I can’t really fault those who want to blame Dom Capers and the Packers defense for this loss. They did allow rookie QB Andrew Luck to repeatedly find veteran WR Reggie Wayne, for back-breaking receptions despite a secondary flooded with defensive backs.
But the real blame for the Packers’ loss to the Colts lies at the feet of Mike McCarthy and/or Aaron Rodgers. Our own Adam Czech specifically points the finger at the Packers last drive of the first half, but let me take it a little bit further.
After the Packers went up 21-3 in the second quarter, suddenly the offense changed. To see how, let’s look at their next three posessions:
2nd Quarter: Green Bay Packers at 1:17
1-10-GB 43 (1:17) (Shotgun) A.Rodgers pass short right to J.Kuhn pushed ob at GB 49 for 6 yards (J.Freeman).
2-4-GB 49 (1:12) (Shotgun) A.Rodgers pass incomplete short right to J.Nelson.
3-4-GB 49 (1:07) (Shotgun) A.Rodgers pass incomplete short right to J.Finley (S.Brown).
4-4-GB 49 (1:04) T.Masthay punts 36 yards to IND 15, Center-B.Goode, fair catch by T.Hilton.
3rd Quarter: Green Bay Packers at 15:00
1-10-GB 20 (15:00) (Shotgun) A.Rodgers pass incomplete short left.
(PENALTY on GB-T.Crabtree, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at GB 20 – No Play.)
1-20-GB 10 (14:51) (Shotgun) A.Rodgers scrambles up the middle to GB 22 for 12 yards (T.Zbikowski).
2-8-GB 22 (14:11) (Shotgun) A.Rodgers pass short right to J.Finley to GB 28 for 6 yards (J.Powers).
3-2-GB 28 (13:24) (Shotgun) A.Rodgers pass short right intended for Ja.Jones INTERCEPTED by J.Powers at GB 39.
3rd Quarter: Green Bay Packers at 11:06
1-10-GB 20 (11:06) A.Rodgers pass incomplete short left to Ja.Jones.
2-10-GB 20 (11:03) (Shotgun) A.Rodgers sacked at GB 15 for -5 yards (C.Redding).
3-15-GB 15 (10:28) (Shotgun) A.Rodgers scrambles left end to GB 17 for 2 yards. A.Rodgers pass incomplete short left to J.Finley.
(PENALTY on GB-A.Rodgers, Illegal Forward Pass, 5 yards, enforced at GB 17.)
4-18-GB 12 (10:16) T.Masthay punts 58 yards to IND 30, Center-B.Goode, fair catch by T.Hilton
Notice something missing from all three of these possessions? Yes, a running play.
Up until that point, (and not counting an Aaron Rodgers scramble), the Packers had run the ball 12 times in the first half and passed 14 times. For the Packers, that’s about as balanced as it gets. And guess what, it was working. The Packers scored three touchdowns using this approach.
So, with a chance to go up by four scores and seal the game for real, what happens?
Pass… pass… pass… pass…pass… pass… pass…pass… pass… pass…
Why? Why Mike? Why Aaron? Of course, we have to ask both of these guys because we just don’t know how often Rodgers had a pass/run option and chose the pass.
You might be tempted to say it was because Benson left the game with an injury, but that happened with 13 minutes left in the 2nd quarter and Green had gotten 3 carries since then. So why not continue to mix in the run to keep the defense guessing?
You might be tempted to say they were going for the kill by trying to pass their way down the field. Well how often has that worked this season? This isn’t 2011. The magical offensive passing juggernaut is just a distant memory. Opposing defenses know how to make things difficult for the Packers, especially missing Greg Jennings. This year’s offense, by necessity, has to be more balanced.
We’ve seen this running game disappearing act many times before from McCarthy and/or Rodgers. Last season they got away with it. This year they aren’t. (See the first half of Seattle game when they ran the ball 3 times and trailed 7-0).
The end result of this sudden unwillingness to run the ball is often that you don’t keep possession long enough for the defense to get some rest. The Packers’ possessions in the second half were for these number of plays: 3, 3, 9, 3, 4, 4, 2, 5.
The Packers defense was on the field 10 minutes more than the offense this game. By the last Indy possession, you could see they were gassed, and you saw the results.
Rodgers and other players like to talk about putting together a complete 60-minute performance. Well to do that, you need to stick with what’s working until the other team shows they can stop it.
If you saw the Giants game yesterday, they basically ran the same handful of plays over and over, because Cleveland had no answer. There’s no reason to stop yourself, as the Packers have done several times this season. They did it again yesterday.
The defense was far from perfect and Mason Crosby missed two 5o yard field goals, but the real blame for this loss belongs at the feet of the Packers’ play calling and whoever was ultimately responsible; McCarthy, Rodgers, Clements, whoever it was, this loss is on them.
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.