Beware the blitz

The Packers are 1-4 against the Eagles since Andy Reid took over in Philadelphia. His defensive coordinator, Jim Johnson, has made life miserable for Brett Favre.

In sports, it's not unusual for one team to have another's number. For a decade, Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers thoroughly dominated the Chicago Bears. Conversely, however, the Philadelphia Eagles seem to have all the answers when they play the Packers.

The teams meet again tonight in Philadelphia. Green Bay hasn't won in Philadelphia since 1962. More important, though, is the recent history. Favre and the Packers are 1-4 against Philadelphia since Andy Reid took over as Eagles coach.

While Favre is a certain Hall of Famer, he's been awful against Philadelphia. In the five games against the Eagles, he's completed 52.4 percent of his passes for 780 yards, four touchdowns and nine interceptions, including two in last season's 19-14 loss against, of all quarterbacks, Mike McMahon. His only win? A 6-3 victory in 2000, with the Packers winning on a last-second field goal and overcoming three interceptions by Favre.

The worst of his interceptions, however, came in the infamous fourth-and-26 game in the playoffs following the 2003 season. In overtime, the Eagles sent one of their vintage overload blitzes to Favre's right side. To avoid the sack, he threw the ball up for grabs into double coverage. Brian Dawkins intercepted to set up the winning field goal, and the Packers' best, last chance to get to a Super Bowl with Favre was squashed.

While Reid is one of the best coaches in the NFL, his defensive coordinator, Jim Johnson, is perhaps the biggest reason why the Eagles have dominated Favre and the Packers. His blitzing scheme — he likes to attack one side of the offensive line with more blitzers than there are blockers — has flustered Favre.

"He's an excellent football coach," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I've had an opportunity to go against Jim a few times. He tests your protection schemes from a pressure standpoint. They're very sound. This is the best defense we've played to this point in the season."

That's high praise, considering Green Bay was shut out by Chicago in Week 1.

Johnson's defensive goals for every game are simple: Pressure the quarterback, give up 17 or fewer points and not allow big plays. Johnson's defenses have never given up more than 17 points to Favre — they allow an average of 12.8 in the five games — and Favre's been dumped 14 times.

"His whole philosophy is 11 defensive players versus the cornerback," said Packers cornerback Al Harris, who started his career in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia's defensive domination is even more scary considering the Packers are starting a new fullback, Brandon Miree, and running back Ahman Green is questionable with two sore hamstrings. Facing a blitz-happy team is challenging enough. Try doing it with a fullback who's never played in an NFL game and the possibility of having to rely on two untested halfbacks, neither of whom are as adept at finding openings as a safety-valve receiving option as is Green.

However, two of Philadephia's top three cornerbacks, Lito Sheppard and Roderick Hood, are doubtful with foot injuries, and Pro Bowl defensive end Jevon Kearse is out for the season with a knee injury. Even though the Eagles are averaging more than five sacks per game, they have allowed 54 points against the Giants and 49ers the last two weeks.

For Green Bay to survive Johnson's rushes, they must:

1. Quiet the crowd so the offensive line can communicate.

2. Have Green available. His importance in the passing game was evident last week against Detroit.

3. Be patient on offense. The Packers must mount at least a semblance of a running game, and Favre must do what he did last week, when he was content to dink and dunk the ball down the field. By doing those two things, the Packers will stay out of dangerous third-and-long situations.

"Third down is when he brings a lot of his stuff," offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzonski said of Johnson's blitzes.

If the Packers can do those three things, they can turn the tables on Johnson's attacking style and do what they haven't done in 44 years: win at Philadelphia.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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