Hello Packer Nation,
After watching a very convincing Tampa Bay 31-9 win over Kansas City in Super Bowl 55, it was clearly obvious that being stout "in the trenches" can bring offensive chaos to your opponent. Arguably the best young QB in the game, Patrick Mahomes, did not lead his formidable Chiefs offense to ONE touchdown all game. Yes, they had at least two TD's not converted by missing catches in the end zone, but other than those couple attempts, Kansas City did not threaten the Tampa defense all game. Tampa also played to the final whistle and kept the Chiefs from scoring a "garbage time" TD at game end and did not give an inch. It was a testament to Tampa's game plan (pressure your opponent all game - no mercy) and an obvious contrast to the Packers plan (bend don't break - mercy is ok). This is where the mindset needs to be reset in Titletown.
Tampa forced Mahomes to scramble for his life all game and it was something we have not seen any NFL defense accomplish in Mahomes 54 career NFL starts. He was pressured an astounding 29 times (an NFL Super Bowl record) and was hit close to a dozen times. Yes, Kansas City came into the game with a banged up OL (missing three starters) but that is no excuse in the NFL. It is a "next man up" mentality.
Tampa Bay won all three playoff games on the road and were the home team in the Super Bowl, in more ways than one. In the Wild Card round in Washington, they harassed Taylor Heinecke to run for his life. He walked off the field battered and bruised. In the Divisional Round in New Orleans, the Bucs forced Drew Brees into 3 INT's and harassed him all game. Against the Packers in Green Bay for the Conference Championship, they dominated the Packers in the trenches and made things very uncomfortable for Rodgers, sacking him 5 times. Then in the final game against the Chiefs, they made Mahomes look like an average QB and was running 20 yard scrambles on every drop back.
What contributed to Tampa's defensive success? What can Gute take away from it?
1. Pack need to get much better at the second level, or inside linebacker. They need guys who can cover against the pass, play the run and be trend setters.
2. Pack need more pass rushers. You can never have enough and NEVER should you rely on less than two or three guys. They can be schemed out from making a difference.
3. Pack need to shore up the offensive line to secure aggressive defenses from getting to Rodgers, especially right tackle and possibly center (if Corey Linsley leaves in free agency). I would also say the Packers need to improve over Lucas Patrick, even though he would likely move to center if Linsley leaves. They will need to fill a right guard hole if that happens. Either way, the Packers will need to shore up some holes in the starting five and beyond.
Gute needs to learn that having a formidable "front 7" on defense is the easiest way to improve any defense. This needs to be a philosophy change inside 1265. Tampa did not have one All Pro member in their secondary. Yes, having a good secondary is needed but is not a vital requirement. Teams that have success on defense create it "in the trenches" and help the secondary by making sure the play doesn't extend. Plays should not extend past 4 seconds. If it does, the secondary will get beat somewhere or a mobile QB will find a seam to run.
The Packers focus needs to shift to improving their defensive line and linebacker. They will need to fill a hole at cornerback, but that should not be #1, in my opinion. You can make an average secondary great by not allowing them to cover a ton.
I firmly stand that if the Packers had more than Kenny Clark, Za'Darius Smith and Rashan Gary, 2020 could have been a different season. It was obvious the Packers could not compete against Tampa "in the trenches" and it is really obvious the only way the Packers can make a run at their next Super Bowl is to improve here. QB's lead the charge in the NFL and you need to be able to keep them from controlling the game. QB's need to be running for their life. No QB can beat that pressure.
Please take note Gute! Offenses can beat up any secondary if your front 7 isn't getting to the QB and stopping the run. Clark needs another running mate or two, he needs one (if not two) stalwart ILB's and a bounty of pass rush options who can be used interchangeably depending on the game. The Packer will be financially limited from improving all their needs, but that cannot stop them from focusing where the pain hurts (if you get what I mean).
Let's not get to another NFC Championship, to be outclassed "in the trenches" for a third year in a row. It starts up front and it needs to start this offseason for the Pack. I was adamant it needed to happen last offseason but would hope two years of tape will convince them it is time. They cannot afford another offseason of personnel inaction here. Joe Barry (new DC) needs some help! Let's not set him up to fail!
Finally, as I mentioned the mindset needing a change in Titletown - the passive nature the Packers go about their business needs just a tinge of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin added to it! Gute, LaFleur - place an order of “whoop ass” and have it delivered this off-season to 1265 Lombardi, pretty please?
Go Pack Go!