Monday, October 18, 2010

Week 6 Packer Grades

It’s possible to put a positive spin on this loss, such as, “A healthy, rested team only beat our injury-riddled team by three points”.  But, at a time when players needed to step up their game, the Packers looked uninspired.  While they got a couple of big plays from their best players, they were unable to sustain momentum from those plays and made mistakes that, in the end, cost them the game.   Coach Mike McCarthy is coming under fire after his second overtime loss to a mediocre team in two weeks, and Super Bowl talk is definitely on hold.  The Dolphins stayed in the game, then controlled it by running the ball and owning the time of possession.  In the end, the Packers failed with an inconsistent offense and a depleted and exhausted defense.

For the second week in a row, the Packers didn’t seem to know how to utilize their run game.  Brandon Jackson had 53 yards on 12 carries, but never seemed to get any rhythm going.  With second-and-one at the end of regulation, John Kuhn was twice stopped cold on the one-yard line, leaving quarterback Aaron Rodgers to sneak it in for the tying score himself on fourth down.  With battering rams the Packers have on the roster, it is puzzling why they don’t run the ball out of a jumbo package more.  Instead, they used their obvious running sets as decoys to pass.

With starters out all along the front seven, the Packers succumbed to the punishing combination of Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, who combined for 137 yards on 32 carries (4.3 ypc).  When the Dolphins tried outside runs or reverses, the Packers often sniffed it out and covered it.  But when the game was on the line, the Dolphins ran the ball straight up the gut and controlled the clock, as well as field position as a result.  The Dolphins game-winning drive in overtime was ground out almost completely with the run.

Aaron Rodgers’ stat line looked fine (18/33, 313 yards, 1 TD/1 INT), but it belies the pressure he was under all day from Cameron Wake, who finished with three sacks and six QB hits.  RT Bryan Bulaga, despite looking strong early, had trouble containing Wake and probably should have gotten some help with pass blocking.  An 86-yard touchdown to Greg Jennings set career marks for both Rodgers and Jennings, and demonstrated how important #85 should be in the passing game.  However, Rodgers continued to make poor decisions while under pressure, including repeatedly forcing the ball into James Jones, who simply isn’t making the catches.

Coming into the game, the Packers had the second-highest sack total in the league.  But without injured Clay Matthews in the pass rush, Chad Henne had all day in the pocket, and could have done a lot more damage if he was a more accurate passer.  Henne targeted Brandon Marshall seventeen times in the game, doing most of his damage in the first quarter.  Tramon Williams had an excellent interception in the first quarter that led directly to seven points for the Packers.  But Henne fired one touchdown to a double-covered Devone Bess in the endzone, then fooled the pass rush to set up a perfect screen to Anthony Fasano in the fourth that put the Dolphins ahead.  Charles Woodson had a rough game with several critical penalties that kept Dolphin drives going.

While we can rest assured that Mason Crosby has recovered from his misses last week to kick a perfect two-for-two on field goals, he is still struggling to get his kickoffs into the endzone, with only one touchback on the season.  In overtime, when both Miami and Green Bay exchanged punts, the net yardage was plus-23 for the Dolphins. Tim Masthay net average of only 33.4 yards per punt contributed to the Packers’ field position woes.  Both Pat Lee and Jordy Nelson resembled rag dolls on kick returns, getting knocked backwards on first contact.  A critical (and questionable) illegal formation penalty on recently-signed Robert Francois on a punt return gave the ball back to the Dolphins, who promptly scored the go-ahead touchdown.

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