Green Bay — Formulating a plan to cope with the Green Bay Packers' offense in the season ahead will challenge every defensive coordinator on the schedule.
The bold, gambling tactics of Cleveland's Rob Ryan in the Browns' 27-24 victory Saturday night at Lambeau Field could become commonplace if opponents conclude that they might as well go down fighting if they're going to go down.
"I don't think anybody's blitzed us this much in the five years that Mike (McCarthy) has been here," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said after the exhibition opener. "We were talking about it on nfl jerseys the phones. Any game. None that I remember."
After running the ball three times to start the game, the Packers passed six plays in a row. In order, the Browns rushed five, five, five, six, seven and six players.
"Looking at our tape against them from last year, it was very similar tonight in terms of pressure," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "They ran some strong pressure, they ran some zero pressure and they ran some guys off the slot."
In all, Rodgers's 13 dropbacks broke down this way: two rushes with four men, six with five, three with six and two with seven. That computes to an astronomical 84.6% blitz (five or more), including a just as astronomical 38.5% all-out blitz (six or more).
By contrast, defensive coordinator Dom Capers never sent more than five all night, finishing with a blitz rate of 17.4%. It should be noted, however, that Capers' No. 1 defense blitzed 30.8% in the first three exhibition games a year ago.
When Bob Slowik was in his first year as coordinator in 2004, the Packers blitzed even more in August.
"Their defense came in with a lot of pressure as their emphasis," McCarthy said, referring to the Browns. "To play against our defense every day in practice and then see the amount of pressure we saw tonight, those are good things to help you prepare. Because I can promise you, Philadelphia is going to pressure us in Week 1."
The two teams that blitzed the Packers the most last season, Pittsburgh in Week 14 and Arizona in the wild-card playoffs, won both games almost in spite of their defenses.
Future foes, of course, will have studied the final play of Raiders jersey the Packers' season, when Rodgers failed to see a slot blitz, held the ball for 3.3 seconds and suffered a sack-fumble-touchdown by Karlos Dansby.
"I hope everybody blitzes," said tight end Jermichael Finley. "Then we can put it on 'em."
Certainly the Packers solved Ryan's zone blitzes, which he also coordinated in Oakland from 2004-'08 before joining Browns coach Eric Mangini last year.
Rodgers completed 10 of 11 passes against the blitz for 139 yards and a touchdown, including 5 of 5 for 64 yards against all-out blitzes.
Combined with the totals of Matt Flynn and Graham Harrell, the three quarterbacks' blitz totals were 13 of 19 for 164 yards.
Flynn also drew a 19-yard interference penalty against Cleveland on a six-man pressure.
In 19 games last season, the Packers encountered just six seven-man rushes. On Saturday night Ryan, the son of Buddy Ryan, sent seven three times. Those are so-called zero blitzes in which the remaining four defenders are asked to play man-to-man coverage without any help.
"They were playing some true man-empty," said Philbin. "It wasn't exotic blitzes. I'm sure they had more that they didn't show. They repeated a lot of them on blitzes. But they had a significant number."
Despite all the heat, the Browns' only sack came on a five-man rush when right tackle Breno Giacomini was beaten around the corner by linebacker Marcus Benard. On the play, Flynn held the ball for 3.8 seconds.
The Browns also had three quarterback knockdowns and a pair of Eagles jersey hurries.
"We're diverse in formations and protections," said Rodgers. "We feel like we should score every time we take the field."