Well, there’s no Green Bay Packers game today, so let’s relive last week’s debacle.
The Green Bay Packers had the chance to end the New Orleans Saints’ home winning streak and in doing so, make a statement as a strong contender in the NFC. Instead, the Packers pulled a Bears with putrid defense and a mistake-prone offense, and in getting whipped by the Saints, they made a statement as just another member of the pack in a jumbled and parity-riddled NFC.
13:00, 1st Quarter – The Packers would take the ball and start fast again, taking exactly two minutes to get into the endzone for a 7-0 lead.
The Packers opened in the shotgun with Eddie Lacy as the lone back. On second down, Lacy followed Josh Sitton around the right side and bulled his way for 10 yards. After a short pass to Randall Cobb, a stuffed Lacy run for 1 yard and a David Bakhtiari false start, the Packers faced 3rd and 10. The Saints played it safe with a two deep, five shallow umbrella. However, their front four got no pressure on Aaron Rodgers, and when the two safeties cheated towards Jordy Nelson running the deep slant on the left side, Cobb slipped behind the coverage up the right sideline. When Keenan Lewis turned to look for the ball over his outside shoulder, it whistled over his inside shoulder right to Cobb, who ran free up the sideline for a 70-yard touchdown.
9:20, 1st Q – It took the Saints just over three and a half minutes to answer with a touchdown of their own.
The Packers started in their nickel defense with A.J. Hawk and Sam Barrington as the linebackers. The Saints respond by running the football. Hawk makes a nice play to shed a blocker and hit Mark Ingram in the hole on first down, but Ingram carries him for 4 yards, of course. On second down, the Saints loaded up with three tight ends, which gave them eight guys to block seven smaller defenders. The result was predictable with Ingram finding a gap for 14 yards over the right side.
Shortly after, the Saints faced 3rd and 3 from their 45. The Packers were in their dime with Jamari Lattimore as the only inside linebacker. When Clay Matthews decided to take out the running back that Lattimore was already covering, no one was accounting for Drew Brees. Brees took advantage by scrambling for 6.
On the very next snap, the Saints called the perfect play for the defense. In fact, it’s a mysteriously perfect play. The Packers put in their base defense for the first time and brought Micah Hyde down in run support before the snap. That left Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as the lone safety. The Saints immediately went play-action pass. Matthews did well to fight his way to the quarterback, but Brees let it go right before Matthews got there. Brees was going to Kenny Stills on the deep post, and amazingly, there was no safety even in the picture.
This is because when Brandin Cooks ran across the field, Clinton-Dix followed him, which required Tramon Williams to rotate to the deep middle. It was way too much ground for Tramon to cover against a deep post. That left Davon House alone against Stills. House actually would have been fine except he inexplicably stopped running while looking for the ball. That allowed Stills to separate by 5 yards. The ball being underthrown was the only thing that stopped Stills from walking in. Stills bobbled the ball, but House failed to knock it loose when he swiped at the arm instead of the ball. Stills managed to cradle it against his leg and somewhat miraculously hung on.
The Saints scored on the very next play with the jet sweep to Cooks. In a replay of the first two weeks of the season, Julius Peppers wasn’t blocked on the play but went down the line of scrimmage, completely ignoring Cooks. That is an easy touchdown to make it 7-7. Every Packers’ opponent should run that play.
6:05, 1st Q – The Packers offense would capitalize on one play to get a field goal and go back up 10-7.
That one play was a 2nd-and-13 screen to Lacy that gained 67 yards when Lacy rumbled up the right sideline, stiff-arming fools along the way. That placed the ball at the Saints’ 3.
On 1st and goal, the Packers lined up with Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers in the backfield with Lacy and ran straight ahead, but once again, the Packers were on the bad side of the numbers. The Saints lined up with eight guys in the box. Lacy got nowhere. On second down, the tricky Packers lined Peppers up in the backfield and then split him out left. Whuh? Apparently as stunned as me, the Saints hardly cover Peppers, as he ran a slant and was wide open. Rodgers said later that Peppers ran the play in practice all week and can catch it. Watching it on replay, Peppers would be a nearly unstoppable red zone target if he COULD catch it because he is a huge man. The safety covering him looked like he was in Pop Warner. However, this isn’t practice, man. This is the game, and as an indication of how the rest of the night would go, Peppers just flat dropped it.
