Defense Must Rise For Pack to Stay Afloat

The Packers enter the complete unknown as we usher in the Seneca Wallace era. Of course, if things get ugly on Sunday we might see the dawn of the Scott Tolzien era next week. Safe to say, the offense is a bit challenged without Aaron Rodgers (not to mention Cobb, Finley, maybe Lang...)

It's times like these when you need to rely on your defense to step up and say, 'relax, guys, we got this.' After a nice four game win streak that saw the defense in near lock down mode, the unit took a significant step backward on Monday night against the Bears. Of course, those four wins came against some offensively-challenged teams, so maybe we were playing with fool's gold.

The Pack got very little pass rush on Josh McCown and had no answer for the Bears' big, physical receivers. The Eagles present an entirely different challenge. Their fast break style is unlike anything else in the league. They sprint back to the line after plays and try to take advantage of the confusion that can cause. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. They annihilated the Raiders last week, but didn't score an offensive touchdown the two previous games (with Vick and Barkley at QB).

Nick Foles shocked the world with his seven TD passes in three quarters last week against an abominable Raiders defense. He finished the day with over 400 yards and a perfect passer rating. Safe to say, he's won the job for good--or at least for this season. He's smart, has a strong arm and doesn't make mistakes--he has zero interceptions to go along with his 13 TD passes.

It's unlikely that will change against the Pack, which has just three picks at the halfway point of the season--good for 30th in the league. They say they come in bunches. Well, now would be a good time to start. The Packers hope to get both Clay Matthews and Nick Perry back for this game. If either play, it will likely be on a pitch count, especially at the pace this game is likely to be played. But their return would be a shot in the arm for a defense that needs to be disruptive against Chip Kelly's high octane offense.

Of course, most of the attention nationally on this game is on the Packers' offense and what Seneca Wallace can do with a week of practice and a game plan suited to his strengths. Frankly, we're not sure what his strengths are at this point, other than the fact that he has a lot more game experience than Graham Harrell or BJ Coleman had.

Look for McCarthy to move him out of the pocket (he's maybe 5'10") and expect a lot of underneath stuff. He'll need to take a few shots deep downfield, but that's never been his forte. Like Monday night, the Eagles will have their safeties up to stop the Packers' potent running game and Wallace will need to keep them somewhat honest through the air. If ever the Pack could use Finley and Cobb it's now, with a QB like Wallace who would prefer to get rid of the ball quickly and let his receivers get the job done after the catch. The Eagles' defense ranks dead last against the pass this season. Wallace needs to carve them up--this can't be just about Lacy, Starks and the running game.

If the Packers can go 2-1 in their next three they'll be right in the mix heading into the Thanksgiving Day showdown in Motown. But this one is the key. A win on Sunday would calm everyone down and provide some confidence with a road trip to the Giants looming. But the Eagles have been a strange team to figure. They're 0-4 at home, and 4-1 on the road. And they'll come to Lambeau oozing with confidence and believing they should win this game.

In the four years I've been writing this blog I've never gone into a game less certain about the outcome, for obvious reasons. Logic says the Eagles win here. Packers are on a short week, with a new QB and without some of its best players. The Eagles are healthy, hot and in the thick of their division race, despite a 4-5 record.

I think the defense will rise. I think Wallace will make just enough plays. Somehow, some way, the Packers avoid a rare two game losing streak at Lambeau. The Packers are one point favorites (they were favored by 10 when the lines came out on Monday--then #12 went down). That sounds about right.

Packers 24 Eagles 23


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