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Nitpicking The Packers Defense

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Green Bay's defense looked dominant early. The fourth quarter, though? Not so much. Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images.
Green Bay's defense looked dominant early. The fourth quarter, though? Not so much. Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Despite the Green Bay Packers’ nearly perfect performance in their 38-20 victory against the Washington Redskins, they were not flaw free.

This is nitpicking, but the way the defense performed in the second half didn’t sit well with me.

Many writers and fans, including myself, chalked up to the big stats and scores the Redskins put up in the second half to nothing more than garbage time work. That is exactly what it was, but it’s still not what you like to see from your defense.

I would have been much more satisfied had the defense continued its dominance over from the first half into the second. You know, the defense that held Washington to 163 total yards and no scores through its first possession of the second half. I don’t expect the defense to keep up that pace for an entire game. I do, however, think all of a sudden allowing three touchdowns, a field goal attempt and 230 yards over the final four possessions is unacceptable. Head coach Mike McCarthy agreed on Monday.

“(Washington) didn’t convert a third down until the score was 31-0, but we gave up 20 points down the stretch there,” he said. “It’s just unnecessary production when you look at the tape. To play at the level that we performed at for a large part of the game and to give that up … it’s something we can learn from.”

What if instead of being up 31-0 midway through the third quarter, the Packers were up 24-0 instead? They’d still feel more than comfortable enough to go into prevent mode, which is what they did Sunday. After Washington’s late offensive burst, all of a sudden the score is 31-21 when the Packers get the ball back with seven minutes left in the game. Instead of feeling loose and playing comfortably, the offense may have gotten too conservative, unable to run out the clock. All of a sudden, you’ve got yourself a ball game.

That’s quite a stretch to make, but this is the NFL. Much crazier things have happened.

The tackling performance in the second half was by far the ugliest aspect. After suffering from the inability to tackle throughout the entire 2011 season, the defense fixed that problem last year. It flared back up a little against the 49ers and was back in full force against the Redskins.

Poor tackling is a direct effect of the bigger mentality the Packers defense had in the second half. Instead of going for the kill, the defense was too conservative. I’m sure all defensive players were told at some point to just make sure you don’t give up too many big plays. But that’s not what got them a shutout through three-and-a-half quarters. When you’re not aggressive schematically, you become unaggressive physically as well.

Again, this is nitpicking. I’m much more pleased with the defense’s overall performance than I am upset with the final four drives. They were able to experience this setback in a game where it didn’t end up costing them. I’m sure they’ll learn from this mistake and fix it in the future.