On third down, after Rodgers wasted a timeout, which we’ve been seeing a lot of this season because of the Packers’ tendency to run the clock down before snapping it, the Saints got a stop with some good luck being their best ally. The Packers had a combo route being run on the left side with Kevin Dorsey on the quick slant and Cobb on the out. Rodgers wanted Dorsey, but the Saints jumped it. Cobb, however, was wide open. Rodgers wanted it except the Saints brought their safety over to spy or blitz Rodgers. That safety was standing right in the lane for the pass to Cobb. Rodgers could have tried a touch pass over the top, but that isn’t him. The problem was the line only blocked for the quick pass and didn’t block the defensive end, Cameron Jordan, at all. When Rodgers chose to not try for Cobb, he had no chance. Sack. Field goal.
1:42, 1st Q – The Saints recovered a Packers’ onside kick and kicked a field goal to tie the game back up at 10-10.
The Saints quickly faced 3rd and 4 from the Packers’ 40. Brees noticed House lined up 8 yards off of Stills. Stills merely runs 6 yards and turns around. First down.
Two plays later, on 2nd and 6, we saw something that would happen over and over again during this game. Ingram got the handoff toward the left tackle. Casey Hayward was unblocked and dove at Ingram’s legs, just getting a piece. Ingram kept his feet enough to get 7 yards and a first down.
On the next play, Marques Colston ran a simple out from the slot with no one covering him. He got 12 yards before Micah Hyde finally angled him out of bounds. The Saints would be stopped there, however. On 3rd and 8, Peppers blew around his man and sacked Brees to force the field goal.
Both teams would follow with two drives ending in field goals, making the halftime score 16-16.
Surprisingly, the Saints decided to play a similar defensive style to the Packers. Neither team blitzed practically all game. The Saints didn’t get a lot of pressure, and Rodgers moved the Packers mostly by working the middle of the field to Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. The Saints kept a safety over the top of Jordy Nelson most the game and were successful at least in limiting him.
The Packers were still able to get some pressure, but it didn’t matter because Drew Brees threw the ball before the rush could get to him. The run also wasn’t a big factor for the Saints in the first half. The key for the Saints was the Packers inability to cover anyone. The Packers like to line up 5-to-8 yards off receivers and Brees will gladly throw underneath that all game.
The Saints’ favorite play was lining up Colston in the slot and then running him across the field. The Packers linebackers couldn’t cover him when it was zone and when it was man, the defender ran around the traffic in the middle of the field, leaving Colston wide open by time he got to the other side.
The Packers also blew several coverages. The most noticeable one was the last third down of moderate distance that the Saints faced — a 3rd and 8. On that play, Jamari Lattimore decided to spy Brees rather than cover Travaris Cadet. Cadet ran uncovered across the middle of the field and Brees easily found him for a 16-yard gain.
Personally, I am hoping to never see Lattimore playing in the dime again. I mean, seriously? Blowing coverage on 3rd and long is totally unacceptable. You have to at least make the offense beat you.
The Packers were forced to settle for field goals on their last two drives in the first half mostly thanks to penalties. A David Bakhtiari holding call when Rodgers ran out of the pocket moved the ball back to the Saints’ 34 after Rodgers had gone out of bounds at the 22. Mason Crosby would kick a field goal four plays later. Then, Adams was called for pass interference when making a grab at the Saints’ 2. Adams did indeed push off, but the referee apparently ignored the illegal contact by the defender during the entire route, which prompted the push-off.
Rodgers followed that 10-yard setback with a delay of game, when Corey Linsley refused to snap him the ball. Of course, if the Packers weren’t running the clock down to the last three seconds again… A shorter Crosby field goal would follow that.
The Saints’ field goals resulted from a long drive and then from a quick drive before halftime. The 3rd-and-8 conversion I mentioned was the Packers’ best chance at stopping the Saints’ long drive. By the way, the Saints would not face longer than a 3rd and 2 for the remainder of the game. No joke. Shortly after that conversion, Cooks caught a pass while laying on his back that he had tipped to himself, narrowly avoiding a Tramon Williams’ interception. That play went for 14 yards, the longest gain of the drive.
