There’s No “D” in Repeat, But There Should Be

When you sift through all the information, everything you know from watching the Packers play 16 times this season, it’s really quite simple: they will return to the Super Bowl only if they are able to stop the run and rush the passer.

The offense will be able to score on any of the three NFC teams they may face in the next two weeks. A matchup with the Saints would be a video game. The 49ers are terrific against the run–susceptible to high-powered passing attacks. And the Giants? Well the Pack’s played them twice in the past 13 months and has hung 83 points on them.

It comes down to the defense and whether you believe that they will be able to hold up their end of the bargain. This unit is not the ’10 Packers. Take away Nick Collins and Cullen Jenkins and you’ve lost two of your four best players from last year’s defense. And there has been significant drop-offs from their replacements.

But is still a unit that is led by Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews. A unit that is for the most part, championship-tested and built to play its best in the biggest moments.┬áThe return of Ryan Pickett should settle down the run defense and that’s where things begin. Much of the nation saw the Bears’ third string running back run up and down the field at Lambeau on Christmas night and figured a good running attack would crush the Pack. Pickett is vital in stopping the run game and the Pack must do that on Sunday.

The Giants ranked 32nd and dead last in rushing this season, but regained some swagger with 170 yards against the Falcons. Ahmad Bradshaw has battled injuries all season (he missed practice on Wednesday, so it’s still an issue). Brandon Jacobs rarely puts two good games together and he was very good last weekend. The offense is playing with some swagger and the Pack needs to bottle up the run–put Eli Manning in second and third and long situations, where he can be forced into mistakes.

Speaking of Manning, he’s had his best season and has been especially tough in the fourth quarter. The Packers’ pass rush has been abysmal the final month of the season. We can throw out the Lions game, since Matthews and Woodson didn’t suit up. In Week 16 against the Bears they didn’t sack Josh McCown once and only hit him twice. The game before that, the loss at Arrowhead, again they were shutout against Kyle Orton and only hit him once.

At Lambeau on Sunday, against a very confident offensive line, the Packers must hit Manning often and sack him once or twice. You can bet Ted Thompson will make the pass rush his first priority in the offseason. You can also bet Dom Capers will have a lot of different looks for Manning–they’ve been playing pretty vanilla for the last month. Except a lot more blitzing Sunday, especially if the defense is able to contain the run early. The Packers may give up a few big plays, but they know they have to make Manning uncomfortable from the outset.

The other important element on Sunday is the first quarter. The Pack has to come out firing. In recent years, rested teams coming off a playoff bye have been rusty and fallen behind early. We saw it in Atlanta and New England last season with the top seeds falling in their first playoff games. With a full complement of weapons on offense, including James Starks who proclaimed himself ready to go after practicing fully on Wednesday, you get the feeling Aaron Rodgers can’t wait to take back the reins and remind people what his offense can do. He hasn’t played since Christmas and Drew Brees and the Saints have stolen some of his thunder.

Stop the run, rush the passer and get off to a fast start. I know it seems rather obvious, but take care of those three things and the Pack will be hosting the NFC title game one week later.

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16 Responses to There’s No “D” in Repeat, But There Should Be

  1. Bill, the voice of reason says:

    I have no doubt Capers and the defense know what’s at stake here. The D will be a different squad starting Sunday afternoon. Besides, this is Rodgers’ first home playoff game – that says volumes right there. The real season starts right now – it’s time to get down to business.

  2. OLD SOUTH SIDE GUY says:

    The Pack can’t rely on home field advantage as much as we would like to think.
    Over the past seven postseasons (from 2004 through 2010), only the 2009 New Orleans Saints have won the Super Bowl as the number 1 seed. We need to keep the mantra “40 for 40″ alive and well thru the playoffs to win. This is the year of the QB and Rodgers will need to show he’s the best. GO PACK GO !!

  3. Rob from Brooklyn Center says:

    Good point Bill, the voice of reason (I don’t mind your screen name, it helps differentiate you from other Bills that may want to comment much like lynndickeyfan does to distinguish himself from other Robs like myself.) Rodgers has played on the road for his entire playoff career starting in 2009 when they lost in Arizona to the Cardinals in that crazy shootout & then last year, they were the 6th seed so they never had a chance to host a playoff game. I’m excited to see what Capers has planned for this anemic defense to get some pressure on the quarterback in order to force turnovers & to stop the run. I’m sure Rodgers is very excited to play this game at Lambeau Field in front of the fans. I would like to see the defense to not give up big plays & stop the Giants & for the offense to come out hot & efficient & the special teams to tilt the starting field position in the Packers favor. I hope the Packers don’t have to score 40 points to get victory OSSG but it is fun to see them achieve that. Go Pack!

  4. Al says:

    Slightly annoyed at the national media who assume the Giants will upset Green Bay. As Dave mentioned, the Pack have put 45 and 38 points up on the Giants, the last two times they’ve played them. So, I have little doubt that Rodgers can shred them. Eli has also turned the ball over in game changing fashion, in both games. If the defense can get a pass rush, from someone (Brad Jones, So’oto, etc.)…heck, anyone, other than just Clay, without having to send the house, then I really like the chances of coming out with a victory.

