The Packers played an ugly game on offense, but were still able to escape with a win. The question now is whether the Packers are able to improve from those troubling performances for the final push.
In case you are a new reader the typical break down of our offensive and defensive reviews also breaks up the special teams play as well. The offense gets the return game as well as the field goal kicks and the defense gets the coverage units. As it so happens, one of these reviews will be very positive top to bottom and the other will be a bit more troubled from top to bottom. I've always been one to get the bad news out first, so let’s kick off with the offensive review….
As a whole the offense wasn't pretty on Sunday. Most of the problems go back to the offensive line play which was shoddy, especially up the middle. Evan Dietrich-Smith and Jeff Saturday were especially bad in run blocking and pass blocking. Josh Sitton struggled as well. The tackles were alright, but T.J. Lang allowed Cliff Avril (who is having a bit of a down year) to shine a bit too much for my taste. With these problems James Starks couldn’t get the runs going and Aaron Rodgers had another up and down day.
Passing Game Review
Aaron Rodgers – 19/27 236 YDS 8.7 AVG 2 TD 1 INT 35.5 QBR 106.4 RTG
Randall Cobb – 9 REC 74 YDS 8.2 AVG 1 TD 22 LG 12 TGTS
Jermichael Finley – 3 REC 66 YDS 22.0 AVG 1 TD 40 LG 3 TGTS
ESPN’s "QBR" is a dubious stat. It’s subjective and the network does not disclose how everything is weighted which makes the number murky. As a result it’s a stat rarely included in this particular analysis, however it’s included this week because the contrast between Aaron Rodgers’ QBR and his Passer Rating tells the story of the game very well, and also happens to provide an example of why his midseason grade was a bit lower than what many were wanting.
Rodgers had a fine day according to traditional statistics. His completion percentage was fine, his Passer Rating was high, he completed an acceptable ratio of touchdowns to interceptions. Yet, this doesn't truly capture his performance. It was sloppy. He made bad decisions and bad throws. Perhaps most telling, if you don’t believe QBR, is the fact that he was so focused on Randall Cobb (Cobb with 12 targets and the next closest Jordy Nelson with 5). Rodgers is known for his ability to spread the ball around, but this time he didn't….he pressed the ball to Cobb. It paid off in the end with a game winning touchdown, but it also burned the Packers before the half with an interception. This sort of performance seems to be Rodgers’ signature of 2012, it’s a game that was still pretty good…but looks better on paper than it has really been.
Randall Cobb continues to impress for the Packers. Cobb is quickly becoming the centerpiece of the Packers’ offense. As stated above, Cobb was clearly Rodgers’ favorite target on Sunday. This has been evolving for a few weeks now despite strong performances from James Jones and a great game by Finley in Detroit. It’s hard to argue with the play making ability of Cobb, but this offense works best when it is multidimensional…especially in the passing game. It may be time to scale back the Cobb effect…just slightly…and let guys like Jones, Nelson, and Finley play a larger role in the down field production.
Running Game Review
James Starks – 25 CAR 74 YDS 3.0 AVG 11 LG
Randall Cobb – 2 CAR 19 YDS 9.5 AVG 15 LG
For all those who have been down on Alex Green, could you explain to me how he is that much worse than Starks? Right now both look like interchangeable parts. Starks is a bit better at running between the tackles and running through guys. Green is a bit better in the passing game and running in space (he definitely has a better second gear than Starks). Other than that both look to be guys who can grind out around 3 yards per carry. All I can say is that Cedric Benson cannot get healthy fast enough.
Unfortunately that might not help too much given the state of the offensive line. They are simply not winning enough in the running game, and that goes double for the interior guys. It doesn’t help when you have a young strong up and coming star like Nick Fairley dominating up front, but still….what the offensive line did as a whole was simply unacceptable.
Special Teams Review: Field Goal Kicking
Mason Crosby – 1/3 LG 39 Missed 50, 38
We talked about this a bit already, but it’s time to go through Crosby again this week. The word that keeps coming back for Crosby during this slump is unacceptable. This week that has changed though, his play is no longer just unacceptable…it’s become a liability. Crosby’s slump has now started to affect the play calling the McCarthy does, as evidenced by his going for a fourth down early in the game despite being in field goal range. It’s affected the momentum of the game, as evidenced by the two attempts at a 50 yard field goal missed before the half. It’s becoming a story line of its own. That’s basically worst case scenario for a kicker.
The real unfortunate part for the Packers is that right now the team seems stuck with him. There aren't many kickers out there who can come in and be an upgrade over Crosby…especially as the weather turns cold (where some of the older kickers that are sure to come up in the comments section are going to struggle as much or more than Crosby). The team is going to have to put on a stiff upper lip and make believe that everything is going to be okay on this issue. Why you ask? Because they have no other choice.
Special Teams Review: Returns
Randall Cobb – 4 KR 71 YDS 17.8 AVG 20 LG 1 Fumble
Cobb and the kick return game probably is the best snap shot of the struggles of the Packers this past Sunday. It’s not that the players were bad, or that they were particularly terrible. Rather, it seemed to be a case of everyone realizing that they were working up hill and so just pressing harder and harder to try and make it to the other side. The problem is that this led to poor decisions and uninspired play.
Cobb fell victim to this in the return game. He constantly took it out of the end zone when the return just wasn’t there. It’s understandable that he is trying to make a play, trying to get a spark going…but this choice often led to poor field position and him putting the ball on the ground. Not good.
It was another sloppy game for the offense, and there was no real good reason for it. Yes the offensive line was bad, but that’s not a blanket excuse for Rodgers & Co. anymore. They have overcome worse offensive line play than this in order to secure games. Rather, this game was marked by too many guys trying too hard and making mental mistakes. A few brilliant plays saved the team this time, but if they keep up with this sort of sloppy play it will bite them in the ass eventually.