All week, the discussion surrounding the Green Bay Packers’ Divisional Round game has been primarily about their matchup with the New York Giants’ defensive line. It seems to be the biggest focal point of the whole game, especially with the young talents of Jason Pierre-Paul matching up against veteran Chad Clifton.
But there is an X-factor to this “battle in the trenches” that hasn’t been mentioned much: Aaron Rodgers’ use of the hard count.
It’s no surprise that the Green Bay Packers are looking forward to having the home field advantage. For one, they don’t have to travel, but most importantly, they don’t have to deal with a hostile crowd. As someone who witnessed the last Packers-Giants matchup at MetLife Stadium, I can attest to the impact of crowd noise.
The “twelfth man” can create a lot of stress for opposing offenses. Sometimes they will revert to a silent snap count, which affords the defense an edge in getting off the line as quickly as the offense. Other times it can create communication problems which lead to pre-snap penalties and clock management issues.
Let’s not forget, though, what advantages are provided to the home offense.
Finding ways to slow down the Giants’ pass rush will be important for a Packers victory. Common tactics include establishing a solid ground attack, utilizing screen passes and draw plays, and chip blocking the outside rushers with tight ends.
The hard count, though, can be just as useful as any of these strategies, and sometimes more deadly.
Aaron Rodgers has made it public knowledge that he works on vocal techniques as part of his quarterback training. Though he won’t share his secrets, it’s clear that whatever he does is working. His ability to work the snap count has proven extremely advantageous in getting defenders to jump offsides. And after securing a “free play,” he makes sure to take his shot down the field.
Unfortunately, I don’t have access to any statistics that could be presented in support of this statement; however, I think we have all witnessed this in action on more than one occasion this year. On the weekly Aaron Rodgers Show with ESPN Milwaukee reporter Jason Wilde, he has even admitted his frustration to referees blowing these plays dead, eliminating the chance for a big passing opportunity.
Because the big play is what it’s all about. One quick touchdown strike not only helps with momentum, it also puts pressure on the opposition to avoid jumping the snap too early.
Rodgers has been such an effective user of the hard count that I think it will be a key element of this game. In fact, if he can get at least one or two free plays to take a chance on a streaking Jordy Nelson or Greg Jennings, then it could be the difference in the game.
An X-factor could be described as a unique competitive advantage over an opponent. Sometimes it merely tips the balance, while other times it provides an insurmountable edge against the opposition. And more often than not, it is an aspect of the game that gets buried among the “hot” headlines.
Being at home and having the ability to manipulate the snap count definitely fits that description. While it won’t be a gigantic factor in the game, it could easily provide just the right edge the offense needs to be a dominant force in the face of a strong pass rush.
And of all the offensive tools at the Packers’ disposal, this is a small but mighty one.——————Follow @ChadToporski