The Key to Defending the Packers? Get to the Ball and Tackle.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune asks NFL scouts for a report on Packers wide receiver Davante Adams:

“‘He really came on at the end of the season,’ one scout said. ‘You look at him and he’s tall, real long and he has good change of direction for someone his size. He’s not an absolute burner, but he really fits what they do well in that hybrid West Coast system. He can run the curl and the fade and he’s pretty good in space. He has shown that he’s good at probably the most important thing in that Green Bay offense — what can you do in space? Yards after the catch. This guy will get explosive gains. He’ll turn a 5-yard catch into 15. He’ll turn 15 into a touchdown.'”

A couple thoughts on this report.

First notice what the scout does not emphasize – the ability to get separation. Adams doesn’t need that because quarterback Aaron Rogers has the ability to throw him open. It’s yet another reminder of why the Bears offense will always trail behind the Packers. It’s all about the quarterback. You can surround Jay Cutler with all of the talent in the world. Unless he learns to throw with anticipation to a receiver, the Bears will never be where they need to be.

Second its a reminder of the one thing the Bears must do really well on defense on Sunday. Tackle. That’s always true but its particularly true against the Packers. Defensive backs must be quick to the ball and must tackle immediately to limit yards after the catch. This is why Lovie Smith‘s teams always were competitive against the Packers. The cover two emphasize these very points and the Packers always had to work hard to get anywhere against it. Indeed, that’s how the cover two gained popularity. It was specifically designed to defeat the West Coast offense run so well by the San Fransisco 49ers in the 1980s. The Packers version is, of couse, more evolved. But the defense is still effective against it.

Unfortunately this isn’t defensive coordinator Vic Fangio‘s style. His defensive backs typically play more man coverage. This can work, as it did regularly against the Packers when Fangio coached the 49ers. Fangio’s defensive backs are also more physical, knocking receivers off their routes. And he disguises his defenses well, something Rogers apparently appreciates:

“‘He always had a lot of moving pieces, but they always seem to be very well prepared,’ Rodgers said Wednesday. ‘There weren’t any mental errors or breakdowns.'”

And there better not be Sunday, either. As Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune emphasizes with this quote from Saints Hall of Fame linebacker Ricky Jackson, it’s not going to be easy:

“‘If he gets a team that has some good closers, he’s going to make some noise,’ Jackson said. ‘And if you ever give him a good secondary, he’s going to kill people.'”

If you give him a good secondary. The Packers passing offense was ranked 8th in the league last year. The Bears passing defense? 30th. And so far this years version looks worse to me. If the defensive backs are a step slow Sunday, as they were in all four preseason games, the Bears aren’t going to get it done.

In fairness, that’s probably true no matter what scheme they play. But its particularly true if Fangio relies on man coverage. Trying to deny receivers the ball in such a scheme is fine as long as players are in a position to make the tackle after a catch. Good fundamentals are going to be the key on Sunday. It will be interesting to see how Fangio and the rest of the Bears defense handle the situation.

Leave a Reply