2010 November : Packers Insider

Soft, finesse OL costs the Green Bay Packers in short yardage

November 29, 2010 by  
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Nov 29, 2010 ~ by Gary D’Amato, Journal-Sentinel

~Atlanta — By any objective measure, the Green Bay Packers’ rushing game was an abject failure Sunday.

The inability to gain 1 yard on two occasions at or near the Atlanta Falcons’ goal line probably cost the Packers 11 points in what became a stinging 20-17 loss at the Georgia Dome.

Beyond the quantifiable, however, the Packers’ ineptitude on the ground against the NFL’s sixth-ranked rushing defense caused coach Mike McCarthy to all but abandon the run in the second half (six attempts by running backs).

It also raised legitimate questions about whether Green Bay is capable of making a deep playoff run if the offense continues to be one-dimensional.

Subtract quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ 51 yards on called keepers and scrambles and Green Bay totaled 26 rushing yards. In the first half, Packers’ running backs gained just 4 yards in five attempts, with a long run of 4 by Brandon Jackson.

The Packers inability to gain 1 yard on two occasions at or near the Atlanta Falcons' goal line probably cost the Packers 11 points.

“What did Brandon have? Ten carries? Twelve maybe?” asked offensive coordinator Joe Philbin.

Told Jackson finished with 10 carries for 26 yards, Philbin said, “That tells you right there it’s not very good.”

The Packers had topped the 100-yard rushing mark just three times this season but for the most part were able to do enough on the ground to keep defenses honest and, when necessary, the chains moving. Not Sunday.

“It’s frustrating, but it comes down to fundamentals and execution, and we just weren’t able to do it,” said right tackle Bryan Bulaga. “We’ve been pretty good at it the last couple weeks, but we just weren’t able to get it done today.”

It was in short-yardage situations in the red zone where the inability to convert was most glaring.

On the Packers’ second possession, they faced a third-and-1 on the Falcons’ 4-yard line, trailing, 3-0. Dimitri Nance, who gained 37 hard-fought yards against Minnesota the week before, took the handoff and was met almost immediately by Falcons linebacker Coy Wire for no gain.

“I hit the hole, and a linebacker was right there,” Nance said. “I just couldn’t get it converted. It was just tough to get yards. They did a pretty good job in stopping us.”

Mason Crosby kicked a 22-yard field goal to tie the score, but the Packers, playing on the road against one of the NFC’s top teams, needed touchdowns.

McCarthy took the blame for the call on Nance’s run.

“That’s a bad play selection on my part, the first third-and-1 down there when we kicked the field goal,” he said. “They substituted their goal-line defense late.”

Midway through the second quarter, with the score still 3-3, the Packers started at their own 15 and drove 83 yards on eight consecutive pass plays. But they couldn’t get the final 2 yards on the ground in two tries.

On first and goal, Rodgers’ pass bounced off the hands of fullback Quinn Johnson and fell incomplete. Rodgers then kept for 1 yard, making it third and goal at the 1.

With Johnson and Jackson lined up behind him, Rodgers kept again and was hit at the goal line. He tried to reach for the end zone, and linebacker Curtis Lofton knocked the ball out of his hands and into the arms of teammate Mike Peterson.

“It’s frustrating,” said center Scott Wells. “Any time we get in the red zone we expect to get touchdowns. When we’re on the 1-yard line we expect to get a touchdown. So it’s frustrating to not get that.”

In the third quarter, on second-and-1 from the Packers’ 41, Rodgers pitched to Jackson, who was dumped for a 6-yard loss by cornerback Brian Williams. The next time the Packers tried to run, on second-and-1 from their own 29, Jackson lost 1.

“I don’t know if we had a lot of quantity to get a real good feel (for the running game),” Philbin said. “But a couple times we had second-and-1s and we ended up in third-and-6. I was disappointed about those, for sure.”

For most of the second half, the Packers abandoned any pretext of running the ball and spread the Falcons’ defense with four- and five-receiver formations. That actually helped the running game, with Jackson gaining 12 and 4 yards on consecutive fourth-quarter carries.

But once again, when the Packers needed 1 yard, they couldn’t get it. On third-and-1 from the Falcons’ 41, Rodgers threw incomplete to James Jones deep down the right sideline. On fourth-and-1, Rodgers was blitzed and Donald Driver couldn’t make a diving catch of his low, hurried throw.

“Frankly, I didn’t like what I saw in the running game, and we felt very good about the match-ups outside,” McCarthy said. “That’s why we went so much spread.”

The Packers did tie the score on Rodgers’ heroic fourth-and-10 touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson with 56 seconds left, but the Falcons answered with Matt Bryant’s game-winning field goal.

Jackson actually lost 3 yards on his first five carries before gaining 29 on his last four, when the Packers were spreading the field.

“We’ve got some things that we need to fix in the run game,” said guard Daryn Colledge.

The Packers don’t need to pound the ball 35 times a game, and that’s not their identity, anyway. But they’ll have to get more production out of their running game in December and beyond, especially when they need 1 yard for a first down or a touchdown.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in here that’s in panic mode over the short-yardage situations,” Bulaga said. “It’s just that we need to execute in those situations. We showed we could do it the three weeks before this game. We know we can do it. We just need to execute better, and things will start clicking.”

