Davante Adams vs. Jalen Ramsey. Elgton Jenkins vs. Corey Linsley vs. Aaron Donald. Aaron Rodgers vs. the Los Angeles Rams defense. All have been exhausted, and perhaps rightfully so, throughout the week in the lead-up to Saturday’s divisional round game. I can’t speak for everyone, but personally I prefer when the Green Bay Packers are flying under the radar, not being talked about and then they emerge from the brush to attack. That’s not the case this year. They have the 1-seed, the best offense in football and the presumed 2020 MVP winner. However, the debate over the Packers defense is being swept under the rug.
Just how good are they, and what do they bring to the table for this latest postseason run?
In years past, the defense has been blamed when Green Bay faltered in the playoffs.
Last year the offense wasn’t great in the NFC Championship against the San Francisco 49ers. They managed 20 points and 13 came in the 4th quarter when the game was out of reach. But when your defense gives up 220 rushing yards and four touchdowns to Raheem Mostert, and the Niners average 6.8 yards per run in the game; yeah, the defense will get all of the blame.
We can look back to the NFC Championship in 2016 when Matt Ryan torched the Packers secondary, putting up 44 points. It’s impossible to forget the 2012 matchup against Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers when they ran all over Green Bay, putting up 45 points. When in doubt, the Packers shortcomings in the postseason this past decade have largely been blamed on the defense, whether completely justified or not — that’s not the case this year.
When you have an offense like Green Bay does this season, the other side of the ball is naturally going to get overlooked. There’s only so much attention to be split up. And with the Packers having the No. 1 scoring offense in football along with four first-team all-pro’s on that side of the rock, they will garner a lot attention.
But this defense looks like it has truly turned a corner.
They gave up less than 19 points per game (18.5 to be exact) in the final six games of the season, and Green Bay went 6-0. It’s a defense that played opportunistic football, intercepting six passes during that six-game stretch and pressured the opposing quarterbacks to the tune of 20 sacks. They have a moxie about them, I wouldn’t say it’s an “edge” but more so an abundance of confidence going right now. And why shouldn’t they?
They closed out the year holding the Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears under 17 points. Say what you want about those teams, I’ll take solace in knowing the Tennessee offense was a WAGON this year and the Packers all but shut them down. The Chicago offense had been rolling before Week 17 and Carolina, sure they aren’t great but the Packers defenses of years past may have given up 27 instead of 16.
Not this year.
The “fire Mike Pettine” Twitter chants have been silenced. Za’Darius Smith played as well in Year 2 as he did in year one in Green Bay with less notoriety for his performances. Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage have been playing like perhaps the best one-two punch at safety left in the playoffs. None of it is being talked about this week.
AND: Can Jaire Alexander get some love?
Inject these numbers into my veins:
And not a soul is talking about him leading into this Rams game. It’s all about Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey is a stud, all-pro no doubt, but let’s not ignore Jaire Alexander. It helps Ramsey’s case he’s going up against Davante, I get it. But look at this through Jaire’s lenses.
He did not make first team all-pro like many expected. The Rams defense, and specifically Ramsey, are being praised and talked about all week. You don’t think No. 23 notices this? You don’t think No. 23 might have even more pep in his step on Saturday to show people he’s right here in the discussion? Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, whoever. Line them up across from Jaire on Sunday and say your prayers.
A little sliver of doubt remains in the back of the minds of many Packers fans. Has this defense really turned a corner or will they be ultimately gashed by Cam Akers and the Rams running game like so many teams have done in the past? Will there be a game along the way where the offense scores something like 38 points and it isn’t enough because the defense fades back into proving old narratives are true?
We don’t have those answers yet, but the indicators the last couple of months is that this is a team that believes they can neutralize any opponent. So why not push those chips into the middle of the table and roll with them?