Well, that could’ve gone better. Could’ve been worse too. Last week’s Packer game against the 49ers was far from the blowout that many, including yours truly, anticipated. What can we take from the game and what can we expect going forward? I’m glad you asked. Here’s this week’s Packer Tracker.
1. Big Day from Rodgers?
For the second week in a row, Aaron Rodgers threw for over 400 yards. His final stat line was 425 yards and two touchdowns on 25-for-46 passing (54% completion percentage). He was sacked three times but it seemed like he was hit on every other drop back. He’s doing about as well as he can, but the offense is leaving a lot to be desired through six games.
2. Offensive Woes
Speaking of leaving a lot to be desired, the offense has had the same problem for several weeks now. They can’t score touchdowns consistently. They settle for field goal after field goal, and still manage to put up decent point totals. If they could turn half of those field goals into touchdowns they’d blow teams out. Another problem with the offense has seemingly been the running game, or lack thereof. Take away Rodgers’ scrambles and the team ran for 82 yards on 18 carries (4.6 yards per carry). That’s simply not enough. I, and several other writers, have begged for Aaron Jones to get more touches. He led the team in carries with eight, and averaged five yards per carry. He deserves to be seeing closer to 15 carries per week given his talent. While it seems a vendetta against Jones, nobody on the Packers runs much, they just don’t hand it off. For years we worried about not having running backs, so in 2016 McCarthy and Rodgers seem to have decided fine, we’ll just pass every play. I wrote an article about their new pass heavy offense midway through the 2016 season. In the six seasons prior to me writing that, Rodgers had thrown the ball 40 or more times in a regular season game 15 times, out of his 88 games. Since the start of 2016, he’s thrown 40 or more passes in 15 more regular season games, that out of the 29 he’s played, counting the six this season. While passing has its place, right now the team needs to hold up a bit and let the running backs do some more work.
3. Rookie Receivers
The rookie wide receivers, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, and J’Mon Moore, have seen a lot of action the past two weeks. Scantling has been by far the most impressive, going for 103 yards against San Francisco, including going for 60 yards on the first Packer drive of the game. The three rookies will figure to slide down the depth chart when Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison return, which should help the offense. In the long run, however, we might look back and be happy the three rookies got their feet wet early in the season. If we need them down the stretch in do-or-die games, we’ll be awful glad they’ve got at least some experience with Rodgers to draw off of.
4. Offensive Line Problems
I say problems in the title here only because it has appeared that way to the naked eye. It seems like Rodgers is getting crushed out there and that blame should fall at the feet of the men up front. However, most metrics actually grade the Packers’ line as one of the best in the NFL. They’ve been forced into tough situations, where the defense knows the team is going to throw it and Rodgers holds the ball for a long time, meaning they have to hold blocks longer. The team isn’t doing them any favors by not running the ball. The more they run the ball and keep defenses guessing on play type and play direction, the more protection they’ll be able to afford Aaron Rodgers.
5. Swiss Cheese Defense
Watching Mondays effort by the defense had me feeling caught with my foot in my mouth after praising them last week. They let C.J. Beathard, a career backup, carve them up, and they couldn’t stop a nose bleed in the running game. San Francisco ran for 153 yards (excluding Beathard’s scrambles) on 27 carries (5.7 per carry). This go around definitely felt like nothing had changed from last year, only now we can’t blame Dom Capers. I’m not ready to throw in the towel on the defense yet, but things need to improve if we have any chance of contending this year.
6. Pass Rush Problems
Of all the problems on defense, pass rush seemed paramount against the 49ers. Sure, there were coverage breakdowns and easy throws allowed, but there were plenty more in which the 49ers had all day to throw the ball. The typical timeframe is three seconds or less. If you can’t get to the quarterback in three seconds, the pass rush is as much to blame for a completion as is the coverage. I wouldn’t be so quick to blame defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, however. Several times he drew up perfect pass rushes, and the players failed to execute. Here’s a couple that were pointed out on twitter after the game.
This first one is a 3rd and nine play where C.J. Beathard ran for a first down. Pettine schemed a perfect blitz, up until Blake Martinez and Josh Jackson were both taken out by one player.
3rd and 9 – Pettine schemes up a perfect blitz that gets Jackson & Martinez coming free and only a fullback to pick them up. Blake gets pancaked and Jackson leaves his feet allowing Beathard to scramble for a 1st down. The drive lead to a FG for San Fran. pic.twitter.com/97hkqaN6ED
— Andy Herman (@SconnieSports) October 18, 2018
This next one is similar. Now, Pettine pulls a similar stunt and gets Oren Burks and Jermaine Whitehead running with only one man to block the both of them.
3rd down again, Pettine AGAIN gets two rushers on the fullback. This has to be better from Burks and Whitehead but also one hell of an effort by @JuiceCheck44 who picks up two blitzers singlehandedly. pic.twitter.com/HujBovBo1M
— Andy Herman (@SconnieSports) October 18, 2018
There’s nobody to blame but the players for not being able to rush the passer when you can’t beat one blocker with two pass rushers.
7. Crosby’s Back
If you follow me on twitter (which you definitely should, shameless plug), you know how I felt.
Who wanted Crosby cut? I want names
— Hunter Van Asten (@VanAsten77) October 16, 2018
about Crosby in the wake of Monday’s walk-off win. After an abysmal game against Detroit he made four field goals and three extra points en route to an NFC Special Teams Player of the Week award. His performance may have hurt us greatly against the Lions, but he’s a good kicker, and he’ll be just fine. Let’s put to bed any thought that he needs to be replaced.
8. Injury Roundup
The Packers seem to be bit by the injury bug every year, don’t they? It’s unquestionably hometown bias that we think we have it the worst, every team faces injuries, but it’d be foolish to think that they haven’t derailed more than a few packer seasons in recent memory. Several key players sat out against the 49ers, including Randall Cobb (hamstring), Geronimo Allison (hamstring), Jaire Alexander (groin), and Bashaud Breeland (hamstring). If they can get healthy, the talent influx from those four alone makes this a better team. Thankfully, none of the issues appear to be long term.
9. Bye Week
The Packers’ bye week always feels like a mini-withdrawal during the NFL season. But it comes at a pretty good time for Green Bay. The extra week off should give them time to get back to full strength ahead of what is the most brutal test of the season.
10. Tests Ahead
The Packers next game is on the road against the Rams, the NFL’s lone undefeated team through six weeks, followed by a road game against the Patriots. Two of the NFL’s best teams, on the road, back-to-back, for what has been a struggling Packer team. The season is far from over if they lose both contests, but the losses would drop them to 3-4-1 and make things tough over the last eight weeks. More important than winning, at least to me, is looking competitive. If Green Bay gets blown out in both games then it probably means they just don’t have what it takes this year. But, if the Packers can come out strong and hold their own against two of the best teams in the NFL, there’s no reason to think they can’t win a Super Bowl yet this year.