On Sunday afternoon, the Green Bay Packers pulled out a tough 27-20 win against a San Diego Chargers team that pushed them to the brink. The Packers moved to 6-0 after the victory and entered the bye week undefeated at a time when they sorely need a week off to rest and recuperate.
Not only do the Packers need to get some players back healthy, but they probably need a week off just to recharge their batteries on defense after allowing over 500 passing yards to Philip Rivers and company. The defense played a total of 92 snaps on the day, by far a season-high, but they found a way to make a few critical stops at critical times.
Here's what the APC staff thought about the week 6 victory.
I made the point late in the week that the Packers, who came into this game with one of the top pass defenses in the NFL, had not faced a wide receiver of Keenan Allen's caliber yet this season. What I failed to mention was that they also had not faced a quarterback in the same realm as Phillip Rivers. Even when he was pressured, and my guess was that it happened more than we realized during the game, he was able to get throws out quickly and accurately. His performance underscored the fact that pressuring a veteran quarterback isn't enough - you need to get him on the ground quickly.
The Rivers-Allen tandem was, in a word, unstoppable yesterday - or at least, unstoppable by anything but injury. Allen's hip issue that kept him out on the final drive might have been the Packers saving grace late in the game. However, let's give credit where credit is due - though the Packers' defense had no answer for Rivers and company between the 20s, they did a remarkable job once the Chargers entered the red zone. On six opportunities, the Packers allowed touchdowns just twice, plus two stops that led to field goals and another pair of failed fourth down attempts. That, ultimately, was the difference in the game.
As the Packers move forward, it's clear that they need this bye week to get their offense healthy. Sure, a couple of players came up big in some tight spots, as Jeff Janis' two catches for 79 yards come to mind. But when the team fields a receiver group of Randall Cobb (with a still-banged-up shoulder), James Jones, Janis, Jared Abbrederis, and Justin Perillo on a key third-down snap in the red zone, it should be no surprise that they aren't operating at peak efficiency. Here's hoping that week off leads to a healthy Davante Adams, Eddie Lacy, and Ty Montgomery, which should help the Packers' offense get back on track instead of relying on a huge first quarter from James Starks.
Oh, and one last thing: I still hate the Packers' green facemasks with the blue/gold throwback uniforms. COME ON, EQUIPMENT GUYS, GET IT TOGETHER.
The Packers are a beaten up, undermanned team that just struggled on both sides of the ball against an obviously flawed Chargers team. They also own a 6-0 record with the bye week to recover.
By most estimations, Green Bay is a better team than the one that took the field the past three weeks. When healthy, the receivers should create separation, Aaron Rodgers should have more time to throw and the defense should generate more pressure without shifting Clay Matthews out to the edge on nearly every play. Whether they return to that form after the off week remains to be seen, but with Davante Adams, Morgan Burnett and B.J. Raji expected to return to the lineup along with healthier versions of Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy and multiple starters along the offensive line, their prospects look pretty promising.
At the same time, the Packers' upcoming opponent, the Denver Broncos, also get Week 7 to rest and make adjustments. It sets up for an exciting return on November 1.
For the most part, these little post-game lightning rounds have been pretty easy to write in that the Packers games thus far have largely come down to either "Yeah, the defense struggled, but holy crap Aaron Rodgers!" or, "The offense was off its game, but holy crap the defense!" Yesterday though, both units struggled, particularly the defense, which, had the Chargers won probably would have resulted in the conception of Philip Rivers' 19th child or whatever. But the Packers spoiled that celebration and what would have been one of the bigger upsets of the 2015 season by doing what they almost always do - bend, but never break.
And while giving up over 500 passing yards and the offense once again looking pedestrian should be cause for some concern, it's nowhere near as bad as today's JS Comments will have you believe. For one, the problem with this game wasn't so much what the Packers did wrong as it was what the Chargers did right. I counted at least three times where the Packers defense broke through the offensive line only for the Chargers to have the perfect play call to negate it. It was a Patriots-ish game plan that used some nifty pick plays, got the ball out super fast and in general, took away a lot of what the Packers do well on defense. And yet even with a great coaching strategy and Philip Rivers shooting lasers out of his eyes, the Chargers still only scored 20.
