GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday night. No surprise there. The Packers always beat the Bears. The challenge will be a lot bigger this week with a showdown at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“It’s got to be better,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “This was better than Week 1 but we’ve got to be better than this if we want to compete with Tampa.”
Based on the performance vs. the Bears, here are three reasons to worry with a potential NFC Championship Game preview coming up.
One: Sloppy with the Ball
There’s something to be said about simply not losing. Nothing will lose a game quicker than turnovers. Under coach Matt LaFleur, the Packers were second with 13 giveaways in 2019, first with 11 giveaways in 2020 and tied for first with 13 giveaways in 2021. No wonder they won 13 games each of those seasons.
Through two games this season, the Packers have turned over the ball three times. That’s not a catastrophic number but it is a bit out of the ordinary. Against the Bears, Aaron Rodgers and AJ Dillon botched a handoff that resulted in a turnover and Josh Myers snapped the ball too soon and hit in-motion receiver Christian Watson for another fumble. Those things can’t happen. Amari Rodgers also dropped a punt. That’s three fumbles. Those could have been disastrous against a better opponent.
Green Bay’s 2.0 fumbles per game is tied for eighth-most; its 1.1 fumbles per game last season were 10th-fewest. That must be cleaned up; the Buccaneers are third in takeaways this year after ranking fifth each of the last two years.
Two: Run Defense
If there was one alarming thing from Sunday night, it was Green Bay’s hideous run defense. David Montgomery rushed for 122 yards and Khalil Herbert added 38 more as Chicago ran for 180 yards on a 6.7-yard clip.
“Yeah, it wasn’t good enough, I think we can all acknowledge that,” LaFleur said.
Last season, the Packers ranked 30th with 4.70 yards allowed per carry. In response, general manager Brian Gutekunst signed veteran defensive tackle Jarran Reed and drafted linebacker Quay Walker in the first round. The Walker selection should have been a game-changer. The Packers have played almost every defensive snap with De’Vondre Campbell and Walker at inside linebacker rather than Campbell and a sixth defensive back. Bigger personnel – and better personnel – should mean better run defense. That hasn’t been the case, though. Green Bay is an awful 29th with 5.56 yards allowed per carry. They’ve allowed 10 carries of 10-plus yards; only Carolina (11) has allowed more.
The Buccaneers fielded the most pass-happy offense in the league last season but are one of the most run-centric attacks this season. Expect a heavy dose of Leonard Fournette. Do the Packers have the ability or desire to stop him?
Three: Tackling Dummies
A major flaw has been Green Bay’s tackling. Or lack thereof. Montgomery broke eight tackles on Sunday. Of his 122 rushing yards, 87 came after contact, by our unofficial count.
According to SportRadar, the Packers’ missed-tackle percentage of 12.8 percent is the third-worst in the NFL. Their 16 missed tackles are the fourth-most. Last season, by contrast, the Packers missed only 87 tackles (second-fewest) and had a missed-tackle rate of 8.7 percent (eighth-best).
The culprits are everywhere, including Reed, Campbell and the starting safeties. It’s early and tackling tends to improve. The Packers, with so little margin for error considering the state of their offense, have to get better in a hurry.