Full story HERE

Falcons 20, Packers 17: Another 3-point heartbreaker

November 28, 2010 by  
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Nov 27, 2010 ~ Associated Press

~ATLANTA — Matt Bryant kicked it right between the uprights, then he did it all over again.

The second one counted, giving the NFC-leading Atlanta Falcons a 20-17 win over the Green Bay Packers in a game Sunday between playoff contenders that lived up to the hype.

The game lived up to the hype, and so did both quarterbacks as Matt Ryan was turnover-free and had a 108 passer rating, while Rodgers racked up a 114 passer rating, but his fumble near the goal line early in the game proved to be 7 points the Packers needed in the end.

Bryant’s second-chance 47-yard field goal with 9 seconds remaining capped a bruising defensive struggle filled with huge fourth-down plays, pushing Atlanta (9-2) to its fifth straight win.

It’s Atlanta’s longest winning streak since 1998 and assuring a third straight winning season for a franchise that had never even had two in a row before this run.

Of course, the Falcons have much higher aspirations sitting atop the conference standings with five weeks to go.

Aaron Rodgers guided Green Bay (7-4) on a 90-yard drive to tie the game with 56 seconds remaining. He converted a pair of fourth-down passes, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson that made it 17-all.

But Eric Weems broke loose on the kickoff return and was dragged down by Matt Wilhelm with a flagrant facemask tackle. The Falcons took over at the Green Bay 49, Matt Ryan completed four straight short passes and Bryant made the winning kick — twice, actually.

The Packers called timeout just before he made the first attempt.Green Bay appeared to have forced overtime when Rodgers directed a 16-play, 90-yard drive for the tying score.

He improvised two huge plays on fourth down, beginning with a scrambling, backhanded flip of a pass to James Jones for an 18-yard gain on fourth-and-1 at the 21.

John Abraham sacked Rodgers for a 2-yard loss and a false start on Bryan Bulaga left the Packers with another fourth down from the 10. With Falcons owner Arthur Blank waving the crowd into an uproar on the sideline, Atlanta rushed only two players and dropped everyone else into coverage.

Rodgers had all the time he wanted, finally sliding to his left and rifling a pass to Nelson in the back corner of the end zone.

Jordy Nelson makes a sensational game-saving catch late in the game on 4th & goal, on a perfect laser-pass from Rodgers. Nelson does a great job snaring the ball and getting two feet down.

He managed to get both feet down before being shoved out of bounds by Thomas DeCoud.

The crowd groaned, but Weems quickly had brought the fans back to their feet. He took the kickoff 4 yards deep in the end zone, found a seam up the middle and looked as if he might break it all the way. Wilhelm stopped that by yanking at Weems’ facemask, but the 15-yard personal foul penalty pushed the Falcons onto the Green Bay side of the field.

Bryant needed a do-over after Packers coach Mike McCarthy called timeout just before the Atlanta kicker knocked it right down the middle.

No problem. Bryant’s second kick wasn’t quite as accurate, but it stayed a few feet inside the left upright to ruin a big day for Rodgers, who passed for 344 yards and led the team in rushing with 51 yards, including a 1-yard run that tied the game at 10.

Rodgers also lost a fumble trying to sneak in on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the first half, ending Green Bay’s streak of 15 quarters without a turnover, its longest since 1963.Michael Turner, who rushed for 110 yards, put the Falcons ahead 17-10 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.

On yet another huge fourth-and-goal play, this one from inside the 1, Turner bounced outside and went in standing up.The Packers gave up more points than they had in the past three weeks combined, having surrendered only 10 in wins over the New York Jets, Dallas and Minnesota. Green Bay had a four-game winning streak overall, good enough for a tie with Chicago for the NFC North lead.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

A win Sunday against Atlanta Falcons crucial if Green Bay Packers want home field advantage in playoffs

November 27, 2010 by  
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Nov 27, 2010 ~ by Mike Vandermause, Press-Gazette

~The Green Bay Packers will play their most important regular-season game in three years today against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

While the Falcons might not stir up the same kind of buzz for the Packers as the Brett Favre-led Minnesota Vikings, the matchup has huge implications. So much so that Packers players this week didn’t even bother trying to downplay the game’s significance.

The Packers better not let the game go down to the waning seconds with Mason Crosby. “We know how important this game is,” said guard Daryn Colledge. “This is a big game. Atlanta’s controlling the NFC right now. We’d like to be a part of that talk.”

“Not to sugar-coat it or nothing, but it’s a big one,” said receiver James Jones. “It’s a big game. They’re 8-2 in the NFC. Everybody is shooting for this playoff run. Everybody wants homefield advantage. It’s a big game and we know the impact this game can take down the road.”

What’s at stake is the chance to claim the No. 1 seed in the NFC and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Win and the Packers have a legitimate shot to claim that prize. Lose and they can kiss those hopes good-bye.

Not since a Nov. 29, 2007, game at Dallas, with both the Packers and Cowboys sporting 10-1 records, has so much been on the line in a late-season matchup. The Packers lost in Dallas that day, and now almost exactly three years later, they are looking for a better result.

The Packers (7-3) can’t afford to lose ground to the Falcons, who own the best record in the NFC.

“You don’t really want to fall two games plus a tie-breaker behind the Falcons,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “We need to start thinking about homefield advantage and the playoffs, should we be fortunate enough to get there. This is a big game for us.”

How important is homefield advantage? In four of the past six seasons, the No. 1 seed in the NFC qualified for the Super Bowl. The Packers haven’t captured the top seed since 1996, which was the last time they won the Super Bowl.