The Saints advanced to the Packers’ 10 but no further. Clay Matthews finally stuffed an Ingram run on 2nd and 2, and on 3rd and 2, the Saints ran the same play that the Bears ran for a touchdown in Week 4 against the Packers. Stills motioned into the backfield and at the snap of the ball reversed direction, whereupon Brees hit him with a swing pass. However, this time around, Clinton-Dix immediately jumped the play and met Stills at the line of scrimmage. Clinton-Dix missed the tackle again, but he delayed Stills enough that House got Stills out of bounds for no gain.
On the quick drive before half, the Packers sat in their dime and Brees used mostly dumps to Cadet and quick passes against the zone to Cooks and Colston to move the ball into field goal range. Fortunately, a hustling Clay Matthews did get a sack that drained enough time off the clock to take the threat of a touchdown off the board.
11:50, 3rd Q – The Packers defense had their last or only great moment of the night when they forced a turnover on downs.
The Saints started the second half with a 28-yard run by Ingram. At the point of attack, Julius Peppers allowed tight end Benjamin Watson to block him, straight up, and an unblocked Davon House bounced right off Ingram in the hole after deciding to merely throw a shoulder at him rather than trying to tackle him. Sadly, Clinton-Dix appeared convinced House would make the tackle and jogged toward the line of scrimmage, which allowed Ingram to cut back across the field after he shed House. Mike Daniels did well to chase Ingram down or it would have been a worse disaster.
The Saints faced literally 3rd and an inch three plays later. They decided on the fullback dive right up the middle. However, Mike Pennel and Letroy Guion both got a good push and Guion made the tackle for a 1-yard loss. On 4th and 1, the Saints tried a left tackle run like the one Ingram took for 28 a few plays earlier. Except this time, Nick Perry was on that end. He drove his blocker a couple yards into the backfield and Ingram had to make a quick decision to try the outside. Micah Hyde shed the block of Colston and wrapped Ingram up with the help of an unblocked House. When Ingram didn’t go down immediately, Barrington and Clinton-Dix flew up to finish him off.
In the following fateful sequence, the Packers moved the ball easily again and didn’t face a third down until the 5-yard line. After Cobb, who tormented the Saints, took a short pass for 20 yards, Lacy ripped between Bakhtiari and Sitton for 19 more yards. The Saints were having a miserable time trying to tackle Lacy and he bulled for 7 yards on the next play. Rodgers would then pick up that first with a scramble to his right. Unfortunately, Rodgers would tweak his left hamstring on the play. Everyone would immediately know because Cris Collinsworth would tell us, and no one would ever forget because on every Packers’ offensive play from here on out, Collinsworth would remind us.
On 1st and goal from the 6, Lacy got a carry straight ahead. If Lacy goes to his left, he might score. Bakhtiari has the end contained and Sitton has performed a hook block on the tackle, which even makes it look like the play was meant to go between them. However, Lacy was determined to run between Sitton and Linsley instead even though nothing was there. That’s a gain of 1. On second down, Rodgers wanted the back-shoulder to Nelson, but Keenan Lewis had tight coverage and was sitting on it. Rodgers still could have tried Andrew Quarless or Adams at the back of the end zone, but he refused to risk it. Sitton got pushed back into Rodgers’ face and he threw it away.
On third down, Quarless was lined up wide left with Corey White covering him. Rodgers decided presnap that he was going that way. Quarless ran the quick slant. Rodgers put it on him at the goal line. The key to the play was Corey White. He was all over it and when the ball was head-high, he reached over Quarless’s shoulder and knocked it away. The ball went off White’s hand and Quarless’s right hand and floated right to Saints linebacker David Hawthorne for the easy interception.
When you throw to guys that are well-covered, bad things can happen, which is why Rodgers typically doesn’t force it. Frankly, Rodgers should have tried Quarless the play before, when he was actually a little open. The only way this would have been a completion is if Rodgers had thrown it hard into the body and Quarless had made an excellent catch while taking contact. Regardless, it was an excellent defensive play with an interception resulting from bad luck.
5:35, 3rd Q – The game immediately turned as the Saints went 88 yards in four plays to take their first lead at 23-16.
