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Green Bay Defense Lacks Killer Instinct

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The Green Bay defense has issues. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images.
The Green Bay defense has issues. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images.

Two plays. That’s all it takes.

The Green Bay Packers’ defense played incredible through the first 57 minutes of a 19-17 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Up until the Ravens faced 4th-and-21 with just under three minutes to play, the Packers had shut down the Ravens – with no Clay Matthews, no less. The game appeared to be over. Everyone was ready to crown the Packers with their first above-.500 record this year and continue the 2013 hate train on Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ offense.

Then, the defense decided to take two plays off. Flacco threw a bomb to Tandon Doss on that 4th-and-21, and somehow lucked out when Jerron McMillian stumbled and fell while turning around, giving Doss an easy catch for 63 yards (Side note: that play was eerily similar to two famous (or infamous) plays in each team’s history – last year’s playoff miracle in Denver for the Ravens and 4th-and-26 for the Packers). On the very next play, Flacco hit Dallas Clark for an 18-yard touchdown, making the score 19-17 in favor of the Packers with the two-minute warning and three Baltimore timeouts to go.

Suddenly it was a game. The Packers’ offense was forced to convert two third downs against a tough Baltimore defense that played great all day. They did it, rendering the defense’s gaffe moot, but the situation could have been much worse.

What if the Packers had gone three-and-out? What if they had only picked up one first down without that 52-yard miracle pass from Aaron Rodgers to Jermichael Finley? The Ravens would have had a golden opportunity to kick a game-winning field goal, especially in the former situation.

We’ve seen the defense do this too many times now. After the Packers scored a go-ahead touchdown in San Francisco in Week 1, the defense allowed the 49ers to come back and win. After shutting out the Redskins for three-and-a-half quarters a week later, the defense took its foot off the gas and gave Washington life. In Week 3 at Cincinnati, Green Bay forced four early turnovers, returning one for a touchdown, and only allowed one sustained drive until the third quarter only to blow a 30-14 lead. Now this.

Quite frankly, it’s getting old.

Those two late defensive plays Sunday covered up some phenomenal individual performances, namely A.J. Hawk, Jamari Lattimore, Morgan Burnett, Davon House, Micah Hyde and the wall of Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji and Johnny Jolly. Instead of coming away from this game thrilled with the run defense (only 47 yards allowed for a 2.1 average, and that goal-line stand), I can’t stop worrying if the secondary’s performance in the fourth quarter is going to eventually be the death of this team.

I will admit I’m very pleased with how the defense has continually improved since its dreadful 2011 campaign, when you wouldn’t feel a lead was safe until the offense reached 45 points. But it’s clear there is still much work to be done.

Save for Week 1 when they had no competent safeties and were too petrified to put any pressure on Colin Kaepernick, Dom Capers and his defense have looked fantastic for the majority of each game.  It’s at the end when the game feels put away when they start to waver and let the opposition breathe. Because of the late-game blunders Sunday, Joe Flacco ended up with a quarterback rating of 112.6. I mean, if you watched that game, you would’ve never guessed Flacco would end up with that stat.

If this problem isn’t fixed, one of these days the Packers are going to blow what should be a for-sure win. You don’t want to place your Super Bowl hopes on a defense like that.