Category Archives: 2010 Regular Season

13

December

Packers Periscope: Week 15 at Dallas Cowboys

The Past: In reality, the Packers and Cowboys aren’t all that different; both are storied franchises whose heydays came after hiring relatively unknown New York Giants coordinators.  Both had a renaissance of sorts in the 80s and 90s; Jimmy Johnson, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin for the Cowboys and Mike Holmgren, Brett Favre, Reggie White and Desmond Howard for the Packers both lead their respective teams back into relevance.  Both have been successful franchises in the last couple years; obviously Green Bay boasts a Super Bowl over the last couple of years that the Cowboys have no answer for but to call the franchise “unsuccessful” would be glossing over a decent team who are still the highest grossing franchise in the league.

While the Packers and Cowboys have only played each other 24 times in NFL history; perhaps the most historic game of all time occurred in New Years eve, 1967 where the temperature dropped -15F and an unassuming quarterback from Alabama drafted in the 17th round quarterback sneaked his way into the hearts of Packers nation and became a legend.

The Cowboys would probably like to forget the last time they played the Packers, a 45-7 demolition at Lambeau Field that would ultimately lead to the firing of then head coach Wade Phillips, which was punctualized by several coaching mistakes which ultimately lead to a bad call on a fumble returned for a special teams touchdown being unchallenged because the Cowboys had already wasted all their timeouts.  After that, the entire team simply gave up and let the Packers had their way with the Cowboys; Clay Matthews recorded sack/interception returned for a touchdown while James Jones logged 123 yards and a touchdown on 8 receptions.

The Present: Both the Packers and Cowboys are at a crossroads of sorts for their playoff hopes.  Frankly neither should really be in the discussion; the Packers are a completely different team without starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Cowboys have been wildly inconsistent, almost beating the Peyton Manning lead Denver Broncos but getting blown out by the Bears last week with a backup quarterback that’s just been benched for Jay Cutler.  Still the Packers are 6-6-1 and have a shot to get into the playoffs (especially if the Lions continue to play poorly) while the Cowboys are 7-6 and again are one game out from 1st place in the NFC East.  However in a league of parity, both teams with essentially .500 records are still in the playoff hunts with a reasonable chance of actually getting in says platitudes about how a team’s fortunes can change in a matter of moments.

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5

September

Are the 49ers still Tougher than the Packers?

The 49ers still are tougher than the Packers…for now.

The San Francisco 49ers beat the hell out of the Green Bay Packers last season. Twice.

In week one, the 49ers ran for 186 yards and averaged almost six yards per carry. Alex Smith had only six incomplete passes and routinely hit wide open receivers hanging out in the middle of the field, unafraid of being laid out by Packers defenders.

In the divisional round of the playoffs, things got even uglier. Colin Kaepernick ran for 181 yards and threw for 263 more. When Kaepernick took off, he made Packers’ defenders look like lead-footed, lifeless zombies in a scene from The Walking Dead.

All of that damage was easy for even the average viewer to see while watching from his or her couch. If you broke down the film after the game and paid attention to what was happening in the trenches, things got even uglier for the Packers.

The 49ers offensive line operated like a machine — a modern, deadly, ruthless machine that was sent to Earth specifically to blow Packers defenders off the line of scrimmage, seal off the edges and create giant spaces for guys like Frank Gore and Kaepernick to gallop through.

When compared to the Packers offensive line, the 49ers wrecking crew was on a completely different level. The Packers allowed 20 quarterback hurries in the two games and never established the run. Green Bay’s front five always seemed to be flailing as yet another San Francisco defender broke through and set his sights on Aaron Rodgers.

The middle of the field — where both toughness and athleticism have a chance to shine — was also heavily tilted in the 49ers favor. Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis, the 49ers two middle linebackers, combined for 30 tackles, a key interception and a sack.

In the week 1 loss, Alex Smith consistently found open receivers in the middle of the field while Kapernick simply ran by, through and around whoever happened to be manning the middle for the Packers in the playoffs.

A.J. Hawk totaled 22 tackles, but were any of them impact plays?

The 49ers left little doubt last season that they were tougher than the Packers. With the two teams set to meet again this Sunday, have the tables turned at all?

27

June

Packers Playbook, Part 4: The Psycho Defense

Packers Playbook LogoIn our fourth part of this series, we are going to take a look at the Green Bay Packers’ variation on their nickel defense, the “Psycho.” Dom Capers first unveiled it against the Chicago Bears in 2009 to much success. As its name implies, the goal is to create mass confusion for the offensive linemen and the quarterback.

