Packers run defense needs to improve vs. Saints in Week 3

Green Bay Packers, Darnell Savage (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers, Darnell Savage (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Packers’ run defense needs to improve in Week 3.

The Green Bay Packers have put in back-to-back strong performances on offense in the opening two weeks, leading them to big victories against the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions.

Up next is the Packers’ toughest test to date, a road game against the New Orleans Saints. Even if star wide receiver Michael Thomas misses this game, the Packers defense will need to be prepared for one of the best offenses in the NFL.

Between Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray, the Saints have a talented backfield they can lean on in this matchup. The Packers need to shut the run game down early.

The Packers have allowed 223 rushing yards in the opening two games of the season, but it could’ve been much worse than that.

The Vikings were averaging 6.1 yards per carry in the season opener, but only had 22 rushing attempts. Part of this was because the Packers dominated time of possession, the other because the Vikings were behind big late in the game.

In Week 2, the Lions were averaging 4.2 yards per carry, Adrian Peterson even better at 5.9 yards per attempt. Again, as Detroit fell behind big in the game, it only ran the ball 21 times.

It’s unlikely the Packers will build a big lead in Sunday night’s game against the Saints. It’ll likely be a far closer contest than the previous two. This will allow New Orleans to be more balanced on offense and lean on its ground game.

Mike Pettine’s defense did improve as the game went on against Detroit, but the performance against the run in the first quarter was nowhere near good enough.

Drew Brees hasn’t played as well as expected in the opening two games having completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 472 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. His passer rating is still 93.5, so he’s playing well, but as of yet he’s yet to reach the level of play we expect to see.

That said, the Packers can’t allow Brees and the Saints to lean on the ground game. Potentially without their best receiver, make the Saints one-dimensional and have to throw on long down-and-distances.

Not an easy task. Green Bay’s defense has struggled to stop the run. That can’t continue in Week 3.