Packers' Run Defense Must Fit Like a Glove

Every team's game plan is to stop Marshawn Lynch, but that hasn't mattered as he's been the hottest back in the league dating to midseason last year. We turn to Dom Capers and go inside the numbers to detail Monday night's challenge.

The Green Bay Packers' defensive game plan couldn't be more simple: Stop the run and force the rookie quarterback to win the game.

That, of course, is the plan. Executing the plan, however, will be the challenge on Monday night at Seattle.

Skittles-eating Marshawn Lynch is the motor that runs the Seahawks' offense. Everyone knows that, so putting a bull's-eye on Lynch is the obvious starting point for every defense. It hasn't done much good. In Lynch's last 11 games, he's averaged 104.4 rushing yards, topped the century mark on seven occasions and scored 11 touchdowns. His 1,148 rushing yards since Week 9 of last season not only leads the league but it leads it by a wide margin. Baltimore's Ray Rice is next with 1,042 rushing yards and only Lynch, Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew have topped 1,000 yards.

"Strength and toughness" are what stand out to Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. "You better not arm tackle him; he's going to run through arm tackles. He's just a big, strong guy that can plant his foot and cut, and when he cuts, he's coming with a lot of force."

For Seattle, it starts up front with a true zone blocking scheme. When Seattle hired coach Pete Carroll in 2010, Carroll hired zone-blocking sage Alex Gibbs to install it. Gibbs, the line coach for the Broncos' Super Bowl wins over Green Bay and Atlanta, retired as the 2010 season kicked off. Now, it's being taught by line coach Tom Cable, the former Raiders head coach, and assistant Pat Ruel, the former Packers assistant who churned out NFL linemen at USC in assembly line fashion.

"You go back to all the years that the Broncos had the great years running the ball (under Gibbs)," Capers said. "It's a similar type scheme to where they really get your defense moving laterally and then you get a runner like Lynch, who's a physical guy and he can plant that foot, and when he starts coming downhill, everybody has to be sound in their gap and play good leverage."

Capers compares playing run defense to a hand fitting in a glove. If one finger's in the wrong spot, the glove won't fit. And if one defender is in the wrong spot, a hole is there to be exploited by the running back.

Therein lies the challenge on Monday night for a Packers defense that will be counting heavily on rookie defensive linemen Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels, rookie outside linebacker Nick Perry and first-year starting inside linebacker D.J. Smith.

"Your footwork is more of a premium this week than last week, because if you take a false step, you're going to be behind," Capers said. "If I'm lined up here and you go that way and I take a false step, I'm going to be behind. If I take a step at you, I'm going to be behind. Your footwork has to match their footwork."

Or, as defensive end Ryan Pickett put it: "Our defense is set up that if one person is out of their gap, the whole thing crumbles. We've got to be where we're supposed to be."

The Seahawks will be hell-bent on running the football, especially as they try to protect rookie quarterback Russell Wilson from a ball-hawking and quarterback-sacking Packers defense. In Seattle's first two games, it's run the ball on 30 of 50 first-and-10 plays, including 23 runs by Lynch.

Knowing that Lynch is going to get the ball and stopping him are two different things. The Packers knew about Frank Gore, but that didn't stop the 49ers from rushing for 186 yards in Week 1. The Packers missed six tackles in that game, including three by the inside linebackers (two by Smith and one by A.J. Hawk). Last week, the Packers allowed 94 rushing yards against Chicago and missed two tackles (including one by Hawk), but the Bears lost Matt Forte (22 plays) and fell behind.

Green Bay insists the run defense took a big step forward last week. It had better hope so. Lynch leads the NFL with 14 missed tackles, according to

"He runs with violence," Capers said. "I think guys like that, they might hit it in there for 3, hit it in there for 4, hit it in there for 5, and then they hit one for 30. You can't ever relax. You watch the game last week (against Dallas), that's what happened in the second half. It was a close game but then the Seahawks totally controlled the tempo of the second half. Really, it's run game and play-action pass, which is a ready-made formula for a young quarterback."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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