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The Green Bay Packers came away with a 31-13 road win against the Giants on Sunday. When you force three turnovers and hold the opposition to one touchdown, that should be considered a good performance by the defense, even when facing a rookie quarterback and a porous offensive line.
During the game, there were three drives that illustrate the story of the Packers defense in 2019, both the good and the bad. Here is an in-depth analysis of those three drives and what they told us about the Green Bay defense in 2019.
I based this analysis on watching the game film several times via NFL Game Pass.
First Drive: The Packers defense gives up a long touchdown drive.
Packers lead 7-0. Giants get the ball, 1st and 10 at their own 29 with 8:43 left 1st quarter.
The drive covered 71 yards in 11 plays and took 5:27 off the clock. Giants picked up four first downs.
The Giants ran the ball three times and threw the ball eight times during the drive. The Packers played mostly zone defense and when Daniel Jones had time to throw, the receivers were able to find creases in the zone defense. The run defense only was successful on one of the three plays when a run blitz shut down the play at the line of scrimmage and Darnell Savage penetrated on a run blitz to stop Barkley for a one-yard gain.
Here is the play-by-play breakdown:
1-10 NYG 29: Daniel Jones short pass to TE Kaden Smith for 7 yards. Smith caught the ball in between CB Kevin King and S/ILB Ibraheim Campbell. Good throw by Jones who threaded the needle. Coverage was good but the throw was better.
2-3 NYG 36: Saquon Barkley runs off left tackle for one yard. Darnell Savage penetrated on a run blitz and stopped the play before it developed.
3-2 NYG 37: Daniel Jones pass to Kaden Smith for 12 yards. Green Bay defense in zone coverage. The linebackers bit on the play fake and Jones had a receiver open behind the linebackers and in front of the safety. Good pressure by Za’Darius Smith on the play forcing Jones to rush the throw a bit.
1-10 NYG 49: Daniel Jones pass to Darius Slayton for 13 yards. Packers challenged whether the reception was made in bounds but lose the challenge. Jaire Alexander on the coverage on an out route but was beaten to the sideline. Some pressure on Jones by Preston and Za’Darius Smith.
1-10 GB 38: Saquon Barkley runs off right tackle for 5 yards. The right side of the Giants offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage and pushed the Packers linemen back two yards. Tyler Lancaster made the tackle when Barkley fell over him as Lancaster was being blocked to the ground.
2-5 GB 33: Daniel Jones pass intended for Kaden Smith incomplete. Pressure by Preston Smith, throw was low. Adrian Amos on the coverage.
3-5 GB 33: Daniel Jones pass intended for Darius Slayton incomplete. Good coverage by Jaire Alexander and Blake Martinez. Alexander got his hand in on the ball to break up the pass.
4-5 GB 33: Daniel Jones pass to Darius Slayton for 8 yards. Good pocket, no pass rush by Packers. Green Bay played soft zone coverage, but Slayton found a hole in the zone and the catch was made at the sticks in front of Blake Martinez and Tramon Williams.
1-10 GB 25: Saquon Barkley off right guard for 4 yards. Again, right side of the Giants line won the battle against Packers defensive line.
2-6 GB 21: Daniel Jones pass to Saquon Barkley for 3 yards. Good pursuit by Kenny Clark to keep the gain on this dump off pass to the right to a minimal gain.
3-3 GB 18: Daniel Jones pass to Sterling Shepard in the end zone for a touchdown. Kevin King was burned badly on the pass. He bit on a double move and never looked back for the ball. Good pressure by Packers who rushed three and then added a delayed blitz which got there just a little too late.
After the extra point, the game was tied 7-7.
2nd Drive: The Packers bend but don’t break on a long drive:
Packers leading 17-7. Giants get the ball 1-10 at the NYG 25 with 11:56 left 2nd Quarter:
1-10 NYG 25: Saquon Barkley off right guard for 4 yards. The right side of the Giants line gradually pushed back the Packers defenders to create the hole. Blake Martinez filled the hole and made the tackle.
2-6 NYG 29: Daniel Jones pass incomplete for Cody Latimer. Excellent pressure by Za’Darius Smith who blitzed through the A-gap and forced an early throw. Mike Pettine changed where Za’Darius Smith lined up and was able to get good pressure as a result.
3-6 NYG 29: Daniel Jones pass to Darius Slayton for 11 yards. Zone coverage by the Packers, pass caught in front of Kevin King. Some pressure by Preston Smith but pocket held just enough for Jones to deliver the ball.
1-10 NYG 40: Saquon Barkley off left tackle for 4 yards. Tackle by Dean Lowry. Good blocking by the left side of the Giants line.
2-6 NYG 44: Daniel Jones pass incomplete for Cody Latimer. Pressure by Kyler Fackrell caused Jones to overthrow his target. Two defenders with good coverage on the play
3-6 NYG 44: Daniel Jones pass incomplete for Sterling Shepard. Preston Smith offsides for the Packers. Preston Smith forced an inaccurate throw by getting pressure on Jones but the offsides call gives the Giants another chance on third and short.
3-1 NYG 49: Elijhaa Penny runs up the middle, no gain. Za’Darius Smith does a good job of coming around from the outside to stop the fullback from picking up the first down. The middle of the Green Bay defense held up well at the line of scrimmage.
