As painful and frustrating as it might have been, the Green Bay Packers finally pulled out a physical, back-and-forth game in winning at the Baltimore Ravens.
13:10 1st Quarter – A lot of times when on the road, you have to be patient with the run game to get it going. That’s not the case here.
The Packers start in their money formation — Jordy Nelson and James Jones out wide, Randall Cobb in the slot, except Aaron Rodgers is actually under center with Eddie Lacy 7 yards behind him. The Ravens are in their nickel, so they can match a corner with Cobb.
On first and 10 from the 20, Lacy takes a simple hand off straight up the middle. He gets a clear on his left by Josh Sitton, heads that way, busts out a spin move and gains 10 yards.
On the next play, the Packers use subtle trickery to bust Lacy for a long one. It appears to be a quick pitch to the right with the entire offensive line surging that way, but Jermichael Finley sneaks across the formation and cut blocks Terrell Suggs on the other side. Lacy gets the ball and thinks he’s back at Alabama again with the size of the hole that is gaping to his left. He bursts upfield, outruns the safety to the sideline, and gets loose. If Jones gets enough of a push on corner Jimmy Smith to cause a stumble, Lacy has a real chance to go the distance. Instead, Smith finally overcomes a Lacy stiff arm and takes the big man down after 37 yards.
The Packers go three and out from there with three straight passes. However, in defense of the game plan, they get another first down if Jordy Nelson doesn’t drop a second down slant for good yardage. Mason Crosby comes on and stays perfect for the season by making a 45 yarder. That makes it 3-0 Packers on a rare opening drive for a score on the road.
11:05 1Q – The Ravens go three and out with a good dose of what the Packers defense has waiting for them. On first down, Ray Rice runs up the middle and runs smack into A.J. Hawk. On second down, Joe Flacco dumps to Rice, who gets immediately swallowed by Jamari Lattimore for a 2-yard loss. On third down, the Packers blitz both middle linebackers, and Hawk just beats Datone Jones and Nick Perry to Flacco for the sack.
10:02 1Q – One play after making a 10-yard catch on a slant to give the Packers first down near midfield, James Jones hurts his knee while attempting to block for a Lacy pitch to the right.
Jones limps off and things immediately go south with him. On the very next play, Evan Dietrich-Smith doesn’t bother to block Arthur Jones, who is lined up directly across from him. Jones bulldozes Finley into the backfield and sacks Rodgers. Punt.
5:25 1Q – The Ravens threaten when on 3rd and 10 from their 31, the Packers blow the coverage on Jacoby Jones, and he is wide open in the middle of the field for 31 yards. The Ravens go three and out from there, however, and have to punt again.
3:20 1Q – The Packers are in good shape with 2nd and 2 near midfield after a quick pass to Cobb gets 18 and then a pitch right to Lacy gets 8. On 2nd down Rodgers scrambles right on his own volition and has easily enough room to get the first down himself. Instead he takes a shot downfield to Finley. If Finley wants big money, he needs to make that catch, but he drops it.
On 3rd and 2 the Packers are still in the shotgun. Don Barclay gets beat clean by Elvis Dumervil. Though the pressure is from the right and he sees it, Rodgers fumbles. Barclay recovers. Punt.
0:40 1Q – After another three and out by the Ravens, the Packers do likewise. A dump to Johnathan Franklin gets 7, leaving the Packers with 3rd and 1. The Packers line up in the shotgun with Franklin to the right of Rodgers. It is a quick pitch to the right. I like the play. The problem is that since it is 3rd and 1, the Ravens’ safety, James Ihedigbo, is lined up right on the line of scrimmage across from Finley. So when Finley blocks down on the end, which he does to great effect, Ihedigbo simply goes straight up field to cut the play off. Nelson is supposed to seal that man to the inside, but Ihedigbo’s immediate charge upfield makes that impossible.
