The Green Bay Packers’ defense has been solid all year long. Only eight teams in the NFL have allowed fewer points per game. Meanwhile, two of the team’s losses came against one solid team in the Eagles and the 2019 powerhouse of the 49ers. What those two games had in common was that the defense was very weak, which has caused debates about whether the unit can keep their dominance into the deciding moments of the 2019 season.
Next Monday Green Bay faces the Vikings in primetime in a game that could very well have the NFC North lead on the line in the penultimate Week 16. It will be the fifth top-10 opponent the Pack has faced this season – they’ve won all except against San Francisco on the road. Kirk Cousins, as much as he has had a hard time winning ‘big’ games, averages 67% passing accuracy and over 350 yards through the air in 4 career games against Green Bay.
The Packers end their regular season schedule in Detroit a week later. After that, the time will finally have come to learn if the rumors about their demise are greatly exaggerated. The playoffs are what gets players and coaches unemployed, and yet the Packers have already gave their fans a whole lot to be positive about on the defensive side of the ball.
To some extent, the Packers are already on a remarkable streak when it comes to defense on multiple fronts that they may have not experienced yet this season. During a three-game winning roll, they’ve surrendered 15 or fewer points in all three and have committed a total of 7 takeaways.
This might be a reference to a display by that same defensive unit at the start of the season when they took the ball away 8 times against the Bears, the Vikings and the Broncos. The team won all three meetings, and Minnesota had four of those turnovers.
Next to their accomplishments, the unit has been able to stay healthy. What the Packers should like about that is giving themselves a chance to improve in-season even if the defensive production slips up.
However, many individuals have provided the much-needed spark, adding to the team’s balance by the day. Blake Martinez ranks third in the league with 88 solo tackles, while Kevin King has 4 interceptions, just two behind league leaders Stephon Gilmore and TreDavious White.
The defense has been so good recently that it also has the momentum on its side, methodically improving the run defense, which has been where the unit’s been worst at, despite its general success. The Pack ranks 24th overall against the run. The tables have, nevertheless, turned during the three-game winning stretch with them allowing only 104 per game, 12th-best in that span. They had previously given up 110+ rushing yards per game in all of their three losses.
That’s likely to be what determines the fate the 2019 unit. Almost all current NFC contenders have superb rushing offenses, and that includes the Vikings, meaning that if the pass rush doesn’t carry its current streak of performances on, the Packers’ North crown might not be as locked up as fans think.
As recently noted in a FOX Sports email feature, the Packers have been better at winning ugly football games than perhaps any other team in the NFL this season. That just goes to show how highly the defense deserves to be spoken of.
At the same time, the top teams this season, contrary to a current belief, have all based their offensive game on running the ball, like the Ravens and the 49ers for instance, regardless if that takes one efficient star RB, or the RB-by-committee approach, which has proven to show even more dividends. It’s been all good running teams that have shredded the Packers – they haven’t put up bad displays against mediocre running teams – but it’s not going to get easier.
In the Packers’ last game against the Vikes, at Lambeau, the front line wasn’t at its best as it gave up season-high 198 yards on the ground. Aaron Rodgers finally has running game thanks to Aaron Jones – but he certainly needs his defense to have a shot at a long playoff run in 2019. The Pack’s defensive performance will define their season, and the road starts at U.S. Bank Stadium on MNF.