Dec 13, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) is tackled by Green Bay Packers cornerback Casey Hayward (29) after a short gain in the third quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Critical Downs Defense
Speaking of impressive, the biggest reason behind the impressive showing from the defense lies in how they performed on third and fourth down.
Dallas was given 11 chances on third down and 2 on fourth down; they converted just one of those third downs and neither of the fourth downs.
A major key in keeping a defense fresh is getting off the field, which they did often here. There were five three-&-outs forced by the Green Bay defense — and that doesn’t include a couple of other drives that lasted just one short first down.
The coverage was mostly excellent on these snaps; even better, they made sure tackles, and they made sure they were short of the first down marker.
This was especially clear on a handful of passes that went to Jason Witten. He caught the ball short of the line on a few of those plays, likely expecting to do what he usually has managed in his career at that point (namely, push through for a first down). On way more occasions than I ever would have expected possible — due to his level of skill and the subpar tackling exhibited at times by players on the Packers — he just couldn’t manage to pull through the tackles to earn the first down.
While I could just blame Witten for not doing enough, I think kudos are due to those players making excellent tackles against a skilled veteran that has always seemed to excel at pulling out extra yards in that situation throughout his career.
Going forward, this type of clutch performance in this particular area can be crucial to the success of the team. The better the Packers defense can do in preventing these conversions from turning in the favor of opposing teams, the quicker they can get off the field, the more opportunities they can give their offense, and the more well-rested they can be…helping to bring the effort positively full-circle.
They face a talented young group this weekend in Oakland; while I don’t expect an exact repeat, seeing something close to it would go a long way in getting this team to 10 wins on the year.