Hello Wisconsin: A Tale of Two Defenses

The Packers' defensive inconsistency, Davante Adams, Central Waters beer and more!

The Joe Barry defense continues to make progress, but it seems like for every two steps forward there’s a step back.

First, let’s take a look at the good:

On Sunday, the Packers forced four three-and-outs, including three consecutive. They managed to stop the Bengals in short yardage conversion situations twice. These are things we’re not used to seeing out of the Packers’ defense.

The Bengals were just 5/14 on third down. The Packers notched three sacks and two interceptions. 

However, in other situations, the Packers were abysmal.

Fourth down continues to be a struggle. The Packers gave up two fourth down conversions (on two attempts). The defense also continues to allow touchdowns literally every time an opposing team enters the redzone. At this point, it would be more efficient to simply spot the opposition seven points every time they get past the 20 to save some time.

Now, this is obviously problematic. The defense’s two biggest weaknesses are defending in scoring position and defending against must-have, clutch conversion attempts. 

You have to be pretty incredible in the rest of the field to make up for those deficiencies, and the Packers simply are not there.

The good news is it does feel like improvement is happening. The Packers’ defensive line played its best game of the season. Outside of Kenny Clark, who is always wrecking opposing offensive lines, both Dean Lowry and Kingsley Keke played well.

Preston Smith is playing strong football and is PFF’s top-ranked edge defender against the run. Rashan Gary continues to create pressure regularly. De’Vondre Campbell is all over the field. Eric Stokes is rapidly improving.

But as a unit, something still needs to come together in these clutch scenarios.

I do need to give credit to Joe Barry for the clear improvement this defense has had since week one, when it looked like the worst unit in the league. The Packers are tackling better than I’ve seen in recent memory, and also defending better against the run than they did much of the time with Mike Pettine.

It’s the sporadic nature of this defense that’s so frustrating. They’ll go several drives looking like a top-flight defense, and then simply have no answers for two drives after that.

Meanwhile, Barry’s playcalling continues to make fans scratch heads in crucial moments. He tends to go too conservative with regard to dialing up pressure, and still is letting opposing offenses take too much underneath yardage with the coverages he’s calling.

If everything becomes more cohesive and consistent, this could actually be a pretty solid defense.

The good news is the Packers play a team this week in the Chicago Bears that has a difficult time making much happen on the offensive side of the football.

If ever there were a time for this defense to put together a complete game and start stacking successes, it was now. 

Which defense will we see Sunday? Time will tell.

Wisconsin Beer of the Week

This past weekend I headed up to central Wisconsin to visit the in-laws and to head to Amherst, where Central Waters Brewing Company was having its annual release of its bourbon barrel-aged stout, Black Gold.

This rare treat comes in a different recipe each year, and if you are able to get your hands on one, count yourself lucky. You have to purchase tickets in advance to be able to get a set of bottles (four 22 bouncers, plus another 22 ounce bottle of the marshmallow fudge cookie variant). 

This is the kind of beer that you can let cellar for years if you want, and I intend to do that with at least a couple of these bottles. But I couldn’t leave Amherst without trying a couple of their barrel-aged specialties on tap.

The photo above shows my awkward attempt at trying to hold both of them in the air for a picture while in line for takeout beer at the brewery. 

On the left is the 2021 edition of BLACK GOLD. At 13.8% ABV, this bad boy is no joke. It was aged in oak bourbon barrels for notes of caramel, coffee, oak char and whiskey. It’s got a very warm, nutty flavor to it and I cannot wait to see how it mellows and ages with time. Every year this is an absolutely outstanding beer.

On the right is the specialty collaboration between Central Waters and Toppling Goliath Brewery, Toppling Waters. This absolutely massive beer (17% ABV) is an imperial stout aged in maple and bourbon barrels, then double barreled into fresh bourbon barrels and aged for another two years. This beer took years to make, and it is an absolute MASTERPIECE. It’s warm, complex, smooth and incredibly delicious. No wonder it has an unthinkably high 4.72 rating on Untappd.

Both of these beers are going to be very tough to find in bottles unless you join some bottle swap pages, but you can currently find them both on tap at the Amherst brewery, or at the new tap room about to open up in Milwaukee. Absolutely worth the pilgrimage.

AJ Dillon is making the most of his larger role

When the Packers let Jamaal Williams walk in free agency this offseason, it became apparent AJ Dillon was in line for a much larger role.

Dillon’s snap count has significantly increased over this time a year ago, and he’s made the most of his opportunities.

