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Packers Should Abandon the Prevent Defense

The thrilling victory by the Green Bay Packers over the Chicago Bears was great, but it tended to mask one of the most exasperating flaws of the team during the entire Mike McCarthy era: overuse of the prevent defense.

Wikipedia provides a fine definition for the term:

The prevent defense is a defensive alignment in American football that seeks to prevent the offense from completing a long pass or scoring a touchdown in a single play and seeks to run out the clock. It is used by a defense that is winning by more than a touchdown, late in the fourth quarter… The alignment uses five or more defensive backs (or players in that role), preferring fast players over large players. They back up so far that they concede short-yardage plays but try to ensure that no receiver is uncovered downfield or can get behind them.

Let’s apply that definition to the Bears game, and see where it takes us.

With 1:03 left in the third quarter, the Packers’ Christine Michael supposedly delivers “the dagger” to the Bears’ hopes: a 42-yard run, giving the Packers a commanding 27-10 lead. The Packers, as is their custom, immediately employ the prevent strategy.

The first problem should be apparent from the above definition: this was late in the third quarter, not the fourth quarter. There was way too much time left for the opponent to come back and score points – and to do so without causing turnovers, recovering onside kicks, or resorting to Hail Mary throws.

The Bears took what the Packers offered them. They responded with a six-play, 75-yard drive that took only 2:36 off the clock. It consisted of runs of 13 yards, four yards, an incompletion, and 23- 27- and 8-yard passes to Alshon Jeffery. The Bears never even faced a third down situation.

Chicago was back within 10 points with 13:27 still to be played.

The Packers, who like to also go into a “prevent” offense in such situations (a post for another time), did their classic three-and-out: 1-yard run, 6-yard pass, 10-yard sack – taking only 2:16 off the clock.

Chicago, gaining momentum and confidence, next reels off a nine-play, 78-yard drive. With defenders guarding against the deep pass, the Bears’ longest play was a 12-yard toss to Jeffery, and only once did they face a third down (converting a 3rd-and-5). The methodical attack, taking what Green Bay was giving them, took only 3:37 off the clock. It’s now 27-24.

Green Bay did what we’ve come to expect: three plays, eight yards, and a punt – consuming under two minutes this time.

With plenty of time on the clock (5:42), the Bears then engineered a 14-play, 75-yard drive. The Packers would have lost the game and blown a three-score fourth-quarter lead, had it not been for Micah Hyde’s knockdown of an on-target Matt Barkley 4-yard pass into the end zone. Chicago settled for a short field goal that tied the game at 27.

To recount, in 15 minutes (from 1:03 left in the third quarter to 1:19 left in the fourth), the Bears ran off 29 offensive plays, gained 228 yards, and scored 17 points. For the other three-fourths of the game, they ran 25 plays, gained 221 yards, and scored 10 points.

The prevent defense didn’t prevent a 3-11 team, an average quarterback, and a mediocre set of receivers from erasing a 17-point lead, or passing for 362 yards for the game. During the three quarters of conventional defense by Green Bay, the Bears’ star receiver, Jeffery, had no catches. During the other 15 minutes of prevent defense, he had six catches for 89 yards.

Is Green Bay’s defensive backfield really so bad, or should we be looking elsewhere? This was simply horrific coaching strategy! How many more times are we going to be forced to endure this crap? Where’s that petition?

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Rob Born

Someone else said it first but I popularized it: “Athleticism is important in athletic pursuits.” It took three years, but the Packers finally listened. My new mantra: “Trading down is fine, but never trade up.”

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12 Comments

  1. Chad Lundberg December 22, 2016

    Been screaming this exact same tune for 7 years now Rob. The fact that MM did this in that 2014 NFC Championship game against the Seahawks and said he didn’t find anything wrong with the playcalling ought to seal the deal once and for all that this prevent defense is NOT going away as long as MM is coach. Need more proof? He did the exact same thing in the Super Bowl, only it was Clay Matthews who made a very key play at the right time. And even then it took a very hard fought 4th down to stop the Steelers.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I don’t have a problem with the idea. My problem is that MM refusing to change things up if it clearly isn’t working!!! “They gained 200 yards in just 10 minutes? Don’t worry, I’m sure it will work this time”. 9 out of 10 times, the prevent D has done this to us and I am just beyond the point of sick of it!!! MM is one very incredibly stubborn man.

  2. eduardo December 22, 2016

    We renamed it the “Permit” defense.

    1. Empacador December 22, 2016

      That is awesome! I’m stealing this!

  3. PF4L December 22, 2016

    PACKERS SHOULD ABANDON THE TRIO OF MURPHY, MCCARTHY, THOMPSON.

    1. MMTTDCSUCK December 22, 2016

      And Capers . . . he is the engineer of these fucking meltdowns, and as we know some of them have been epically bad.

      1. PF4L December 22, 2016

        If it happens again, we could always fire…ummmm, lets see….the running backs coach?

  4. Howard December 22, 2016

    The Packers did blitz a few times when in that so called prevent defense and never got to the QB, except for the low hit by Ryan. To me this is about cornerbacks not being physical with receivers before and after the catch. You have to make the tackle as a corner, you need to jam receivers, you need to get in the receivers face! This has been, and looks like it always will be a less than physical defensive backfield. Even the most physical corner, Gunter decided to avoid the action on Howard’s last TD run. Watch the replay. As Deion Sanders use to say Gunter made a business decision. Gunter pulled off making a hit on Howard at the five yard line. It is as if the corners are trained to avoid contact, maybe that is coaching but I doubt it.

    Sure the pass rush is needed but to me this defense will never be what they should be till the corners start getting their uniforms dirty in the pass and run game, and make some hard tackles rather than business decisions.

    1. Empacador December 22, 2016

      I dunno Howard, if the CBs are trained to pull off, Shields must not have received the memo. Maybe this is a response to Shields getting hurt and they want them to play a little more cautious. If they are going to get beat anyhow, I’d like to see them trying to disrupt receivers at the line of scrimmage rather than play off and get faked out of their jock straps or worse, constantly fail to know their assignments and be out of position or late to the party.

  5. Empacador December 22, 2016

    Ha ha ha! This is too funny, I just mentioned the prevent offense in another thread! Is nice to see many of us are on the same page when observing the behaviors that keep repeating themselves throughout the course of a game.

  6. PF4L December 22, 2016

    I’d rather the cornerbacks try something more aggressive than pass off a receiver early, because they think they have help over the top, which they almost never do…BUT, they still keep on doing it over, and over, and over.

    I’m not willing to pin out all on the defensive backs though. The pass rush, and secondary play are directly related to each other. Plenty of blame to go around.

  7. gort December 22, 2016

    Thanks again Rob. Love the comment about the petition – too funny!

    The meltdowns must end. Hard to tell if the problem is the scheme, the execution on the field, or the available personnel. Most likely it is a combination of all 3 and if it happens again, maybe we all do need to sign the petition. Unless the next meltdown is truly historic, the leadership or management changes probably won’t happen.

  8. Louis Pistoni December 23, 2016

    Rod,I totally agree with your assessment. The “prevent defense” never works. Also, let me add that McCarthy stops trying to score! Like you mention, it`s too early in the game. He did this of course in the NFC title game. He stops being aggressive like they`ve scored enough points so now we`ll just ride it out. this doesn`t work either!