4-1 NYG 49: Daniel Jones up the middle for 2 yards. Giants get just enough push to slip Jones through the A-gap. Nose tackle Kenny Clark arrives a little too late to stop the play.
1-10 GB 49: Daniel Jones complete to Kaden Smith for no gain. B.J. Goodson right on Smith as soon as he caught the ball to prevent any gain. Kevin King also in the vicinity. Solid tackle by Goodson.
2-10 GB 49: Saquon Barkley off left guard for 8 yards. Packers in nickel coverage. Big hole up the middle. Blake Martinez makes the tackle after an eight-yard gain.
3-2 GB 41: Daniel Jones complete to Darius Slayton for no gain. No pressure on the quarterback but very good coverage. Jaire Alexander slowed Slayton down and forced him to the outside before Tramon Williams, Blake Martinez and Darnell Savage arrived to make sure Slayton is stopped short of the marker.
4-2 GB 41: Daniel Jones runs off right tackle for 2 yards. Packers bit on a play fake to Barkley to the right before Jones ran through Preston Smith to pick up the first down. Packers only in a three-man front on fourth and two.
1-10 GB 39: Daniel Jones complete to Kaden Smith for 7 yards. Packers send Blake Martinez on a blitz but Saquon Barkley picks it up and pressure doesn’t arrive on time. Adrian Amos in single coverage on Smith who gains seven yards on a crossing pattern.
2-3 GB 32: Daniel Jones complete to Sterling Shepard for 10 yards. Preston Smith forces an early throw but Shepard beats Tramon Williams and picks up a first down.
1-10 GB 22: Saquon Barkley up the middle for 12 yards. Small hole up the middle when Kenny Clark is moved away from the middle of the formation. Rashan Gary made the tackle from behind to save a much bigger gain.
1-Goal GB 10: Saquon Barkley up the middle for 1 yard. Blake Martinez and Dean Lowry close the gap and stop the play for a short gain.
2-Goal GB 9: Daniel Jones pass incomplete for Saquon Barkley. Good coverage on the play in the zone. Kyler Fackrell pressured Jones and forced an inaccurate throw.
3-Goal GB 9: Daniel Jones pass incomplete, intended for Sterling Shepard. Packers only rush three players and Jones had all day to throw. Good coverage by Adrian Amos who breaks up the pass. Giants had three receivers in the same area of the end zone which drew a crowd of four Packers defenders.
4-Goal GB 9: 27-yard FG by Aldrick Rosas is good cutting the Green Bay lead to 17-10.
The drive covered 66 yards in 18 plays takes 9:31 off the clock. The Giants picked up five first downs while running the ball seven times and throwing it 10 times. The Giants were able to move the ball well mixing run and pass until they got to the red zone where the Green Bay defense held.
Green Bay played mostly zone once the Giants got into the red zone and were able to get good coverage and create crowds of defenders in the end zone that left Jones without an open target to throw the ball to. Although the Giants held onto the ball for almost 2/3 of the second quarter on this drive alone, they came away with only three points as the Packers bent but didn’t break.
Third Drive: The Packers force a turnover when playing to protect a two-score lead early in the fourth quarter.
Packers leading 24-13, Giants get the ball 1-10 at the NYG 22 with 14:22 remaining 4th quarter
1-10 NYG 22: Saquon Barkley off left tackle for 5 yards. Giants offensive line pushes back the Packers defense but good tackle by Za’Darius Smith from behind to stop Barkley from breaking a bigger gain. Packers use hybrid ILB/S in Ibraheim Campbell on this play as they seem willing to let the Giants run the ball and use up clock in this situation.
2-5 NYG 27: Daniel Jones pass to Sterling Shepard for 12 yards. Jones had time to throw although the Packers rushed four players. Two receivers near each other and a slight pick on this play freed up Shepard in front of three defenders.
1-10 NYG 39: Saquon Barkley off left tackle for 16 yards. Packers linemen were pushed back. Tramon Williams tried to get contain on the left side but missed the tackle and Barkley had more room to run.
1-10 GB 45: Saquon Barkley off right tackle, no gain. Kenny Clark dominated on this play and clogged up the middle of the line. He pushed the center back two yards and was in on the tackle.
2-10 GB 45: Daniel Jones fumbled the snap on an end around, but the fumble was recovered by Giants at the NYG 47 for a loss of 8. The snap was off to the right while Jones was trying to hand off to a receiver coming from right to left.
3-18 NYG 47: Daniel Jones intercepted by Darnell Savage, return of 28 yards to the NYG 38. Plenty of time for Jones to throw as Packers rushed four but didn’t get any pressure. The Packers were in a zone defense with three defenders in the area of the receiver. The ball was overthrown and went right to Savage who returned it 28 yards to the Giants 38 to set up another Green Bay score.
The Packers were content to play back and let the Giants rookie quarterback throw short passes but didn’t want to give up any big plays. Pettine made the Giants grind it out and hoped they would make a mistake. When they fumbled the snap and faced a third and long situation, the defense created a turnover off a bad throw by Jones and a conservative philosophy in coverage designed to keep the clock moving and force mistakes.
This worked well with a rookie quarterback and a two-score lead later in the game. But obviously, first the defense needs to get opposing teams into this kind of situation which means they need to play well to create that.
This works well against inexperienced or mediocre quarterbacks, but will it work against Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, or even Jimmy Garoppolo come playoff time?
The Packers will need to play better if they hope to use this philosophy against better opponents.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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