  5. SchenySchen says:

    Gentlemen,
    Brad Jones looks to be the starter, but don’t assume he is going to provide more pass rush. He was benched to begin with because while he is more well rounded, he was less effective as a pass rusher than Zombo or Walden. They are starting Jones because Walden has become completely undisciplined and keeps giving teams the edge and making dumb penalties. He might not get to the QB but he won’t blow his lane on basic run to the left which should help the defense. — I agree that Saine will be important to keep pressure off Rodgers. I also hope the gameplan includes more short passes to TE’s or Cobb underneath. I’m happy with a 6 yard hook. — As for the defense, it is going to give up yards. I think Woodson is going to take one away. He has a way of gaming quarterbacks into throwing and I think Eli will toss it up. — We won’t score 40, and we won’t need to. Giants won’t score 30. Defense will get the necessary takeaways and their D-line won’t play as well on slower field as they did in Atlanta. Please keep in mind that we had a totally revamped O-line that first time around. ——NYG 27 GB 34
    GoPack!

  6. lynndickeyfan says:

    I kind of agree with SchenySchen. I think the defenses role is going to be to stop the run. The hope is to make them pass and make them pass over the middle. This increases the odds of getting those take aways. Yield yards, but make them afraid to run the ball. It’s a gambling concept that has worked well. Any Pass rusher we get has been a plus. It’s not an ideal system, but its what we are doing.

  7. The Trashman says:

    I agree with 2 out of 3: Pack need to stop the run and start fast. However, we haven’t rushed the passer well all year (29 sacks: only TB and Tenn had less his year) and we are 15-1, so we have been winning without much of a pass rush. If we can get a pressure here and there, Eli can get rattled and make mistakes as he showed by running backwards into the endzone for a safety versus Atalanta.

    In my opinion, the 1st key to the Pack winning this game will be keeping Rodgers comfortable so he can make those pinpoint throws. I do not believe our secondary will be very effective at stopping the NYG passing attack. Eli is having a great year and Nicks, Cruz, & Manningham make for a nice set of WRs. This will be a high scoring game much like the 38-35 score in week 13.

    The Pack’s #1 task must be to keep the NYG front 4 from getting too much pressure on Rodgers. While only 2 teams have fewer sacks than the Pack, only 2 teams (Philly & Viks) have more sacks than the Giants. NYG had 5 sacks against Jets in week 16 and 6 sacks against Dallas in week 17! And we all saw what the Giants defensive front did against Atlanta. Pierre-Paul (#90) had 6 sacks in their last 4 regular season games. We will need Clifton to be at his best.

    Bottom line: Keep Rodgers upright and he can beat the Giants 63-62 if needed.

  8. capablecarl says:

    You would think the Packers backed into the playoffs after winning the North with an 8-8 record despite the horrible play of their QB. Rodgers keeps track of all the slights he’s ever gotten and has made people pay. He has gotten a whole career’s worth of disrespect this week alone. Bye Bye Giants…

  9. OLD SOUTH SIDE GUY says:

    First things first…..welcome back SchenySchen…I thought maybe PA got you over to the dark side. The national media loves momentum…especially from an East Coast team …and especially a New York team. While momentum from game to game is important ( think Pack last year)….momentum within a game is more important. MM’s play calling and the team need to start fast and keep the scoring on rather than trying to play like your protecting a lead. Keep the mantra “40 for 40″ going and fine tune player defense next season. The Giant defensive backs can be handled and with their pass rush on Rodgers the 45 degree slant passes to Jennings, Nelson, and Cobb can go for long gains. Let’s not overlook the importance of special teams..Pack can not afford long kick returns and good giant field position. Crosby must also bring his ” A” game. Believe in “40 for 40″ GO PACK GO !!!

  10. larry says:

    hey, scheny schen, welcome back, now we need badgerbob to give us his thoughts, and bigE from osceola, trashman, u must be reading my mind. i love your takes. i don’t think we will get much pressure on eli, but i hope we play man to man d and rush 6 or 7 a lot. let morgan play free saftey and pick some passes off. he has great hand skills.that is what we did last year in playoffs and then there are no mistakes on where to go like in zone d. eli sure isn’t going to run much. we need to do like u said and keep 12 clean. i have said my prayers to the philbin family, but i worry about this, 12 said he has never even been to a funeral in his life, his 1st one and then he needs to go play and forget about it. it’s going to be hard on him. do we know if the players are going to the funeral or not? i hope he just stays with his family and let mm handle it. i hate to say this, but it may become a distraction if he is there more then a help. u know how the media is, his family needs him more right now anyway. hey bill and ldf, see this may have helped, everyone is talking to each other now on our blogs. good to see. go world champs, 38-34 pack

  11. lynndickeyfan says:

    OSSG, why isn’t it 40 for 60? I get the 40 points, but I think I missing something else.

  12. SchenySchen says:

    The media keeps bringing up 2007. The most important difference between the two games/rosters is the insertion of #12 as our starting QB. Great picture of Brint (#4) in the Pioneer Press from that game, standing with his hands in his pockets, clearly not wanting to be there.– I have the sneaking suspicion that our running game is going to do well. Not sure why, just feel like that D-line is getting too much juice. — OSSG, my Packer Fever never wavers, certainly not for anything PA could say. (Still have less respect for him because of the kid-punching comments). GoPack!

  13. BB says:

    The number of DWIs will break records in WI tonight….nothing better than a bunch of drunken sconnies crying about their pathetic team. This is the beginning of the end – by the way, look in the mirror and see how ugly you are….fat, drunk, and wrinkled from all the smoking….LOSER.

  14. TheTruthHurts says:

    Trust us, BB: You’re the only loser here. Although, i’m sure you hear that a lot in your sad little life.

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