Say this for the Green Bay Packers and defensive coordinator Joe Barry: he has been throwing every idea he has out there in the past few weeks. Over the team’s four-game winning streak heading into week 18, the team had used a number of different alignments and moved to more two-deep safety looks with man coverage, and they brought out another interesting wrinkle on Sunday night against the Detroit Lions.
That wrinkle is a nickel personnel grouping known as “Mint,” which pulls an edge rusher off the field instead of a defensive lineman to bring on an extra defensive back. The team used that group heavily early in the game, putting Innis Gaines on the field as the extra DB and often using him in a similar alignment to an edge rusher.
Did it work? That’s tough to say. The Packers did keep the Lions from moving the football in the first quarter when using that group regularly, allowing just one first down on the first three drives. The team also got a decent performance from the interior line, a possible reason why they felt like that was a grouping to use heavily.
Now the question is whether or not Joe Barry’s job will be in jeopardy after the defense did have some late struggles in the game, or if he will stay on for 2023 following the unit’s late-season improvement. Here’s how his unit’s playing time broke down, as well as the offense and some of the key special teamers.
OFFENSE (60 total)
Aaron Rodgers 60
Rodgers was snake-bitten by drops throughout the game, but his accuracy seemed to leave him late as well. He finished the game just 17 of 27 for 205 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. That ends the 2022 season for Rodgers without a single game of 300 passing yards and his lowest passing yardage in a full season of his career. Rodgers tripled his interceptions from 4 last season to 12 in 2022 while seeing his passer rating drop 20 points to 91.1, the lowest mark in his career as a starter.
Aaron Jones 33, AJ Dillon 31
The Packers’ running backs had tough sledding against the Lions on Sunday night, with Aaron Jones averaging just 4 yards per carry (48 yards on 12 carries) and Dillon keeping his average under 4 at 3.7 (33 yards on 9 carries). Jones caught three of four targets for 20 yards and was frequently split out wide, including on a Rodgers interception downfield that was erased by a penalty on Detroit. Meanwhile, Dillon failed to catch any of his three pass targets, which included one big drop.
Allen Lazard 54, Christian Watson 52, Romeo Doubs 23, Randall Cobb 19, Samori Touré 2
The Packers got another big game from Watson, who crossed 100 yards for the third time this season. His 45-yard bomb from Rodgers was a tremendous example of him making a tough contested catch, as he was also interfered with on the play. Lazard had four catches for 41 yards, including the Packers’ only touchdown from 15 yards out. Other than those two, however, the rest of the receiving corps was a virtual no-show — Doubs was credited with drops on both of his two targets, while Cobb caught the only two other passes to the unit for 11 yards.
Robert Tonyan 37, Marcedes Lewis 27, Josiah Deguara 14, Tyler Davis 8
The Packers felt it wise to scheme up touches for Tonyan in space on a couple of instances, which predictably did not go well. He had the group’s only three targets, catching them all for a total of 29 yards, but one of those went for a gain of 20.
David Bakhtiari 60, Elgton Jenkins 60, Josh Myers 60, Jon Runyan, Jr. 60, Zach Tom 36, Yosh Nijman 24
The one change on the offensive line came at halftime, as the Packers pulled Nijman in favor of Tom. Nijman had given up a pair of sacks to Aidan Hutchinson in the first half, leading to Tom stepping in at right tackle for the second consecutive game.
DEFENSE (62 total)
Kenny Clark 54, Jarran Reed 49, T.J. Slaton 32, Devonte Wyatt 32
The Packers’ heavy dose of the Mint front on Sunday, resulted in the team keeping a lot of of 3-man lines on the field. That led to Slaton setting a season-high in snaps and Wyatt coming just two short of his career-high from last week.
As a result, the line was responsible for most of the pressure on Jared Goff in the game, with Wyatt getting the Packers’ only sack — his first full solo sack on a forced fumble. Reed and Clark each had a hit on Goff as well for the only three total QB hits in the game for the Green Bay defense.
Preston Smith 57, Kingsley Enagbare 29, Justin Hollins 17
As noted above, the edge rushers were quiet in this game as the team had two on the field for only about 3/4 of their defensive snaps. The trio combined for two total tackles, with the Lions’ offensive tackles (Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell) completely shutting them down.
De’Vondre Campbell 62, Quay Walker 46, Krys Barnes 7, Isaiah McDuffie 5
Quay Walker’s ejection for pushing a Lions trainer is the big takeaway for this unit, as it forced Barnes and McDuffie onto the field late. He had been playing well for most of the game, making seven solo stops including a number of good plays against the run. Campbell also had 7 total tackles while Barnes made three tackles in his limited snaps.
Adrian Amos 62, Darnell Savage 62, Rudy Ford 31, Innis Gaines 13
Green Bay continued to use safeties as nickel and dime backs, starting out with Gaines as the nickel early in the mint packages before moving Savage to the slot and inserting Ford at safety in more traditional 5-DB looks. Savage had the Packers’ only two pass breakups and led the team in tackles with 11, but was also picked on frequently in coverage. Ford’s notable play came in coverage on the Lions’ only big completion (that counted), with Goff heaving a deep ball to Kalif Raymond to set up their first touchdown.
Jaire Alexander 62, Rasul Douglas 62
The Packers were fortunate to get a full game out of Douglas, who was penalized for an open-handed punch to a Lions player after he stepped in to prevent Detroit from getting a practice field goal attempt off after a Packers timeout. In general, the boundary corners played a solid game, with the Lions doing most of their work in the passing game on the interior.
SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS
Tyler Davis 18, Dallin Leavitt 18, Innis Gaines 13, Eric Wilson 13, Adrian Amos 12, Corey Ballentine 12, Rasul Douglas 12, T.J. Slaton 12, Tariq Carpenter 10, Mason Crosby 10, Jonathan Garvin 10
Keisean Nixon played just 8 snaps on special teams in this game, and he looked like anything but his usual explosive self with just 4 kickoff returns for 79 yards and four punt returns for 38 yards. That brought his average down to 28.8 on the season, dropping him behind the Colts’ Dallis Flowers (31.1) for the league lead. Like Nixon, Flowers only got the kickoff return job late in the season, however, but Nixon did end up leading the NFL in total kickoff return attempts (35) and yards (1,009).