Five Areas the Packers Need to Improve for the Playoffs

The Green Bay Packers are enjoying their bye week before they resume play next weekend. Green Bay will then host the lowest seeded remaining team in their playoff opener at Lambeau Field and if they win, will also host the NFC Championship Game.

The Packers earned the top spot in the NFC playoffs with a 13-4 record in the regular season. The team did a lot of things well and had a 5-1 record against eventual playoff opponents.

But despite their overall success, there are still things the Packers need to do better to return to the Super Bowl. Here is a look at the five things the Packers need to do better if they hope to win in the playoffs:

5. Finish Teams When They’re Down

Despite their 13-win season, the Packers had a bad habit of having big leads and then watching those leads slip away, creating close games when the Pack seemingly had things under control.

The Packers had a 19-point lead over the Rams entering the fourth quarter but held on to win by eight. They held a 10-point advantage over the 49ers in the fourth quarter only to lose the lead altogether and win on a last second field goal. Against the Ravens, Green Bay led by 14 midway through the fourth quarter but held on to win 31-30 after the Ravens failed to convert on a two-point conversion in the game’s final minute.

The Packers need to not let up on either side of the ball if they get a lead and finish opponents off when they have them down.

4. Stop Trick Plays/Keep Contain

The Lions had a lot of success using trick plays against the Packers. That included end arounds and a wide receiver option pass.

The key to this play and many other successful big plays against the Green Bay defense was the Packers failure to keep in their lanes and contain the edge.

The Packers need to improve in this area. Opposing coaches will watch the film and construct plays that will take advantage of this weakness.

3. Prevent Splash Plays

Opposing teams also had success mid-season with big plays against the Packers defense. Justin Jefferson of Minnesota, Ja’Marr Chase of Cincinnati and the duo of Van Jefferson and Odell Beckham Jr. of Los Angeles all had success creating mismatches against the Packers defense.

The offensive play callers managed to create mismatches of having elite receivers against the Packers dime back. The result was long scoring plays and momentum changing gains.

If Jaire Alexander returns for the playoffs, the Packers should be able to reduce these mismatches, but overall, the defense needs to get back to their midseason form at reducing splash plays and big gains that allow the opposition to score quickly.

2. Improve the Run Defense

The Packers run defense struggled at times this season especially in the late-season win over the Browns when they allowed Cleveland to gain 219 yards on the ground.

For the season, the Packers allowed 109.1-yards per game which ranks 11th in the league, but the numbers are misleading. The Packers often had a lead which reduced the number of times opponents ran the ball.

Opposing runners averaged 4.7-yards per rush against the Packers which ranks 30th among the NFL’s 32 teams.

The defense must do a better job of stopping opposing runners if the Packers hope to make a Super Bowl run.

1. Special Teams Must Be Better

Special teams have been a problem for the Packers all season. Mason Crosby missed nine field goals and two extra points this season after being perfect on three-point tries a year ago.

Amari Rodgers has been a liability on punt returns and often has trouble fielding punts and may be replaced by late-season signee David Moore.

Kick and punt coverage has been spotty at best and needs to improve. Opponents averaged 12.8-yards per punt return, almost five yards more per return than the Packers averaged as a team. On kick returns, opponents averaged 25.7-yards per runback, a full eight yards per return more than the Packers managed.

In the playoffs, when facing contending teams, a big play on special teams can make the difference between advancing to the next round of the playoffs and the season coming to an abrupt and disappointing finish.

The Packers are the top seed in the NFC. They have overcome a lot of adversity, injuries and controversies to get to this point. But if 2020 taught us anything, home field advantage doesn’t guarantee anything once the playoffs begin. The Packers will need to improve in these five areas if they hope to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in more than a decade.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (33)

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Ya_tittle's picture

January 13, 2022 at 12:06 pm

Excellent analysis. Thanks.

Hope Moore is returning all kicks. Need a vet's stability back there.

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Bearmeat's picture

January 13, 2022 at 12:15 pm

Green Bay is the best all around team in the NFL this year. They were last year too. And in 2014. Let's hope they can avoid the choke/beating themselves. If they can just... be stable and themselves.. we'll be celebrating in TitleTown!

