Monday, October 11, 2010

Green Bay Packers Week 5 Grades

The Packers may be able to write this disappointing loss off due to injuries, but this was a game they should have put away early, long before Clay Matthews’ early injury.  The Packers appeared to lose focus early on, with some questionable first-half goal-line playcalling, including bypassing a chip-shot field goal that would have put the Packers up 10-0 early and been the difference at the end of regulation.  Despite rolling up yards in the first half, the Packers didn’t covert those yards into points, and allowed an inferior team that was on the ropes early to hang around and gain confidence in the second half.  Critical penalties and errors in execution, as well as the abandonment of the run game, all added up to a loss that never should have been.  The greater loss, of course, is the precarious status of perhaps the three most important cogs of the Packer machine: Aaron Rodgers (concussion), Jermichael Finley (knee), and Clay Matthews III (hamstring).

A scintillating 71-yard run by Brandon Jackson early in the first half is the only thing preventing a failing grade.  Jackson showed burst, acceleration, and even a little change-of-direction on the play, which makes it all the more confusing as to why the Packers only ran the ball four more times in the first half.  Jackson and John Kuhn never got into a groove, and the Packers had only one drive that took more than five minutes off the clock in the entire game.  While protecting a lead at 13-3, the Packers ran the ball only three times compared to fourteen passes, most out of the shotgun.  By the end of the game, Washington no longer respected the run and was able to go all out against the pass.

The Packers stout front three held the Redskins’ new-found gem Ryan Torrain to just 40 yards on 16 carries, but he did a nice job early on carrying linebacker A.J. Hawk for extra yards on a couple of runs.  The injury to Ryan Pickett might have been a ticket for Torrain to pile on some yards later in the game, but as Washington was playing from behind, he only got six touches in the second half. 

Aaron Rodgers started out just fine, going 5/5 with a TD to Donald Lee on the second drive of the game.  But, throughout the rest of the first half, he seemed to be experimenting with the goals he stated early last week:  to pass out of the shotgun more often and try to target his fourth and fifth reads.  Unfortunately, receiver drops (including a very uncharacteristic four by Donald Driver) brought drives to a halt.  When the Redskin defense began to pick up momentum, the Packers were again unable to make it into the end zone in the second half for the second game in a row.  Rodgers’ overtime interception was a dagger, but wasn’t his only errant throw of the day.  Jermichael Finley, who left the game early, was sorely missed on third downs (2/13 on the day).

Throughout the first half, the pass defense looked pretty good, mostly because Donovan McNabb looked so bad.  In particular, Clay Matthews once again was a disruptive force in the backfield, and the Packers injury situation looked okay:  Desmond Bishop was making tackles and plays, and safety Charlie Peprah looked to be channeling Chuck Cecil as he made very solid tackles.  The turning point, when Matthews left the game due to injury, opened up the vertical game for the Redskins, who burned Peprah for a 48-yard touchdown.  While McNabb never looked like his younger self, once the pass rush virtually disappeared without Matthews, the Redskins were able to do just enough through the air to move the chains and keep drives alive.  Defensive penalties against Brady Poppinga and Charles Woodson in overtime set the Redskins up for a chip-shot field goal, instead of a 47-yarder.

The special teams didn’t do anything critically wrong (penalties, turnovers), but didn’t do anything that helped the Packers win the game, either.  On kickoff returns, both Pat Lee and Jordy Nelson looked alarmingly timid, and Tramon Williams was decked hard on a couple of punt returns.  The Packers average starting field position was their own 25-yard line, giving them plenty of long fields to have to drive.  The Packer coverage teams didn’t do too badly, but did allow a 62 yard punt return to Brian Banks that was wiped out by a penalty, then a 30-yard punt return set up the Eagles long touchdown on the next play.   Tim Masthay averaged 47 yards per kick, but was unable to pin the Eagles inside their own 20.  And, of course, we saw the return of Unpredictable Mason Crosby, who went 2/4 on the day, doinking the potential game-winning 53-yarder off the left upright at the end of the fourth quarter.

1 comment:

A_Lerxst_in_Packerland said...

Good write-up. Maybe you could include a grade for MM's play calling next time (I'm ready to hand out a big, fat "F" there).

Oh, you get the award for most perfect use of a word (actual or otherwise): "doinking". It sounds like the football hitting the upright!