Players are trained to approach each regular-season game the same, but it’s been difficult this week for the Packers to treat the Falcons as just another opponent.

“You try not to think about it because it’s November, but it’s in the back of your head,” said guard Josh Sitton. “It could potentially be a playoff implicating game.”

It won’t be easy for the Packers, considering Atlanta’s stellar 18-3 home record under coach Mike Smith. But the Packers can counter with some impressive records of their own under Mike McCarthy, including 10-3 in domes and 21-16 overall on the road.

Both teams feature talented quarterbacks that were thrust into starting roles in 2008. Both teams own four-game winning streaks, and both have been playing fundamentally sound and haven’t committed a turnover in the last three games.

Full story HERE

Green Bay Packers’ nose tackle BJ Raji ‘very valuable’ in thankless job

November 27, 2010 by  
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Nov 27, 2010 ~ by Kareem Copeland, Press-Gazette

~Four of the top five Green Bay Packers (defensive linemen) have missed time due to injury in 2010.

Cullen Jenkins. Ryan Pickett. Mike Neal (injured reserve). Justin Harrell (injured reserve). Oh, and there’s Johnny Jolly serving a year-long suspension.

All the while, B.J. Raji went about his thankless job.

Class of 2009: What a pair of first round picks. Everyone knows Clay Matthews is a Pro-Bowl quality player already, but fewer people realize that BJ Raji is playing at that level as well.

Raji has played more snaps at nose tackle through 11 games than he did during the entire 2009 season. Game in and game out, the second-year player has been an immovable obstruction in the middle, commanding double teams and allowing linebackers behind him to make plays. He has 41 tackles and 2.5 sacks in the chaotic middle of the defense.

The casual observer won’t notice Raji much and his statistics don’t catch the eye, but he is quietly dominating the line of scrimmage.

“It’s not going to show up on stats,” Pickett said of Raji’s contributions. “The nose is the center of the defense. If he’s weak, the defense is going to be weak.”

Raji’s development has been a blessing considering the Packers have been so desperate for bodies along the defensive line that offensive linemen T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton have been used in emergency short-yardage situations. And this was a season in which Raji solely focused on nose tackle for the first time.

Raji’s rookie campaign was forgettable after he missed the first two weeks of training camp while a contract was worked out. The No. 9 overall pick had to learn on the fly and played on a bad ankle injured in the final 2009 preseason game.

Pickett was the starting nose at the time and Jenkins and Jolly were the starters outside. But defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said the team saw the future anchor of the 3-4 defense when they drafted Raji.

Trgovac pointed to the elite 3-4 defenses in the league and how they’re built around dominant nose tackles. Two-time Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork in New England. Five-time Pro Bowler Casey Hampton in Pittsburgh.

“You have to start the defense from that position,” Trgovac said. “People have told me they want B.J. to have all these sacks. Look how many sacks Hampton has for his career (nine in 10 years).

“That position is so important to the whole defense and it’s not an easy position to play. But it’s so important. That’s why you go out and spend a first-round pick on him.”

Hampton and Wilfork, however, are Pro Bowlers. Does Raji belong in that conversation already?

Teammates and coaches believe so.

“He’s very valuable for us, that’s all I know,” Trgovac said. “If he keeps working hard, he’ll get his recognition and he’ll get the Pro Bowls because the players that play against him know what kind of player he is. That’s what happens with nose tackles when they get voted into the Pro Bowl.

“Casey (Hampton) probably has 10 sacks his whole career. But the other guys that play against him know how hard he is to block.”

It can be hard to catch the voter’s eye at such an unglamorous position. Plus, Raji is far from well-known nationally.

Hampton’s break-out year came in his second season (2002), but he didn’t make the Pro Bowl until the 2003 season.

Wilfork wasn’t selected until his fourth year (2007), three seasons after he became the starter.

The Packers have seen this scenario before.

Safety Nick Collins made his first Pro Bowl in 2008, but his first elite season was 2006 with 102 tackles and three interceptions.

Former cornerback Al Harris had many superior statistical years before being voted to the Pro Bowl in 2007.

Rookie Pro Bowlers, like Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, usually have to post phenomenal numbers, like 10 sacks, to get the recognition. Detroit Lions rookie Ndamukong Suh leads all defensive tackles with eight sacks and is currently the top Pro Bowl vote-getter among tackles.

“It’s just something that comes in time once you make a name for yourself,” Jenkins said. “Then it’s easier to carry on.

“I don’t know if people realize it as much … they see Clay (Matthews) making all the sacks and Tramon (Williams) and (Charles) Woodson getting all the picks and strips. They don’t realize that he’s helping put the defense in that situation. First and second down versus the run and getting push against the pass. He’s helping set up all of that.”

Raji absolutely has Pro Bowl aspirations but knows those individual accolades come with team success. So, it doesn’t hurt that the Packers are 7-3 with the No. 1 scoring defense in the league. And stepping onto a team with playmakers at every defensive position only aids the cause.

“I think they will (take notice around the league),” Raji said. “This game (at 8-2 Atlanta) is a big game around the NFC and a lot of people will be watching.

“Big-stage games are always an opportunity to prove yourself and make a name for yourself.”

Full story HERE

NFL Power Rankings: the leader is the Pack!