The Cheesehead TV evening show co-host has 38 carries for 166 yards on the season so far, a 4.4 average. Against the Steelers, he pounded the rock 15 times for 81 yards, a 5.4 average. He only needs eight more rushes to meet his total from a season ago, and 76 more yards.

He’s been surprisingly effective through the air, especially this week against Cincinnati. On the season he has nine catches, seven more than a season ago, for 88 yards and a touchdown.

If you extrapolate these stats out over the season, Dillon would finish with about 565 rushing yards and 170 receiving yards, healthy totals for a RB2 spelling one of the best in the game in Aaron Jones, who is on pace for another 1,000 yard rushing season himself.

Dillon’s value as a power rusher and capable receiver is becoming more apparent by the week. Against Pittsburgh, he served as a battering ram and closer, a role to which he is uniquely well suited given his size and power. 

I would argue he actually provides a better stylistic complement to the skillset of Aaron Jones than Jamaal Williams did. And that’s no disrespect to Williams, who was a strong runner, receiver and blocker in his own right.

The broadcast crew against Pittsburgh called Dillon perhaps the best RB2 in the game. Strong praise for a player who’s clearly ascending and could prove to be a very valuable part of this offense as the season rolls along.

Remembering great Packers/Bears moments

As I’ve ruminated elsewhere, there is a distinct possibility this year will provide us with the last chances to see Aaron Rodgers take on the Chicago Bears in a Green Bay Packers uniform. 

But even more than that, depending on what happens in the not-so-distant future, there’s always the possibility that the three decades of domination in this rivalry could come to an end.

Now, that being said, the Bears still (and will always) suck. But with an uncertain future for this franchise, it’s good to take some time to remember the good times and appreciate how good the Packers have had it in this rivalry over the last three decades.

Let’s take a look back at a few of my favorite Packers/Bears moments over the the last several decades.

  • 99 Yard Pass: The Brett Favre pass to Robert Brooks against the Bears on Monday Night Football in 1995 tied the NFL record for longest scoring play from scrimmage.

  • Bombs to Freeman: In 1996, the Packers throttled the Bears at Soldier Field, with Antonio Freeman catching two memorable bombs from Favre. One was a diving play over the back of a defender, the other a hail mary.

  • NFC Championship: This game wasn’t pretty, but a victory over a blood rival in a conference championship will always feel great. This game will hang over the heads of Bears fans forever, and all who saw the game still have visions of BJ Raji dancing in their heads.

  • Rodgers to Cobb I: In 2013, the week 17 win-and-you’re-in contest between the Packers and Bears ended in dramatic fashion with Aaron Rodgers finding Randall Cobb on fourth down with seconds left for a game-winner.

  • Rodgers Goes Off: In 2014, Aaron Rodgers threw six touchdown passes in the first half against the Bears en route to a 55-14 victory.

  • Rodgers to Cobb II: Who can forget the epic comeback in Week 1 of the 2018 season, with Rodgers finding Cobb for another game-winner? Rodgers came back after halftime in dramatic fashion and gutted out a memorable performance on a bum knee.

Around the NFC North

Here we go once again around the NFC North leading into week four.

-The CHICAGO BEARS improved to 3-2 while taking down a Raiders team mired in drama over the impending departure of Jon Gruden. The Bears’ defense is legit, and they’re getting a better pressure rate and pass rush win rate than the vast majority of teams in the league. But they still aren’t doing anything to inspire any confidence on offense. Justin Fields has barely been asked to do anything, the team isn’t running the ball extraordinarily well. It’s hard to know exactly how good this Bears team is. We should have a better idea after Sunday.

-The DETROIT LIONS are 0-5, and suddenly Dan Campbell has gone from meme coach and kneecap biter to being everyone’s favorite lovable loser because he shed tears at a press conference. Yawn. The Lions suck, they’re going to continue to suck, and I give them no pity.

-The MINNESOTA VIKINGS eked out a win against the lowly Lions on Sunday, but did not look particularly good doing it. Alexander Mattison played well in Dalvin Cook’s absence, but Kirk Cousins continues to be average at best, and Adam Thielen has been practically invisible. This Vikings team seems designed for seven or eight wins this season--they’ve got enough talent to win games, but not enough to win a lot.

“Weird” things found in Wisconsin fridges

So I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who’s from another part of the country and casually mentioned finding some pickled herring in my in-laws’ fridge and, of course, needing to sample some of it.

