Not that anyone spent much time this week talking about the Packers defense, but that oft-maligned unit entered the week ranked seventh in the 32-team NFL in total defense (331.8 yards per game) and ninth in scoring defense (20.9 points per game). Considering the unit’s horrendous start and Joe Barry’s less-than-stellar résumé from his previous two defensive coordinator stints, that turnaround has deserved far more attention than it has received — especially considering how difficult it is to be a good defense in today’s NFL.
“It’s an offensive world and we’re living in it,” Barry said at midweek.
Perhaps, but with quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the reserve/COVID-19 list and Jordan Love making his first NFL start, Barry understands that his guys will have to play one of their best games against a still-dangerous Chiefs offense that has been up-and-down this year but still has Patrick Mahomes orchestrating the operation.
“It's a shame what's going on with Aaron, but we're all excited as heck for Jordan and we'll rally around him,” Barry said. “We got a job to do defensively, no matter who our starting 11 is on offense. We’ve got to take that approach that we're going on the road into a great environment (at) Arrowhead, playing against arguably one of the top offenses, at least in the last few years. It's a great challenge for us, so we're going to control what we can control — and that's our effort and how hard and fast we play, making them earn every blade of grass. We can't really put much time and energy into who's playing quarterback for us. We’ve got a job to do and we got to go do it at a high level.”
While Mahomes’ numbers are down (with 19 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, his 94.5 passer rating is 14 points lower than last season) and teams seem to be finding success by blitzing him less and flooding the secondary, outside linebacker Preston Smith (above) insisted that his fellow defenders aren’t sleeping for a second on Mahomes, a former NFL MVP and Super Bowl winner who they know will likely turn it around soon enough.
“We know what we’re facing, and we know the stats that have been produced up to this point. But that’s still a good team; they’ve still got a lot of great players,” Smith said. “We know they can make big plays at any moment. They’re not just going to lay down. We know they’re a great team. They’re going to go out there and put up a fight.”