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Spock's picture

January 13, 2022 at 12:37 pm

Mason Crosby I believe has never missed an after regular season field goal (knocks on wood that I haven't jinxed this) so I'm confident in his field goal attempts. For some reason he has more problems with extra points. Here's hoping that isn't a bugaboo for him this year. I really loved seeing him kick the ball way, way, back of the end zone the last cold game. I didn't think he could still do it! I hope MLF has finally gotten his coaching mojo working for playoff games as he's been outcoached a bit since his rookie debut in playoff games but his three times 13 win regular season shows he's no slouch. All gas, no brakes! GPG!

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ApplesAndTons's picture

January 13, 2022 at 12:56 pm

i'm VERY concerned with Mason. but rooting hard either way. would suck to lose because of our again, overpaid K though

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LeotisHarris's picture

January 13, 2022 at 08:29 pm

Hey, Apples, you misspelled Green Bay Packers career scoring leader.

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ApplesAndTons's picture

January 13, 2022 at 12:56 pm

i'm VERY concerned with Mason. but rooting hard either way. would suck to lose because of our again, overpaid K though

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ApplesAndTons's picture

January 13, 2022 at 12:56 pm

i'm VERY concerned with Mason. but rooting hard either way. would suck to lose because of our again, overpaid K though

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pacman's picture

January 13, 2022 at 12:51 pm

What's amazing about this list is that it is all due to coaching (except returning where it is a talent issue but Moore (Cobbs?) should fix that).

Even the run defense - we have pretty good guys upfront but it seems like we still settle on limiting big plays vs playing aggressive D. That works when playing mediocre teams but not as well playing the better ones. We played better D mid-season when we were aggressive, then it's almost like Barry morphed into Pettine.

So the best defense is a good offense but it certainly helps if the D can play well too. I wouldn't mind coasting through all the playoff games if we finally figure out how to play the full 60 minutes each week.

GPG!

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Crankbait's picture

January 14, 2022 at 12:57 am

If Barry comes out passive in the playoffs it will be yet another early exit.
No pass rush...no SB.

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Starrbrite's picture

January 14, 2022 at 02:04 am

That’s exactly what I believe —you have to have a pass rush. Also why I was hyped for “Z’s” return. We barely touched Brady last year, meanwhile, ARod was under constant pressure.
With “Z”, Gary, Preston, Clark, a rejuvenated Lowry, and now Mercilus—whoa, could be good times.

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splitpea1's picture

January 13, 2022 at 03:06 pm

1. On defense, contain, contain, and contain, especially if facing a mobile QB....ditch the soft coverage for the most part....new additions Campbell and hopefully Slaton will make a noticeable difference vs. the opponents' ground game this time around.... Savage needs to play better.

2. Offense: With a lead anytime in the second half, keep the chains moving; stop with the deep shots unless they're high percentage. Three and outs let the opponent back in the game...MLF: Dig deep into the playbook during the second half, maybe, and try to be a little bit unpredictable.... but take full advantage of Dillon.

3. Special Teams: Stick with Moore on returns and there's nothing you can really do with the rest of them except pray. And it's another place to beware of being on the receiving end of trickery.

4. MLF/AR: Don't burn up timeouts or challenges early; make sure you're getting good advice from staff who pay attention to questionable referee calls.

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Starrbrite's picture

January 14, 2022 at 12:07 pm

Yes—-very good plan.

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ImaPayne's picture

January 13, 2022 at 02:14 pm

This is not a very good defensive team.
1.Gary, like the pre draft analyst said, went misising in games often and lacked upper body strength against top linemen. I think we have a few others who also fit this description. He sure aint Watt.
2. This crazy secondary play and formation drives me nuts. It looks like chickens running around with their heads cut off. As soon as we play another team they have a simple plan, find the opening/s in the secondary, stop and turn and the ball will be delivered. Works great since so one is covering one on one. Totally insane and its the same defense of Petitine and Capers. One on one just is not in the play book.
3. Defense is slow of foot. Quick backs get upfield fast, often before anyone lays a hand on them they have five yards.
No the packers will lose the first playoff game again at Lambeau because the teams coming in already have a solid plan to attack the weaknesses of this D.
I know the phil of the team management, all we have to do is put up more points with Rodgers then we let. Ya tell that too the Bucs who put who 12 quick and easy unanswered points on our d yet we struggled moving downfield to get ours. Not pretty

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Lphill's picture

January 13, 2022 at 03:57 pm

It must be awful being a Vikings fan , right?