Their reaction was somewhere between confused and grossed out.

Turns out, the very existence of pickled herring (let alone it being a fixture of refrigerators) is something I very much take for granted as a resident of Wisconsin. 

Not sure I’d even want to see their reaction when I told them I occasionally order pickled eggs at a bar here in town.

That got me thinking about some of the other things commonly found in Wisconsin fridges that folks from outside of the region might find odd, or might not understand.

Some examples:

  • VENISON. If you’ve got a hunter in the family, you’ve almost certainly got venison in a freezer somewhere. Just made some tacos the other day with ground venison, and probably will be making a venison chili pretty soon. 

  • VARIOUS CHEESES. It’s not just about the curds. I’m always amazed at how little people from other areas of the country know about cheese. At any given time I probably have four kinds of cheese in the fridge, and more if there’s going to be some kind of gathering coming up.

  • JOLLY GOOD. Yeah, I talked about Jolly Good last year at length, but folks, IT’S BACK. If you know, you know.

  • BRATWURST. I didn’t realize this was such a regional delicatessen, but I have had at least two friends off the top of my head from the southwest who had no clue what a brat was. Savages.

  • KRINGLE. How does anyone survive without kringle? The superior pastry. May or may not be found in the fridge, but worth mentioning.

  • A WHOLE LOT OF MILK. Apparently people in other states don’t, like, drink milk? Or at least not in the same quantities we do? Growing up, my family of 6 used to go through like four gallons a week, at least.

Davante Adams is peerless

For the last several years, whenever Packer fans have brought up Davante Adams as being the best receiver in the league, there were inevitably always people responding “but what about…”

Not any more. There is no comparison. Adams is head and shoulders above the rest of the league.

Julio Jones is long past his prime. Deandre Hopkins isn’t producing to the same level he had in past years. Michael Thomas was always a product of an offense that force fed him short passes over and over again due to Drew Brees’s noodle arm. 

There really isn’t a legitimate argument for anyone else in the league right now, and the stats back that up. Through five games, Adams ranks first in receiving yards, receptions and targets and has a couple touchdowns to his name. He’s got more deep receptions in the league than anyone.

It’s meaningless to start talking about MVP in week six, but for the sake of this discussion--Aaron Rodgers is not currently in the race.

But Adams should be. And if he keeps accruing stats at the rate he is and starts catching more touchdowns, he could well be in the thick of the race at the end of the season.

Prediction for Packers vs. Bears

The Bears’ pass rush does make me a little nervous, especially given the Packers’ offensive line’s status is uncertain at the time of my writing this. It remains to be seen if Josh Myers and/or Elgton Jenkins will play this weekend. Getting both back would be a big deal for an offensive line that has held up quite will, but could definitely use some reinforcements against this Bears front seven.

The good news is we don’t really have to worry about the back end of the Packers’ defense much this week, because the Bears can’t throw the ball. 

This game is simple: if the Packers’ offensive line holds up, they win the game, and probably without too much difficulty. And with how well the offensive line has performed in adverse circumstances this year, my money is on that happening.

Packers 30, Bears 17





Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.


2 points

Comments (23)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Savage57's picture

October 14, 2021 at 07:13 am

I agree with you, Tim, that brats are a big part of Wisconsin's gustatory heritage. I just wish people wouldn't feel the need to kill the meat twice.

Unless boiling is the only means you have to cook them, don't. Why insult the skills of the wursthersteller by replacing the tasty goodness of the fat they've incorporated into the grind with something as tepid and dull as beer? Grill the sausage, drink the beer.

And when you grill them? Low and slow, to 165-170*, max. Charred links are a sin against sausage.

Many times on my trips back to Wisconsin, friends or family will extend invitations to me for brats for dinner. I'm always grateful for their generous offers and hospitality, but often disappointed when served dry, tortured links and asked what I think of them.

I don't like having to lie.

1 points
jurp's picture

October 14, 2021 at 07:32 am

I think one reason for boiling the wurst is to completely cook it. Given that they're pork (or should be!), there are nasty things in uncooked brats that could be a problem for you if your grilled brat is under-cooked.

A possibly interesting note - I've been in southern and south-central Germany (Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, and Hesse) half a dozen times and could never find a bratwurst. Blutwurst, weisswurst, and a dozen other würsten, but no bratwurst. Could be that it's a North German wurst, which would fit the fact that lots of southern Wisconsinites are of Pomeranian, Westfalian, Saxon, and Prussian heritage.

