I sat down tonight to review the film of the Packers - Vikings game. I didn't make it very far. Within the first 5 minutes, I saw three plays that would foretell how the game would unfold. Already disgusted, I threw down the remote and bailed on watching the whole game. Why torture myself? It was clear that these three plays would give me plenty to write about.
Play # 1: Packers first running play. Grant makes a BAD, BAD decision.
With Quinn Johnson as the lead blocker, Rodgers hands off to Ryan Grant on what looks like an outside zone run. Johnson meets the linebacker head-on and everywhere, the play is blocked perfectly. Every Viking player, except for the deep safety, has a Packer blocker in their face. The Packers are all holding their blocks well, and you can see a nice seam for Grant to run through between Sitton and Barbre. Make it through that hole and at least a 10-yard gain and possibly a huge play awaits....
In the picture above, you'll see that Grant is looking to that hole. But look at the picture below.
For some unexplainable reason, Grant cuts inside, trying to squeeze between Quinn Johnson and Sitton. He ends up running right into Johnson and the Viking player he's blocking. As you can see from the next picture, Grant goes nowhere:
Grant actually ends up fumbling on this play, but the Packers get lucky and the officials rule forward progress stopped, so Minnesota was not allowed to challenge.
With all the heat the offensive line has been taking, I have quietly felt that their run blocking for the most part has been good enough. But I held off laying the full blame at Ryan Grant's feet. Well, the gloves are off. Ryan, if this is the best you can do, then you are a thief - you are stealing the Packer's money.
I would opine that Brandon Jackson, who I'm no fan of, would have hit the right hole. I would expect Ahman Green to have hit the right hole, but who knows what he has left. I believe that Tyrell Sutton, who the Packers chose to let go, would have hit the right hole. And finally, let me one more time invoke the name of Kregg Lumpkin, buried on the Packer's practice squad. I am sure Lumpy would have hit the right hole.
Play # 2: Rodgers doesn't sense the pressure.
There has been much discussion of Aaron Rodgers holding on to the ball too long. And most of it is accurate. He is too often determined to make the big play, ignoring safer and quicker options.
I devoted an entire article to this subject after the first Vikings loss. But another issue that goes along with that is that he doesn't yet sense pressure until it is right upon him. It's maddening to watch, at times, and the play I will show you is very symptomatic.
Here Rodgers moves to his left in the pocket. Ray Edwards gets around Alan Barbre late and is pursuing Rodgers from behind. It's 3rd and seventeen, so Rodgers is looking down field, hoping for a long completion. As you can see from the first picture, as Edwards is only two steps away, Rodgers is still looking down field, ignoring a wide open Brandon Jackson, who has no defender within ten yards of him.
As Edwards, gets closer, Rodgers is still waiting for the deep receiver to complete his pattern. Although he has room, he doesn't continue moving up in the pocket to avoid Edwards because he doesn't feel him coming. Instead he sets himself to throw.
In the next picture, you can see a wide open Donald Driver directly in front of Rodgers. But does he unload the ball to him? No he does not. He ignores Driver and Jackson (again), and tries to thrown the ball further down field. But because Rodgers didn't feel the pressure, Edwards is able to hit his arm as he throws.
Finally, in this picture you can see what Rodgers was waiting for:
You can see the third Packer receiver (James Jones) who has just made the inside cut on a post pattern. Unfortunately, the ball is now fluttering to nobody and Rodgers is on the ground. While Rodgers was looking for a big play on 3rd and seventeen, he ended up with nothing. As you can see, Jackson and Driver are still wide open. If he had sensed the pressure sooner and continued to move away, Rodgers would have bought himself another half-second, which would have been more than enough to allow him to get the pass off to the deep receiver. Or he could have just thrown to Driver or Jackson for an easy completion. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Aaron, you just have to improve this part of your game or all those gaudy numbers you put up will mean nothing in the end.
Play # 3: Brett Favre will make you pay if your blitzers don't get to him.
Here we have a 3rd and five on the Vikings' first possession. The Packers are showing blitz (a bit too obviously and too soon) and the Vikings make adjustments. You can see the Vikings' right guard pointing and no doubt calling out a blocking assignment (See that Aaron?). The Packers run their tired crossover blitz, with Aaron Kampman circling behind Clay Matthews. Barnett does not blitz and is responsible for coverage, if needed. You can see the huge area that will be left empty when the linebackers blitz.
Brett Favre also sees it coming (See that Aaron?), and looks over and gestures to running back Chester Taylor to move to his right:
When the blitz does come, the Vikings offensive line is ready for it. And so is Favre. He simply lets Chester Taylor run into the big empty area and feeling pressure from Cullen Jenkins, quickly unloads the ball to Taylor. A 5-yard pass becomes a 20-yard gain.
It's so basic and simple, and it's what the Vikings and Favre did to the Packers in both games. Pick up the blitz, throw the ball to the area left vacated by the blitz and move the chains. It's the reason why, in both games, the Packers covered more and blitzed less as the game went on. Of course, that in turn allowed Favre more time to throw and we all know he can pick you apart if you let him. So it becomes a no-win situation for Capers.
So in summary, these three plays were all you needed to see to let you know how this game would turn out. Rodgers continuing to have issues with not feeling pressure soon enough and looking too much for the big gain. NO running game, to which McCarthy's answer is to just give up on it. You mean, he can't see that Grant is just plain playing POORLY? Why wouldn't you at least try to give Jackson or Green a few carries? And finally, if the Packers can not pressure, hurry, or sack the quarterback, they can not stop a team with a good quarterback.
So don't waste your time watching the whole game again, Packers fans. The first five minutes tell the whole story...
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