Here’s a look at a key matchup heading into the Packers’ divisional playoff game against No. 1 seed Atlanta at the Georgia Dome Saturday evening:
Packers' run defense vs. Falcons RBs Michael Turner and Jacob Snelling
If Turner consistently bounces off tacklers for extra yardage after initial contact like he did in the first game this season against Green Bay in Week 12, the Packers could have a tough time Saturday evening. The NFC’s leading rusher (third overall behind Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles) was a particular menace in that game, methodically churning out 110 yards and a one-yard TD while averaging 4.8 yards per carry in a 23-20 Atlanta victory.
Looking back on that game, Packers players and coaches agree that it might have been their poorest tackling effort of the season. With that in mind, look for Green Bay’s run defenders to make a concerted effort to wrap Turner up every time he gets the ball.
How the Packers line up at right outside linebacker could be a factor. The word is rookie Frank Zombo, who has missed the last four games with a knee injury, should probably be able to return to action this week, and he made his presence felt in the earlier game against Atlanta (a sack, a forced fumble and seven tackles). Zombo has been replaced very effectively the last couple of games by Erik Walden (five tackles and a forced fumble vs. Philly), but Zombo is more stout at the point of attack than Walden and might match up better against a hard-charging Turner.
Lately, Green Bay’s 18th-ranked run defense (28th in average gain per rush) has been playing at a pretty high level. Rod Woodson, who might have provided better run support than any cornerback in the league down the stretch, and LBs Clay Matthews and Desmond Bishop spearheaded a strong effort against the run last Sunday in the win over the Eagles, limiting Philly’s ground game to 82 yards on 21 carries. In the last four games, counting last week, Green Bay’s run defense has allowed a very respectable 98.7 yards.
While the Packers know Turner, who had seven 100-yard rushing performances this season, is a real load, they also know full well how pesky Snelling can be, both as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield (third on the team with 44 catches behind Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez.)