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Looking Back: Packers Over The Cardinals

The Cardinals weren't able to exploit mismatches against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday because QB Matt Leinart's accuracy is terrible. From Tom Pelissero:

Will the Packers shadow star WR Larry Fitzgerald with top CB Charles Woodson? It sure looked that way, with Woodson lining up against Fitzgerald on 16 of 21 snaps (76.2 percent) when both were on the field. That left nickel CB Jarrett Bush to match up with WR Anquan Boldin in the slot in three-wide sets while CB Tramon Williams took WR Steve Breaston.

That's the strategy I would expect: Woodson primarily covering Fitzgerald. What's really scary is the idea of CB Jarrett Bush covering WR Anquan Boldin. Though right now it looks like Boldin will miss next Sunday's game, and even if he could play, he won't be 100%. Maybe the Packers dodged a bullet, or maybe it means WR Early Doucet will be the receiver with a big game against Bush. However, Doucet only beat out veteran journeyman WR Jerheme Urban as the No. 4 WR recently, and Doucet's career best for receiving yards in a game is only 43. And despite what you might expect, WR Steve Breaston has outplayed Boldin this season, according to Football Outsiders, so it's not surprising that Williams was covering Breaston instead of Boldin.

Otherwise Pelissero brought up some other good questions in this article. Will the Packers blitz more? Will they use 4th CB Brandon Underwood, or rely more on LB Brandon Chillar? 

He also pointed out that they still have a lot of different offensive schemes in their bag of tricks:

From a game-planning perspective, the Packers used nine of their usual offensive personnel groups and kept several others on the shelf — a luxury of being so multiple. They won’t hold anything back in the rematch.

One more Cardinals injury: starting DE Calais Campbell broke his thumb last Sunday. Campbell's stats this season are almost identical to those of two-time Pro Bowl DT Darnell Dockett. It's possible he'd play with a cast, however he had surgery on his broken thumb, and even if he can play with a cast, I'd expect he'd need at least one week off. The Cardinals did appear to miss one major bullet: Pro Bowl CB Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie did not seriously injury his knee, though he was carted off the field, and he should play on Sunday.

One thing Mike McCarthy took away from this game was watching the personnel matchups. The Cardinals can't scheme and hide the fact that the Packers won the battle in the trenches on offense and defense. Instead they'll have to rely on their receivers to create space and move the ball down the field. I was expecting them to rely on big passing plays, but they only had 3 plays of over 40 yards this season (31st in the NFL). And only 1 rushing play for over 40 yards this season.

There's a detailed play-by-play analysis from last Sunday's game after the jump.

The play-by-play is from

First Quarter:

(13:34) 12-A.Rodgers pass short right to 88-J.Finley to ARZ 20 for 30 yards (29-D.Rodgers-Cromartie). PENALTY on GB-85-G.Jennings, Illegal Formation, 5 yards, enforced at 50 - No Play.

It's never good to see your Pro Bowl CB carted off the field.

(9:00) 12-A.Rodgers pass incomplete deep right to 85-G.Jennings. PENALTY on ARZ-27-M.Adams, Defensive Pass Interference, 28 yards, enforced at ARZ 29 - No Play.

After Rodgers-Cromartie was hurt, the Cardinals went to CB Michael Adams and he wasn't up to the task. 

(3:30) 12-A.Rodgers pass deep middle to 87-J.Nelson to ARZ 1 for 51 yards (27-M.Adams).

That Adams guy again. He's helped the Packers get right up next to the goal line on consecutive drives. It was a perfect pass from QB Aaron Rodgers. Up by 14 at this point.

Second Quarter:

(13:35) 7-J.Kapinos punts 54 yards to ARZ 1, Center-61-B.Goode. 15-S.Breaston to ARZ 2 for 1 yard (26-J.Bell).

A net punt of 53 yards? Pinned at the 1 yard line? It was an amazing game for the special teams unit. 

(12:40) (Shotgun) 7-M.Leinart pass deep middle intended for 15-S.Breaston INTERCEPTED by 20-A.Bigby at ARZ 20. 20-A.Bigby to ARZ 20 for no gain (15-S.Breaston). PENALTY on ARZ-74-R.Wells, Offensive Holding, 3 yards, enforced in End Zone, SAFETY - No Play.