November 27, 2010 by  
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Nov 27, 2010 ~ by Jonathan Comey, CHFF

~With the race for the top of the league arguably 10 teams deep, we let our trusty formula make the decision for us this week – and it chose Green Bay.
The Packers haven’t had a truly poor game all season, and their KOs of Brad Childress and Wade Phillips probably endeared them to fans of the Vikings and Cowboys.In their three losses, they played well enough to win, and they’ve played a challenging schedule. Over the last three games, against three teams that made the Elite Eight a year ago, they allowed 0, 7 and 3 points.

James Jones is just one of a big handful of guys who have stepped up and made plays this year for the Packers.

They have candidates for Offensive Player of the Year (Aaron Rodgers, whose incredible stats we touted this week) and Defensive Player of the Year (Clay Matthews), plus a lot of individuals playing at a Pro Bowl level that you’ve probably never heard of – guard Josh Sitton, linebacker Desmond Bishop and cornerback Tramon Williams, especially.
So yeah, they’re No. 1, and a win in Atlanta Sunday in a huge NFC battle will pretty much cement their place. Green Bay-Atlanta, by the way, will be our Game of the Week on Sports Illustrated this week. So it’s big-time stuff.
Speaking of cementing their place, it’s going to take some real doing to supplant the Panthers as the league’s worst team. The Panthers have eight double-digit losses, and are rumored to be looking at Todd Marinovich as their next quarterback.
On to the rankings!

1. GREEN BAY (7-3)
Last week:
31-3 win at Minnesota
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Clay Matthews has at least one sack in 12 of his last 16 games, including playoffs, for a total of 18.5. Rodgers has 33 TDs and 10 INTs in his last 16 games. With these key players 24 and 26 years old, respectively, the future’s awfully bright in Green Bay.
2. NEW ENGLAND (8-2)
Last week:
31-28 win vs. Indianapolis
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Is Danny Woodhead the best in-season free agent pickup of the decade? He averages 5.6 yards per carry and almost 10 yards per catch with four touchdowns and no fumbles in 78 touches. He’s been hit for a loss only three times, and New England’s runners have been tackles for a loss just 15 times, fewest in the league.
3. PHILADELPHIA (7-3)
Last week:
27-17 win vs. N.Y. Giants
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Eagles have thrown the fewest interceptions on offense (4) and made the most interceptions on defense (19). Add that differential to a +1.1 yard per play advantage, second only to San Diego, and you have to wonder how they even lost three games.
4. ATLANTA (8-2)
Last week:
34-17 win at St. Louis
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Falcons resemble the classic Patriots Super Bowl teams – efficient passing (5 INTs for Matt Ryan), a bend-don’t-break defense (17th in total D, 6th in scoring D, 5th in Bendability) and good special teams. Plus, no one quite believes they’re good, which is always useful clubhouse fodder.
5. N.Y. JETS (8-2)
Last week:
30-27 win vs. Houston
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: What’s up with the Gang Green defense? The Jets have allowed 20+ points in six of their last eight games; they had only allowed 20+ in one of their previous 11 games including last year’s postseason.
6. NEW ORLEANS (7-3)
Last week:
34-19 win vs. Seattle
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Drew Brees’ receivers lead in the league in yards after catch (1,450).
7. N.Y. GIANTS (6-4)
Last week:
27-17 loss at Philadelphia
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Eli Manning has thrown a Favre-like number of INTs this year (16). But he’s also completing 75.4 percent of his first-down passes – only David Garrard has been better. Add that to Ahmad Bradshaw’s 559 first-down rushing yards (behind only Adrian Peterson), and the Giants are officially kings there.
8. BALTIMORE (7-3)
Last week:
37-13 win at Carolina
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: When you have three veterans with 600 career catches in the lineup, it pays off; the Ravens have dropped only six passes this year, easily the fewest in the league and fewer than Terrell Owens, Pierre Garcon, Brandon Gibson and Brandon Marshall have individually.
9. PITTSBURGH (7-3)
Last week:
35-3 win vs. Oakland
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Steelers have been in the top 10 in total defense every year since 2000 and are fifth this year. The only member of all 11 teams is Aaron Smith, who’s out for the year.
10. CHICAGO (7-3)
Last week:
16-0 win at Miami
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bears have yet to allow 24 points in a game this year; in contrast, the Texans haven’t allowed less than 24 in a game this year.
11. INDIANAPOLIS (6-4)
Last week:
31-28 loss at New England
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Colts’ final six games are against teams behind them in the rankings, and four of the games are at home.
12. SAN DIEGO (5-5)
Last week:
35-14 win vs. Denver
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Maybe it’s time for (gulp!) a little love for Norv Turner? Dating back to his days in Washington, Turner’s teams have ranked in the top 10 in passing yards in seven of his last eight seasons, and he did it with Brad Johnson and Kerry Collins along with Philip Rivers. Barring a collapse, Rivers will lead the league in yards per attempt for the third straight year, done previously by only Kurt Warner and Steve Young.
13. KANSAS CITY (6-4)
Last week:
31-13 win vs. Arizona
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Jamaal Charles averages 120.4 yards per game from scrimmage on just 16.9 touches per game. If he can pick up the production just a bit on the same amount of opportunities, he’ll be the first player ever to gain 2,000 yards from scrimmage on fewer than 300 touches. Roger Craig came closest in 1985, with 2,066 yards on 306 touches.
14. TAMPA BAY (7-3)
Last week:
21-0 win at San Francisco
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: LeGarrette Blount has 17 rushes of 10+ yards – pretty impressive, considering he has only 101 carries. As a team, Tampa is third overall with 38 runs of 10+ yards.
15. TENNESSEE (5-5)
Last week:
19-16 loss vs. Washington
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Rusty Smith? Sounds like the punchline to a dirty joke. In more relevant news, the Titans’ defense has allowed 20+ first downs in seven of the last eight weeks (NFL average, 19.2).
16. MIAMI (5-5)
Last week:
16-0 loss vs. Chicago
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Remember all the positive stuff we wrote about Tyler Thigpen last week? Yeah, you didn’t really read that.
17. OAKLAND (5-5)
Last week:
35-3 loss at Pittsburgh
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Just Backslide, Baby!
18. JACKSONVILLE (6-4)
Last week:
24-20 win vs. Cleveland
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Jaguars are -50 in points, -413 in yards and -11 in turnovers, and they could make the playoffs. In fact, if the season ended today, Jacksonville would win the AFC South. They’re the weirdest team since David Bowie and Bing Crosby sang “Little Drummer Boy” together.

