Top QBs have posed big problems for Packers

The Packers' defense will be facing its ultimate test this Sunday at Lambeau Field going up against the Tom Brady-led Patriots offense. In the process, the Packers will be looking to reverse a trend against top quarterbacks that has bitten them particularly hard in the past three years. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Tom Brady comes to Lambeau Field this Sunday for what will surely be his last visit to play in Green Bay, so long as he finishes out his career with the New England Patriots.

The 37-year-old quarterback has played in Green Bay only one other time in his career (2006) and with the NFL’s schedule rotation of NFC teams vs. AFC teams, the Patriots’ next visit to Green Bay will not come until 2022.

After a slow start to this season, Brady has put himself squarely in the MVP conversation. The Patriots have won seven consecutive games and, over that stretch, Brady has 22 touchdown passes (second only to Peyton Manning) and a passer rating of 111.7. For the season, his passer rating of 100.9 is sixth best in the league, which could signify a big problem for the Packers.

Within the past six weeks here at, we have detailed the Packers’ woeful record against playoff teams in 2012 and 2013 and how the Packers with Aaron Rodgers at the helm have taken care of business against backup quarterbacks. Going up against the top quarterbacks in the league has resembled, perhaps expectedly, more of the former.

Top 10 Quarterbacks: The Games

Through Week 12, Drew Brees is the only top 10 quarterback (based on passer rating for those who have taken at least 25 percent of their team’s dropbacks) the Packers have faced this season. Even with the Packers on a roll with four consecutive wins, Brees handed them a reality check in New Orleans by passing for 311 yards and three touchdowns. He had just five incomplete passes in 32 attempts.

“I think when you play the Saints, particularly their offense in that environment under those circumstances, that’s the standard of offense that you’re going to see in big-time games,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Oct. 27 about going up elite quarterbacks in playoff settings.

Using passer rating as the primary tool then for measuring quarterbacks, the Packers have won just two of their last 12 games played against top 10 passers (including playoff games). That span dates all the way back to the NFC Divisional playoff loss to the New York Giants at Lambeau Field following the 2011 regular season.

Eli Manning, the league’s No. 7 passer that season, got the best of the Packers that day, throwing for 330 yards and three touchdowns against just one interception in a 37-20 victory. Since then, the Packers have lost in 2012 to Alex Smith (No. 3 passer rating), Russell Wilson (No. 5) and Colin Kaepernick (No. 8), and in 2013 to Kaepernick twice (No. 10), Josh McCown (No. 3), Nick Foles (No. 1) and Ben Roethlisberger (No. 9).

The only two Packers wins during that span came against Brees (No. 10) in 2012 and Tony Romo (No. 8) in 2013. In both games, the Packers won by one point, which included a 23-point comeback at Dallas with Matt Flynn at quarterback. Romo threw two late interceptions that day but posted 358 passing yards. Brees, in the Saints’ 28-27 loss, threw for 446 yards, third-most in Lambeau Field history for an opponent.

To the Packers’ credit, they did have a good stretch under defensive coordinator Dom Capers from the end of the 2010 season through the 2011 regular season. Starting with a playoff win at Philadelphia on Jan. 9, 2011, through a Jan. 1, 2012, shootout against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field, the Packers posted seven straight victories against top 10 quarterbacks. Their best outings came against Matt Ryan (only 167 yards and two interceptions on Oct. 9, 2011, at Atlanta) and Matthew Stafford (three interceptions on Nov. 24, 2011, at Detroit). But Brees did throw for 419 yards and three touchdowns in the 2011 season opener, Eli Manning 347 yards and three touchdowns on Dec. 4, 2011, at New York and Stafford 520 yards and five touchdowns on Jan. 1, 2012.

The Packers were fortunate during this time to have Aaron Rodgers playing at the highest level of his career. From the 2010 postseason through the following regular season, the Packers were 19-1 riding the arm of their MVP quarterback.

Rodgers’ 114.1 passer rating since 2011 (not counting the Minnesota game last Sunday) is the best in the league. But, believe it or not, in the Packers’ 2-10 stretch against top 10s, they have allowed a 115.3 rating. Normally feasting off turnovers as their trademark under Capers, they have just six interceptions against 28 touchdown passes during that span.

Since Capers came aboard, the Packers are 11-15 against top-10 quarterbacks. Few will forget the two big games Brett Favre had against them in 2009 with the Vikings or Roethlisberger throwing for 503 yards and Kurt Warner passing for more touchdowns (five) than incomplete passes (four) in a Wild Card playoff game.

In Capers’ only meeting against Brady, at Foxboro in 2010, the Packers posted one of their better defensive efforts. Though they lost 31-27 with Flynn at quarterback, Brady was limited to just 15 completions (third-fewest against top 10s) and 163 passing yards (second-fewest). Helping the Packers’ cause that night was a massive advantage in total plays (80 to 43) and time of possession (40:48 to 19:12). McCarthy also called for an onside kick at the opening of the game, which the Packers recovered.

Brady’s only other meeting against the Packers in his career came during McCarthy’s first season in Green Bay. On Nov. 19, 2006, Brady threw for 244 yards and four touchdowns on 20-of-31 passing. The Packers posted just 120 net yards with Favre and Rodgers combining for 9-of-27 passing. The Patriots won 35-0.

Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at

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