Sunday, January 9, 2011

Packers Report Card: B+ and No Excuses Against Eagles

While many will claim this game was about Aaron Rodgers getting his first playoff win, it was really about a team that has gone through adversity this season and didn’t accept injuries as an excuse.  It wasn’t a perfect game, with some turnovers early and a critical dropped touchdown pass by James Jones.  Coach McCarthy will take a little heat over his clock management at the end of the first half, but in the end, a close game was sealed in the final minutes by a red-zone interception by Tramon Williams for the second week in a row.  Luckily, the Eagles made enough mistakes of their own during the game to put Williams in position to win his individual battle that allowed the Packers to advance.

Not too long ago, the Packers were desperate for a running game and looked to recently-activated James Starks to rescue them.  Against the Eagles, Starks took his first carry on the Packers’ third possession and darted forward for 27 yards on his way to a 23-carry, 123-yard day.  This seemed to surprise the Eagles (and perhaps even the Packers), as fullback Quinn Johnson consistently opened up holes for Starks to run through.  Starks finished his runs by falling forward for extra yards, a “stark” contrast to Brandon Jackson.  It would have been nice for the Packers to have put together some more sustained, clock-eating drives in the second half while protecting a lead.

LeSean McCoy was the biggest threat on the ground for the Eagles today, as the Packers often employed Charles Woodson as a spy on fleet-footed quarterback Michael Vick.  In the end, Vick was limited to 33 yards on 8 carries, while McCoy added only 46 yards. The Packers’ defense stymied two drives by the Eagles inside Green Bay’s 25 yard line, leading to field goal attempts.  With the Packers never trailing in the game, the Eagles went away from McCoy and put both their passing and run game in the hands of Vick, who scored on a goal-line sneak to bring the game within five points late in the fourth quarter.

Aaron Rodgers ended up with an efficient passing day (18/27, 180 yards and 3 TD) by mostly sticking with the conservative dink-and-dunk game plan, completing almost half his passes to his running backs.  Daryn Colledge and Chad Clifton had key missed blocks leading to sacks, and Greg Jennings, James Jones, and Donald Driver each had key dropped passes.  After dropping a sure touchdown at the end of the second quarter, Jones made Rodgers second-guess a throw to him in the third, leading to a lost fumble that the Eagles capitalized on with a touchdown.  

The Packers tried to bring the blitz against Michael Vick as they did last week, but the Eagles did a better job of picking it up than the Bears had.  However, they did disrupt Vick enough in the pocket to rush some of his throws, and limited his short passing game with good coverage.  Vick did most of his damage through the air with the longer, vertical passes, with a string 24-yard touchdown strike to James Avant following a turnover.  After being contained much of the game, Vick led another scoring drive in the fourth quarter and was on his way to a game-winning pass when Williams made an end-zone interception in front of Riley Cooper.  Had Cooper made that catch (or even drawn an interference penalty), it might be the Eagles advancing in the playoffs instead of the Packers. 

Special teams didn’t start on a high note when Brandon Underwood was blocked into the ball on an uncovered punt return, leading to a turnover that, luckily, didn’t cost the Packers on the scoreboard.  Tim Masthay kept punting away from DeSean Jackson, kicking the ball to the sideline on short, high punts, but preventing a deep return by the potent returner.  Mason Crosby had another strong day on kickoffs, while his counterpart on the other sideline, David Akers, has to be in misery after missing two out of three attempts in what ended up being a five-point loss.  Sam Shields was replaced by Starks on kickoff returns after a particularly poor runback.

1 comment:

PackersRS said...

Pretty much agree with the whole thing. I think, aside from the running game (I can't believe I'm typing this), we were flawed in all departments. But we were good enough in all of them to win. And that's the only thing that matters.