The main reason the Green Bay Packers beat the surging Dallas Cowboys 17-7 on Sunday was their defense, and the main reason their defense played so well is because they blitzed more than they have all season.
According to ESPN, the Packers blitzed just over 50 percent of the time on Sunday – a marked increase from their average of 40 percent through the first eight games of the season. That means Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers sent at least five players after Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, which resulted in five sacks. The Packers had been averaging a little less than two sacks per game coming into the contest. The team ranked 18th in the league with 18 sacks.
Sunday’s blitz-heavy defense is the type Capers was supposed to employ from day one, but it has been slow coming for some reason, despite players openly voicing their frustration. Whether the “handcuffs” have been removed for good remains to be seen, but for at least one day Packers fans got a glimpse of how a dominating 3-4 defense is supposed to operate, and it starts with the linebackers.
The Packers held the Cowboys to 61 yards rushing and with Dallas’ running game going nowhere, Capers was able to blitz all of the linebackers on different occasions.
“We were able to pressure more because it became a one-dimensional game,” Capers said. “(The linebackers) were very active. I thought they’ve been doing a good job of playing run, but we blitzed them a lot tonight. We tried not to let the quarterback get comfortable.”
In addition to eight tackles, Nick Barnett had two sacks. Clay Matthews added another and recovered two fumbles. And even though they didn’t record sacks, both A.J. Hawk and rookie Brad Jones were active.
“Even when they were blocked, you saw them giving second effort coming off blocks,” Capers said.
The number of blitzes the Packers run in Capers’ system is predicated on stopping the run on first and second down, which the team has been doing for much of the season. After Sunday’s result, if the run-stopping trend continues, you should expect to see more blitzing and more of the disruptive defense the Packers are capable of.
However, like Charles Woodson and Cullen Jenkins before me, I have to wonder what took so long for Capers to turn up the heat. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman is probably wondering the same thing.