Going into Sunday’s NFC Championship game, hopes were high for Packers’ fans. Unfortunately, the Packers lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for several reasons. One of those reasons is the poor showing by the defense. This is the same story as last season’s NFC Championship loss. All season long, questions have swirled around the security of Mike Pettine’s job. With this loss, those questions might have been answered.
Mike Pettine’s Regular Season Performance
Mike Pettine was hired by the Packers in 2018 to be the defensive coordinator. It was not a good season, and the Packers finished 6-9-1. Mike McCarthy was fired before the season ended in what some felt was a long overdue decision.
Mike Pettine’s defense that year was far from stellar. The Packers ranked 18th in yards allowed per game and 21st in points per game allowed. The next year, under new coach Matt LaFleur, the Packers scoring defense improved. They ranked ninth in points allowed per game, but were 18th in yards allowed per game. Most notably, the run defense was awful as was evidence in the NFC Championship loss to San Francisco.
This season, the overall defense improved while the scoring defense declined. The Packers ranked ninth in yards allowed per game, but were 13th in points allowed per game. However, there were several instances during the season in which Coach LaFleur seemed to call out the defensive game plan in his post game interviews. He did it again on Sunday when asked about the coverage call right before half.
On that play, Kevin King was burned for a long touchdown catch with seconds remaining in the half. When asked about the decision to play man coverage in that decision, LaFleur said:
LaFleur on the Packers' defense on Tampa's TD at the end of the first half: "It was man coverage — definitely not the right call for the situation." https://t.co/GBrpK9Id9o
— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) January 25, 2021
A breakdown of the specific stats can be seen below.
Mike Pettine’s Defense
|Year||Yards per Game||Rush Yards per Game||Pass Yards per Game||Points per Game|
Conclusions about Mike Pettine’s Defense
As the table shows, Mike Pettine’s defense was, overall, much improved in 2020. However, his scoring defense went up considerably. To be fair, the scoring defense was much better in the second part of the season. The Packers went over six weeks without giving up more than 20 points.
However, the question regarding Pettine’s defense is this: is it good enough to win a Super Bowl? So far, it has not been good enough to even get to the Super Bowl.
In the 2019 NFC Championship, Pettine’s defense gave up 362 yards and 37 points. On Sunday, it gave up 351 yards and 31 points.
Simply put, Mike Pettine has been given two chances to show his defense can get the Packers to the Super Bowl. Both times, his scheme has failed to contain his opponent’s offense. Mike McCarthy was shown the door when it was clear the Packers could not win with him anymore. Perhaps it is time for them to do the same with Mike Pettine.
What Others Had to Say
Twitter is an interesting place, but is useful for getting insights from very respected football minds. On those is Tony Dungy. After seeing the play right before half time, Dungy tweeted this:
That may be the worst defensive design I’ve ever seen with 8 seconds and no timeouts left. Green Bay—I’m not sure how you play inside technique man to man and nit just play zone and protect the sideline and the end zone? Amazing.
— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) January 24, 2021