We don’t put a lot of stock in preseason football, but it’s clear after the Green Bay Packers 27-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Saturday night the Packers defense needs to address some issues.
By the time the starters departed in the second quarter, the Browns had a 21-14 lead. The game seems eerily similar to the Packers’ losses at Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Arizona last season, when the opposing offenses marched up and down the field on the Packers defense in what would become three shootouts and ultimately, losses.
On the positive side, it should be noted that defensive coordinator Dom Capers did almost no blitzing and the Packers were without starting outside linebacker Clay Matthews. Of course, the Cleveland Browns offense is never going to be confused with that of any of those teams mentioned above, either.
On the Browns opening series, quarterback Jake Delhomme completed 6-of-7 passes for 66 yards, on an 80-yard scoring drive.
The 35-year-old Delhomme threw 18 interceptions last season against only eight touchdowns before losing his starting job in Carolina to Matt Moore and getting cut. Kurt Warner he is not.
Even though he’s been impressive in practice, rookie strong safety Morgan Burnett had a shaky debut.
“I would say some good and some things we need to correct,” Capers said, referring to Burnett’s play. “A couple of the run fits we’re going to have to take a look at. There’s two or three plays he’ll really learn from. He didn’t play that well.”
No one expected Burnett to be flawless, but he looked more like Jarrett Bush than LeRoy Butler. Fortunately for the Packers, Burnett has a little while to work out the kinks.
Meanwhile, at linebacker, the supposedly rejuvenated A.J. Hawk looked a lot like A.J. Hawk, getting burned in coverage and giving up a 20-yard touchdown pass to Benjamin Watson. The play came on third down.
Things will probably be different when the Packers unleash their full defensive game plan, but this wasn’t a very promising start.
“Part of our plan was let them go out there and play, and we didn’t do near as much (blitzing),” Capers said, “but that’s no excuse, you have to be able to execute sound, fundamental football with what you’re doing. That’s the biggest thing. There’s a lot of coaching to do off this tape. If you have to start relying on the blitz too much in the preseason, you have problems. You have to be able to line up and play football.”
The Packers defense should be able to at least make the occasional stop playing only their base defense, especially against the Cleveland Browns.
I’m not sure the old adage “defense wins Super Bowls” is really true any more. It’s more and more an offensive game and the NFL wants it that way. The Saints, Colts, Seahawks and Cardinals have all made it to the Superbowl recently despite up and down defenses. The Pack should have the fire power to out gun their opponents too.
To be fair, last preseason our 1st team defense shredded everyone, and once the season started, we wound up in those shootout games.
Agreed that too much stock in the preseason can be disastrous, but too little can have the same effect.
Personally, I still maintain that Delhomme was/is underrated as a QB, and the reason they were able to take the early lead was due to Ryan Grant’s fumble early on that helped put the Packers in an early 14-0 hole. But still, the secondary got beat up a bit much for my (or anyone’s) liking.
Cleveland finished hot against good(ish) teams last year. They’re obviously not the Viqueens (or even the Bears, probably), but they’re not bottom feeders either. Around 8-8 this year I’ll bet.
Still not a good showing, but it’s not like this was St Louis or Buffalo.
I was at the game – 25 yard line and the 1st team defense that they managed to trot out there was very slow to react and tentative about their positioning/ decision making from what I could see. They looked like they came out flat more than anything else and perhaps a bit lost as far as the rookies were concerned…Neal managed to get some push on the D-line later in the game but I did not see any push in base formation from starters. Hmm…hope they get those fundamentals down and come out more prepared next time.
I watched it a couple times off the Tivo. First of all, the first series in a normal game ends in a FG. The only reason CLE went for it was because it was preseason. Secondly, the 2nd TD they scored after Grant’s fumble was a MIRACLE. Good defense all around on that 2nd possession. Wallace just pulled off a miraculous play on 3rd down. Also, there was obvious holding against Popinga, who had sack otherwise, but the refs appeared to have forgotten to bring their flags in the first half. They found them at half time.
However, I agree that the start was similar to the last time we saw this defense on the field. The QB had no problem throwing in rhythm, and either the WR was wide open on a blown assignment or simply beat our 3rd DB, which was targeted by the offense once again.
As is the tendency when Clay Matthews isn’t making plays, our LBs disappeared once again.
Still, it was only the 1st preseason game, and I would prefer a bad start for the defense versus a good one.
Lastly, I am tired of hearing about the games against Pittsburgh and Arizona. People seem to forget that we should have won both those games. This team can win a shootout. I’ll take our chances with that. We are not afraid of getting into a shootout. Our concern is playing a team that controls the ball and the clock against us. That is why we have to keep stopping the run. As long as we do that, we will be a playoff team again.