If the Packers Want to Stop Peterson, Defense Needs to Be Tougher

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Tramon Williams
Packers CB Tramon Williams needs to step outside his comfort zone and tackle Adrian Peterson if the Packers want to win on Saturday night.

People usually think of toughness as some intangible trait, something that can’t be measured by an actual set of skills or statistics. People also use the word toughness as an adjective, a cliche to just throw out there when they really can’t explain why their favorite team can’t make a tackle, catch a pass or win a game.

I hate using words just to use words. Words mean things. And if you use a word, it better mean something.

If the Packers want to avoid another one-and-done in the postseason and beat the Vikings on Saturday, they need to get tougher on defense. Here’s what toughness means in the Packers’ case:

  • Doing things you’re not comfortable doing. This is for Tramon Williams. I know you’re not comfortable tackling. Maybe it’s your shoulder, maybe it’s something else. Either way, you need to get tougher and tackle. Packers fans applaud your toughness when you clamp down on Calvin Johnson or Brandon Marshall. That’s great. But you’re a No. 1 cornerback. Playing the other team’s top receiver is what you’re supposed to do. True toughness comes when you take on Peterson and bring him down before he reels off another big gain on your side. Teams win championships when players do things they’re not comfortable doing and do them well.
  • Owning your gap. The Packers looked very conscious of gap assignments against Peterson Sunday. They seemed to get the concept of maintaining gap responsibility, but had no idea what to do when Peterson came into their gap. If you beat your blocker, or at least fight him to a draw, standing in the gap flat-footed is not good enough against Peterson. You need to own your gap, not just hang out in it for a while. If Peterson comes into your gap — the gap you own! — you need to be in a position to make a play and bring him down. Standing flat-footed and reaching with your hands won’t do it. You also can’t wait for your teammates to come help you out. Peterson gets his big yards when he runs through your feeble attempt at a hand grab and cuts back to where your teammates used to be before they came to help you. Peterson runs aggressively. If you want to stop him, you have to at least match that aggressiveness.
  • Linebackers playing like linebackers. The Packers are down to their third-string middle linebacker, A.J. Hawk isn’t much of a playmaker, and whoever is on the other end of Matthews is hit or miss. Nonetheless, Packers’ linebackers need to step up if they want to hold down Peterson. There’s no other way around it. Jones and Hawk, I’m looking at you.

Those are all measurable things that the Packers can do to improve their toughness. Toughness isn’t about yelling loud or beating on your chest. It’s not about wearing short sleeves in freezing temperatures or talking trash before the game.

Toughness is about stepping out of your comfort zone, going above and beyond your assignment, and getting the position group on your team that is supposed to tackle to actually, you know, tackle.

Of course, the Packers could do all of those things and still get run over by Peterson. He’s that good.

But if they get tougher on defense, something tells me there will be at least one more week of Packers football.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam\\\'s writing on the Packers here.

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  • Wagszilla

    Bench Tramon for Jarrett Bush.
    No I’m not kidding. JB is a tackling machine.

    Of course this will never happen but a girl can dream!

    C-Wood will likely replace Jennings, too. Jennings is greatly superior in coverage but competent at tackling he is not.

    • gman

      I was thinking the exact same thing, I just didn’t want to be the first to mention the idea. Maybe sitting down would send the message to Tramon that his lack of effort was unacceptable. He seemed to me to be jogging in the run game as well as coverage several times. What bothered me was play action got him more than the other db’s, even though he had no intention of playing the run anyway.

      Bush would be a major upgrade in run defense (plus they wouldn’t game plan for him until 2nd half), and if he does give up 4 or 5 completions for 10 yards apiece, thats no different than Williams last game. But the main reason I would look into a change is pure effort, Bush gives 100% effort on every play I’ve ever seen him in on, where as Tramon showed a total lack of effort on several run and pass plays last week.

      Bush is NOT a long term answer by no means, but MIGHT BE a one game solution to Peterson running wild to the outside.
      Because it did look as though the d-line did a good job of plugging the middle (Raji and Wilson).

  • A_Lerxst_in_Packerland

    Several comments:

    You make some very good points;

    IMO the absolute best way to beat Adrian Peterson is to KEEP HIM OFF THE FIELD! Nice, long, sustained, point-scoring drives by the Packers offense may be the best defense we can muster against Peterson;

    Typo in photo caption – I think you mean if the PACKERS want to win on Saturday night.

    Oh, and Happy New Year!

  • Brooklyn81

    I believe you are right on with this article. I was sitting there Sunday yelling at my TV saying the exact same thing. I wanted to throw something when i kept seeing them stand in those gaps so flat footed and trying to arm tackle ADRIAN PETERSON THE BEST RB IN THE NFL WITH THEIR ARMS. They have to improve on this and fast to make it to SF. Having Woody back is a plus because he tackles but i worry about his defensive holding penalties and pass interferences that are called against him. And for the love of God can our DBs not cover their mediocre WRs with Ponder throwing the ball. They made him look the best he’s looked all season, and he’s been awful. Come on pack you have to earn it its not just gonna happen. I’ve seen them cover much better receivers. Go Pack Go!

  • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

    HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!!!

  • http://packersinsider.com Frank Rizzo

    Packers need to take a playbook from the 1994 (about) playoff game against the Lions and Barry Sanders.
    They focused and performed their gameplan of 100% stopping #20, and they shut him down like never before or after.

    This team needs better play from the ILB’s. But the sad thing is there is only one on the team now with Bishop & Smith hurt. Jones is NOT an ILB.

    Where’s Terrell Manning?