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Coldworld's picture

January 13, 2022 at 05:54 pm

Who on our D is slow? Are you Rip Van Winkle from 5 or 6 years ago? Gary disappears? Not according to near league leading stats. I’d go on, but i really doubt there’s a point in doing so.

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LeotisHarris's picture

January 13, 2022 at 08:34 pm

He's lost his "Zimmer doesn't have time for draft and develop, he likes players who win now" mantra so he's spewing remnants of jargon still clattering about the vast wasteland between his ears.

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Crankbait's picture

January 14, 2022 at 01:06 am

Your assessment is spot on.
We do have the talent to break through this season but who knows what we are going to get with this new defensive coordinator ? It's very hard to be optimistic when our defense has failed so miserably in the last decade, especially the last few years and our current defense just does not scare or seem to stop anybody but our chances are very good as long as the weather stays in single digits at Lambeau.

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Guam's picture

January 13, 2022 at 03:07 pm

I am feeling better and better about the Packers chances this year. They were an injury riddled team that found ways to squeeze out many close wins enroute to the #1 seed. However without reinforcements I was concerned this team might not have enough to survive the playoff stretch and get to the Super Bowl. With Bahk, Myers, Cobb and potentially Turner returning for the offense and Alexander, Z. Smith, Keke and now Mercilus returning for the defense, the Packers just got an incredible influx of rested talent. I like their chances!!!!

GoPackGo

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Leatherhead's picture

January 13, 2022 at 03:54 pm

We have a great offense, much better than the #10 scoring offense would indicate. We're 4th in passing TDs., 6th in drive success%, 1st in Fewest Penalties, #1 in time of possession, #1 in fewest turnovers. And 80% of this is Rodgers, Adams, Jones, and now Dillon. They are the people who keep moving the ball down the field.

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Crankbait's picture

January 14, 2022 at 01:08 am

Cobb has been the most important addition.

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Coldworld's picture

January 14, 2022 at 09:58 am

Well that’s not saying much, if you are restricting this to offense, since the rivals are AmRod, Myers and Newman. It’s possible none of whom play absent injury.

Not that I don’t think a healthy Cobb is going to prove very helpful on key downs, but the biggest impact on the O, and most relevant, Is likely the emergence of a power run game through building Dillon into game plans. Exactly what’s needed in January at Lambeau.

I’d say the biggest impact in getting us here from a player not featuring on O at all last year is possibly Nijman. If we hadn’t had him, we might not have Rodgers. Kelly has done really well at RT, but he’s too slow at left and Turner isn’t (when available) anything more than an emergency option on the left.

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Rebecca's picture

January 13, 2022 at 05:05 pm

We’ll see. Run the table! GoPackGo!

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MarkinMadison's picture

January 13, 2022 at 06:03 pm

I'd appreciate some "whys" in the article - as in, "here is why they are bad at this."

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Johnblood27's picture

January 13, 2022 at 08:24 pm

Area to improve...

Savage at safety.

He has been a liability all season long.

Something needs to be done to mitigate his sucking. The open middle of the field as well as his terrible run support. He is a great spectator while his teammates attempt to tackle, he needs a pennant and a beer.

This guy will be the death of this team if something isnt done.

mark it down, Special teams will not lose a game for us, Savage very well might.

With Ja back, i like Douglas to take some reps at safety in dime with Savage dropped down to the LOS or simply removed from the field.

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LeotisHarris's picture

January 13, 2022 at 08:38 pm

Hopefully the Sucking Mitigation Department is working tirelessly to trigger an epiphany in young Darnell. I know hope is a poor strategy.

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Johnblood27's picture

January 14, 2022 at 07:27 am

the last project that department succeeded at was working with my first wife...

