7

December

Green Bay Packers Again Struggling With Elite Quarterbacks

If a team is going to knock the Green Bay Packers from the ranks of unbeaten in 2011, there’s one thing we know: That team better have an elite quarterback.

While it’s not quite a flashback to 2009, the Packers defense is again struggling mightily with elite level quarterbacks.

Two years ago, the Packers were consistently burned by quarterbacks Brett Favre, Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner. The Packers lost all four of those games, including a playoff defeat to the Cardinals in which Warner threw for 379 yards and 5 touchdowns. Roethlisberger went over 500 and Favre had a combined seven touchdowns.

While Green Bay has won every game this season, a similar trend is forming for the 2011 defense.

In my estimation, the Packers have played three elite level quarterbacks this season: Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning. Not only were the Packers torched in the passing game by these three quarterbacks, but each of the three games were among the closest the Packers have played this season.

Let’s take a look at some of the stats from these three games.

QUARTERBACK CMP ATT YDS TD INT RATING FINAL
DREW BREES 32 49 416 3 0 112.5 42-34
PHILIP RIVERS 26 46 385 4 3 85.9 45-38
ELI MANNING 23 40 347 3 1 100.7 38-35
TOTALS 81 135 1,148 10 4 99.9

The table is pretty self-explanatory.

The top level of quarterbacks are not only going to be able to move the football—something many have done on the Packers this season—but they’ll also be able to put points on the board by scoring touchdowns. The last part of that is the most important. While we’ve talked all season about the Packers’ “bend-but-don’t-break” defense, allowing touchdowns has been the only way opposing teams have stuck in games. Other quarterbacks—Cam Newton, Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford—have piled up the yards on the Packers defense, but only the three elite quarterbacks listed were able to throw three or more touchdown passes in a single game.

What does this tell me?

Only the teams with elite quarterbacks are going to have the chance to beat the Packers down the stretch. The Packers have faced good defenses and running games, but neither have been consistently effective in keeping teams competitive against the Packers this season. You have to score touchdowns in the passing game to keep up.