Packers' defense driven to put a stop to opponents' long, clock-consuming drives
GREEN BAY - Once the Green Bay Packers' offense found itself a bit in a loss to Philadelphia on Sept. 26, the team largely played complementary football during a four-game winning streak.
The defense was better than the 34 points allowed to the Eagles, but gave up more points per game (22.3) than it did in the first three games of the year (11.7).
The offense, meanwhile, kept rolling off its 27-point effort against the Eagles to the tune of 32.5 points per game.
Yet in that winning streak, a trend developed defensively for the Packers that the offense had managed to mask with its efficiency: Opponents were stacking plays and controlling the clock to an alarming degree.
The Packers have allowed 29 drives of eight or more plays and 14 have come in the last four weeks.
Detroit had two, Oakland had three, Kansas City had four and it came to a head in Los Angeles as the Chargers put together five.
The “bend but don’t break” defense had bowed too much.
“Sure, it’s a concern, we don’t want to just fall back, we’ll bend but we won’t break and we’re OK conceding yards until teams get into the red zone and then we’ll tighten up,” Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. “That’s not how we want to play, but we do know if teams do get down there, we do put a big emphasis on red-zone defense and have done some good things down there. We don’t want to be that team. We play our best defense sitting on the bench and we want our offense out there and we want our guys fresh for when it’s time to go back out.
“There’s a variety of reasons why we’ve given up some of those drives, it’s something that is of concern and we’re working on it.”
Amos returns to practice, Tonyan out
Starting safety Adrian Amos returned to the practice field for the Packers on Friday after missing two days with a hamstring injury. He has not missed a game since December of 2017 when he was in Chicago.
Tight end Robert Tonyan, who practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday, did not participate.
Tonyan hurt his hip against Dallas on Oct. 6. After missing the week of practice leading into the game against Detroit he tried to give it a go the following week as an estimated full participant during a walk-through on 16. He was a limited participant the next day in pads but then was ruled out Friday before playing against Oakland on Oct. 20.
He has been a limited participant for the bulk of practices since.
“It’s just, he gets close and then something doesn’t feel right,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Friday. “And we’re never going to put him out there if it’s a situation where he can do further damage to himself or if we don't feel like he can do everything that we’re asking of him. So that’s really what it’s been about.”
Amos was listed as questionable on the Friday injury report, as was cornerback Jaire Alexander (added to the report with a groin injury). Tonyan was listed as doubtful.
Tre Smith hopes for big return
The Packers have had their share of big plays on offense and defense, and specialists JK Scott and Mason Crosby have been more than solid in their duties. But the return game has not given the Packers much — if anything — since the start of the season.
“We haven’t had a whole lot of explosive plays from our special teams,” LaFleur said. “That’s certainly, that’s something that definitely can give our team a boost.”
They are hoping Tre Smith can do that, and he took over kick and punt return duties in Los Angeles. He returned five kicks for 123 yards (24.6). His longest of 36 was a season-long for the team and helped set up a Crosby field goal.
Smith is the third kick returner the club has tried after the trade of Trevor Davis to Oakland, and he averaged 26.8 yards per kick return for Kansas City last year. He is averaging 23.9 on eight returns for the Packers.
“We were one block away,” Smith said. “We dared them to keep kicking it to us, which is what we wanted to do. I thought we executed pretty well.
“We’re confident. We’re heading in the right (direction) as far as the return aspect of the game. We’ll bust some big ones here soon.”