Packers: 5 reasons for poor defensive performance vs. Ravens

Green Bay Packers, Krys Barnes - Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay Packers, Krys Barnes - Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports /

Fifteen weeks into the 2021 season, the Green Bay Packers are the only team with 11 wins to their name.

As they gear up for perhaps their most highly anticipated playoff run since 2011, it’s all about fine-tuning from here on out, and cleaning up any imperfections before the elimination games begin.

Sunday’s victory in Baltimore was huge for seeding purposes, but it was far from perfect defensively. It was the fourth straight game where they allowed at least 28 points, and this one came against a backup quarterback.

So what went wrong for the Packers defense in Baltimore, and why did this game get so close towards the end? Here are five reasons:

1. A rough outing for Darnell Savage

Darnell Savage grew up in Delaware and spent his college days in Maryland but it wasn’t quite the homecoming the free safety was hoping for.

Savage was the man primarily tasked with covering Mark Andrews — who has been playing at an All-Pro level in his fourth NFL season.

Andrews racked up 10 catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, the majority of which came against Savage (including the two touchdowns). The Packers had no answer for Andrews, and Savage was left hanging with no help on several occasions.

2. Not playing Henry Black

Yes, I’m being serious. Look, Henry Black has certainly struggled this season in his dime DB role, oftentimes looking like the biggest weakness on the Packers defense.

This was the week when Joe Barry finally submitted to the hordes of fans calling for Black to be replaced. So Joe Barry replaced him with Kevin King.

It’s a minor move — the dime DB tends to only play 10-20 snaps per game in this defense, but given the matchup I felt the timing of the transition was pretty questionable.

Black’s biggest asset is his ability to match tight ends in man coverage. He’s far from superb at it, but when Mark Andrews is tearing through your defense over and over again, at what point do you give Black a chance?

3. Playing without Kenny Clark

The Packers have been able to survive without Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander, but Kenny Clark might be a step too far. The depth behind Clark is embarrassingly low, and it showed on Sunday.

If not for the decrepit injury situation in Baltimore, they could’ve opened canyons up the middle of the Packers defense in the run game.

Clark has made a case as the very best player on the Packers defense this year. Allowing 30 points in his absence further solidifies that claim.

4. Major lapses in concentration

Joe Barry must have taken a sip from whatever Maurice Drayton was drinking as the Packers defense mimicked the special teams unit when it came to making careless errors.

The Packers were caught without 11 players on the field on multiple instances. At one point we saw Kevin King doing his best Christian Ringo impression by running onto the field late.

But the biggest mistake came when the Ravens were at the goal line on their second to last drive and Rashan Gary went sprinting off the field between downs (presumably having been called off by coaches), leaving only 10 men present at the snap.

The Packers literally played without an edge rusher — just pure empty space in front of Ravens left tackle Alejandro Villanueva. With nobody to contain Tyler Huntley, the elusive quarterback strolled into the end zone unopposed, closing the gap to seven points.

5. An overly conservative game plan

In my opinion, the biggest reason the Packers struggled on Sunday afternoon was due to a much too conservative game plan put in place by Joe Barry.

It was a game that wouldn’t look out of place in the Mike Pettine era with light personnel, very few blitzes and cornerbacks playing a lot of off-coverage.

I’m not sure why Barry was inclined to play this ‘scared’ of the Ravens offense. This isn’t Tom Brady and Randy Moss we’re talking about.

Sure, Marquise Brown is a deep threat with elite speed, but Eric Stokes is one of the fastest cornerbacks you’ll see, and I’m not sold that Tyler Huntley is hitting him in stride with De’Vondre Campbell charging up the middle.