19. DALLAS (3-7)
Last week:
35-19 win vs. Detroit
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Jason Garrett still has the best winning percentage of any head coach in NFL history.
20. ST. LOUIS (4-6)
Last week:
34-17 loss vs. Atlanta
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Rams had a lead for much of Sunday’s game, but for some reason refused to run the ball – only 12 runs to 42 passes. Atlanta has allowed 4.3 yards a carry this year, 22nd in the league.
21. CLEVELAND (3-7)
Last week:
24-20 loss at Jacksonville
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: When your defense forces six turnovers and has four sacks … in a loss, the offense has some splainin’ to do.
22. WASHINGTON (5-5)
Last week:
19-16 win at Tennessee
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: All five Redskins’ wins have come by six points or fewer. Dating back to the start of 2008, they have only one win by more than 10 points.
23. SEATTLE (5-5)
Last week:
34-19 loss at New Orleans
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Against three elite QBs this year (Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees), Seattle allowed 1,127 yards, nine touchdowns and a 100.6 rating.
24. HOUSTON (4-6)
Last week:
30-27 loss at N.Y. Jets
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Say this for the Texans, they haven’t had an easy road. The only team they played that’s currently sitting under .500 is Dallas.
25. BUFFALO (2-8)
Last week:
49-31 win at Cincinnati
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: When you win 14-12 one week and 49-31 the next, you’ve got something going. Over the past six games, Ryan Fitzpatrick has passed for more yards than his opponent five times – David Garrard, Joe Flacco, Matt Cassel, Jay Cutler and Carson Palmer.
26. MINNESOTA (3-7)
Last week:
31-3 loss vs. Green Bay
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: How you can have a future Hall of Fame quarterback, running back and left guard on your team and rank 30th in scoring offense (17.2 PPG) was a question that Brad Childress clearly didn’t have an answer for.
27. DETROIT (2-8)
Last week:
35-19 loss at Dallas
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Hey, the Lions have three straight at home. Good news, right? Oops. They’re against New England, Chicago and Green Bay, combined record 22-7. Worst homestand since Waco.
28. SAN FRANCISCO (3-7)
Last week:
21-0 loss vs. Tampa Bay
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: That’s three losses by 21+ points this year for the Niners; they suffered only two of them in 2008 and 2009 combined.
29. CINCINNATI (2-8)
Last week:
49-31 loss vs. Buffalo
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bengals could actually contend for the No. 1 pick – five of their last six games are against probable playoff teams, with the “easy game” against the Browns.
30. DENVER (3-7)
Last week:
35-14 loss at San Diego
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Josh McDaniels’ boys are now 5-15 in their last 20 games.
31. ARIZONA (3-7)
Last week:
31-13 loss at Kansas City
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Larry Fitzgerald is proving to be bad-QB-proof; he’s on pace for 88 catches, 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns … for a team that’s 31st in Passing Yards Per Attempt (4.97).
32. CAROLINA (1-9)
Last week:
37-13 loss vs. Baltimore
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Panthers have 2,525 yards of offense; that’s less than nine quarterbacks have by themselves.

Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers make assault on history

November 27, 2010 by  
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Nov 27, 2010 ~ by Cold, Hard Football Facts

~Two statistical giants in the history of pro football percolate just beneath the surface of NFL elite quarterbacks right now.   Only a Super Bowl appearance will catapult them into the current limelight enjoyed by Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, who squared off in another classic on Sunday.

And, naturally, a victory in that Super Bowl will elevate one over the other.   The two quarterbacks, of course, are San Diego’s Philip Rivers and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.

Phillip Rivers & Aaron Rodgers have been sensational in their young careers. Steve Young has called these two QB's the best bets for future Hall of Famers from this generation. But it will take some Super Bowl success, and that's always hard to come by.

Both are fresh off monster efforts in Week 11.

Rivers completed 15 of 24 for 233 yards, with a career high 4 TDs and 1 pick in San Diego’s 35-14 beat down of Denver Monday might.

Rodgers completed 22 of 31 for 301 yards, also with a career-high 4 TDs, and 0 picks, in a 31-3 humiliation of Brett Favre and the Vikings that forced Minnesota to fire head coach Brad Childress.  

Both are in the midst of monster seasons.

