Packers must overcome struggles against top defenses vs. Colts

Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Packers offense needs to overcome a tough test in Week 11.

Under Matt LaFleur, the Green Bay Packers offense has quickly become one of the most efficient in the NFL. Until last week, the Packers were the only team to have scored on their opening possession of every game.

They are currently averaging 30.8 points per game which is the third-best in the league. However, this offense hasn’t fared well when coming up against the toughest defenses in the NFL.

That’s understandable to some extent. It’s not surprising that it’s harder to be productive against better defenses. But far too often the Packers offense provides few answers when they’re up against a dominant defense.

We saw this against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the best defense the Packers have faced this year.

Tampa Bay got consistent pressure on Aaron Rodgers. After opening the game with a 10-0 lead, Green Bay fell apart and lost 38-10. Rodgers didn’t throw a touchdown pass and was intercepted twice, one of which was returned for a touchdown. It was a miserable day for Rodgers, who was sacked four times.

We saw similar issues last season when the Packers came up against the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Chargers. Both teams could rush the passer and the Packers had no answers.

Against the Chargers, Rodgers was sacked three times and threw for just 161 yards with one touchdown. Green Bay put up 45 yards on the ground and was held to 11 points on the day.

In two games against the 49ers, the Packers lost by a combined 74-28. In the first game, Rodgers was sacked five times and threw for only 104 yards. He improved his yardage totals in the rematch, throwing for 326 yards and two touchdowns but he also had two interceptions and fumbled three times (one lost).

When the Packers begin to lose control on offense against strong defenses, they can quickly fall apart. However, there are some reasons to be positive.

The good news for the Packers

Game against the Bucs aside, the Packers have put in some good performances against talented defenses already this year.

The New Orleans Saints are ranked fourth in total defense this season and second against the run. They’re not as strong at stopping the pass but are holding teams to a respectable 23.7 points per game.

The Packers had no trouble moving the ball against them even without Davante Adams. Rodgers threw for 283 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-30 win.

Defenses that can rush the passer create issues for the Packers offense, and while the Colts have the No. 2-ranked pass defense, they don’t have a dominant pass rush.

According to ESPN, Indianapolis has a pass rush win rate of 43 percent, good for only 17th in the NFL. That’s one position lower than New Orleans. The Colts also have 21 sacks this season, 16th in the NFL.

Compare that to the Bucs, who rank third in the league for pass rush win rate and also have 32 sacks, second-most in the NFL.

More good news is that Green Bay’s offensive line is about as healthy as it’s been all year. The Packers rank first in ESPN’s pass block win rate metric and are second in run block win rate.

Indianapolis’ defense is very good. The unit doesn’t give away many big plays and also turns the ball over a lot having forced 11 interceptions this season, tied for second-most. However, if the pass rush can’t dominate as the Bucs’ did, the Packers should have an opportunity to move the ball.

Give Rodgers time and it’s a different ballgame. This is a huge test for Green Bay’s offense but equally it’s a daunting task for Indianapolis’ defense.

That said, the Packers’ struggles against dominant defenses over the past two years is a concern. On Sunday, they need to show why their offense truly is one of the best in the league.