Thursday, October 1, 2009

Belated Week 3 Analysis

Finally got a chance to watch the game last night, so here’s my belated analysis of week 3. Overall, solid game against a team that, frankly, they should have beaten more soundly. The fact St Louis was still hanging around, down by only 6 points heading into the 4th quarter, was mildly concerning. This really should have been a blow-out. The Pack had two turn-overs inside the Ram 20 in the first quarter, but only walked away with 6 points. Which brings me to my first of my three weekly observations.

1) Red Zone Offense.
This game should have been iced in the first quarter. To have your defense hand you the football inside your opponent’s 20 twice and not convert either into a touchdown is really concerning. Let’s break these both down. With the exception of a short 5-yard pass and PI call after Jolly’s brilliant take-away, both these series went down almost exactly the same way:
  • Sub 2-yard gain for Grant
  • Incomplete pass leads to 3rd and long
  • Big pressure (sack in first series and near-sack in second) forces a field goal attempt

This sequence of plays is pretty indicative of the problem elsewhere on the field as well. Though Grant did end up at 99 yards on the day, the running game just doesn’t seem to be setting up manageable down-and-distance situations. The short passing game isn’t working either – not seeing much in the way of effective screens and slants that are signature Packer football. And, ultimately, too many drives are stalling out because they are in a long-yardage situation in which opposing defenses can pin their ears back and come after Rodgers.

This needs to get fixed. Want to see more from Finley and Lee in the short passing game. Should help to get Brandon Jackson back into the swing, for some screens and swing outs. They need a better short-passing game as part of their arsenal if they’re going to sustain drives.

2) Donald Driver. Staying with the offense for a second, Driver is the one guy on offense (besides Rodgers) who seems to have really stepped up his game this year. He leads the Pack in receiving so far. His stats have been solid, though not off the charts – at 233 receiving yards and 2 TDs so far this year, he’s on pace for a 1,200 yard, 10 TD season. But I’m more impressed by his competitiveness. His fire. He’s at that juncture in his career where he still has the physical skills, but knows he only has a few more shots at a title.

The one-handed catch he made Sunday was ridiculous. He’s playing with an intensity that I hope the rest of the receiving corps starts to emulate. As talented as this crew is, I have to admit I’ve been disappointed by Jones, Nelson and Finley in particular. Seems like they aren’t running crisp enough routes, don’t always seem to be where Rodgers expects them, and are dropping way too many balls. Even Jennings, with the exception of the game-winning catch against the Bears, seems to be falling short of his potential. Hoping Driver can provide some veteran leadership here and get this crew fired up.

3) Turn-over margin. Sunday was another impressive performance on the turn-over front. Three take-aways to 0 give-aways. Green Bay is +8 this year on turn-over margin – best in the league. They will win a lot of games if they can keep that up. After Green Bay, the teams with the best turn-over margin are:
  • Broncos +6
  • NY Giants +5
  • Vikings +4
  • Saints +4
  • Falcons +3
  • Jets +3
  • Ravens +3

All those teams, with the exception of the Falcons, are undefeated. If the Packers can stay at the top of this list, they’ll go to the playoffs.

You tend to credit the defense for forcing turn-overs, and ours has certainly done a good job of that this year. But it’s easy to overlook the job the offense has done, and Rodgers in particular, at protecting the football. Things not happening (i.e. NOT throwing an interception, or NOT coughing up a fumble) are much harder to identify. By definition, their almost invisible to the average fan.  For some of the frustrations we’ve all had with the efficacy of the offense, we should give them some props for not forcing it, getting sloppy, and turning the ball over.

Obviously, this Monday is one of the biggest non-playoff games in recent Packer history. Will try to get another post up on what I think Green Bay needs to do to win that game.

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