  • cow42

    Here’s the thing…
    Players are who they are.
    Nothing’s going to change over the course of 6 days.
    Players who are not “tough” can’t just decide to be “tough”. They can go into the game with that idea in mind, but as soon as the ball is kicked off players revert back to who they truly are.

    the packers do not have a lot of naturally tough players.



    momentum – advantage Vikings.

    play style – weather relationship – advantage Vikings.

    toughness/physicality – advantage Vikings.

    “underdog” status – advantage Vikings (are the packers really GIVING 8?!).

    best player on the field – advantage Vikings (Peterson may very well be the greatest runner of all time. rodgers is excellent but he is not YET to qb’s what Peterson is to rb’s).

    overall team health – advantage Vikings (this would be a blowout if the packers had Bishop, Smith, Perry, Bulaga).

    recent playoff history – advantage Vikings (mcCarthy 1-2 in playoff games at home, rodgers has never won a playoff game at home, packers 2-4 in last 6 playoff games at home). also would like to mention that the packers are 2-4 vs 2012 playoff teams (paper division champions).

    kicking game – advantage Vikings

    position by position break down – advantage Vikings (packers get qb and wr, Vikings get the rest).

    i’m predicting a jerome simpson mooning “hommage” after a TD.

    this one could get ugly.

    41-24 Vikings

    • Mark MacDonald

      Compared to Christian Ponder, Aaron is as good as Peterson compared to the Packer’s running backs. Momentum is at least even giving home field advantage for the Packers. Vikings had the dome noise and without going against Randell Cobb and they could only win on a last second field goal. Weather, advantage Packers…have you looked at Christan Ponder’s quarterback rating outside the dome???!!!

      • cow42

        i was comparing Peterson to rb’s all time… and rodgers to qb’s all time.

        i actually think playing outside when it’s cold favors the Vikings. By the way – I’ve been to packers/Vikings games @ Lambeau… don’t be surprised if the crowd is close to 50-50 (especially with today’s economy – can’t blame Packer Fans for selling their fix).

        cobb won’t make that much difference. the passing game was fine. unless cobb can play corner or safety i don’t see him changing the outcome of the game.

  • GBPDAN

    One way or another, the Pack has to beat the queens at Lambeau! I just won’t be able to stomach a loss, in the playoffs, at home, to the hated bi-queens. This game is our season, beat the frickin Vikings.

  • madmanJack

    thats why the packers need to get their toughest guy on the field. WOODSON!!!!!! hes not afraid to stick his nose in there!

  • Turophile

    It is a clash of collective wills.

    Will produces force, force generates momentum, momentum gives wins, wins feed confidence (which helps will)….rinse and repeat….you have a juggernaut

  • I hate the Vikingss

    A little help with tackling in the secondary might include Charles Woodson, Jarrett Bush and Davon House. They might seriously think about benching Tramon for this one, based on his unwillingness to tackle.

  • wim

    adam just nails it. we miss bishop bad; he was our only ILB that actually likes to hit. i only watched the game on tv but it seemed our linebackers were nowhere to be found, while the front three seemed to be doing their job reasonably well so that the LBs could make the plays, but nope. i also was frustrated with capers going prevent on that 3rd and 11 and not rushing ponder, though if hayward had played the zone better that D should have worked too. i am not feeling good about this weekend. peterson will eat us alive. our hope it have ponder gift us another game as he did a couple of weeks ago.

    • Gary

      Hawk could be found on the ground or running the wrong way.

  • AldenRoche

    Agree with everything you say about toughness and the lack thereof. GB is a “finesse” team and I don’t recall a lot of great Defenses that were known for their finesses.

    However, I think focusing on Tramon and his poor tackling is a mistake. While he is indeed a liability it is the LBs who set the (bad) tone. Clay is much better against the pass than the run. Zombo and Walden are scrubs who hopefully will not be on the team next year and Moses is raw and overwhelmed at this point. Jones has never before played ILB and is a 3rd teamer at best. That brings us to our high-priced designated run stuffer Hawk. After 7 years of seeing him get pancaked by FBs (think Giants in playoffs) and making tackles 8-10 yards down field what would make you think he could step up and play tough now?

  • Elo

    Great article Adam. Watching Tramon watch AP run by him was painful. While I think we still need Tramon on the field, I would like to see Woody back and a little bit of House subbed in on short yardage situations. Hawk has had one of his better years, but he just seems slow and lost at times.

  • Andrew

    We all need to just realize how good Peterson is. Our first three possessions were three and outs and then that critical sack fumble. If we were to get points on any of those drives I think they game would of easily gone in our favor. Packers need to start fast against the Vikings if they want to win. Score points and get a lead and make the Vikings one dementional and make them throw the ball more. They are still gonna run but not as much of we have a big lead

  • bobalou13

    Watching our defenders against AP was like watching a bad infield misplay hard ground balls one after the other, they were on their heels wanting to back up instead of going at him and making the play.

  • http://gogglechrome madtowne

    Bad DB Play:

    Tramon for getting singled out by Troy
    Aikman for not wanting any part of AP.

    Tramon for his stupid penalty.

    MD Jennings for going for the pick rather than just knocking the ball down
    on the Queens TD.

    MD Jennings for not jumping and trying
    to bat the ball away on the rollout by
    Ponder that Jenkins dropped.

    Hayward for looking back at the QB and
    not covering his man on the last drive.

    Basic lack of fundamental football gentleman.

    Silver lining…we’re still playing and
    Da Bears and Lovie are done!

  • Kevin Lankford

    Big bad Peterson can’t run if you all wrap wrap wrap up his legs. I seem only a few good tackles this past Sunday. Play hard or be done for 2012.

  • FITZCORE1252

    Queens have played indoors for four consecutive weeks. After the Pack gets up early, the queens will be looking for hand-warmers and the locker room… They haven’t played a true cold weather game yet. This one may get ugly alright.

    GBP 4 LIFE