Green Bay Packers

Green Bay's "Bend But Don't Break" Philosophy Needs To End

Photo Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers’ defense hit a new low on Monday Night Football, allowing 200 yards on the ground for the fourth time this season. Despite facing an offensive line that led the league in sacks allowed, they failed to register even one. The unit made Tommy DeVito look like Lamar Jackson as a scrambler. The New York Giants ultimately beat the Packers, 24-22.

While Green Bay’s defense managed to keep the game close throughout the evening, a lackluster performance from the offense overshadowed their efforts. The offense struggled to make a significant impact, failing to capitalize on opportunities and establish control.

The real issue emerged when the defense made it surprisingly easy for New York to march down the field after finally securing the go-ahead touchdown, allowing them to get in range for a game-winning field goal. The Packers had a perplexing game plan for an inferior quarterback compared to their recent competition. Joe Barry decided to sit back in off-coverage and bring no pressure against DeVito, who’s not on Patrick Mahomes’ or even Jared Goff’s level. That allowed DeVito to navigate the field comfortably, exposing a critical lapse in defensive execution at a crucial moment in the game.

Barry’s defensive scheme is designed to counter elite and explosive passing teams like the ones the Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions, and Los Angeles Chargers employ. However, Barry’s strategy tends to inadvertently boost their performance when facing less talented quarterbacks. The Packers had fourth-quarter leads against Desmond Ridder, Jimmy Garoppolo, Kenny Pickett, and DeVito, only to lose all these games.

The optimal game plan for containing the Giants’ offense involved stacking the box and forcing DeVito to rely on his arm. Therefore, Barry’s strategy was puzzling. He consistently refrained from bringing substantial pressure. Throughout the game, Barry deployed a repetitive sequence of four-man rushes. That afforded DeVito ample time to make reads, connect with his receivers, and even capitalize on significant scrambles – marking the best game of his career on the ground.

Green Bay’s run defense has been abysmal in the last five games, conceding at least 140 yards each time. Surprisingly, they managed to secure three wins despite this glaring issue. The Packers’ defenders appear to be allergic to tackling. Trouble ensues whenever an opposing player faces somebody one-on-one in the open field.

For context, the Tennessee Titans’ defense had to contain the Miami Dolphins’ potent offense in the other Monday night game. The contrast in the two approaches was stark. One defense emerged victorious, while the other succumbed to its previous mediocrity. The inability to abandon the “bend but don’t break” mentality when the opposing team only needs a field goal to win proved costly for the Packers.

Green Bay’s “bend but don’t break” philosophy has morphed into an excuse for softness and failure in their defensive approach. The mindset for any defense should be a relentless pursuit of three-and-outs on every drive. While achieving this goal may be unrealistic, adopting such a mentality is crucial for building elite, winning defenses. Anything less than this proactive approach risks compromising the team’s defensive caliber and undermining a championship-worthy unit’s foundation.

By embracing this philosophy, you believe the offense will play at your pace, not theirs. It allows you to impose your rhythm and physicality as a defense. Dictating the game’s tempo not only disrupts the opposing team’s strategy but also instills a sense of control and dominance. A defense committed to the relentless pursuit of three-and-outs sends a clear message: It’s not about surviving but taking charge and setting the tone for the entire game.

Despite Green Bay’s defense allowing 20.6 points per game, ranking 11th in the league, the unit is more problematic than the stats suggest. The “bend but don’t break” strategy often allows opponents easy access to the red zone, with the apparent success frequently undermined by opponents’ self-inflicted errors. Instances like Saquon Barkley‘s inexplicable fumble and the Los Angeles Chargers’ goal-line mishap with Austin Ekeler, compounded by receivers dropping the ball in the sunlight, expose the defense’s vulnerability and cast doubt on its true strength beyond the statistics.

There are instances where Green Bay’s defense is both bending and breaking. The approach isn’t working, and the team needs a fundamental overhaul. The current defensive strategy cannot continue to hinder the team’s progress. However, The concerning reality is that Joe Barry will likely return for the next season. Unfortunately, the Packers may only relieve him of his duties when his defensive unit costs this young and promising team a playoff game.

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