Rivers is just tearing it up in so many ways right now: 23 TD, 9 INT and a great 105.0 passer rating. It’s that rating number that’s been so consistent: 105.5 in 2008, 104.4 in 2009 and now 105.0 here.

But the number that really leaps off his stat sheet this year is the Montana-Esque 9.00 yards per attempt. And for those of you who care about things like yards, Rivers leads the NFL with 3,177 – which puts him on pace for 5,083 for the season, one yard shy of Dan Marino’s 1984 record.

Rodgers has been nothing but tremendous since he became the full-time starter in Green Bay in 2008. His 103.2 passer rating in 2009 was the highest by any Packers quarterback since Bart Starr himself in his MVP season of 1966 (105.0) and the shortened season of 1968 (104.3).

Rodgers is in great form again here in 2010, with 19 TD, 9 INT, 7.8 YPA and a 95.7 passer rating. More importantly, the Packers are 7-3 and tied for first in the NFC North.  

And both are in the midst of what could go down as great careers.

This is where it really gets interesting folks.   After last week’s win over the Broncos, Rivers now boasts the highest passer rating in NFL history, 97.27. And with 4 TDs and 1 pick, he just edged past Tom Brady Monday night for the best “official” TD-to-INT ratio in the history of football – a critical number that indicates great production while minimizing mistakes. Rivers throws 2.39 TDs for every INT (129-54).

Tom Brady throws 2.37 TDs for every INT (244-103)   After Sunday’s win over the Vikings, Rodgers now boasts the second highest “unofficial” passer rating in NFL history, at 96.87. (Rodgers is still 30 attempts shy of the min. 1,500 attempts needed to qualify for “official” NFL records.)

Perhaps more impressively, Rodgers is easily No. 1 in history in what we consider the critical TD-to-INT ratio, with 2.60 TDs for every INT (78-30). What an awesome number.

To put those TD-INT ratios into perspective, here are the numbers of Rodgers, Rivers and some other notable quarterbacks, Hall of Famers or CHFF favorites:

Aaron Rodgers: 2.60 to 1
Philip Rivers: 2.39 to 1
Tom Brady: 2.37 to 1
Steve Young: 2.17 to 1
Peyton Manning: 2.05 to 1
Joe Montana: 1.96 to 1
Drew Brees: 1.81 to 1
Dan Marino: 1.67 to 1
Brett Favre: 1.52 to 1
Otto Graham: 1.29 to 1
Ken Anderson: 1.23 to 1
Johnny Unitas: 1.15 to 1
Bart Starr: 1.10 to 1
Dan Fouts: 1.05 to 1
Sid Luckman: 1.04 to 1
Terry Bradshaw: 1.01 to 1
Sammy Baugh: 0.92 to 1
Joe Namath: 0.79 to 1

Young, by the way, remains No. 2 on the “official” career passer rating list (pending 30 more attempts by Rodgers), at 96.81.

Now, listen, the Cold, Hard Football Facts know better than anybody that numbers in this day and age are much easier to come by for quarterbacks than they have been in past years.

So we are not saying that Rivers and Rodgers are better than Brady or Manning, Marino or Montana, Unitas or Starr, Luckman or Baugh.

What we are saying is that both Rivers and Rodgers are putting up numbers in critical areas that nobody else has done before, historic numbers that could someday have either remembered as one of the all time greats.

But fairly or not – and we argue fairly – the great quarterbacks are always remembered by team accomplishments. That means big performances in January and showers of confetti in February.   And on both these counts, Rivers and Rodgers have a lot to prove.

But for out statistical money, both look capable of taking the steps to that next level this year. Then the “best QB in the game today” argument gets really crowded.

Full story HERE

No mumbo-jumbo for Green Bay Packers’ Zombo

November 26, 2010 by  
Filed under News

Nov 26, 2010 ~ by Gary D’Amato, Journal Sentinel

~Green Bay — You check out Frank Zombo’s bio and look up to see him starting at right outside linebacker for the Green Bay Packers and you wonder:

How in the world did the dots ever get connected?

One year ago, he was a 270-pound defensive end at Central Michigan. The NFL draft came and went without Zombo’s name being called and he signed as a rookie free agent with the Packers.

Zombo Zaps Manning: "I'm so glad I'm here," he said. "I love the Green Bay Packers. I love Green Bay and the area. I like it that there's no traffic. I can go 15 minutes north of here and go hunting."

Told he’d be converted to linebacker, he lost 20 pounds and reported to Green Bay to try to make the team at a position he’d never played in high school or college. Then he suffered a badly sprained ankle in August.

How was this guy going to make the roster?

“Obviously, I knew I had my work cut out for me,” Zombo said. “Coming into it, all I knew was that I didn’t want to have any regrets if I didn’t make it. I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I was going to give it everything I had no matter what.”

A funny thing happened on the way to the practice squad.

Injuries swept through the Packers’ linebackers like a brush fire in the Hollywood hills, and suddenly Zombo was the last man standing. There was nobody else to play right outside linebacker. He was it.

Zombo made his first start in Week 3 against the Chicago Bears, replacing the injured Brad Jones. After Jones (shoulder) went on injured reserve Oct. 27, the position was Zombo’s for good.

Linebackers coach Kevin Greene worked to get Zombo up to speed, but for the most part it’s been baptism by fire. The 23-year-old Zombo has had to learn a new position on the fly against the likes of Matt Forte, Donovan McNabb, Adrian Peterson and Brett Favre.