Explaining the Formation

The Psycho package is a nickel defense, and as we covered in the last part of this series, this means that there are five defensive backs on the field. Compared to the basic 2-4-5 nickel defense that the Packers like to use, this one adds an extra linebacker in place of a defensive lineman. Thus, you have a 1-5-5 formation that is significantly difference in nature.

While we all like to give Dom Capers credit for his “mad scientist” concoctions for the defense, it’s important to note that this is not a formation exclusive to him or the Packers. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been utilizing this type of package since before the Packers, and the NFL has also seen it with the New England Patriots defense and with Rob Ryan’s defenses (among others). I’m also sure many of you Madden NFL fans have come across it in the video game.

As previously stated, the goal of this formation is to create confusion. By that definition, it could be considered a natural extension of the 3-4 philosophy – creating flexibility and unpredictability. Replacing one of the linemen with a linebacker allows the defense to more effectively hide where the pressure is coming from and where it is going to.

When you see the Psycho package on the field, you will notice the linebackers all mingling in front of the line of the scrimmage. They don’t line up in a specific point and will continue to roam until the ball is snapped. Even the lone defensive linemen will take a two-point stance rather than putting his hand in the dirt. This creates problems for the quarterback and offensive line when setting their protections, and if they are unprepared, it will cause them a lot of heartache.

23

April

What Does the Packers Draft and Development Philosophy Mean to You?

Desmond Bishop is one player the Packers have drafted and developed.

Desmond Bishop is one player the Packers have drafted and developed.

An interesting discussion about the Packers draft and develop philosophy broke out in the comments section of this post the other day.

The basic question that came out of the discussion was this: What does draft and develop mean to you?

Draft and develop might mean different things to different people. The various meanings appear to include:

  • Having players on the roster who can immediately and adequately fill in when a starter is injured.
  • When an upper-echelon player leaves the team (for whatever reason), there’s another player on the roster than can immediately play at a similar level of the departed star.
  • Accumulating as much young talent as possible.

There is no right answer to the question, but if I had to select one of the above, I’d select the third option. However, that answer is a little broad. There isn’t a team in the league that doesn’t want to accumulate as much young talent as possible. That franchise goal isn’t unique to the Packers.

Perhaps I need to add a fourth option: Accumulating as much young talent as possible and having the patience to stick with that philosophy and actually make it work.

Draft and develop has paid off for the Packers because they didn’t ditch it at the first sign of trouble. It’s also worked because the front office appears to be on the same page as the coaching staff, which is a lot more rare than we think. (It’s also worked because the Packers have Aaron Rodgers.)

I picked a hybrid fourth option, but the first three options have merit. There are real examples of the first three options being used on the Packers.

  • See Desmond Bishop in 2010 or James Jones in 2012 for an example of players adequately filling in when a starter is injured.
  • See Rodgers taking over for Brett Favre when a star player leaves the team (for whatever reason).
  • See Ted Thompson accumulating picks late in the draft and signing undrafted free agents who often turn into useful players.

If you want to extend the draft and develop philosophy discussion further, we can talk about how once the drafted talent is developed, you have to open up the checkbook to keep it. Clay Matthews just got extended. Aaron Rodgers will soon. Those two players will likely eat up about a fourth of the Packers salary cap.

24

February

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

The only thing you need to survive this Sunday without Packers football is Tom Silverstein’s story in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on the Packers front office and scouting operation.

Once again, the Packers were shorthanded at the NFL combine thanks to the departure of John Dorsey for Kansas City. In 2011, John Schneider left for Seattle and Reggie McKenzie departed for Oakland in 2012. All three of Ted Thompson’s right-hand men took general manager jobs.

You want your favorite NFL team to have as much talent as possible, both on the field and in the front office. It’s never a good thing to lose a talented player, just like it’s never a good thing to lose a talented executive. Silverstein’s story does a nice job of showing just how much of a team sport scouting, player evaluation and draft day can be.

However, every team has a star. On the field, the Packers have Aaron Rodgers. In the front office, they have Thompson.

As long as Rodgers is playing, the Packers should be good. As long as Thompson is the general manager, the front office should be fine.

I don’t get overly worried when Packers executives start making their annual exit from Green Bay for opportunities elsewhere. As long as Thompson is around, the Packers should remain on the right track. He’s the star. He’s the one that makes everything go.

Yes, Thompson has been fortunate to have talented current and former staff members, but he’s the one who makes the final call on everything personnel related. Thompson is the man who deserves the credit when a personnel move works out. He’s also the one to blame if something backfires. The Packers front office sinks or swims based on Thompson’s decisions.

