The Packers’ undefeated season is over. Exactly 364 days from their last loss, the Packers were soundly defeated by the 5-8 Chiefs, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I say soundly because this game was nowhere near as close as the final score might indicate.
The Packers were dominated by the Chiefs. New head coach Romeo Crennel came up with an extremely efficient game plan to send the Packers to their first loss of 2011. . On offense, he kept things simple and short for Kyle Orton. He put him in the best possible situations for success. On defense, he did everything possible to disrupt the Packers flow. As Mike McCarthy said after the game, “they pressed us from the minute we got off the bus.”
Despite their record, I think we all knew the Packers were not a team without flaws. Yet they had enjoyed 13 straight games worth of success (19 including last year) thanks to two main things: Creating turnovers on defense and making big plays on offense. In this game, they got neither.
The Packers’ defense was it’s usual yardage sieve, giving up 438 yards to the Chiefs, and allowing them a 36 minute to 24 minute time of possession advantage. Limit the amount of time Aaron Rodgers has the ball is priority #1 for any team wanting to beat the Packers.
As is also the case, the Packers defense stiffened when it needed to. But how many times can you let a team inside your five yard line and keep them out of the end zone? For the Packers, the magic number was four, as Denver was finally able to cross the goal line on their fifth try.
More than criticize the Packers defense, I think we need to give credit where credit is due – the Chiefs did their home work and devised a perfect game plan for the Packers. They mixed the pass and the run beautifully, and killed the Packers with the screen pass in the first half. They seemed to anticipate when the Packers would be bringing pressure, and had the screen pass call at the ready.
The Packers defense has pretty much been the same all season. We knew what we had (and didn’t have). We also knew that eventually, they would not come up with the big turnover, costing them a game. Let’s just be glad it happened now, rather than in the playoffs.
As most people expected, the Packers looked to Jermichael Finley to fill the void left by the absence of Greg Jennings. Finley was targeted ten times in this game, but unfortunately, only caught three of them. Compare this to Randall Cobb, who I had hoped the Packers would use more, who was throw at four times and caught them all. Finley had his opportunity to shine and just didn’t.
The Packers offense could have hurt the Chiefs defense with passes to the running back. Unfortunately, James Starks and Brandon Saine, either of whom could have had a big day, were both on the sidelines. Ryan Grant is not a great runner of routes and his hands are average at very best. With the Chiefs secondary blanketing Packers receivers downfield, and their DL getting into Aaron Rodgers’ face regularly, Green Bay could have made them pay if either Starks or Saine were available for check downs or designed pass plays.
With the Chiefs secondary playing so well on the deeper routes, and Rodgers’ not displaying his usual accuracy, I kept waiting for Mike McCarthy to simplify things for Rodgers as the Chiefs had done for Orton. Not to mention keep running Ryan Grant, who was having a pretty good day.
Instead, he stuck with his game plan and kept calling routes into the heart of the Chiefs’ secondary. Perhaps not having Starks and Saine and Finley’s drops prevented him from making many adjustments, but I thought McCarthy showed some of his patented stubborn belief in his game plan, come hell or high water. After the game, McCarthy commented that Rodgers was put in some tough spots in this game. I agree, and I think McCarthy contributed to the problem.
Of course, it’s possible that Rodgers is mainly responsible for forcing multiple pass attempts in the 10 – 20 yard range. Without the benefit of watching the game back again, I don’t remember a lot of short routes from the Packers’ receivers. It also seems this would have been a good game to use the slant pass more frequently, but it only appeared a few times.
And of course, providing more consistent help for Newhouse on Hali might not have been a bad idea, either.
I’m not killing McCarthy here, but in a loss like this, everyone gets some blame.
The Packers were thoroughly out-coached in this game. The only obvious adjustment came on defense in the second half, when the Packers were ready for and stopped a few screen passes, which had been so successful for KC in the first half. The Packers were allowing both receivers and tight ends to get wide open in the middle of the field, and little changed over the course of the game.
The Chiefs had game-planned very thoroughly for the Packers, employing a strong formula on both offense and defense. The Packers were never able to solve the Chiefs on either side of the ball, and the frustration level was high. Only a handful of goal line stands prevented this from being a shellacking at the hands of the Chiefs.
The Packers were out-played and out-coached. Thoroughly. No reason to sugarcoat it. On the other hand, there’s no reason to panic. Unless of course, the Packers have no offensive linemen left…
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.