Ingram got a carry going over the left tackle again and broke it for 18 yards when A.J. Hawk ran into the lead blocker and took himself right out of the play, opening a big hole. After two passes to Jimmy Graham, who the Packers seem to have no plan for, basically just relying on the zone to cover him up, it was 2nd and 1 at midfield. Anyone who knows anything about the Saints knows this is a likely time for them to take a shot downfield. Even Collinsworth predicted it. The Saints complied.
Drew Brees play-faked and threw it deep for Cooks on the post. It is the exact same play they hit to Stills earlier, just thrown to the other side. Cooks was the only Saints receiver on the play, and therefore, it was a ridiculous error for Micah Hyde to let Cooks get behind him. He did and Hyde was quickly out of the play. Tramon Williams, as we have seen before from him when having help in the middle, cheated to the outside. He valiantly tried to dive inside to deflect the pass, but he missed by inches. Touchdown.
2:10, 3rd Q – The Saints take advantage of a Packers’ turnover on downs this time to quickly score again and go up by two scores.
After Eddie Lacy rumbled for 11 yards and another first down, the Packers faced 3rd and 7 from their 34. Rodgers found Adams on the out for what was initially ruled a first down. The Saints challenged the call and it was reversed since Adams gave up the first down on his own and wasn’t forced back by the defense.
I don’t recall if I have ranted yet this season regarding instant replay and my growing disgust with it. Once a staunch supporter of its use, I now consider it one of the things I hate most about the current game. Besides the constant stoppages for little reward, this example is the biggest problem I have with it. More and more often now, we see one thing on the replay, only to have the replay ruling go the exact opposite way. It only took the commercial break for Al Michaels and Collinsworth to spot on the replay that Adams was down at the point his feet collided with the feet of Corey White. At that point, the ball still appears to be at the original line of gain. It appears that the NFL replay official in charge of making the call never noticed the feet colliding, even though Michaels and Collinsworth, decidedly not NFL replay officials, quickly spotted it.
In other words, there is no way in hell that first down should have been overturned and that is a HUGE call in this game.
Anyway, with the ball being pushed back most of a yard short of the first down, you absolutely should punt the ball and play defense at this point. It was a one-score game with five minutes left in the third quarter. The last thing you want to do is give Drew Brees the football back at your own 40-yard line. Even a field goal for the Saints would be a huge score.
So, Mike McCarthy followed one of the worst challenge reversals with one of his worst calls as head coach, and the Packers went for it. The play was meant to go around the right end. Bryan Bulaga properly executed a hook block on the end and Quarless had a good seal on the corner. It was there — horrible reversal and bad decision or not. If not for one guy, it was a first down. In fact, if John Kuhn can pick up the safety once they get around the end, it could be a big gain.
However, then Lane Taylor happened. Taylor got immediately blasted into the backfield by defensive end Tyrunn Walker. Walker drove Taylor so quickly into the backfield that John Kuhn had little choice but to block Walker rather than leading Lacy around the end. Hawthorne shot the gap created by Walker, ran right by Taylor and tackled Lacy in the backfield. No gain. Saints’ ball.
It took the Saints only four plays to go ahead 30-16. After Ingram converted a 3rd and 1 with a run for 9 yards around the left end, Brees threw one up for grabs for Graham. The Packers finally decided to cover Graham by putting Williams on him. Williams was right there to contest the catch, but with the help of a little push from Graham, the ball made it over Williams. It is a 22-yard touchdown catch for Graham, who even checks the ref to make sure there isn’t going to be a call before celebrating the score and suddenly a back-and-forth game was becoming an ass-whooping.
14:15, 4th Q – The Packers quickly moved to the Saints’ 36 before disaster pretty much put the game away.
Rodgers worked from out of the shotgun and moved the ball with five straight passes to four different receivers. The Saints were still barely bothering to cover Davante Adams, and he collected two passes for 18 yards. On 1st and 10 from the 36, Bulaga got overwhelmed by Cameron Jordan. Rodgers got away from him once, but not a second time and it’s a 5-yard sack. On the next play, Rodgers moved to his right when he didn’t have to, threw back across his body, too far in front of Adams and the ball was tipped and then picked by the deserving Corey White. That would about be the dagger.
