The defending Super Bowl Champions came to San Diego and did exactly what they were expected to do. Score a lot of points and win. They scored 31 offensively and could have been held to 24 had it not been for penalties. I don't know where all these penalties started to rain down from in the last two weeks, but it's definitely hurt the team on third downs. The Packers were given 3 free first downs on penalties, two on crucial third downs. As you'll see from the grading, the front 7 hard a harder time than you would think despite 4 sacks and pressure on several other occasions. The Packers are a blueprint for offensive consistency and they seem to pick up yards on every play, with every little bit helping. Aaron Rodgers only threw 4 passes longer than 15 yards, so they had no trouble picking up small chunks of yards when there was nothing downfield. Rodgers also had a lot of chances to scramble for yardage under pressure. Lack of containment in the pass rush and execution on both blitzes and run defense were the reasons for low grades this week.
Here's the grading for the first and second half:
Full analysis is after the jump.
For the first 3 seconds, coverage was great almost every play. The cornerbacks really stepped up and fought hard to contain the Packers receivers. However, Rodgers is great at buying time, and when he didn't, the inconsistent pass rush gave him time. Rodgers actually stood patiently in the pocket at times for 5 and 6 seconds waiting for coverage to break down, which it did many times, and got his completion. Even then, coverage was sometimes great. Early in the Game, Steve Gregory was beaten by Jermichael Finley for a score, and I was hoping Paul Oliver would come in and replace him. Luckily, he did. Oliver was solid in shutting him down, only giving him a couple of catches. Marcus Gilchrist was shredded, however, as was the aforementioned Steve Gregory. He's got a lot to learn. Jammer was his usual self, except for a crucial penalty and 2 other passes. Cason was decent, and Hughes was very good. I think Greg Manusky should transition to more man coverage, at least in obvious passing situations, as the secondary showed they could handle the pressure downfield. You might wonder why Manusky doesn't just abandon zone and play all man? It's not that simple. You have to play the matchup. Man to man coverage is good for defending receivers with great route running skills and good hands, but you are vulnerable to timing throws and draws, delays, and playaction on man under plays. You have to play to your opponent. I see a lot of people complaining about zone defense at times and don't realize why it's done. The best defenses in the league run a lot of zone coverage and mixed zone concepts. If it's executed properly, and the pass rush can get something going, it works great, because it creates turnovers and allows other strategies to expose weaknesses.
I can't say too much negative about Greg Manusky. Here's why: Antonio Garay, Tommie Harris, Corey Liuget, Cam Thomas. All these guys got their start in the 4-3. Now they line up as a 3-4 unit. They're playing new systems, new techniques, new assignments, and get lost sometimes or play to their old habits. This is very true with the Rookie. Give it time, though. They will improve. There's been a lot of change at the front 7 from last year. Castillo and Phillips have been out, both ILB's are new, as are LaBoy and Barnes at their position. Against the run, the front 7 either failed, or won. Nothing in between, strangely (except for 2 obvious runs). James Starks and Ryan Grant averaged 4.8 yards per carry on their 17 attempts. But it was troubling because, as mentioned earlier, the Pack doesn't mind getting 7 yards out of a pass completion. Especially when they know they can get it 9 times out of 10. And add that to consistent 3 and 4 yard carries, that means they expect to pick up a first down every time they have a second down. True to that philosophy, the Packers were successful on second down 6 times by that strategy, and that's why they don't mind having a weak run offense. All they need is 3 yards per carry, like the Chargers did in 2009.
When these two teams meet again later on in the playoffs If these teams met again, assuming the defensive roster was favorable in health, limiting the Packers' runs would mean many more 3rd downs to convert. Now if only Rivers would stop spotting them points....
Looking ahead and other
There were 10 blitzes called this game. 7 of them in the first half. Manusky figured out that it doesn't matter if you play pressure or coverage, Rodgers beats you. Scary. Also, Rodgers accounted for 38% of the team's rushing yards. When Shaun Phillips and Luis Castillo come back, I'd like to see some new formations. 4-2 sets with a rotation of Castillo, Harris, Garay and Liuget inside with Barnes and Phillips from the edge. I'd like to see a 335 used with a rotation of all linemen, backed by 2 OLB's and an ILB, I'd like to see Na'il Diggs and Butler out on passing downs since Spikes isn't quick enough to cover. I'd like to see Paul Oliver get more playing time, expecially on passing downs. I'd like to see Butler come off the edge on a blitz a few times, his good hands and speed could make him a good blitzer. And finally, I'd like to see Gilchrist play man only when he's got safety help. Please.
Leave questions and comments below, as usual, and Rec if you'd like a rematch, and to thank Orz for the video.