Vandermause: Green Bay Packers defense is better than ranking would indicate : Packers Insider

Vandermause: Green Bay Packers defense is better than ranking would indicate

November 6, 2010 by  
Filed under News

Nov 7, 2010 ~ by Mike Vandermause

~If you believe raw statistics, the Green Bay Packers have the 18th-best defense in the NFL.

The 341 yards per game the Packers are giving up suggests they are slightly below average.

In reality, the defense is much better than that. It has hoisted the team on its burly shoulders in the Packers’ last three victories with displays of dominance and stunningly strong play in once weak areas.

It’s a good sign when season-ending injuries to starters aren’t devastating — the defense barely missed a beat when Bishop replaced the injured Nick Barnett at inside linebacker.

If not for the defense, the Packers wouldn’t be in first place in the NFC North at 5-3, just a half-game shy of the best record in the NFC.

While the Packers are allowing 57 more yards per game than last season, that is offset by some sparkling performances in several key defensive areas, including passer rating (No. 1), sacks (No. 3), interceptions (No. 3) and points allowed (No. 4).

When asked what has stood out about this year’s team, quarterback Aaron Rodgers replied: “Without a doubt the defense. …That’s been the most impressive thing.”

Based on the thrashing the defense suffered in a 51-45 playoff loss against Arizona last January, and General Manager Ted Thompson’s seeming lack of urgency in acquiring reinforcements, the defense wasn’t expected to generate much of a pass rush this season and the secondary was considered a weak link.

Now both of those areas are team strengths, partly due to the maturation of key players, and partly because of Thompson’s ability to find some hidden gems.

Everywhere you turn there are ball hawks on defense. Charles Woodson’s interception return for a touchdown saved the Packers in a 28-26 win over Detroit. Three more interceptions against Minnesota, including Desmond Bishop’s runback for a touchdown, led to a 28-24 win. Two more picks against the New York Jets helped preserve the NFL’s only shutout of the season last Sunday in the Packers’ 9-0 victory.

The secondary has been so good that the Packers were in no hurry over the past three weeks to bring back the injured Al Harris and Atari Bigby. Cornerback Tramon Williams is playing at a Pro Bowl level and safety Charlie Peprah has been an upgrade over rookie starter Morgan Burnett, who blew out his knee.

“When it’s time to make a play when it comes your way, you just have to make it,” said Peprah, who wasn’t even a good bet to survive the final training camp cutdown. “When you’re in there it’s your time to pull your weight and do your job.”

Outside linebacker Clay Matthews is definitely pulling his 255-pound frame. He is living up to his Pro Bowl reputation and leads the NFL in sacks, is surrounded by a solid front seven, and isn’t afraid to raise expectations. “Defensively speaking that’s our job really is to attempt to shut out each and every week,” said Matthews.

Full story HERE

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