All the talk from the experts and media about how great the Broncos are got me thinking and I see a lot of the 2011 Green Bay Packers in the Broncos this year. Both teams are amazing at throwing the ball with their All-Pro QB on offense. Both teams’ defenses? Bad. While we don’t know how this year will end for the Broncos, we do know in 2011 the Packers went 15-1 in the regular season, only to be beaten in their first playoff game.
The Broncos this year after five games are averaging 46 points per game and the 2011 Packers were at 35. The 2011 Packers were giving up 22 points per game and the 2013 Broncos are giving up 28. Thus far the Broncos defense is giving up the most passing yards, 1,735, and second most total yards. They are #24 in points allowed and that is with Peyton Manning only having thrown one interception in five games while throwing the ball 40 times per game.
One might say that the Broncos are a little better offensively than the 2011 Packers, but so far through five games this year against five very bad pass defenses: #18 Ravens (week 1 with a lot of new players); #25 Giants who we all know are just bad; #23 Oakland as they continue to rebuild from the disaster of the past few years; #30 Philadelphia just switched to a 3-4 and do not have a very good secondary; and #31 Dallas, who must be really happy they fired Rob Ryan.
Do not get me wrong, I am not saying Peyton Manning isn’t a great quarterback nor am I knocking their passing game. What I am saying is their offensive numbers are a little inflated right now because of the poor pass defenses they have faced. Also if you compare where they are this year with where the Packers were in 2011 you will see a lot of similarities. In 2011, the excitement surrounding the Packers made for a lot of publicity, similar to what the Broncos are now receiving.
Remember how much fun we as fans had in the 2011 regular season? All the high fives from the offense scoring so many touchdowns? Every week we were happy as the Packer were “unbeatable.” However, the playoffs came and the end result for the Packers was a complete letdown. Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson realized after 2011 that having a one-dimensional pass-happy offense with a questionable defense that was not going to win a Super Bowl.
To that end, the Packers over the past couple of years have been working to transition themselves by running the ball effectively. The Packers rank fifth in rushing yards per game at 141. The Packers highest rushing yardage in a game in 2011 was 136 total yards. Last week the Packers ran the ball 33 times and threw the ball 30 times. The best balance for the Packers after five weeks in 2011 was 38 pass and 29 run.
It has not yet changed the way the defenses are playing against the Packers 2013 offense, nor does it have to. Yes, Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers still need to be better on third and one with play calls, audibles and players on the field. When they start converting long drives into touchdowns, it is going to put a lot of pressure on teams to figure out a way to stop the Packers.
The defense has also changed greatly from the 2011 year. While statistically the improvement only has them in the middle of the NFL right now, there has still been a big improvement. The eyeball test is much better than the numbers show. The Packers defense has built a reputation of being soft and we have seen this year that they are much more physical and capable of stopping the running game. This starts with a remarkable improvement on the defensive line this year. The return of Johnny Jolly and better play from second-year lineman Mike Daniels has led the way. There is plenty of depth on the D-line and with the offense chewing up more time with sustained drives, the combination is really keeping the big guys doing their job effectively.
The secondary is the healthiest it has been this year. The Packers have quality depth at cornerback and with the return of safety Morgan Burnett, and the expected return of playmaker Casey Hayward, who has not even played a down this year, the Packers should only continue to improve.
It is obvious to everyone on that our linebackers are banged up right now. The younger guys have to step up and play good football and the d-line and secondary need to help cover for this group while they get healthy.
Don’t get caught up in the media loving the Broncos right now or some of the struggles by the Packers here in the first half of the season. If you start to question why the Packers have been making the moves they have over the past couple of seasons, all you have to do is look over at the Broncos to remember how the Packers used to be and how the 2011 season ended.