12:20 2Q – After another Ravens’ three and out, the Packers have the ball deep in their own territory. On 2nd and 5 from the 11, Rodgers has Cobb on the square in, but holds onto it, perhaps hoping for Finley to clear deep. Dumervil beats Barclay again, and Rodgers fumbles again. The Packers get their luckiest play of the game when Jarrett Boykin comes back to recover the ball after it gets kicked out of the pile. If a Raven recovers there, they easily walk into the end zone.
That is two sacks and forced fumbles in 20 minutes against Don Barclay. Unfortunately, the guy run blocks too damn well to bench.
The Packers are shortly happy to punt when Boykin does an out to the sticks on 3rd down and Rodgers throws it a yard short of the sticks.
9:15 2Q – The Ravens have to punt again. Ryan Taylor charges through the middle, gets tackled, but manages to partially block the punt. The ball bounces out beyond the line of scrimmage, making it a live ball. John Kuhn has some blockers and an open sideline if he can pick it up, but in his path to glory, he forgets the football. It is a muff. The Ravens recover and get a first down.
It appears to be a disaster averted when the Ravens quickly face 3rd and 10. Flacco steps up and hits Dallas Clark on an 8-yard cross. If Davon House tackles Clark after he catches it, it is a punt. Instead, House has his feet in cinder blocks. Clark runs right by him and then up the sideline for 45 yards before Morgan Burnett chases the play down.
The Ravens would shortly have first and goal from the Green Bay 4. On first down, Ray Rice makes a nice cutback and is only stopped at the 2 when Burnett and M.D. Jennings close quickly. On 2nd down, Rice tries the right side and gets stopped at the 1 by Burnett and Andy Mulumba. On 3rd down, a pitch right looks destined for the end zone, but somehow Burnett spins off the block of Vonta Leach and gets enough of Rice to slow him down until Jamari Lattimore finishes him.
There was a holding call on the play. Wisely showing the proper contradictory trust in his run defense versus his pass defense, Mike McCarthy declines it. The Ravens can take the 3 to tie, but probably motivated by the fact that the Packers offense gets the ball at the 1 if they fail, the Ravens go for it.
Bernard Pierce tries the left side. Mike Daniels gets off a block at the point of attack and cuts off the edge. Pierce tries to slam through a rapidly closing lane between Daniels and Lattimore, but runs right into Micah Hyde, who diagnosed the play and charged into the running lane before Dallas Clark could block him. The three bury Pierce for no gain. Packers ball.
My favorite moment of the game follows, as Mike Daniels gets up and celebrates with a leaping front kick that would make Jet Li piss his pants.
The Ravens’ strategy appears to work when the Packers go nowhere and have to punt from their 1. The Packers actually had a shot at a 99 yard TD when Rodgers stepped up on third down and fired across the middle to Boykin. If Boykin breaks one tackle, he is going the distance, but instead, Boykin drops it. If Boykin were meant to score, then Jesus Christ would have miracled his ass in the end zone by now.
Regardless, Tim Masthay spoils the hopes of the Ravens by punting it 52 yards with no return.
1:20 2Q – The offensive ineptitude on both sides continues until the Packers get a spark on a 23-yard punt return by Micah Hyde. On the very next play, Rodgers would hit Nelson on a slant that he takes for 34 yards, down to the Baltimore 17.
Disaster would result. One play after Rodgers threw the ball directly into the hands of Ravens’ linebacker Daryl Smith, which he unfortunately for the Packers dropped, Rodgers would find Cobb on the out-and-up from the slot. Safety Matt Elam, who the Packers were considering in the draft, is low even as he approaches Cobb and dives into Cobb’s legs while one of them is still planted, breaking it.
Rodgers has words for Elam, and when he tries to get into Rodgers’ face over it, T.J. Lang shoves him back and collects one of the lamest personal foul penalties in history. The penalty essentially puts the Packers back where they were before the play, meaning Cobb broke his leg on a play that never happened.
