COMMENTARY | The Green Bay Packers have been thought of as primarily an offensive minded team for the last few years. Aaron Rodgers and company are able to put up points in bunches and are without a doubt one of the highest powered offenses in the NFL. This year, the Packers have had a multitude of injuries on both sides of the ball, and the defense has stepped up in a big way to help continue winning football games. Despite the injuries that the Packers have suffered on defense, they are still playing at a high level each and every week.
Clay Matthews, Casey Hayward, Nick Perry, Morgan Burnett, Brad Jones, Jerel Worthy, and Robert Francois are all players that have been bitten with the injury bug so far this season. Despite all those key players who have either missed time or are still out, the defense has continued to play some of the best football that Green Bay has seen on that particular side of the ball in recent years.
A.J. Hawk has been a big reason for the Packers' continued success through the adversity. He has had a very inconsistent career with the Packers to this point, but has stepped up both stopping the ground game as well as putting pressure on the quarterback. There is no doubt that seeing him play this kind of football is encouraging to the Green Bay front office and the fans as well.
The Packers allowed 29.3 points per game through their first three games against the 49ers, Redskins, and Bengals, but have definitely figured it out since then. Through the last three games, Green Bay's defense has allowed just 13 points per game against a very dangerous Detroit Lions offense (even though they were without Calvin Johnson) and a Ravens offense that is capable of putting up points. Say what you want about the Packers' defense, these stats don't lie. As the season has gone on, the defense has gotten continually better and kept the opponents out of the end zone.
There are some good things to look forward to for the Packers defense, and one of them is the return of Casey Hayward. Hayward had big expectations coming into the season, but suffered a hamstring injury that has kept him out to this point. He had a very good season last year, intercepting six passes and proving to be a play-maker in a secondary that desperately needed some help in that area. So far this year, the Packers have only intercepted three passes through seven weeks. Those numbers aren't terrible, but they aren't what the Packers want either. The return of Casey Hayward will be a big upgrade to that statistic especially.
Green Bay's run defense is currently ranked as the third best in the entire NFL. They only allow 79.0 yards per game to opponents on the ground and have come a long way in that statistic especially from just a couple years ago. While the secondary has had some issues against the pass, they are still not the worst in the league. The Packers allow 266.8 passing yards per game, which ranks 24th in the NFL at this point in time.
Obviously, the defense is not going to be the only thing that carries the Packers as the season continues on, but it is going to be the key to winning once the playoffs get come around. Great offenses are able to be slowed down by great defenses, that is a known fact. While Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks to play the game in recent history, he isn't able to stop the opponent from scoring the football. Green Bay needs their defense to continue playing at the level they have been this season if they want to make a run in the postseason.
Overall, this Green Bay Packers team is finally playing the kind of football that fans expected at the beginning of the year. The team is standing at 4-2 with the sole possession of the NFC North division lead, and despite the injuries seem to have figured things out. As players begin to get healthy, this team is going to get more dangerous. The defense is certainly something that Packers fans are enjoying for a change, and as Casey Hayward, Clay Matthews, and Nick Perry in particular get healthy, the defense will only get better.
Evan Massey lives in Indianapolis and has followed the Green Bay Packers for the past 16 years. He has written for many sports websites including ProSportsExtra.com, Hoops-Nation.com, ProFootballSpot.com, and NaptownsFinest.com. Follow Evan on Twitter at @massey_evan.
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