Collinsworth pointed out after the play that Adams should have kept going across the field rather than stopping, which caused the interception. That might be true, but it overlooks the fact that Rodgers was running back and to his right when he released the ball. Adams, seeing Rodgers escaping the pocket to the right, can hardly be expected to keep running in the opposite direction. As it was, Rodgers had to throw hard across his body to try to get it to Adams. If Adams had kept running, with a few strides he would have been out of Rodgers’ range. Understandably, Adams threw on the brakes to present a target to his quarterback.
The Saints moved the ball to midfield with runs by Ingram and Cadet combining for 21 yards. From there, on 2nd and short once again, Brees tried the same deep post that he had hit already twice in the game. This time House had Cooks blanketed. The referees said it was pass interference. Not only is that highly debatable, but no one seems to care that the pass was nowhere near Cooks. The penalty put the ball at the Green Bay 16. A dump to the fullback and runs by Ingram would move the ball to the 2-yard line. From there, Brees went play action and found tight end Josh Hill uncovered for the easy touchdown.
That is another blown coverage, with Micah Hyde or Jamari Lattimore being the most-likely culprits. The Saints third touchdown of the half made it 37-16.
5:10, 4th Q – The Packers drove down the field against an unconcerned Saints defense and eventually get into the end zone to make the score 37-23.
The entire drive is through the air, with dumps to Eddie Lacy being the primary engine. That includes a 4th and 6 where Rodgers scrambled to his right and found Lacy on the sideline. Lacy caught the ball while falling out of bounds, but dragged his feet to complete the catch and pick up the first down. Haha… Eddie.
Four plays later the Packers scored on the only running play of the drive. Rodgers looked around and found no one in the middle of the field and decided to take it in himself. Not bad for a guy who should be in a wheelchair according to Collinsworth.
The Packers would try an onside kick because they had to. It almost worked. In the mad scramble for the ball, it came down to Micah Hyde and the Saints Benjamin Watson. Watson won. Game over.
The Saints could run the clock out from there, but it isn’t their fault that Ingram ended up running right into the end zone instead. That finished the scoring at 44-23.
I had thought the Packers’ pass defense was up to the task and I was very wrong. In fact, as it turns out, even Mike McCarthy himself apparently didn’t think the Packers were up for the challenge, which explains his “shootout or bust” mentality in this game. Not a good game by McCarthy, but I’m not going to belabor that point because it’s besides the point — the point being that you typically need to play some defense in order to win a game. The Packers played none in this game. Perhaps they were already thinking of their bye week.
If you are looking for someone on defense who actually played a halfway decent game, you can probably begin and end with Letroy Guion. He showed up a couple times. That pretty much puts him at the top of the list. Matthews and Peppers both got a sack and added some pressure, but both remain much better at rushing the passer than stopping the run.
If you are looking for someone who stunk up the joint on defense, then the list is long and illustrious. Davon House had the chance to put his trade value through the roof on Sunday, and he instead just gave the Packers a discount double-check. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had his worst showing since Seattle. Maybe Mark Ingram was showing him around the French Quarter later and so he had to take it easy on him.
Sean Payton completely whooped McCarthy in this game and he did so by keeping it simple. While McCarthy was lining up defensive ends to run slants, Payton was running the ball whenever the Packers lined up in the nickel and throwing the ball when the Packers lined up in the base and brought a safety down to help. This game reminded me of 2011 with the defense having all the same problems. The nickel can’t stop the run. The base can’t rush the passer. It makes me wonder why Capers abandoned the 4-3 defense so quickly. Yeah, it stunk up the joint against Seattle and the Jets, but it would seem like the obvious solution to the problem just outlined. Apparently, rather than an actual defensive scheme adjustment, the 4-3 was just a gimmick meant to surprise and beat the Seattle Seahawks. HAHAHAHAHAHA… okay, let’s move on.
Sam Barrington and Jamari Lattimore switched off at inside linebacker. Could you tell? Other than Lattimore blowing an assignment now and then, one is as innocuous as the other. I give Barrington more latitude because at least he adds some bulk to the position and the guys he tackles might actually go backwards once in a while. The Packers, and anyone else, are crazy to think that the Packers inside linebackers are near good enough to stop the run with only two defensive linemen to protect them. They are regularly overwhelmed instead. My suggestion would be to stay in the base, stop the run and put the pressure on your highly-paid defensive backs to make plays, but hey, what do I know?
