While it’s not quite a flashback to 2009, the Packers defense is again struggling mightily with elite level quarterbacks.
Two years ago, the Packers were consistently burned by quarterbacks Brett Favre, Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner. The Packers lost all four of those games, including a playoff defeat to the Cardinals in which Warner threw for 379 yards and 5 touchdowns. Roethlisberger went over 500 and Favre had a combined seven touchdowns.
While Green Bay has won every game this season, a similar trend is forming for the 2011 defense.
In my estimation, the Packers have played three elite level quarterbacks this season: Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning. Not only were the Packers torched in the passing game by these three quarterbacks, but each of the three games were among the closest the Packers have played this season.
Let’s take a look at some of the stats from these three games.
The table is pretty self-explanatory.
The top level of quarterbacks are not only going to be able to move the football—something many have done on the Packers this season—but they’ll also be able to put points on the board by scoring touchdowns. The last part of that is the most important. While we’ve talked all season about the Packers’ “bend-but-don’t-break” defense, allowing touchdowns has been the only way opposing teams have stuck in games. Other quarterbacks—Cam Newton, Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford—have piled up the yards on the Packers defense, but only the three elite quarterbacks listed were able to throw three or more touchdown passes in a single game.
What does this tell me?
Only the teams with elite quarterbacks are going to have the chance to beat the Packers down the stretch. The Packers have faced good defenses and running games, but neither have been consistently effective in keeping teams competitive against the Packers this season. You have to score touchdowns in the passing game to keep up.
That’s really the only way you’re going to beat this team with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense playing as well as they have in 2011. Score points—as many as you can throwing the football—and hope that Rodgers and the offense will make a mistake or have an off day.
It’s not a fool proof plan, obviously, but elite quarterbacks look like the only ones capable of pulling it off. If the Packers continue to play as poorly against top quarterbacks as they have this season, it’s more than possible for a team like the Saints, Giants or even Cowboys to hang tough and beat the Packers during a playoff game. It’s not a deathwish, but definitely something to consider the next time the Packers see a top level quarterback. Judging by the remaining schedule, that’ll likely come in January.——————
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2