And don't get me started on cheesy brats, bacon brats, turkey (!!!!) brats and any of the other obscenities foisted upon us by meat producers who should know better.

5 points
SanLobo's picture

October 14, 2021 at 08:34 pm

If you like your brats juicy, try sous vide. Vacuum pack frozen, sous vide at 132 for 2 hrs. Then sear with a torch, on a grill or in a cast iron skillet. Serve with your favorite beer(s) and cheese(s).

For the folks down voting this, 1. It is low and slow with 100% flavor retention and still fully cooked and, 2. You have never tried it.

3 points
TimBackes's picture

October 14, 2021 at 07:33 am

Only within the last couple years have I seen the light regarding this, and it was thanks to a craft sausage shop in the area recommending low and slow grilling. I had grown up boiling brats in beer before grilling and had never really questioned it before. The difference is immense, especially with a quality sausage.

2 points
egbertsouse's picture

October 14, 2021 at 08:00 am

I don’t boil them in beer, I marinate them in a sauce made with beer for 24 hours. I grew up in Oshkosh and I’m as German as the next guy but let’s face it, most brats, even butcher shop hand made, are bland. They just don’t have the kick of a quality Polish or Italian sausage. Something needs to be done to spice them up. I live in MN so I have to cross the border to get a decent brat, usually way across the border to get out of Norwegian dominated territory.

2 points
Barazinho's picture

October 14, 2021 at 05:04 pm

Yup yup yup, to all of that. The foodie shows generally show brats cooked in beer at some restaurant, but the last time I cooked them that way, the disappointment light bulb went off - the seared fat flavor was missing. Since then, grilled or cast-iron on the stove, and low-medium heat, so they're nicely browned, but not anything more.

0 points
jurp's picture

October 14, 2021 at 07:24 am

Nice write-up!

A 17% ABV beer is what, 35 proof? Wow. I've had beer aged in bourbon barrels, (not Central Waters, though) and it's wonderful stuff. I'd love to try either of the two you highlight.

One other weird thing in our fridges is sauerkraut—needed for brats, of course!

As for the soon-to-be-Arlington Bears, they will suck unto Eternity. If AR gets time, this won't be close; if not, then we'd better keep them out of the red zone or it could get dicey.

2 points
13TimeChamps's picture

October 14, 2021 at 08:25 am

The red zone defense has to be a big concern. I know a certain poster on here that will pooh pooh the importance of it away because of the 4-1 record. Any 4-1 team who has given up more points than they have scored themselves (yes, I know it's somewhat skewed because of the week one blowout)...and any 4-1 team who gives up TDs EVERY time the opponent enters the red zone better not get too over confident with their gaudy W-L record. That's not a recipe for sustained success over the course of the season.

DA17 is just a phenomenal, generational talent. Let's enjoy him while we have him in GB.

6 points
CJ Bauckham's picture

October 14, 2021 at 08:28 am

I'm from Raleigh, NC but my mom's from Wisconsin. Grew up going to Lake Mills WI for the summer months every year. My friends in NC still bring up, with reverent admiration, their memories of being at my house and helping my mom unload untold gallons of milk after weekend grocery runs. They definitely don't drink milk down here like y'all do up there... but I do!

1 points
PatrickGB's picture

October 14, 2021 at 10:18 am

“ The good news is we don’t really have to worry about the back end of the Packers’ defense much this week, because the Bears can’t throw the ball. ” If Fields is improving as people have noted then the team should not be as dismissive as you are in regards to pass coverage. The have a couple of decent receivers and Montgomery can catch too. If they can effectively run the ball and threaten with a mobile QB then our backup DB’s will have to step up. Remember, the CB’s are newish and not used to our system.

2 points
Gravedigger93's picture

October 14, 2021 at 10:19 am

Nice write up Tim.
I agree with your assessment of the defense. I wish there were a few more "splash" plays from Gary and Savage. I really thought they'd stand out more this year. Lotta football left though.

Those beers sound de-licious...wish I was back in WI.

Couple of more items to add to a WI fridge: lefse, braunschweiger and kielbasa.

And...the bears still suck!


2 points
TarynsEyes's picture

October 14, 2021 at 10:44 am

The Bears offense should give the Packers defense and many fans expanded chests filled with boasting bravado, but when they speak it will be the sound of the helium squeak that will be denied, especially if Chicago scores close to 30, and the game is another nail biter.

