Packers: Believing in the 2021 defense through eight weeks
By David Ruiz
In 2019, the Green Bay Packers were coming off a season-opening win against the Chicago Bears in which Aaron Rodgers famously said after the game, “We got a defense.”
What Rodgers might have been actually alluding to was the 2021 Packers defense — after all, Rodgers has shown to have clairvoyant powers from time to time.
No? Don’t buy that?
Well, once again the Packers, under stout head coach Matt LaFleur, are thriving towards another successful season here in 2021.
With a current record of 7-1, the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and showing the NFL they’re capable of winning games in a number of ways, it’s been the defense that has been playing consistently outside of the anomaly that was Week 1.
A Packers defense that has bent, but has not broken
Without even throwing statistics or what player has done what this season, in years past, the Packers always had a handful of games where the defense would be non-existent. It was just a fact of life that the Packers team would rely on Rodgers’ right arm to either win or lose the game.
A Packers defense that’s ranked 22nd in DVOA (Defense Adjusted Valued Over Average) might tell you that, overall, the Packers defense might not be as good as advertised.
But that’s why there’s more to defense than just DVOA.
The Packers rank ninth in scoring defense — which is even more impressive given how their red-zone defense (ranked nearly last) had plagued them earlier in the season.
Not to mention this has also been a defense that lost Jaire Alexander and Za’Darius Smith to injured reserve, forcing others to step up.
Rasul Douglas, Eric Stokes, Rashan Gary, and a host of others on defense have picked up the slack.
New defensive coordinator, Joe Barry, has also put his defense in a position to be a +8 in the turnover department — which has been huge for a Packers defense putting games away late such as Douglas’ game-sealing interception of Kyler Murray to help hand the Arizona Cardinals their first loss of the season.
Keeping opposing offenses at bay
The Packers’ schedule ahead of the season was one that included a number of hostile environments they would have to gut out wins. Throw in the fact that there’s always an unforeseen upset lurking and no one would bat an eye if they already had suffered more than one loss by Week 9.
While the Packers are now 7-0 when Davante Adams doesn’t suit up for a game under LaFleur, looking at the Arizona game as a true measure for a defense that needed to be physical for 60 minutes, and it’s now realizing that this defense has been stingy outside of primetime viewings.
The Washington Football Team — my unforeseen upset — had every chance in the world to walk out of Lambeau Field with a win. However, it was the Packers’ defense that forced an 0-for-4 showing in the red zone.
There has been no shortage of quality quarterbacks the Packers have faced this season that all could have handed them a loss.
Jimmy Garoppolo’s late-touchdown drive in the fourth quarter? Nope.
Murray starting from his own 1-yard line getting down to the GB-5 with time ticking? Nope.
Joe Burrow getting the ball back in Cincinnati in overtime after De’Vondre Campbell’s interception and Mason Crosby’s missed field goal? Nope.
This Packers defense has faced the very definition of adversity on the field and has risen to the occasion each time en route to 7-1.
With reinforcements potentially on the way, they’re on the cusp of doing something special once again in 2021. Belief in this Packers defense has their confidence soaring through the roof knowing they may give up points, but they are not giving up the game.