The Green Bay Packers’ success in the win/loss column can be drawn back to one thing; their run defense. In their victories over the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints, the Packers gave up 199 yards combined on the ground. But, in their losses, they gave up more than that in each game.
The Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions both ran for 211 yards in victories over Green Bay, led by Bijan Robinson and David Montgomery. That inconsistency when it comes to their run defense is something head coach Matt LaFleur knows needs to change.
“We’re going to have to do something different,” said LaFleur following the Packers’ loss to Detroit, “because it’s insane to do the same things over and over again and expect a different result.”
Green Bay was dominated in the trenches on Thursday Night Football by the Lions. Detroit went into Lambeau Field and brought it to their NFC North rivals, leading 27-3 at halftime and winning 34-20.
Given how much success they had on the ground, the Lions were able to control the game. Their time of possession was nearly 16 minutes more than that of the Packers and they ran 20 more plays. Even the strongest of defensive units would eventually wear down when on the field that much.
“That is a good offensive line, and they have really good runners,” added LaFleur. “I think (Jahmyr) Gibbs and (David) Montgomery are two of the better backs, and it’s one of the best offensive lines. But it’s still inexcusable. You should be able to take one phase away. If you want to stop the run and commit to that, then make them throw it over your head.”
That is part of what made last week’s performance so disappointing. Everyone knows what the Lions want to do offensively, which is to run the ball. Even knowing what was coming, the Packers failed to stop it, let alone provide a little resistance.
LaFleur hinted that some changes could be on the horizon. Green Bay has a base set of defense they like to play from, but as he said, trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.
“I think it’s more of the philosophy of some of the things we are trying to get done,” LaFleur said. “Different ways, especially when you know teams are going to run the ball. I know we like to keep a shell on our defense, but there may be times when we have to break that. Trust me, we are looking at everything.”
Nothing should be off the table when it comes to discussing changes to the run defense. Player personnel, the scheme Joe Barry is running and in-game adjustments all need to be looked at.
The Packers are going to be challenged once again on the ground as they will be facing the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 5. The Raiders have one of the best running backs in the NFL in Josh Jacobs, who led the league in rushing yards in the 2022 season.