Every team, and every front office, needs depth. You can never have too much talent. But as long as your main guys are around — Rodgers on the field, Thompson in the front office — things should be OK in Green Bay.

Packers News and Notes

  • $14 million per year for Greg Jennings? All it takes is one team, but I don’t see it happening. Jennings should be happy to get $14-17 million guaranteed over the life of a deal instead of $14 million per season in addition to any type of signing bonus.
10

September

Packers Loss to 49ers Similar to Early Defeats in 2010

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were chased up and down the field by the 49ers on Sunday.

The Green Bay Packers were outplayed, outhustled and outcoached in their loss to the 49ers on Sunday. Other than that, the Packers looked pretty good.

The game reminded me of how the Packers played in the first part of the 2010 season. If you can remember back that far, the Packers lost three of four from week three through six, and got outplayed, outhustled and outcoached in each one. Nonetheless, each game was close.

  • The Bears beat the Packers 20-17 in week three, forcing a late James Jones fumble and taking advantage of 18 penalties on the Packers.
  • After the Packers beat Detroit in week four, they lost an ugly 16-13 game to the Redskins the following week. Aaron Rodgers threw an interception in overtime and the Packers were penalized nine times.
  • The Packers allowed 150 rushing yards, Rodgers was sacked five times, and the Packers lost 23-20 in overtime to the Miami Dolphins in week five.

It was a stretch of games where the Packers always looked a step behind. Green Bay’s raw talent was obvious, but something was missing.

That’s what it felt like during Sunday’s loss to San Francisco.

Outplayed: 49ers linebacker Navarro Bowman had nine solo tackles and a huge fourth quarter interception to set up San Francisco’s last touchdown. Bownman won his one-on-one matchups more often than he lost them, and he made a big play when it was called for. Other 49ers to do the same included Frank Gore, Alex Smith, Aldon Smith, Vernon Davis, Randy Moss and David Akers. The list of Packers to consistently do the jobs they were assigned and mix in a big play or two was significantly shorter.

Outhustled: Morgan Burnett should be forced to stand outside Green Bay city hall and hold up a giant sign that says “I’m sorry” after the pathetic effort he showed on Gore’s touchdown run. We hear a lot of talk about the Packers focus on fixing their tackling this offseason. It looks like they still have a lot of work to do, especially in the effort department.

16

August

Packers Defensive Line: A Healthy Ryan Pickett Commands Respect

Ryan Pickett

Packers D-lineman Ryan Pickett

Packers defensive lineman Ryan Pickett reminds me of two actors in two memorable movies: Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino and Paul Sorvino in Goodfellas.

In Gran Turino, Eastwood plays a retired Detroit auto worker who is trying to cope with his neighborhood changing (i.e. getting younger and more diverse). He also yells at people to get off his lawn and behaves like that crumudgingly (and racist) old white guy many of us probably know in real life.

Sorvino plays a mob boss in Goodfellas who quietly lurks in the shadows and oversees a large-scale crime ring. Sorvino doesn’t have a leading role in the film, but when he’s on screen, there’s little doubt that his character is in charge and that the other characters respect him.

Now don’t take those comparisons too literally. I don’t know Pickett personally and I’m not saying  he’s a racist or a Mafia Don. But when I watch Eastwood’s and Sorvino’s characters, I can’t help but imagine that Pickett has certain traits of both.

Pickett is the elder statesman on the Packers defensive front. Like Eastwood getting annoyed about having to adapt to younger people who might be a little different than him, I can see the older Pickett getting annoyed by Clay Matthews and his long hair or B.J. Raji and his dancing.

I also see a lot of Sorvino in Pickett’s deliberate (some might call it slow) movements and overall presence. Like Sorvino, Pickett might not appear to be very impressive, but everyone looks up to him. He commands respect. Running backs and quarterbacks know that Pickett is too slow to catch them, but they’re scared of him anyway.

On the Field
Analogies are fun, but let’s get to the bottom line: Ryan Pickett is a hellvua football player and very important to the Packers defense.

According to Pro Football Focus, Pickett led all Packers defensive linemen last season with 20 stops, which measures the total number of solo tackles made that lead to an offensive failure. He also finished with a run defense rating of 8.4, second on the team behind Desmond Bishop (10.7) and way ahead of C.J. Wilson, who was the next best d-lineman (3.2).

Pickett finished fourth on the defense with an overall defensive rating of 2.6 and was one of only three defensive starters to finish with a positive overall rating.