The Green Bay Packers’ defense did more than enough to keep the offense in the game and win on Sunday in week 9, surrendering just 15 points to the Detroit Lions in a road game. Ultimately the offense could not cash in on a turnover created by the Packers defense and returned just outside the red zone. On the ensuing offensive possession, Rodgers had his third pass intercepted inside the five yard line.
The defensive performance overall was overshadowed by an inefficient offense and multiple injuries. The Packers learned on Monday that pass outside linebacker/defensive end Rashan Gary would be lost for the season with a torn ACL, a non-contact injury he sustained early in the third quarter. To say that is a huge loss for the defense would be an understatement.
The defense also lost Eric Stokes, who was seen after the game in a walking boot and crutches after sustaining an injury in the first quarter. Despite all of this, the defense still did more than enough to keep this game close and give the offense a chance. They had some blunders but overall it was a very solid performance.
Pass rush pressure
While the defense was unable to register a sack on Jared Goff, they were able to record 11 total pressures on the quarterback per Pro Football Focus. The lone sack they had came at the hands of Kingsley Enagbare who ended up being flagged for a ticky-tack roughing the passer penalty when Goff tried to duck under Enagbare’s tackle attempt and Enagbare’s hand caught him across the helmet.
However, despite not recording a sack, they were able to generate pressure on Goff, forcing him to make several errant throws that led to third down stops and plays that put the Lions offense behind the chains. One example is this play from the Lions’ first drive:
The Lions elected to go for it on 4th-and-1 and go empty formation 3x2 to run a mesh concept that is a great man coverage beater.
The Packers are playing cover-0 with a 6-man rush front. It is no secret what the Packers are playing here. There are no deep safeties and they only have defenders covering the receivers on the perimeter with no man or zone drop indicators from the 6-man front on the line of scrimmage.
No matter how the Lions slide to block the pass rush, there will be a free rusher in Goff’s face. The Lions half slide the strength of their protection to their left, leaving Rashan Gary unblocked. Goff is responsible for this rusher since it’s 6-on-5 up front and he has to identify his hot route on the shallowest underneath crosser coming from right to left on the side Gary is rushing from.
Gary gets around the edge untouched with a free run at Goff and hits him as Goff is trying to throw the sit route over the middle. The pass falls well short of the receiver and lands incomplete for a turnover on downs.
Goff was 3-for-8 with an interception while under pressure in this game.
The Packers only recorded one turnover, an interception at midfield by Jaire Alexander that he returned to just outside the red zone, putting the Packers offense in prime position to score some points.
The Lions are running a staple NFL shot play, the “yankee” concept (or “burner” as it’s called in some places around the league), a deep corner route shot play with a crosser in the 20-22 yard range underneath it. The idea is to take the shot first and if it is not there, to hit the 20 yard explosive pass play underneath. Either way, the idea is to get an explosive pass play out of it.
The Packers are playing a cover-3 3-deep/3-under fire zone behind a 5-man rush up front.
As the defense drops into coverage, Rasul Douglas (No. 29), sitting over the crosser, passes it off across the field and starts to call out to Jaire Alexander (No. 23) shuffling with the deep pylon corner route. Alexander’s hips are in such a position that allows him to run with the corner route but also peel and drive on the crosser if necessary. Alexander jumps the crosser after hearing Douglas call it out and steps in front of the receiver to intercept the pass.
This great communication between these two corners is something that has been missing from the defense in general this season. In part two of the defense breakdown, we will look at the two touchdowns given up and the coverage busts that led to them.