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Doug Farrar

Sunday Spotlight: Green Bay's defense

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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When the Packers lost, 30-23, to the Vikings on October 5 in Minnesota, part of the problem was a defensive game plan that was close to downright timid. Dom Capers' defense focused on spying Adrian Peterson with its inside linebackers, and covering the flats and seams as opposed to blitzing Brett Favre(notes). Favre was not sacked once in the game, and defensive end Aaron Kampman(notes) was the only Green Bay defender to record a single quarterback hit. Favre predictably carved the Green Bay defense up, completing 24 passes in 31 attempts for 271 yards and three touchdowns.

Last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers -- owners of another 3-4 defense with great talent -- did to Favre what they do to just about every quarterback they face: Bring pressure from the perimeter and force the quarterback to adjust. Favre was sacked four times, completed only 33 passes in 50 attempts, threw no touchdowns and a pick, lost a fumble, and looked very much like a quarterback who could be flustered by pressure.

The Packers have only 12 sacks on the season -- compare that to Minnesota's league-leading 25 -- but they're fourth in quarterback rating allowed (64.7) and second in Pass Defense DVOA (first overall in Defensive DVOA). Green Bay doesn't have to back the dogs off Favre in an attempt to focus on Peterson, who gained 55 yards on 25 carries in the last meeting. Perhaps it's more about using their defenders differently. Rookie linebacker Clay Matthews(notes) is still adjusting to his role as an edge-rusher in a 3-4, but he has unusual speed and agility for a guy his size. Why not put Matthews over the middle and have him spy Peterson, and drop back in some zone blitzes, instead of being negated off the edge? When these two teams last played, Matthews caused a second-quarter Peterson fumble, which he then returned for a 42-yard touchdown.

There's no defensive scheme that Favre hasn't seen in his career, but that doesn't mean he can't be upended by a few interesting looks. Emotions will obviously be high in Lambeau, and ol' #4 has a history of using emotion to his advantage. The Packers must upend Favre's reunion tour if they hope to avoid a season sweep.

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