Playbook mailbag: How to defend the Packers

Everyone wants to know how to beat Green Bay right now.

No, not fans. Coaches would like to know how to beat the 10-0 Packers more than anyone.

Regardless, we received a few questions from our mailbag along those same lines. Jason Bias, on Facebook, asked:

Is there a defense that can match up with the Packers’ receiving corps? And, if not, what defensive strategy will slow them down?

When it comes to personnel, we don’t know if any team has enough defensive backs or safeties to match up with the Packers’ five-set of receivers (Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Donald Driver and Randall Cobb). And then they have one of the NFL’s best tight ends, Jermichael Finley.

If you want to beat the Packers, you have to do it with scheme. Force Green Bay to be in a reactive position -– normally where the Pack offense puts defenses.

Last season, the Jets were the only team to keep the Packers offense out of the end zone with Aaron Rodgers playing the full game (the Lions won, 7-3, in Week 14 with Matt Flynn replacing an injured Rodgers), because Rex Ryan and his defense were aggressive, dictating to Green Bay how the game would be played.

The Jets cornerbacks pressed and re-routed the Packers receivers while also sending a variety of pressure packages at Green Bay’s offensive line.  They also disguised man-to-man looks with their matchup zone schemes, giving the illusion of softer coverage while taking away throwing lanes on quick throws.  This can cause a quarterback to hold the ball, allowing more time for your pressure to make it home.

It’s when your coverage doesn’t sync up with your pass rush – say, you blitz but your corners don’t stay with their coverage, or you cover but the blitz doesn’t get home – then Rodgers is mobile enough to extend plays and savvy enough to improvise.

There are few weaknesses you can pinpoint along the Packers offense right now, but if you had to pick one, it would have to be their offensive line. Green Bay still has a second-year player, Marshall Newhouse, at left tackle because of an injury to Chad Clifton.

By overloading and bringing pressure to a side, the Ryans of the world can only hope to hit Rodgers – before he hits one of his receivers down the field for a touchdown.

“Playbook” — the ultimate football Xs and Os show — airs Friday at 8 p.m. ET (AFC) and 9 p.m. ET (NFC) on NFL Network. Check the NFL Network broadcast schedule for further details. Follow “Playbook” on Twitter @NFLN_Playbook.

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