Have The Packers Finally Figured Out Mobile Quarterbacks?

Clay Matthews

Dating back to the Michael Vick led Falcons stunning the Packers at Lambeau for their first home playoff loss ever in the 2002 Wild Card round, the Packers have seemingly never had the answer for mobile quarterbacks. 

I’m sure many Packers fans still have nightmares about Colin Kaepernick running wild against the Packers in the 2012 and 2013 playoffs. 

Packers Linebacker Clay Matthews chases 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick
Packers Linebacker Clay Matthews chases 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick

I remember dreading the idea of the Packers playing a dual-threat quarterback, knowing that there would be a crucial late game third down where the defense inevitably let the QB through their grasp to put the game away. 

But in recent history those feelings have faded. Have the Packers finally figured out how to defend mobile quarterbacks? 

This feels especially relevant heading into this week’s matchup against the Baltimore Ravens. It’s likely that the Packers will face the NFL’s preeminent mobile quarterback in Lamar Jackson.

Jackson has had another excellent season toting the football, putting up 767 yards on the ground through 12 games with 5.8 yards per attempt. He’s only found the endzone twice however, and is well behind his unbelievable rushing numbers of the past two seasons. 

It’s pretty incredible that Lamar Jackson’s rushing stats are as impressive as they are considering that he is the Raven’s offense. 

In years past he’s had a talented stable of backfield mates to share the load, but injuries have ravaged the RB room leaving Jackson as the one dynamic option. 

Jackson made an early exit last week against the Cleveland Browns with an ankle injury and has drawn a day-to-day designation this week while failing to practice.  

If Jackson is unable to go, another mobile QB in Tyler Huntley awaits. Huntley has filled in admirably with 26 rushing attempts of his own for 145 yards (5.57 YPC) 

A couple of years ago I would’ve circled this game as an “L” on the schedule for the Packers based on their propensity to fold against mobile QBs. 

Obviously a less than full strength Lamar Jackson is still dangerous, but presumably not the same task for the defense if he was healthy. 

The Packers were likely to be favored going into this game before the injury to Lamar Jackson, the Ravens are 9-4 but have injuries up and down their roster. 

Nov 12, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) is sacked by Green Bay Packers cornerback Davon House (31) during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

So why the sudden optimism against dual-threat QBs? 

Over the past two seasons the Packers have fared relatively well against mobile quarterbacks. 

Dating back to week one of the 2020 season the Packers have allowed 464 yards on 66 attempts and 3 TDs to mobile quarterbacks. 

That works out to a little over seven yards per carry which isn’t the best, but if you look at the individual rushing performances no single quarterback killed the Packers with their legs. 

12/12/21 Justin Fields 9/74 

11/14/21 Russell Wilson 5/32 

10/28/21 Kyler Murray 6/21

10/24/21 Taylor Heinecke 10/95 (38 yard Rush) 

10/17/21 Justin Fields 6/43 

9/26/21 Trey Lance 1/1/1 TD

1/3/21 Mitch Trubisky 4/22

12/27/20 Ryan Tannehill 3/55/1 TD (45 yd Rushing TD)

12/19/20 Teddy Bridgewater 4/26/1 TD

12/6/20 Carson Wentz/Jalen Hurts 8/47 

11/29/20 Mitch Trubisky 3/10

10/25/20 Deshaun Watson 7/38 

If you remove Ryan Tannehill’s freaky 45 yard rushing TD and Taylor Heinecke’s 38 yard scamper, the YPC comes down to a more palatable 5.95 per attempt. 

Perhaps it’s injury luck or game script, but you have to think Mike Pettine (gasp) and certainly Joe Barry deserve credit for creating game plans to limit the efficacy of dual threat QBs.

If you couple the correct scheme with reliable tackling from the middle of the defense, and getting home with the pass rush more frequently, you’ve got a formula for success against even the best rushing quarterbacks. 

While there aren’t a ton of potential playoff matchups the Packers could have with dual-threat QBs, it’s certainly possible the Packers could see Kyler Murray and the Cardinals again. 

Let’s hope the Packers keep the lid on whomever is under center for the Ravens this Sunday, I’m just about over my mid-2010s playoff nightmares! 

Rodgers 4 MVP!

You can follow Adam on twitter at @adamjcarlson28.

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