One thing I do know is that the bend-but-don’t-break defense may work great against Jay Cutler and Matt Stafford, who can’t be trusted to consistently make good decisions and accurate throws, but Drew Brees won a Super Bowl tearing up that defense. If you give him the underneath pass, he’ll take it all day long and you’ll be the only one breaking.
The offense moved easily up and down the field and Davante Adams was the offensive star of the game. They made mistakes in key situations and couldn’t keep up. Shit happens. The other guys are paid to play too and you aren’t going to play perfect every week. When these games happen, you need your defense to keep you in the game and that’s where this story begins and ends.
So, where are we now? The Packers have completed the tougher half of their schedule and are 5-3. The fact still remains that the Packers have dominated the past two and a half games at home and if they win at home during the second half, they are going to make the playoffs. In fact, if the Packers just beat the Bears, they will be right back on track. Can the Packers improve enough on defense to be a real contender? Maybe not, but there are no perfect teams in the NFC. Same as every other year. Get yourself in the tournament and you’ve got a chance.
This game would have been a lot closer had McCarthy not gotten cute with the play calling and Shields was back there covering instead of House. Yeah, Hawk still would have given up 50 yards of rushing and 75 yards passing all by himself and the Packers probably would have still lost. But it would not have appeared to have been a blowout.
So here’s the deal though. If the Saints win their division, they probably end up as the weakest division champion and if the Packer don’t win their division, they might end up as the weakest wild card and this means this game gets replayed in early January.
Great job as usual. This must have hurt your eyes to watch. Work comp claim is forthcoming?
I cannot help myself on the Peppers play. Even though that play did not come close to being the reason for the loss I really struggle with the play in many ways. Why take out all of our proven skill players who have scored multiple TD’s? McCarthy took out Cobb, Nelson, Adams and Lacy. McCarthy replaced with Bostick, R Rodgers, Kuhn, and Peppers, none who have sniffed an offensive TD this year. The only offensive skill player left who has scored this year was Quarless. Not a one of the so called skill players warranted a double in coverage.
So rather than spread the D out you put all three TE’s on the same side and bunch them up to make coverage easier. Well at least you have Kuhn in the backfield to use as a run option but hell no you move him out of the backfield and put him with the rest of the flock. Well I wonder if this play is going to be a pass or a run? Our D may struggle with that answer however I bet the linebacker and DB left all alone on the left side knew what was next. The only question now is do you throw to one of the flock on the right with only 12 yards to work or do you throw it to peppers on the left alone against the vertically challenged DB. Yes the saints say ( and most grid kids would agree) it is the jump ball to Peppers and we will not get out there in time. Oh shit the saints have been fooled by McCarthy’s ingenious scheme, but no let’s fool the shit out of the saints and run a slant into the linebacker that is twiddling his thumbs because there is no run option and the rest of the flock (all four) can be covered by the three DB’s on the right. In addition since the DB on the left has no responsibility and no one to block him he might as well blitz to force this ill conceived play to a fast conclusion. McCarthy got way to cute with this play and I unlike some usually do not have a big problem with McCarthy. He really out smarted Peyton on that one after all wasn’t that the goal for McCarthy in this game? The play was set up for failure unless the jump ball was the option.
All that may be the case, and yet, Peppers was wide open and the ball hit him right in the hands.
The more vexing question might be- why look for more redzone options when you are already one of the best redzone offenses in the league? Haha… why not just stick with the guys who have already been getting it done?
Of course, those guys did have TWO OTHER plays to get into the endzone, and they failed as well.
Wrong. F. The ball was thrown behind him, forcing him to hit the brakes hard and bounced off his right shoulder pad.
But it was a bone-headed play design by Duh. You have 6-7 against 5-11, you post him up, not try to cross-over and drive to the hole.
Our defense still sucks, esp. against the run. I’m sure I’m not the only Packers fan who finds it thoroughly frustrating. It’s obviously a commentary on player drafts, player development, the defensive coordinator, and position coaches. None of them is doing their job. I fear it’s too late in the season now to turn this thing around, and I’m reaching the point where I fear the same inadequacy will continue next year and beyond. There is absolutely no excuse for it. I watched all or parts of several games yesterday and saw defenses that absolutely stuff the running game, many times in the backfield.
More misses than hits here.
That’s too cryptic for me. Explain please?