0 points
HarryHodag's picture

October 14, 2021 at 11:33 am

To me there are only two beers: Point Special and Guinness. Are you drinking beer with the other stuff or having a mocha latte at McDonald's?

Upset this week. Bears defense is no joke.

Bears 24 Packers 13

-4 points
tincada's picture

October 14, 2021 at 11:42 am

I don't know about Point but Guinness isn't beer in the civilized world

0 points
Caden819's picture

October 14, 2021 at 03:34 pm

That Bears defense might be no joke but that offense is god awful. 24 points is generous, but not as generous as Justin Fields will be when he throws 2 picks this week!

1 points
jhtobias's picture

October 14, 2021 at 11:33 am

Please take away aaron donald and jalen ramsey from the rams and lets see how they hold up.

This is exactly what has happened to Green Bay. I find it astonishing that packer beat writers still have issues with the defense.

1 points
NickPerry's picture

October 14, 2021 at 11:39 am

"The Joe Barry defense continues to make progress, but it seems like for every two steps forward there’s a step back."

I agree with this Tim and much of what you've written for us today, but I have this strong feeling once Jaylon Smith is playing alongside Campbell this whole defense takes another step forward. I absolutely feel he's the one who will help this defense take 3 steps forward and NOT take a step back. Especially once Jarie Alexander is back and hopefully Z. Smith. Actually IF the Packers were to get Zadarius Smith back by say December, this defense suddenly becomes SCARY...At least IMO. Now I know what you guys are thinking, this is typical Nick Perry homerisum at it's finest. But as long as Alexander makes it back, Stokes keeps getting better, and they don't have any more injuries...WHY NOT SCARY!

I so glad MLF is starting to use AJ Dillon more. AJ Dillon was MADE for a NFL team who had a late 4th quarter lead and the ball on their own 20 yard line. After the few glimpses we're had when Dillon gets enough touches to matter, I happy as hell that NFL team is the Packers.

I believe this week when the Packers are up 31 to 13 in the 4th quarter with 7 minutes left on the clock, we'll get to see AJ Dillon running over Bear defenders on his way to 7, 8, and 12 yard gains. And personally I can't wait to see the first time a Bears CB or safety doesn't decide to make a "Business Decision" and Dillon trucks over is ass with high knees and those thighs!


1 points
tincada's picture

October 14, 2021 at 11:44 am

I believe this week when the Packers are up 31 to 13 in the 4th quarter with 7 minutes left on the clock you won't get to see the wonder kid, Love unless they need a sucker to take a knee.

1 points
13TimeChamps's picture

October 14, 2021 at 12:08 pm

You sound like you're about 15.

-2 points
LayingTheLawe's picture

October 14, 2021 at 02:23 pm

At this point i will hope we can trust process over results for this defense. Compared to past years they are playing fast and aggressive and hopefully this translates into results down the road. Fantasy prognosticators always say touchdowns are not a "sticky stat" and we should expect a regression to the mean at some point.

0 points
TXCHEESE's picture

October 14, 2021 at 04:19 pm

Given the flux in the secondary the last couple of weeks, outside of the long TD before half time I was fairly happy with the defense. Cincy is a talented roster, and Burrow and Chase are going to give everyone trouble if they stay healthy. Hopefully, our starting OL returns soon, and our best defense becomes our offense.

I've been tempted to try a couple of barrel ages stouts I've seen down here, and now you've convinced me to get going. Always appreciate your columns.

Oh, and on that brat, we make a concoction of Velveeta, jalapenos and sauerkraut. Try it sometime, if you want a little kick.

1 points
jurp's picture

October 14, 2021 at 10:44 pm

"Velveeta" is just another way to spell "plastic". No, just no. If you want to add cheese to a brat for some reason, at least use CHEESE. I once worked for Stella Cheese in Green Bay (sadly, moved to the Chicago area in 1999 IIRC because the 10 or so executives in Illinois would rather throw 120 people out of work n Wisconsin than move their sorry asses to GB), and the stuff that goes into Velveeta wouldn't even qualify as "B" cheese.

0 points
Reghamster's picture

October 15, 2021 at 03:53 pm

As the proud grandson of a former WI Dairy Association President , several rules still abide . Among them are 1) Is that margarine never crosses a home's threshold and 2) That Velveeta is only to be regarded as a good trout bait when properly molded into a nice small round disc in a cold water stream before curling over a treble hook. Don't try serving that jalapeno and Velveeta brat, uh concoction indeed , in Wisconsin unless you want a good little kick yourself.

0 points