at some point in the playoffs.
They played well against Kyler Murray back in week eight and against Patrick Mahomes a week later. There’s no reason to believe this game exposed any new weaknesses in the armor.
The final stat line for Huntley was 215 passing yards and two passing touchdowns. Tight end Mark Andrews had 10 catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Huntley also ran for 73 yards and added two touchdowns on the ground. He and Andrews were the entire Ravens offense. One wonders what Lamar Jackson would’ve done.
Miscues versus the Ravens passing game
The Ravens caught the Packers defense off guard on a few occasions, likely due to them being focused in the back field and spying Huntley in case he broke the pocket to run. They were a little too cautious and it nearly cost them.
The Ravens jump started their offense with a long catch and run from Huntley to Andrews for 43 yards on their first drive of the game. The Ravens called a quick game passing concept called “Flame,” which is a double slant from the #1 and #2 receivers and a flat route by the #3. Andrews is the number two receiver running a quick slant route over the middle. The Packers are in cover-1 with a five man pressure and five defenders to cover five receivers.
To the trips the defense is playing off , a common way to play trips bunch formation to prevent getting picked or rubbed by different routes. Darnell Savage (No. 26) has Andrews in coverage and against this play call, is too far off. He still manages to drive on the slant but tries to knock the pass away rather than wrap up for the tackle. Andrews sprints for a 43-yard gain.
On the Ravens next drive, they picked on Savage again, this time running Andrews across on a Y-cross concept. The Packers are in cover-1 again, playing a variant called “hole.” De’Vondre Campbell is the low hole dropper and is there to spy Huntley in case he breaks the pocket.
Campbell has eyes on Huntley so he’s unable to gain depth and cannot turn to run. Savage gives too much cushion and Andrews gets free access over the middle on the Y-cross. Huntley puts the pass on him and gains 22.
Savage had a tough day guarding Andrews and was responsible for giving up the two touchdowns Andrews caught.
One both touchdown passes to Andrews, Savage was unable to get physical with the Ravens tight end at the catch point, allowing him to get space in the back of the end zone. On the second touchdown catch, Savage tried to disrupt the route timing. As the ball arrives, Andrews steps in front of Savage and boxes him out to make a catch in the end zone. Savage was caught in no-mans land and lost early in the down when Andrews got off the early jam on his release. Savage never recovered on that play.
Losing contain on Tyler Huntley
The defense also gave up several scrambles and quarterback run in the second half after large containing Huntley to the pocket in the first half.
On a read option play midway through the third quarter, the defense got caught with no gap exchanging linebackers on a power read run. Power read is like zone read except that it’s blocked like power with two pulling blockers. Huntley reads the defense for his cue to pull or give.
Rashan Gary is responsible for squeezing the edge and chasing the back too far down the line. Huntley pulls it and runs behind Gary for 13 yards. Gary should slow play the edge and force the give where the defense likely could have gotten a stop for minimal gain.
On all his scrambles when he could not find anyone open, Huntley just took off and made plays with his legs on their final two drives.
On their rushes, the Packers defensive line either got washed too far down inside, rushed too far upfield, or both, and Huntley was able to escape and run freely through the secondary to keep drives alive.
He also rushed for two touchdowns because of these defensive line breakdowns as well.
The defense will need to go back to their week eight tape against the Cardinals to see how sound their assignments were in containing Kyler Murray, whom they sacked three times The defense only allowed Murray one seven-yard scramble and one nine-yard rushing attempt. The Packers would not see a mobile a quarterback in the playoffs unless they play the Cardinals or see the Ravens in a Super Bowl match-up but if Huntley could do this kind of damage late in the game, I shudder to think what Lamar Jackson could have or would have done.
They’ll need to clean up those rushing assignments and responsibilities over the next several weeks in preparation for the playoffs and they likely will, which is why this game is probably just an anomaly for a defense that’s played sound football all season anyways. There is no reason to think they will take a step back now.