How is the job not too big for him?

“It’s not too big for him because he wants it,” Greene said. “I mean, he has a hunger for it. It’s a passion for him. He’s a walk-on in the NFL. That’s what he is. But he’s got the right mind-set. He’s got the right attitude. He’s willing to learn and to listen and try to implement the things that we’re teaching. When he does, he sees it works for him.”

The 6-foot-3 Zombo is listed at 254 pounds but said he weighed 248. He played four years with his hand down at Central Michigan and had 25½ sacks, but he’s a versatile athlete who was an all-state wide receiver at Stevenson High School in Sterling Heights, Mich.

Zombo Zaps Vick

In his final home game at Central Michigan, he intercepted a pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown against Northern Illinois.

“A pick-six in my last game,” he said. “That was pretty cool.”

Zombo ranks sixth on the Packers with 45 tackles, including eight against the Minnesota Vikings last week, and has forced a fumble.

“He is doing really, really well,” Greene said. “He set a real hard edge against a Pro Bowl player in (Bryant) McKinnie. He made a couple of really nice tackles. He’s playing well. He’s a good kid. He’s very self-conscious about how he plays. He wants to learn and get better and it shows.”

Zombo’s pass-rushing skills help him at linebacker. He’s strong enough to walk tackles back into the quarterback and has two sacks.

“Everybody measures the sacks and that type of thing, but you need people that know how to rush, where they just aren’t flying up the field,” said defensive coordinator Dom Capers. “If you put on the tape you’ll see a couple times (Sunday) that he had the tackle right back into Brett’s lap.”

Of course, Zombo has made his share of mistakes, too. On Sunday, he missed an open-field tackle on Vikings running back Toby Gerhart and a short pass in the flat ruptured into a 19-yard gain.

“There are some fundamentals and technique things that we can improve on,” Greene said. “He’ll learn that. This is a guy who had his hand in the dirt for most of his college career and now he’s a two-point drop linebacker.”

Fortunately, Zombo is a fast learner. Later in the Vikings game, Favre threw a pass in the left flat to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and Zombo roared up and made the open-field tackle for no gain.

“Zombo is a conscientious guy and he wants to do everything right,” Capers said. “It really bothers him if he makes a mistake. Because of that attitude, he normally doesn’t make the same mistake twice. He’s not afraid to ask questions. He’s made an awful lot of improvement.”

Like Zombo, Packers inside linebacker Desmond Bishop got his chance to play because of injuries. Now a starter alongside Zombo, Bishop said the two had a lot in common, starting with their passion for the game.

“I think the essence of football is really simple,” Bishop said. “If you love to play and you’re willing to put in the work, it can be simple. At the end of the day, football is football. See the ball, hit the ball, tackle the ball. Rush the quarterback. Read the quarterback.

“Whether you’re doing it from a three-point stance or two-point stance or whatever, football is football.”

Zombo has a deep appreciation for the Packers organization and its storied tradition. He’s fallen in love with Green Bay and said he’s converted most of Sterling Heights – a suburb of Detroit – into Packers fans.

“I’m so glad I’m here,” he said. “I love the Green Bay Packers. I love Green Bay and the area. I like it that there’s no traffic. I can go 15 minutes north of here and go hunting.

“I know I can play this game for a long time and hopefully it’s in Green Bay because I love it here so much. I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”

It’s worked out well for the Packers, too.

Full story HERE

Charlie Peprah back again and better than ever for the Green Bay Packers

November 26, 2010 by  
Filed under News

Nov 26, 2010 ~ by Rob Reischel, Journal Sentinel

~Green Bay — There were those in Charlie Peprah’s world that thought he was nuts.

Peprah had been in Green Bay. He had done that. And the results weren’t ideal, as the Packers waived him three days before the 2009 season opener.

So as Peprah tried figuring out his next landing spot in April, many were perplexed as to why the strong safety tried hooking on with the Packers again.

“Some people did wonder that,” Peprah said. “But I felt I had a chance to make the team, and I knew when my opportunity came, I would be prepared and try to take advantage of it.”

Boy, has he ever.

-New York Jets wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery can't hold onto the ball after being hit by Green Bay Packers Charlie Peprah (26) during an NFL game. The Packers defeated the Jets, 9-0.

Peprah made the team, and then moved into the starting lineup in Week 5 after rookie Morgan Burnett suffered a torn ACL. Peprah hasn’t been flashy, just extremely reliable.

And barring anything unforeseen, Peprah seems like a good bet to keep the job even though Atari Bigby – a three-year starter at the position – came off the physically unable to perform list two games ago.

“You’re not going to take a guy out who’s been playing well in there,” Packer defensive coordinator Dom Capers said when asked of Peprah’s future. “I think (Peprah) has played well.”

That’s thrilling for Peprah, who has tried making his mark with the Packers and the NFL for quite some time.

The story of how he got here is even more intriguing.

Peprah’s grandfather, Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, rose to power as the head of state in the West African nation of Ghana in 1972. He was removed from office in a coup and executed in 1979.

The family fled to Europe and then to the U.S., where Peprah was born and raised in Texas.

Peprah says his family’s story is real to him, even though he was born after the most traumatic part of it.

“You know, I didn’t get to meet my grandfather, so from that aspect, there’s a little bit of a disassociation of emotional ties,” Peprah said. “But knowing what my mom went through and the whole journey she took and where we’re at because of all that is very real.

