Packers: Jaire Alexander shut down Mike Evans in first game vs. Bucs
The Green Bay Packers won’t be hoping for history to repeat itself too much from Week 6 in this week’s NFC Championship Game versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
One thing they do hope carries over into this game is Jaire Alexander‘s performance.
As he has done all season, the second-team All-Pro cornerback matched up with the opposing team’s top wide receiver. In this case, it was Tom Brady’s main target Mike Evans. And as we’ve seen all year from Alexander, he dominated the matchup.
According to Pro Football Focus, Alexander covered Evans on 76 percent of his routes, allowing zero catches on one target.
What this shows is Brady avoided throwing Alexander’s way, even when that meant not giving the ball to his favorite target.
Instead, Brady had to look elsewhere. And he did so with success, with Rob Gronkowski and Chris Godwin combining fo 126 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches. Still, Brady only threw for 166 yards in the game with two touchdowns.
By taking away Evans, the Packers were able to limit some of Brady’s production. None of it mattered in the end as they couldn’t stop the run or get any pressure on Brady, who would make the big throws when he needed to most.
Green Bay’s pass rush and run defense has stepped up since then. Last week, the pass rush dominated the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive line, sacking Jared Goff four times with seven quarterback hits.
The run defense, while far from perfect, has improved since Week 6, most notably holding Derrick Henry, who finished the year with over 2,000 rushing yards, to under 100.
If these defensive improvements can carry over into this game, while Alexander can replicate his shutdown performance against Evans, the Packers will be better positioned to put in a better showing against the Buccaneers this time.