Change of pace coming for ascending Packers defense against balanced Lions offense

Coming out of the bye week, Joe Barry and the Green Bay Packers defense made some fairly significant changes, and the results have been excellent.

As Daire Carragher of Packer Report laid out, the Packers’ usage of Cover-2 over the last three games went from 4% to nearly 18%. Green Bay’s usage of Cover-6 went from 7.7% to just over 28%. These drastic changes were in part out of necessity for an underperforming defense but also a product of who the Packers were playing.

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In addition to going up against some very explosive receivers, which included Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Justin Jefferson, the Packers also faced three teams that relied heavily on the passing game, which of course, calls for coverages that are going to try to take that away, like Cover-2 and Cover-6. Entering Week 18, the Los Angeles Rams rank 27th in average rush attempts per game, Miami 32nd, and Minnestoa 31st.

This week, however, the Packers will be up against a much more balanced Detroit Lions offense, which ranks 11th in both average number of pass attempts and rushing attempts per game. Earlier in the week, Barry called the Lions’ offensive line one of the best in football. As a unit, they rank sixth in adjusted line yards, along with D’Andre Swift averaging the fifth-most yards per carry and Jamaal Williams leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns while also nearing the 1,000-yard mark.

Although the Packers have been a stopping-the-pass-first defense, they’ve held up well against the run since the bye week, with defenders getting off blocks more consistently, along with better tackling and run fits. The Rams averaged 4.2 yards per carry as a team. Miami’s Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson averaged 4.0 yards per rush after Mostert’s initial 17-yard gain, while Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison averaged 3.8 yards per attempt. For some context, an average of 4.2 yards by a team in 2022 ranks 25th in the NFL.

Green Bay will still have to worry about the Lions’ passing game, with Jared Goff having the eighth-highest yards per pass attempt this season. Amon-Ra St. Brown is a 1,000-yard receiver and one of the best at picking up YAC. Jameson Williams and DJ Chark, meanwhile, are able to stretch the field and provide an element that the Packers didn’t really have to contend with in the first meeting because both were out injured.

Now, this doesn’t mean we should expect to see the Packers loading the box every play. Even before the bye week and the changes that have followed, Barry’s MO has always been to take away the big passing play. But with that said, the Lions are a much more balanced offense than what Green Bay has gone up against recently, so this game is going to look different, even though they’ve been very successful as of late.

If the Packers continue to play a large number of snaps with seven defenders in coverage, the Lions will happily run the ball behind their stout offensive line with two very good running backs nearby.

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