You want perspective? Here’s some gruesome perspective: The Packers were guilty of missing 18 tackles, according to ProFootballFocus.com. The rest of the NFC North combined for 16 missed tackles.
“The one (problem) that jumps off the page at you is tackling,” coach Mike McCarthy said the day after a humbling 36-16 loss at Seattle. “We had way too many missed tackles and the fundamentals of footwork and the things that go into that that’s practiced every day didn’t carry onto the field.”
The ability to tackle, not surprisingly, is a key factor in determining who wins and who loses. Last week, according to ProFootballFocus.com, 11 teams missed six or fewer tackles. Just two of them lost. One of them was San Diego, which missed four tackles in a loss to Arizona; the Cardinals missed only five. On the other hand, 13 teams missed at least 10 tackles. Only three of them won, including Seattle, which missed 13 against Green Bay.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers pointed to missed tackles putting his unit into too many third-and-short situations. The Seahawks had third-and-1 or fourth-and-1 three times and won them all.
“Obviously, the missed tackles has to improve,” Capers said. “When you’re playing a team like Seattle that runs the ball extremely well, they not only have a physical runner in Lynch but (Percy) Harvin gives them a different dimension running the ball, you’ve got to be able to tackle and get people on the ground. We missed too many tackles. That influences third down. We had a number of missed opportunities that would’ve had a big impact on the game.”
First-round pick HaHa Clinton-Dix and veteran inside linebacker Brad Jones tied for the dubious team lead with three missed tackles. Clinton-Dix had a horrendous miss on Ricardo Lockett's touchdown but also made a tremendous open-field tackle on Russell Wilson.
“Overall, I’m not pleased with my performance, if you ask me. I expect a lot out of myself," Clinton-Dix said. "I know I can do better than what I did. I’m just going to move forward from there.”
The impression, based on this year’s opener and the problems in 2013, is Green Bay’s defense couldn’t tackle a sleeping man in a phone booth. That’s not entirely correct, though. After abysmal tackling in 2011, when Green Bay whiffed 109 times to rank 27th in the league, it finished fourth in 2012 with only 68 misses. Last season, the Packers missed 116 tackles. While it was more misses than in 2011, the Packers actually ranked 19th. Why the better ranking despite missing more tackles? Because the league average was 111.9 in 2013 — a huge jump over the 93.6 average in 2011.
Not that the Packers can take solace in being barely better than average. Tackling wasn’t an issue in the preseason. The hope is a renewed focus on fundamentals will make the difference when the Packers host the Jets on Sunday.
“The reality of tackling, to me, and I know everyone has an opinion of it, when you talk about the fundamentals of football, the footwork is a key component of all your fundamentals, whether it’s blocking, getting off blocks or sustaining blocks,” McCarthy said. “Tackling is your ability to come to balance or run through the inside hip and all those things. No different than ball security, finishing runs, getting into position to take it away. In regards to tackling, the biggest thing that jumps out on film is we didn’t run through the tackle. Our footwork was poor. When you start leaving your feet to tackle people, it puts you in a compromising position. The biggest part of our tackling issue was the fundamentals of footwork and running through the near hip and the ability to come to balance in stressful situations. We just didn’t do a very good job of it.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.