It's really quite difficult to find fault with anything Wisconsin's sports teams are currently doing, hot on the heels of a most invigorating weekend in which the baseball Brewers, college football Badgers and pro football Packers all kicked butt with considerable relish. But the Packers' defensive numbers four games into the season should be cause for some concern. Understandably, Green Bay's leaky defense is being overshadowed by an offense presently on pace to produce a whopping 592 points, three more than the record-setting total compiled by the 2007 Patriots.
While it's conceivable the offense is good enough to outscore anybody it faces, regardless of what happens on the other side of the ball, the Packers' pass defense, in particular, remains a major accident waiting to happen. Through four games, a pass defense that was ranked a very respectable fifth last season has allowed 1,343 yards (335.8 per game), resulting in a 31st-ranking in passing yards allowed and a 28th-place ranking in total yards allowed heading into the final game of the week tonight between the Buccaneers and Colts.
The PFW Spin
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: The Packers, one of only two NFL teams left with spotless records, are not going to go undefeated this season.
Not with a defense as spotty as the current unit, which clearly misses Pro Bowl S Nick Collins, out the year with a scary neck injury. Before invading Lambeau Field last Sunday, the Broncos were hardly an offensive juggernaut, gaining 286.3 yards per game. Against the Packers, Kyle Orton & Co. spiked that average significantly to the tune of 384 yards.
It's worth noting that, while most of the damage by the Broncos was done through the air, they also did a decent job working their way down the field against a Packers run defense that was outstanding one week earlier against the Bears. One week after totally shutting down Bears RB Matt Forte, who exploded for 205 rushing yards in Week Four, the Packers had a tough time putting the clamps on Broncos RB Willis McGahee, who averaged 6.9 yards on 15 carries Sunday.
An impotent Green Bay pass rush isn't helping matters. Aside from Clay Matthews, who has only one sack but is still making an impact (two knockdowns Sunday), nobody is pressuring the passer. That, one would think, must change — probably as soon as this Sunday evening, when the Packers take on a Falcons offense that has reinvented itself using a Packers-type template.
Games down the road against the Chargers, Lions, Giants and Raiders — teams that can move the chains in explosive fashion when the spirit moves them — also figure to present special challenges for the Packers' "D."
One positive is the sudden awakening Sunday of third CB Sam Shields, who looked like the same player who was such a pleasant surprise down the stretch last season on a nifty 60-yard interception return against the Broncos. If the Packers are to turn things around defensively, a more consistent effort will be required from Shields, who is the first to admit he needs to step up his game.