The other thing is the health of the offense can (finds biggest piece of wood to knock on, ever) only go up from here. Aside from a hobbled Randall Cobb and a still-limited James Jones, Aaron Rodgers is still throwing to what equates to a bunch of salad forks. At some point, he'll have actual receivers getting open again. And finally, the reason I'm still plenty optimistic is, well, look at the NFC. Before today I assumed the Cardinals were, at worst, the 1b team next to the Packers and they just lost to a Steelers team with a third-string quarterback who I literally just had to Google. Aside from them, who scares you? The Seahawks all look like they hate each other, the Falcons lost to the craptastic Saints, and the Panthers might be the most fraudulent undefeated team in the league. I'm certainly not saying all's perfect in Packerland, but as Ted Thompson once repeated in one of his more entertaining press conferences, everything's fine. And hell, the Packers are 6-0. So I'd say things are even better.
This one was lucky, and somewhat undeserved. Clearly, the breaking point for the offense is being down 3 wide receivers. Aaron Rodgers might be a magician, but even he has his limits and Ty Montgomery was it. Jeff Janis did some nice improv work and James Starks was a beast, but overall this was one of the worst offensive performances in quite some time. I suspect a healthy Davante Adams fixes a lot of issues, but that remains to be seen.
Philip Rivers deserves a ton of credit. I'm not sure any quarterback in the NFL throws the ball earlier and as on target. That funky delivery of his is just so fast. The Packers didn't bring the pass rush they usually do, but it hardly mattered. It really highlighted just how long Rodgers has to hang onto the ball to find anyone open given his current personnel.
Finally, it's time to be concerned about Eddie Lacy. He's always been a power runner, but he's also had very good elusiveness to go with it, and that, more than anything, seems to have deserted him this season. He's taking some mighty head-on collisions and more troubling, some stupid routes. He was a virtuoso at following blocks last year, whereas this year I find myself yelling at my television frequently. I don't know what's wrong with him and almost hope it's injury, but the Packers have clearly seen it too. Starks continues to get more and more work, and to his credit, he's earned it, but if Starks is your lead back, that's a problem.
Yesterday was the annual Kriesel family pilgrimage to Lambeau Field, so I had a slightly different perspective than normal. I forced myself to stay off my phone and be in the moment, so I did not see any stats or Twitter updates as the game went along. Plus, my hands were busy holding
beer soda for the majority of the game.
First off, I was stunned when I realized Rivers racked up more than 500 yards in the air. I know he was hitting quick throw after quick throw, but I guess it added up more than I realized. And I had no clue that he had 65 attempts. That is insane. It was pretty clear the Chargers were worried about their offensive line holding up against the Packers' pass rush and combated that with quick, effective strikes. I don't have any proof of this, other than the stats I suppose, but it seemed to me that the defense wasn't making the proper adjustments to limit San Diego's one-dimensional attack.
What is worrisome to me is the fact that the Packers continue to be dominated in time of possession. The defense struggled to get off the field, as evidenced by San Diego's six red zone trips, and the offense didn't have many long drives of their own outside of the first quarter. A guy like Lacy is key to sustaining drives and burning the clock when they have the lead. I'm not sure if he still dealing with a bum ankle, but his lack of production is mildly concerning. This is not to take anything from Starks, who continues to impress, but a big back helps balance the offense.
The bye week could not come at a better time as the offense needs to get healthy. There are some big tests coming up and this current level of play will eventually catch up to them.
Overall, this was a great game to be at. Perfect fall day without a cloud in the sky, and the Packers remain undefeated. I always enjoy Lambeau with my family that I do not see nearly enough. In the past, we've managed to witness blowouts that turn into preseason games by the second half. While those are fun, there's nothing like watching an entertaining game go down to the wire. Now let's use this off week to get healthy.