Crosby would add insult to injury when he missed his first field goal attempt of the season to erase further meaning from the entire series.
Fortunately for the Packers, John Harbaugh probably is ticked at his offense for having a goose-egg up on the board and decides that they should keep working even though the half is running out. With 12 seconds left in the half, Flacco drops back for a pass from which no good can come, Nick Perry runs right around two blockers and knocks the ball out of Flacco’s hand, apparently having learned something from his hit on Andrew Luck. Datone Jones scoops up the loose ball and is lucky to be tackled with a couple seconds left on the clock.
Micah Hyde shows his awareness by immediately signaling to the refs to add another second to the clock. They add two. Crosby makes a shorter field goal to make the score 6-0 at half.
In a bizarre sequence of events, Nick Perry, after knocking the ball loose, rolled into the back of the legs of guard Marshal Yanda, who falls backwards onto Perry’s foot, breaking it. That is two broken bones in four plays for the Packers, if you are scoring at home.
11:30 3Q – The Ravens start the second half with the ball, sadly for them. Another three and out punctuated by a Micah Hyde sack on third down follows. Then, Hyde returns the punt 20 yards to the Baltimore 34.
The Packers would have third and 4 from the 28 when another opportunity is wasted. Rodgers takes a shot at the go to Nelson. The ball is underthrown and intercepted by Jimmy Smith.
6:10 3Q – The Ravens offense remains stuck in the reverse. The Packers offense gets back into scoring position thanks to a dump to Boykin that he weaves through traffic and takes 43 yards. Thanks to a bogus holding call on Finley, the Packers go in reverse from there. Rodgers misses an open Finley on a rollout pass on 3rd and 17, and the Packers are lucky to get 3 when Crosby makes a 50-yard field goal to make the score 9-0.
4:45 3Q – This is a game of poor offense interrupted by long pass plays. The Ravens get a too easy 59-yard gain on the first play of their next drive. Marlon Brown runs an hook against a Packers zone. Tramon Williams is too slow to react to the play and then misses the tackle. Brown gets to the Packers’ 6 before M.D. Jennings finally brings him down.
The Packers hold from there. On first down Flacco tries a fade against Micah Hyde. It is out of bounds. On second down Flacco goes to the underneath slant to Brown. Hyde jumps it and tackles Brown for no gain. On third down, Flacco extends the play and fires for the pylon. Lattimore knocks it down.
Have I mentioned Hyde and Lattimore have made a lot of plays in this game? A short field goal makes it 9-3.
2:15 3Q – The offenses finally show up. It is entirely possible that the offenses had so many three and outs that both defenses just got tired because both, at this point, begin to fall asleep.
On 3rd and 6 from the Green Bay 24, Rodgers makes his best play of the game so far by scrambling for 12 yards and a first down. On the following play, the Packers try the play action pass that torched teams in 2011 but virtually never worked last season. Well, time to turn back the clock. Nelson gets past the defense and hauls in a 64-yard strike from Rodgers for the TD to break the game open at 16-3.
The key to the play actually wasn’t the play action. The safety, Ihedigbo, jumped on the cross by Finley and forgot about Nelson. That’s what sprung the play.
11:52 4Q – Once again after playing three great quarters of football, the Packers defense begins to fall apart in the fourth. The Ravens go 80 yards in 10 plays to get right back into the game at 16-10.
During this drive, everything that didn’t work before in the game, worked. The Ravens suddenly ran the ball effectively and completed short passes. They finished the drive off with a TD when Sam Shields seemed to fall asleep and let Jones get behind him for the score.
4:20 4Q – The Packers respond with a very impressive drive that they needed to have. The 12-play 72-yard drive includes six runs for 31 yards by Lacy. It ends with a short field goal to push the lead back to a two score game at 19-10.
On the drive, Rodgers converted a key 3rd and 1 with a 9-yard stop to Nelson. The Packers then picked up another 3rd and short with a run to the right by Lacy.
