Monday, October 25, 2010

Packer Grades, Week 7

The Packers needed to put together four quarters of football in order to win a game that was pivotal for both teams' chances in the NFC North this year.  To their credit, the Packers did just what they needed to do to win this game, including a defensive stand at the end that sealed a critical victory.  Coach Mike McCarthy can rest easier tonight as his team reduced the gaffes and penalties that have plagued them the past few weeks.  McCarthy was also two-for-two on his challenge flags, and both overturned critical plays that were in the Vikings' favor.  It wasn't perfect, but did just enough to go into the fourth quarter with a lead and protected it.
Still underused with only 13 carries, Brandon Jackson was able to generate consistent positive yardage when he touched the ball, gaining 58 yards and scoring the Packers' first touchdown.  John Kuhn, however, was surprisingly disappointing in his usual short-yardage role, gaining only 12 yards on seven carries.  McCarthy's decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 early in the fourth quarter instead of kicking a field goal went awry and could have cost the Packers the game.  Kuhn was stopped for no gain in Viking territory on the exact plays McCarthy had used on a fourth-and-1 five plays earlier.  Luckily, the Vikings did not capitalize on the good field position.
Given the clear intent of the Vikings to pound the ball against a depleted Packers front seven, the Packers allowed Adrian Peterson to  rush for 131 yards on 28 carries, adding a one-yard touchdown.  While that certainly kept the Vikings in the game, the Packers held Peterson just enough in the fourth quarter to force the Vikings to start passing with time ticking away.  Percy Harvin scored on a 17-yard scamper in the first quarter, nearly untouched.  
Aaron Rodgers did enough to win the game, and certainly won the duel between he and Brett Favre.  His 84.8 passing efficiency rating doesn't show the highs and lows of his game, however.  One moment, he's throwing a perfect 45-yard rainbow into James Jones' hands, and the next he was throwing the ball nowhere near his receivers.  In fact, on at least four occasions, Rodgers and his receivers appeared to be on completely different pages.  While his touchdown passes to Andrew Quarrless and and Greg Jennings were vintage Rodgers, two first-half interceptions inside the Vikings' 30-yard line put the Pack behind at halftime.
Last year, the Packers didn't manage a single sack or interception against Brett Favre in two games, but they made up for it today.  Jarius Wynn got credit for the Packers' sole sack, but the Packers were able to apply more pressure on Favre, racking up six hits and picking him off three times.  Desmond Bishop, filling in for the injured Nick Barnett, recorded a pivotal interception for a touchdown in the third quarter that may have been the play of the game.  A collision between Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams allowed an easy touchdown to Randy Moss in the third quarter, but when it mattered most on the Vikings' final drive, the secondary didn't let Favre back in the end zone.
After allowing Percy Harvin to return a kick for 48 yards in the first quarter (leading to a touchdown for the Vikings), Mason Crosby kicked away from him the rest of the game, kicking some knuckleball squib kicks that had to be picked up by the blockers for minimal gain.  Otherwise, the punt and kickoff coverage teams bcontained the Viking s' returners for the most part.  More importantly, the special teams didn't commit any penalties today.  Tim Masthay averaged 45.0 yards on his two punts and pinned the Vikings inside their own 20-yard line once.  A surprise fake field goal in the second quarter was botched when a 20-yard pass by holder Matt Flynn floated toward the sideline and receiver Andrew Quarless seemed to trip just before he would have had a chance to catch it.

1 comment:

Patrick Duprey said...

Great post, C.D., and I agree on pretty much all accounts.

I think it's time to stop rotating John Kuhn in so much. He's a good short yardage option, but he should not be getting 7 carries a game, especially when Brandon Jackson is only getting 13. Of the two, Jackson is obviously the better option, both on running and passing plays.

My problem with the failed fourth down conversion was that McCarthy didn't utilize his extra challenge from winning his first two to challenge Greg Jennings' third down catch. Jennings clearly had enough for the first, but the officials, big surprise here, gave him a terrible spot. If not for Nick Collins' subsequent interception, as you say, this sequence could have easily cost us a pivotal win.