posted by Brew City Bub @ 8:02 AM
Few comments on yesterday's game.1. It's time to defend the defense. Yes, they gave up lots of passing yards in the past few weeks and they just gave up another 300 to Cutler. Time to panic, right?Nope. The Bears were held to 5 three and outs yesterday. FIVE. Those drives went for 1, -9,-2,-8, and -16 yards respectively. That's a third of the Bears' offensive possessions going literally nowhere. All of those drives started at the CHI 20 or better (the last three and out started at the CHI 45).I'll also point out Cutler's 2 INTs and the fumble. That's 8 of their 15 possessions doing absolutely nothing. At any point during the game yesterday were you concerned about Cutler beating the Packers with his arm?The Bears opened this season against 3 playoff teams from last year, they're going to get better as they play the cupcakes on their schedule. O-line problems aside, a pretty good offense was just dismantled by the Packers defense yesterday. Health and continuity on the defense and the return of some key players (Neal) and depth (Zombo, So'oto, House) will greatly help the defense. So will playing weaker offenses later this season (Denver, Minnesota, St. Louis, Tampa, etc...). Also, let's not forget, the Packers' offense is so good that lots of teams will be playing from behind early and gunning deep to catch up, that alone should cause a natural rise in pass yardage allowed over the course of the year.2. Yesterday was a great example of the embarrassment of riches on offense because James Starks had a terrible game. Tons of carries, went nowhere. No problem, McCarthy said in the offseason he'd "go with the hot hand" at RB. And he did. And it worked. Starks: 11 carries, 5 yards. Grant 17 carries, 92 yards. This was a luxury the team didn't have last year and the team felt it, especially against the Bears' stout front 7. If both stay healthy, Grant and Starks' different running styles will move the chains. Not to mention, this luxury gives a guy like Alex Green a year to learn the system while saving him a year of onfield abuse. Obviously this also keeps defenses honest when trying to stop...3. Jermichael Finley. The Packers won yesterday's game because of Jermichael Finley. Obvious yes, but they also lost last year's game in Chicago because of Jermichael Finley. In a drive right before halftime of last year's game, Finley left the game with a stinger. The Packers drove the ball inside the ten and had three unsuccessful scoring attempts before settling for a field goal. Why? Because the offense at that point was reliant upon getting the ball to Finley in those situations (Quarless straight up dropped a TD pass on one of those plays) or using him as a distraction. This time around, the Packers lined Finley wide and literally said fuck you to the Bears 3 times inside the red zone.Next week's team that decides to double Finley in this situation, guess what? Fuck you too because Nelson and Jennings will probably be as open and sure-handed as Jermike was yesterday. But also, a big fuck you is due to...4. Shawn Slocum. Seriously, he needs to be fired. The special teamers know which way Masthay plans to kick the ball. If you watch the ball at all, you realize it is in no way going anywhere near Hester.We saw 10 guys so coached be fixated on Hester that they didn't watch a punt hang for four seconds and land literally thirty yards away from the guy they were trying to stop. My biggest complaint about Slocum is mindset coached on special teams. Despite having one of the deepest rosters in football, the Packers' special teams remain laughably bad. Maybe when Cobb isn't able to do much because every one of his returns gets called back because of penalties or when the special teams turn the ball over more this season the team management will realize how inexcusably bad Green Bay's special teams are and have been.
There's no denying that the offense is superb at this point. It looks like the Packers dodged a serious bullet with the injury to Bulaga. While Newhouse stepped in nice, I don't think the Packers are in a position to withstand more than one loss on the O-line. That or an injury to Rodgers remain the only things that could derail the offense.I think things change a lot on the other side of the ball when your offense is as good as the Packers. In all three games, the Packers gave up late touchdowns. I don't want to say these are meaningless or that the Packers weren't trying, but the defensive scheme changes a lot when you're up two touchdowns late in the game. I think this is a flaw of the team, but it's a flaw towards being too conservative and not reflective of the talent or future performance. Take those late scores out and suddenly the defense is receiving praise instead of such harsh criticism.That doesn't mean the defense is playing at championship level. But again I think this has a lot to do with the offense. The Packers have played cautiously on defense, realizing that giving up 3 points is not the worst thing when you have an offense that averages about 3 points per possession itself. I don't know how much that has affected things, but every year I see teams with explosive offenses giving up a lot of yards on defense. Coincidence maybe. Or maybe those teams don't spend money on their defenses? Either way, I think there's a bit of a correlation between scoring and giving up a lot of points, and part of it is playing ahead or playing overly conservative.My criticism of the defense would be that it isn't putting enough pressure on the QB. Capers' Rapers are dropping 7 guys into coverage routinely and the front 3 or 4 aren't getting to the QB. Against most NFL QB's, that's going to kill you. But then I notice that the Packers have 10 sacks and are well above average in that category. Now I think I'm just nitpicking. So much of it is gameplanning. And one thing I've come to expect is that I should not expect to know what Capers is going to do. The Bears and Panthers had to expect the Packers to bring major pressure. The Packers didn't in either game. In so doing, the Packers stuffed the run (GB currently has the #1 rush defense in the NFL). This caused the QB to throw downfield rather than taking advantage of a running game or short out routes. The result? 5 interceptions.The Packers have been playing a defense designed to do exactly what it has done - give up some big throws towards the sidelines but stuff short runs and passes, causing turnovers and more quick 3-and-out drives. This has worked well insofar as the Packers have won every game. I agree that the defense deserves to be cut some slack.I still think the defense improves dramatically if they add a player who can provide pressure or assist Matthews in providing pressure when they're only rushing 3 or 4 guys. That player would appear to be Mike Neal. But again I don't expect to see him playing this year at all.The special teams is a joke. Crosby has done a great job so far, and he has masked what surely are massive flaws on the kickoff return coverage unit. In previous years, I've assumed the constant turnover of players from injuries and the forcing of special teams players into the starting lineups descimated the units. But this year no such excuse exists. The Packers' depth has not been tested, and the special teams unit has been the same in most games. Slocum-in-another-man's-mouth has coached a laughably bad punt coverage team. There's just no excuse. And we can stop calling Jerrett Bush the special teams' captain or expert. He's been the face of this horrible unit for 3 years. Someone is doing something wrong, but nothing is ever changing. Unfortunately, we're going to have to put up with this for the rest of the year. At least they only play the Bears once more and don't face the Eagles this year.
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