Packers: Rise of defense comes at perfect time for Super Bowl run

Green Bay Packers, Jaire Alexander, Za'Darius Smith (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers, Jaire Alexander, Za'Darius Smith (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The rise of the Packers’ defense is key to a Super Bowl run.

Nobody wants to face the Green Bay Packers right now. Especially at Lambeau Field.

All season long, the Packers have been dominant on offense. They are the highest scoring team in the league after Week 16.

Many wondered, what if the defense could step up and play their part? Well, that’s exactly what we’ve seen the past couple of weeks.

It started last week when the defense led the team to victory over the Carolina Panthers. Despite getting little help from the offense in the second half, the defense held firm, limited the Panthers to 16 points, forced a turnover, and sacked Teddy Bridgewater three times.

But due to the Panthers’ record, many weren’t convinced. And it’s understandable. One good performance doesn’t show the defense has turned the corner.

The real test would come against a playoff team, a high-scoring offense with the NFL’s leading rusher, a red-hot quarterback, and one of the league’s best receiving duos.

The Packers didn’t just pass the test, they had the look of a championship defense on Sunday night.

Tennessee’s offense entered Week 15 averaging 31.14 points per game. Derrick Henry was averaging almost 120 yards on the ground per game and had scored at least one touchdown in four of his past five games. A.J. Brown and Corey Davis were both cruising towards 1,000-yard seasons.

The Packers held the Titans to 14 points.

Henry had 98 rushing yards. It was only the fourth time this year he hasn’t put up either 100 yards rushing or scored a touchdown.

Brown had four receptions for 43 yards. Davis didn’t catch a single pass.

Ryan Tannehill, who had thrown just five interceptions all season and hadn’t thrown multiple picks in a game all year, had two against the Packers. His passer rating of 40.5 was his lowest since his NFL debut in 2012.

Superstars stepping up in Packers defense

The pass rush has been heating up in recent weeks. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, three of the Packers’ four highest pressure rates this season have come since Week 13.

Za’Darius Smith is doing Za’Darius Smith things with 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles over the past five games. Preston Smith has also stepped up in recent weeks. While he didn’t have a sack on Sunday night, he forced a turnover on a pressure.

Brian Gutekunst also has to be delighted with the recent play of 2019 first-round picks Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage.

The two combined for a crucial play in the game. Gary applied pressure and Savage made the pick.

Savage made plays all over the field against both the run and pass. He had three pass defenses and one interception. He dropped another pick which could’ve gone for six. Since Week 12, he has five interceptions.

According to Pro Football Focus, Gary had six total pressures and four stops in the game.

Another of Gutekunst’s first-round picks, Jaire Alexander, has been consistently shutting down receivers all year. The Pro Bowler had three more pass defenses on Sunday night. His All-Pro season continued.

This is an ascending defense with lots of young talent. On Sunday night in one of their toughest challenges of the season, they stepped up and showed they are ready for playoff football.

The rise of the defense, along with the league’s highest-scoring offense, sets the Packers up for their best Super Bowl opportunity in years.

Next. 3 takeaways from Packers' impressive win vs. Titans. dark