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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The term “run defense” has been an oxymoron for the Green Bay Packers for years.

The team’s defensive coordinator since 2021, Joe Barry has been given a lot of grief for that feeble phase of the game.

 

Packers Taking Improved Run Defense Into Sunday vs. Steelers - Sports  Illustrated Green Bay Packers News, Analysis and More

“Yeah, I know you have,” Barry said to laughter this week.

“Sometimes,” he added, “well-deserved.”

In 2021 and 2022, the Packers ranked 30th in the NFL with 4.84 yards allowed per rushing attempt. During that span, the Packers allowed eight games of 150-plus rushing yards. That was the third-most in the NFL – quite a feat considering they were playing from ahead more often than not.

In 2023, the Packers are a solid 13th with 3.97 yards allowed per rushing attempt.

Packers Taking Improved Run Defense Into Sunday vs. Steelers - Sports  Illustrated Green Bay Packers News, Analysis and More

The last two games, a unit that had been made out of Swiss cheese was now formed out of brick cheese.

Make that brick wall.

This year’s per-carry average is almost a full yard better than last year’s 28th-ranked 4.95 yards per attempt. Since 2009, the Packers have allowed less than 4.00 yards per carry just once (3.86 in 2017).

Against the Vikings two weeks ago, they allowed just 62 yards on 31 rushing attempts. It marked only the fourth time since the 1970 merger in which the Packers allowed 2.0 or fewer yards per carry in a game in which the opponent had 30-plus rushing attempts. Moreover, it was the first such game in the entire league since 2021. For an encore, the Packers held the Rams to 68 yards on 26 tries last week.

The 2.28 yards allowed per carry the last two-weeks is the second-best in the league.

According to the team’s Dope Sheet preview, the last time the Packers held their opponent to less than 70 rushing yards on 25-plus carries in consecutive games was 1945.

So, if you’re going to give the coordinator crap for the bad times, you better hand him a bouquet for the better times.

What’s gone right?

Eliminating big plays: While the Packers are tied for 22nd with 27 runs allowed of 10-plus yards, they gave up 18 the first four games but only one the last two games. The longest rush allowed against Los Angeles was an 8-yard scramble by quarterback Brett Rypien. The longest rush allowed against Minnesota was a single 10-yard run by running back Alexander Mattison.

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