On 3rd and 3 from the 13, it is a designed roll out to the right with Nelson doing a short out from the slot and Boykin running a slant-corner. Both options are open. Rodgers waits too long for Nelson and then overthrows him. Not sure what the problem with Rodgers throwing on the run was this game, but he struggled in throws from outside the pocket, which is normally one of his greatest strengths.
2:04 4Q – The Packers defense pulls off one of the more embarrassing collapses in recent memory and leaves the game hanging in the balance once again.
After a Hawk sack and a holding penalty, the Ravens faced 4th and 21 from their 19. The Packers choose to play a familiar defense to Packers fans — rush three, drop eight, three deep coverage with the underneath guys in zone.
Unless you play this coverage a lot better than the Packers do, I hate this coverage. The three-man rush virtually guarantees the QB is going to have a lot of time. That time enables the receivers to get 50 to 60 yards downfield. That stretches a zone awfully thin. Worst of all, since you are playing zone underneath, those underneath guys eventually let the receivers go, leaving the deep cover guys in one-on-one match-ups way down the field.
On this particular play, both Morgan Burnett as the intermediate middle and Jerron McMillian as the deep middle fail to get proper depth. There is no receiver in front of them, and therefore, there is no reason for either of them to break out of their backpedal. Tandon Doss gets behind McMillian even before McMillian trips and falls. Doss rather easily hauls in a 63-yard pass to convert the fourth and 21, and if you immediately said, that’s what losing teams do, you would be exactly right.
The Ravens score on the next play when Dallas Clark makes a one-handed catch on a seam route against McMillian. Suddenly the score is 19-17.
With the Ravens having all three timeouts and the two minute warning left, the Packers essentially had to pick up two first downs to win the game. They did so, coincidently covering 70 yards while doing it.
After a run to Lacy and a creative keeper by Rodgers, the Packers faced 3rd and 3 from their own 27. Rodgers hits Finley on the cross from the slot, and Finley rumbles upfield for 52 yards. Matt Elam is the deserved victim. Finley largely beat him at the line when he gained inside position. Elam desperately dove to try to knock the ball down, and it was off to the races when he missed the ball. Finley would have all but ended the game if he had stayed in bounds, but he didn’t.
Fortunately for him, three runs to Lacy netted the first down to allow the Packers to run out the rest of the clock. On 3rd and 3, Lacy took an inside handoff, immediately went to the edge, turned it, and slid down in bounds past the first down. Game over.
As difficult to watch as much of this game might have been, this was still an impressive win for the Packers when you consider that they played the entire second half without two starting receivers and either of their starting outside linebackers.
The Packers also won without getting a great game by Aaron Rodgers, who struggled with his accuracy — though he did make more big plays than he did against Cincinnati.
Eddie Lacy and the run blocking of the offensive line were a huge factor in the game, and for the Packers’ sake, they will have to continue to be.
Yes, Lacy is a big powerful runner, but what keys his effectiveness is his ability to hop step laterally and his willingness to take the edge if its there.
It is no big coincidence that the Packers have had three different 100 yard backs in the first five games. The offensive line is getting great spacing and taking care of the backside pursuit. This allows for cutbacks even when the frontside of a play doesn’t get blocked.
The Packers’ defense absolutely swarmed this game. A.J. Hawk, Jamari Lattimore and Micah Hyde were everywhere. Morgan Burnett, as usual, was great the closer he got to the line of scrimmage. I was impressed with some of M.D. Jennings’ angles and tackles in this game, but the Packers still could use some plays in the passing game from their safeties. I have no idea why the Packers defense collapses in the fourth quarter. We need to see a strong final quarter out of them for once.
The next couple weeks could be the key to the Packers season. The Packers need to find a way to stay above .500 until they get some of their starters back. If they can even be 6-5 six weeks from now, then they would be in a good position to make a run at the end of the season and in the playoffs.