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Coldworld's picture

January 14, 2022 at 09:38 am

I have a feeling that the break will help more. He’s not been the same since he got hurt.

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Starrbrite's picture

January 14, 2022 at 02:18 am

Good points Johnblood.
Several years ago during a playoff game against Dallas, CB Terrell Buckley was getting toasted. During the halftime highlights, Jimmy Johnson said, “Green Bay has nowhere to hide Buckley”.
The same case can perhaps be made for Savage.

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Johnblood27's picture

January 14, 2022 at 07:25 am

Starrbrite, I was in agreement with your assertion initially, because of the very thin reserves at safety.

I then looked outside the box and added in the surplus of CB with Ja back and started thinking about non-traditional approaches to getting the best players in the best positions for success.

That led immediately to placing kevin king on the bench as well as trying to get Savages physical gifts on the field but in positions for him to succeed.

Perhaps getting him closer to the line and playing more bump from the slot would remind him that football is a physical sport and with the speed of the game from the slot cb position perhaps his instincts can take over and he can get back to being the player we saw flashes of at the end of last year.

I really want Savage to succeed, his physical gifts are enormous and he doesn't seem too stoopid to pick up the mental side of the game. Something has gone wrong upstairs for this young man and he needs some sort of a jolt to get him back right.

The downside to Savage in the slot cb position is Chandon Sullivan being the odd man out... maybe that's not such a downside...

Of course all of the savage-sullivan musical chair routine is dependent upon having someone that can move into the safety position vacated by savage. imo that guy is rasul douglas. with the return of Ja and the emergence of stokes douglas needs to be on the field and it looks like 2 perimeters just isnt enough....solution? safety in place of savage.

Just some thoughts...

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Coldworld's picture

January 14, 2022 at 10:16 am

One of Douglas or Alexander (if his shoulder is 100 percent) will be the star. Savage isn’t nearly as bad as you make out. Let Savage stay deep, where he should be. Hopefully the rest will give him a boost too. King will be the 4th CB and TEs the responsibility of Campbell and the Star (Douglas or Alexander).

This Savage denigration has gone well beyond rational, as is the notion that we have spare CBs we can’t use better than at FS.

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PatrickGB's picture

January 14, 2022 at 09:40 am

Remember that in many of the games we won it went down to the wire. Small changes (and mistakes) can make big differences.

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Starrbrite's picture

January 14, 2022 at 12:13 pm

Johnblood—-agree. I posted something similar on another thread. Savage has an upside—scheme and additional talent added to the package can make this work.

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CoachDino's picture

January 15, 2022 at 01:46 am

Love the close out games comment. AR is like a 1/2 game superstar - 1/2 game pedestrian. We need full games from him. They should score a min of 31 pts per game in the playoffs. He's the MVP so if there's anyone that needs to play at their very best for the Pack to win it's him.

Defensive stats are misleading. Other than the Browns no teams RBas totalled 100yds. Most all less than 50. Get a big lead and force them to pass. Hopefully with Cambell, Z and Merc back the edge guys improve in containment both through ability and less need to make things happen when Gary and Z are the only hope.

Forget about trick plays - thats an anomaly from playing a2-14 team with nothing to lose and having your backups in the game 1/2 of it.

Sure, who doesn't agree that they should min splash plays but its going to happen most ever game when playing the best offensive teams and the way the passing rules are set-up. The offense just needs to have more.

Special Teams have such little impact in todays game. How else do you explain the Packers having the best record over the last 3 years with the worst special teams? Where I would agree just like when it comes to splash plays, just don't allow devastating disasters.

End of Half Bombs for TDs on D.
Fumbles or TDs allowed on STs. Fielding On side kicks. If STs can just do that even if they give up to many yards on returns and have no yards on their own returns they will be fine.

The Packers have the Players to win, they don't need guys/units to have their best games ever. As long as AR has MVP games and plays up to his potential they will be tough to beat.

Think about it, if that wasn't the case (It's on AR to win) we'd be fine with Love in there. As good as the D played this year along with the running game, without AR this is a different team.

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