While doing some film study of the Packers – Patriots game, one thing became painfully clear. The Green Bay Packers’ offensive line has a devil of a time picking up blitzes. Even simple, straight on, undisguised blitzes seem to confuse them and result in missed assignments.
This does not bode well for Aaron Rodgers. Coming off of his second concussion of this year, you would like for him to go through this game as hit-free as possible . But here come the New York Giants, a team that likes to punish quarterbacks. Even if they don’t get the sack, they will hit you and hit you hard. The last thing the Packers can afford is for Aaron Rodgers to be subjected to such abuse.
Going back to the Patriots game, the most obvious example of poor pass protection was the last-minute missed assignment by Bryan Bulaga that resulted in a heartbreaking sack of Matt Flynn, just as was attempting to lead the Packers on a game-winning drive.
What you may not realize, is that the Patriots used the same basic blitz six times in that game. It was correctly picked up only once. And I’m not even going to discuss other blitzes by the Patriots that gave the Packers fits. Let’s just take a look at these six examples of a very basic blitz that I am referring to.:
Patriots Blitz vs. Clifton – Colledge; Exhibit A:
On this play, you’ll see Daryn Colledge stay inside, leaving Chad Clifton to deal with two players to block. Clifton makes a rookie mistake and leaves the inside rusher to go block the outside rusher. As for Colledge, I almost have to give him a pass on this one.
If you watch the Patriots linebacker in the middle of the field (Mayo) he does give a bit of a fake blitz, enough to hold Colledge, who I believe Wells has instructed to look out for that blitzer. Of course, the Packers make the age-old mistake of worrying more about the lesser threat rather than the closer threat at hand.
As for Matt Flynn, his only chance would have been to immediately get the ball out to James Jones, who has run into the spot vacated by the blitzers. Once he misses that chance, there is nothing else for him, as the other Packers receivers all appear to be running routes into the end zone.
Patriots Blitz vs. Clifton – Colledge; Exhibit B:
In exhibit B, there is no linebacker possibly forcing Colledge to stay at home inside. Yet, he looks only inside to double team a player with Scott Wells, leaving Clifton once again to deal with two outside blitzers. The Patriots do a simple crossover stunt, but it was really unnecessary, as Clifton had zero help.
In fact, the stunt helped Clifton out by delaying one rusher, allowing him to slide off the first player and still slow down the second. In effect, he was able to slow down both rushers with one arm on each. A fine individual effort by the veteran Clifton, but a horrible blocking scheme by the Packers (or missed assignment by Colledge).
Patriots Blitz vs. Clifton – Colledge; Exhibit C:
Exhibit C is almost a carbon copy of Exhibit B. Not learning from their mistakes, Clifton is once again left to deal with two rushers, doing his best to slow down both of them. Colledge again never looks outside. Is this his fault or is he just following the scheme the coaches have drawn up? I don’t know the answer, but you would think this situation would have been addressed on the sidelines, no?
And BTW, watching this play over and over, James Jones just makes a HORRIBLE effort here. I thought it was bad watching the game live. Looking at it now, I think I would have benched him for a few series based on that effort. Frustrating guy…
Patriots Blitz vs. Bulaga – Sitton; Exhibit D:
For Exhibit D, we move over to the other side of the offensive line. Bryan Bulaga shows tunnel vision on this one, following the inside path of the pass rusher right to Josh Sitton, who has it all under control. In doing so, he completely ignores the outside linebacker, a mistake he would later repeat.
Patriots Blitz vs. Bulaga – Sitton; Exhibit E:
In Exhibit E, Sitton and Bulaga get it 100% right. Both blitzers are accounted for, with Bulaga staying at home outside and Sitton not getting drawn into helping Scott Wells. Rather simple and effective. They must have it figured out, right?
Patriots Blitz vs. Bulaga – Sitton; Exhibit F:
Um, no they don’t. Exhibit F is that fateful sack of Flynn in the last minute of the game. Bulaga seems to never even see the player he is responsible for, instead stepping in front of Josh Sitton, who is setting up to block the inside rusher, as he should. When he sees what Bulaga is doing, Sitton tries to kick outside, but he’s not nimble enough to get there in time. Flynn goes down and so did the odds for the Packers chances to win that game.
Now, I don’t think it takes a particularly trained eye to see how poorly the Packers’ offensive line handled just this one repetitive situation. The first two Clifton plays and the first Bulaga play all occurred in the first half. Anyone up for some halftime adjustments? Calling Dr. Campen, calling Dr. Campen..
So anyway, the point of this little exercise is that I am a bit worried for Aaron Rodgers and his already squishy brain matter. If the Packers offensive line doesn’t play better individually and as a unit, we may find ourselves cringing and covering our eyes after some big hits and sheepishly looking through our hands to see if Aaron Rodgers gets up on his own.
That’s not how I want to spend my Sunday afternoon.
So I ask of James Campen: Get the right blocking schemes set and if something is not working – MAKE ADJUSTMENTS!
And I ask of Mike McCarthy: Be content with possession football. Be smart with your franchise quarterback. Make sure Aaron ALWAYS has an outlet for quickly getting the ball out of his hands, when needed. You called an incredibly balanced (for you) game last week. More of the same, please.——————
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.