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Green Bay Packers defense was a great big sieve

January 17, 2012
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor ( , The Mining Journal

If you can't defend a Hail Mary pass, you don't deserve to get a win, let alone have a shot at any kind of championship.

Fans of the Wisconsin Badgers learned that one in back-to-back weeks this past year en route to missing a shot at a national title and losing again in the Rose Bowl.

Sunday, the Hail Mary showed exactly what the Green Bay Packers defense was.

As they say in hockey, the Packers 2011-12 defense was a great big sieve.

Fans of the Green and Gold were treated to extraordinary defenses when the Packers won Super Bowl titles in 2007 and 2011.

This season, fans witnessed something similar to the 2003-04 Packers, who were unable to hold on the infamous 4th and 26 in Philadelphia in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.

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That's how big of a sieve this Packers defense was and that Hail Mary from Eli Manning to Hakeem Nicks at the end of the first half will forever be etched in the minds of Packers' fans like 4th and 26.

The Packers' defensive woes stem from the heart of all defensive units - the defensive line. What happens there - even in the 3-4 - carries over to the rest of the group.

By letting Cullen Jenkins leave Green Bay to sign with Philadelphia for a modest price that would have fit under the Packers' salary cap, extra pressure was put on defensive linemen B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett. With an increased snap count, specifically for Raji, neither of the 330-plus pound linemen were able to make the impact of last year, not with slouches like Howard Green, C.J. Wilson, Jarius Wynn and Mike Neal backing them up.

The lack of production by Raji and Pickett carried over to an even thinner linebacking group that like the defensive line was a starter short.

Finding someone to play opposite of Clay Matthews at right outside linebacker seemed like a major concern this offseason and the draft appeared to be a good place to fill that hole.

The Packers disagreed, but I think the failed rotation of Frank Zombo, Brad Jones and Erik Walden will make Ted Thompson and company rethink the position this offseason.

As for inside linebacker, Nick Barnett would have been a better option backing up A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop than Robert Francois and D.J. Smith.

Heck, can I get a Brady Poppinga even?

The Packers secondary, despite appearing to be the biggest holes in the green and gold sieve, is actually the strongest and most stable part of the Packers defense, even without the injured Nick Collins. However, with no depth up front and a starter short at both levels, the Green Bay corners and safeties were hung out to dry, though they could have helped themselves a little more by playing tighter coverage on third downs.

Every time I brought up the Packers defensive woes this season, I was told to shut it, asked if I ever played a down of football in my life - not sure why that matters, but if you must know, I played in middle school - and told not to worry about the D since the offense will always cover.

Well against the Kansas City Chiefs, the offense couldn't cover and again on Sunday, there was no Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings to the rescue.

As our Armchair Quarterback and bowling expert Steve Brownlee will tell you, 300s are becoming easier and easier to throw these days, but the 900 is nigh impossible.

It's just as hard to throw a perfect game in baseball, or 100-straight bull's eyes in darts.

Great offenses can only take a team so far, but eventually, perfection comes to an end as the 2001-02 St. Louis Rams and 2007-08 New England Patriots learned.

This year, the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers learned in a matter of two days that a respectable defense is needed to win a Super Bowl title.

Both of those teams shouldn't have needed a reminder from the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers, who both happen to have quality defenses.

When the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV and the Packers won XLV, they had extraordinary defenses.

This year, they were both great big sieves, not champions.



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