This was the play where the offensive lineman tried to take LB Clay Matthews's head off. But it was a terrible pass by Leinart. Didn't he see SS Atari Bigby just sitting there? On the replay, you can watch the INT from right behind the goal post, basically the same thing Leinart saw in the pocket, and he threw it right to Bigby. I don't expect anything that bad from QB Kurt Warner.

(4:44) 7-M.Leinart pass short right intended for 11-L.Fitzgerald INTERCEPTED by 21-C.Woodson at ARZ 45. 21-C.Woodson for 45 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Another bad INT. The decision wasn't bad: Woodson was draped over Fitzgerald in coverage all game long. If they were going to throw the ball to Fitzgerald, they'll have to throw it even when he's covered. But Leinart threw it too far ahead, not where Fitzgerald could keep himself between the ball and the defender, and Woodson jumped the route. Up 26 to 0 at this point.

(3:02) 7-M.Leinart pass incomplete deep left to 15-S.Breaston.

Breaston was open and Leinart just threw it out of bounds.

(1:33) (Shotgun) 7-M.Leinart pass deep middle intended for 80-E.Doucet INTERCEPTED by 20-A.Bigby at GB 2. 20-A.Bigby to GB 16 for 14 yards (81-A.Boldin).

Wow. Another INT. He just airmailed that ball about 10 yards over Doucet's head and into Bigby's arms. Did I mention Leinart was terrible?

Third Quarter:

(12:04) (Shotgun) 7-M.Leinart pass incomplete short middle to 81-A.Boldin (36-N.Collins).

The meaningless play where Boldin got tied up with FS Nick Collins and injured his knee and ankle. 

(9:49) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass short middle to 32-B.Jackson to GB 40 for 17 yards (28-G.Toler).

I hope RB Brandon Jackson becomes a 3rd down weapon. He's already an outstanding blocker. 

(4:21) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass short right to 88-J.Finley for 5 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

They ran the same play in the preseason game in Arizona. During the preseason, TE Jermichael Finley was matched up against Rodgers-Cromartie, Rodgers threw a jump ball along the sideline, and Finley jumped up higher to get it. I don't know why they didn't run that play more this season. It's hard to defend. If they tried to double Finley on the sideline, it would leave more room in the middle for someone like TE Spencer Havner. Throw the ball up high where only Finley can jump up for it, and otherwise it falls out of bounds.

(1:24) 26-C.Wells up the middle to GB 38 for 17 yards (47-M.Giordano, 77-C.Jenkins). PENALTY on ARZ-73-J.Bridges, Unnecessary Roughness, 15 yards, enforced between downs.

This was a dumb penalty even if it was called on the Cardinals. Bridges shouldn't pile on after the runner is down, but he only hit his own teammate. I've never seen unnecessary roughness called for hitting a teammate. 

Fourth Quarter:

(7:07) 2-B.St. Pierre pass short left intended for 83-S.Spach INTERCEPTED by 38-T.Williams at GB 46. 38-T.Williams to ARZ 33 for 21 yards (63-L.Sendlein).

Nice play by Williams. Their 3rd string QB probably stared at the receiver before he threw it, but Williams made a nice read and jumped the route.

(3:18) (Shotgun) 10-M.Flynn pass short right intended for 89-J.Jones INTERCEPTED by 20-R.Brown at ARZ 13. 20-R.Brown to GB 7 for 80 yards (89-J.Jones). PENALTY on GB-10-M.Flynn, Low Block, 4 yards, enforced at GB 7.

Unfortunately QB Matt Flynn returned the telegraphed pass. He looked better last week in relief against the Seahawks, but I guess this is why game experience is important. There was another receiver in the slot (maybe WR Greg Jennings?) and he was supposed to drag a defender deep, but since Flynn had been staring at Jones since the snap, Brown came off Jennings and jumped Jones's route for an easy INT.

(3:04) (Shotgun) 2-B.St. Pierre pass short middle to 11-L.Fitzgerald for 3 yards, TOUCHDOWN. 

Why is Fitzgerald still in the game, with 3 minutes left, in a meaningless 33 point blow out? And catching a TD pass from the 3rd string QB? So he could catch his 13th TD of the season and set a new career high, of course. 

1-N.Rackers kicks 70 yards from ARZ 30 to GB 0. 87-J.Nelson pushed ob at ARZ 46 for 54 yards (27-M.Adams).

Then WR Jordy Nelson provides the Packers longest kick return of the season. Just a great special teams day.