Joe Barry’s Green Bay Packers Defense Turns New Page While Sporting Fresh Throwback Threads

On a day when the Green Bay Packers turned back the clock and represented the old school with some fresh new throwback jerseys, defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s defense actually turned a new page.

The Packers, now 6-1, picked up another win in Week 7 of the NFL season, beating the Washington Football Team by a score of 24-10.

Green Bay is currently on a roll, having won six games in a row, and the Pack’s only loss of the season seems like ages ago. Green Bay started off abysmally slow in a Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints, but the Pack has been back in a big way.

Though not an overly impressive win against Washington, which fell to 2-5, Green Bay does have some highlights it can hang its hat on.

The Packers’ defense also got a major weight off its collective shoulders.

The Green Bay Packers’ defense finally figured out how to get stops in the red zone

Rashan Gary of the Green Bay Packers
Rashan Gary #52 of the Green Bay Packers reacts after sacking Taylor Heinicke #4 of the Washington Football Team in the fourth quarter in the game at Lambeau Field | John Fisher/Getty Images

The Super Bowl is the expectation this season in Green Bay as it is most seasons, but one of the biggest questions surrounding this team so far in 2021 has been the state of the defense. Heading into the Washington matchup, the Packers had given up 15-straight touchdowns to opponents in the red zone.

Yes, you read that right.

An NFL defense, and a rather good defense at that, gave up a touchdown to its opponent 15 out of 15 times.

It’s a stat that has been an absolute embarrassment for Barry’s unit, and it was made even more perplexing by the fact that Green Bay has otherwise looked surprisingly strong on the defensive side of the football. This was the bugaboo that they just couldn’t figure out, though, and it has been one of the main reasons critics have questioned whether or not the Packers really are a Super Bowl contender this season.

That question may still linger a bit because Washington isn’t known as a stellar offensive team with quarterback Taylor Heinicke at the helm, but the Packers did finally exorcise their most freaky demon to date.

Green Bay’s defense forced four straight red-zone stops in the second half against Washington, finally breaking the putrid streak. No touchdowns were allowed by the Packers’ defense in the second half, and they came up incredibly stout with Washington knocking on the door of the endzone on two straight drives to force turnovers on downs.

The Packers had some outstanding personal performances against Washington

In a rare week in which Aaron Rodgers‘ offense seemed to be a bit understated (despite the fact that he threw for three touchdowns), the Packers got a few very notable performances on defense.

Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell has an absolute star for Green Bay this season. He’s the heartbeat of the defense and the Packers’ leading tackler. He has a nose for the football and a knack for creating turnovers.

He came away with 13 tackles and two forced fumbles against Washington, continuing his Pro Bowl-level season.

Outside linebacker Rashan Gary is also starting to play some excellent football for the Packers, and he had his best game of the season against a banged-up Washington front. Gary was consistently in the Washington backfield, and he came away with seven total tackles, four quarterback hits, two sacks, and one forced fumble.

Slot corner Chandon Sullivan also stepped up to fill the secondary void in Green Bay’s defense, picking Heinicke of in the fourth quarter and securing one of Green Bay’s red zone stops.

The Packers held Washington to 4-of-11 on third down and 1-of-4 on fourth down, while also forcing four sacks as a team.

Defensive coordinator Joe Barry is starting to answer some questions

Joe Barry of the Green Bay Packers
Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry of the Green Bay Packers looks on during a game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium | Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

The Packers moved on from defensive coordinator Mike Pettine over the offseason after two straight NFC Championship losses in which Green Bay’s defense simply didn’t live up to the moment.

The NFC Championship game in 2020 saw Pettine’s unit give up 220 yards and four touchdowns to Raheem Mostert in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The next season, the Packers had Tom Brady‘s Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lambeau Field in the title game, but the defense gave up a handful of inexcusable plays. That list included a touchdown with one second left on the first half clock in which Kevin King inexplicably let Scotty Miller get behind him while in prevent defense.

Pettine had to go, so Green Bay simply let him walk after his contract expired.

After failing to lure Jim Leonhard away from his defensive coordinator post with the Wisconsin Badgers, the Packers had to somewhat embarrassingly go to “Plan B” and hire Barry.

It wasn’t a popular move with the fans, especially after Green Bay lost out on Leonhard, but the bigger concerns stemmed from Barry’s checkered past.

He’s infamous for being the defensive coordinator of the 0-16 Detroit Lions. He also was the defensive headman for Washington for two seasons, but he did not boast impressive units. Barry was last with the Los Angeles Rams as an assistant coach under Sean McVay and linebackers coach for Brandon Staley, now head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. Staley’s defense was soo good for the Rams that it got him the Chargers gig, and the thought for Green Bay was that Barry could replicate that success for the Packers.

Green Bay’s defense has started slowly as it has adjusted to Barry’s scheme, but outside of the red zone issue, Barry has had the Packers playing good ball. He’s also getting production out of a unit that’s without its top pass rusher in Za’Darius Smith and top corner in Jaire Alexander.

Heading into the Washington game, the Packers defense was Top 15 in the NFL and those rankings will only improve once Week 7 concludes.

With the red zone issue off Barry’s back, and hopefully some healing on the way, perhaps the risk in hiring Barry will be worth the reward for the Packers. It’s starting to seem like that could be the case.

Stats courtesy of ESPN and Pro Football Reference.

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