Packers Film Room: Defensive issues continue to show up late in games

A series of baffling decisions by Joe Barry led to a near-disastrous end result. 

On Christmas Eve, the Green Bay Packers prevailed 33-30 in a close game that saw them trail 23-10 at halftime and 30-16 just after the fourth quarter began. Matt LaFleur, the head coach, sought to minimize the final score by saying that the “offense could’ve done” better in an attempt to avert what will unavoidably occur at the end of the season.

The transgression was not serious. When a team scores thirty points or more, they shouldn’t ever have to worry about losing. This season, 98-14 are the teams with 30 or more points scored. It would have been extremely easy for the Packers to become just another number in that losing column.

The game plan and execution were the main causes of this game’s defeat, as they were in the previous two games. LaFleur needs to have a tough talk with the defense about what Joe Barry is asking of them and the fact that they simply don’t make plays when they are in a position to do so. There are three plays in the game plan section, so we’ll start there in this post.


First play, 3rd quarter, 4th and 1 @ GB 38, 8:40 remaining

On 4th-and-inches here on a drive that the Panthers would end up scoring a touchdown on, they converted with a quarterback sneak.

The play call left the defense’s right side A-gap open with a defender in the opposite A-gap and a defender in the right side B-gap as the closest defenders and only Quay Walker in a “stack A” assignment behind T.J. Slaton. Young easily picked up 2 yards for the first down.

The defensive play call gets even more confusing after viewing the end zone view and the down-the-line vision from this broadcast.

Third quarter, second play, second and goal @ GB 4, 5:14 left

The Barry scheme’s reliance on nickel sub-packages in the low red zone, where they are vulnerable to being gashed in the run game, is one of its flaws. They experienced precisely that when the Panthers scored a touchdown late in the third quarter.

The Panthers are running duo to the left here with the offensive line blocking down to the right. The running back Chuba Hubbard reads the fit of the middle linebacker, Walker, for his cue to hit the play side A-gap or bounce outside.

The defense is in penny 3-3-5. In the past, their issue has been matching 11 personnel in the low red zone with a 2-4-5 front.

A strong anchoring nose tackle who is immovable is necessary for the defense to have a good 3-3-5 run defense front to be effective. That isn’t what the Packers have. Because they lack players who can consistently tackle in open field, Penny’s problem is that runs frequently reach the second level. Alexander is nowhere to be found, and Nixon finds himself blocked in his gap.

They don’t actually operate four down-linemen fronts, but they do have the bodies to go to a true four down front.

Fourth quarter, third play, third and 12 at GB 40, with 7:30 left

Here, the Panthers converted once more, but this time on a third and long play that resulted in a touchdown on

DJ Chark is running a dig route from the single receiver side and is matched up with Jaire Alexander in man coverage.

The defense is pressuring Young with six leaving five on the back end to cover the receivers. Alexander is playing off-catch man technique, which makes it hard to understand why this is the call against the offense on third down.

The corners should ideally be in press-man coverage when there is pressure so they can contest any throw, or at the very least, force an incorrect throw and throw off the routes’ timing, forcing the quarterback to make a quicker decision. But as long as the blocks apply pressure, Young won’t have to worry about hurrying his process because Alexander is playing off-man. For a gain of sixteen, Young hits the top of his drop, plants, and throws to Chark on target.

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