A week ago, we observed the difference in tactics used by New York Jets coach Rex Ryan and his defense to put pressure on Aaron Rodgers in an attempt to slow down the Packers' offense. Of particular importance was the frequency with which Ryan blitzed, especially compared to the Seattle Seahawks, who defeated the Packers in week one.
Today, we'll look at those blitz numbers in week three to see if we can determine a trend, and we'll find some other numbers that illuminate just why the Packers' offense struggled so mightily on the Ford Field turf this Sunday (and why the defense played well for most of the game).
Either the Lions' defensive coaches read our article last week or, more likely, they watched the Packers' film from the past two weeks. According to Pro Football Focus, the Lions brought blitzes on only three of the Packers' pass plays, instead focusing their efforts on bringing pressure with their front four and dropping seven players into coverage. Once again, this strategy paid off, as Rodgers ended with a passer rating of just over 90 when the Lions did not blitz (well below his career rating of 104.6).
In the first three games, Rodgers' best numbers came against the Jets' blitz. It should be interesting to see which tactic the Chicago Bears choose to employ on Sunday in week four.
Peppers' Presence Felt
Julius Peppers took another big step to proving that Ted Thompson was wise in bringing him in this offseason to rush the passer this week. In his 29 snaps rushing Matthew Stafford, Peppers was credited with six pressures, consisting of three hurries, two hits, and his one sack-strip that stopped a Lions drive in the red zone. Peppers has really turned it on in the pass-rushing department over the past two games, as he pressured Geno Smith four times in 22 snaps a week ago as well.
He'll have a chance to continue his strong play against his old team, the Chicago Bears, on Sunday at Soldier Field, and will hopefully continue proving that he still has plenty left in the tank at age 34.
Pass-Blocking Is Improved
The return of Bryan Bulaga to the starting lineup was supposed to give the Packers' offensive line a boost. While the team got virtually no push in the running game (with both guards being regularly abused by Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh), the pass-blocking of the five starting linemen was graded out solidly this week.
Bulaga actually led the way in PFF's grades, with a +1.9, while David Bakhtiari and Josh Sitton were both greater than +1.0 apiece. The line allowed just five pressures of Rodgers, half of the ten that they allowed a week ago against the Jets. It bears repeating, though, that the Jets brought pressure with more diverse blitz schemes that opened up passing lanes for Rodgers, while the Lions were content to allow the Packers to try (and fail) to run the ball and to sit back with seven men in coverage when Green Bay did try to pass.
On offense, the playing time for the third receiver position was again split almost evenly. Jarrett Boykin had 36 snaps compared to Davante Adams' 35. Though Richard Rodgers started the game at tight end, he played only 11 snaps, presumably being benched for his poor run-blocking after being a key contributor to the safety in the second quarter. John Kuhn was in for just three plays and has now seen the field on offense on just 22 snaps through three games. The running backs were split heavily, due to Lacy's struggles early on and his fumble: Lacy was in for 24 plays while James Starks had 20 snaps and DuJuan Harris 10.
On defense, Casey Hayward started to make some inroads back onto the field even before Davon House missed some time with cramps; Hayward was on the field for 17 snaps, though House dwarfed that number with 40. Clay Matthews saw just 44 plays due to his groin injury, likely forcing the Packers to adjust on the fly with Mike Neal and Nick Perry at linebacker. None of the other Packers outside linebackers have the versatility to play 4-3 and 3-4 outside linebacker like Matthews does, so if he's unavailable it would force the Packers to revert more to a standard 3-4 defense rather than the 4-3 Under they've been using with success the past six quarters.