The Green Bay Packers displayed a dominant defense in their 23-10 victory over the Chicago Bears on September 13, 2012. Jay Cutler threw four interceptions. He should've thrown at least two more. He was sacked seven times. The Packers' defense had 12 quarterback hits. Clay Matthews had 3.5 sacks.
Is this the beginning of a renewed era of defensive dominance? Or was this nothing more than an anomaly? There have been signs that this defense is moving in the right direction. However, I'm not getting my hopes up that high just based on one performance. Even in their worst seasons, the Packers' defense has abused Cutler.
Jay Cutler Vs. Packers (All-Time)
For his career, Cutler has a 1-7 record against the Packers. He has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 8-to-16. He has been sacked 28 times. He has been hit and hurried much more.
Cutler's career numbers at Lambeau Field are even uglier. He has had two four-interception games. He has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 2-to-10. Since joining the Bears in 2009, Cutler has lost all three games at Lambeau Field. He didn't play in the Christmas night game in 2011.
Jay Cutler Vs. Packers (2011)
The Packers' defense struggled for most of 2011. Ironically, they had one of their best performances against a Cutler-led Bears team. The Packers' defense surrendered 17 points when these teams met on September 25, 2011. The game was played at Soldier Field. The Packers won 27-17.
Cutler completed 21-of-37 passes for 302 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Bears controlled the football for just 22 minutes and 31 seconds. Matt Forte had two rushing yards on nine carries. The Packers had three sacks with 10 tackles for losses.
The Packers have 11 sacks in 2012. In 2011, they had 29 sacks. Clay Matthews has already matched his sack total from one year ago (six). Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels have both earned their first career sacks.
Don't Overreact To This Domination
The Packers received an encouraging performance from their defense. However, that's nothing against the norm. The Bears' coaches are just too stubborn to realize that those deep routes won't work with that hideous offensive line. Cutler also missed a couple reads. Had he seen them, he could have had some big-yardage plays. Furthermore, the Bears lost at least seven points with the personal foul (three points) and the drop by Brandon Marshall ((touchdown plus extra point) minus field goal equals four points). That doesn't include momentum swings.
I certainly wouldn't claim that this defense has returned to prominence. However, they're heading in the right direction. Tramon Williams is playing more like a shutdown cornerback. Erik Walden is playing as though he has a chip on his shoulder. Through the first two games, the pass rush has been much better. Worthy and Daniels have also produced. The defensive backs will improve with experience.
Next Two Games
The Packers' defense can make a much-bigger statement than they did against the Bears. In Week 3, the Packers will visit the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football. The Packers will follow this up with a home game against the New Orleans Saints. These teams will pose some fascinating defensive challenges.
The Seahawks are basically "49ers-Lite." The Seahawks rely on a power running game with a defensive backfield that boasts three Pro Bowlers from 2011. They also have a mobile quarterback with Russell Wilson. If he doesn't play, then it'll be "Matt Flynn vs. Aaron Rodgers." CenturyLink Field is one of the NFL's most-hostile environments. This could easily be a 20-17ish type of game. The defense must limit Wilson's scrambling.
The Packers have a short week to prepare for Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. During the 2011 NFL Kickoff Game, the Saints scored 34 points against a Packers' defense that still had Desmond Bishop and Nick Collins. There's no doubt that the Packers' young and inexperienced defensive backs will be tested with many four-and-five-wide sets.
Joshua Huffman grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula as a Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs enthusiast. He immediately gained an admiration for Cubs fans after watching numerous games on WGN during the mid-90s. His favorite Cubs moment was Kerry Wood's(notes) 1-hitter, 20K extravaganza that was only denied of a no-hitter by Kevin Orie's defensive blunder. As a Packers and Cubs fan, he suffered through Steve Bartman and "4th & 26" in a span of three months. He can be found on Twitter HERE.
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