“It affected how I was raised, why I was brought up the way I was and where I was, so it’s something we talk about all the time.”

Peprah was a fifth-round draft pick by the New York Giants in 2006 out of Alabama but was waived before the season began. The Packers signed Peprah, and over the next three seasons, he played in 37 games, with almost all of his work coming on special teams.

Green Bay waived Peprah before the 2009 season, and he signed with Atlanta. Peprah battled knee and hamstring injuries, though, and played in just two games with the Falcons.

Atlanta chose not to make Peprah an offer in the off-season, leaving Peprah to map out his next landing spot. When the Packers called, they had just drafted Burnett and many thought Peprah was better off waiting for another offer.

"He can cover. He's physical. He has the physical tools to play safety, and he's smart," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "The guy's been doing a great job for us. We all knew what he could do from the start."

But there was a lot about Green Bay that Peprah liked, and he decided to take a chance with a system and coaching staff he enjoyed.

“I liked the defensive scheme, and I liked the coaches that coach (Mike) McCarthy had here,” Peprah said. “The fact they had just taken the rookie (Burnett) made it a little bit harder to decide. But you know this is a special place, and if I had the opportunity, I wanted to come back. I’m glad I did, and it’s worked out in my favor.”

It sure has, but the ride has had a bump, or two.

Peprah immediately proved in his first start that he was more physical than Burnett. But he gave up a pair of passes totaling 100 yards against Washington, including a 48-yard touchdown that changed the game’s flow.

“I wasn’t worried about what was going to happen,” Peprah said. “Just had to come back and respond.”

He did.

Peprah was terrific in run support against Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson in a Week 7 win. Peprah also was extremely physical against the run during the Packers’ upset of the New York Jets in Week 8.

Peprah seems to have a bad play or two in the passing game each week. But he has done nothing to lose his job.

“He can cover. He’s physical. He has the physical tools to play safety, and he’s smart,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “The guy’s been doing a great job for us. We all knew what he could do from the start. It’s all about getting chances in this league. He got it and he’s taking advantage of it.”

Peprah admits there were times this past off-season he never thought he’d get this kind of chance. NFL teams had almost no tape of Peprah playing from scrimmage, and his dreams of being a starting safety in the league were slipping away.

“Your confidence as a player, in your ability, never really leaves,” said Peprah, a former Alabama standout who holds a master’s degree in financial planning. “It’s just more the uncertainty knowing it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.

Full story HERE  (subscription required)

In Year 2, Capers has Packers sold on his 3-4 philosophy

November 26, 2010 by  
Filed under News

Nov 26, 2010 ~ by Steve Wyche, NFL.com senior writer

~There are reasons why Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews — the NFL sacks leader with 11.5 — is having a special season, why recently little-known cornerback Tramon Williams might be playing better than most cornerbacks in the NFL, and why an injury-depleted Green Bay defense has allowed just 10 points over the past three games.

Those reasons might also lead the Packers to the Super Bowl.

“Everyone has bought in,” a Packers team source said. 

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This isn’t the same old football-speak about everyone being on the same page. The translation is that in Year 2 of defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ version of the 3-4 defense, players understand their roles. They know that in certain cases they have to occupy two blockers so Matthews has an unimpeded path to the quarterback. Williams and fellow cornerback Charles Woodson have to be incredibly efficient in man coverage at times to allow disguised stunts to work effectively.

To pacify egos, something Capers and his staff found out last season, those who sacrifice stats and making plays also have packages designed for them to flash. That’s a huge deal because if players don’t feel like they’re being put in position to succeed, they won’t always give you premium effort (see Albert Haynesworth).

Last season, a lot of players in Green Bay were reluctant to embrace the change from the 4-3 front because it marginalized their playmaking skills. Outside linebacker Aaron Kampman‘s showed displeasure with having to move from defensive end to outside linebacker, a change that did not play to his pass-rushing strengths. Several other players weren’t pleased about the switch either, but that’s changed now.

“Guys weren’t always receptive, but now they understand that there is a role and packages for everybody,” the source said. “Guys are playing so unselfish, and they’re realizing that when they do their jobs so someone else can make a play, it’s just as rewarding.”

Green Bay is second in points allowed (14.6) and 12th overall in yards allowed (323.4). They’ve forced 21 turnovers, including 15 interceptions — three of those returned for touchdowns.

Players also trust Capers.

In Year 2 of defensive coordinator Dom Capers' version of the 3-4 defense, players understand their roles.

In the Packers’ 31-3 victory over the Vikings last week — Brad Childress’ last game as head coach — Green Bay’s game plan worked as it was drawn up. Early on, the Packers dared Brett Favre to throw by stacking the box to stop Adrian Peterson and locking up the wide receivers on the edges in man coverage. Nothing new compared to what most teams do. They held Peterson to 72 yards.

In obvious passing situations, Green Bay also ran zone blitzes that applied pressure to the defense’s left — Favre’s right — because Favre prefers to break containment in that direction, and his mobility moving back to his left isn’t what it was, the source said. Pressure also was schemed to be applied up the middle because Favre isn’t as comfortable on the move, the source said. Adding to things, Green Bay’s defensive backs were able to knock Minnesota’s receivers off their routes.

Also playing into things, the Vikings’ offense wasn’t overly diverse, the source said. The same could be said for the 8-2 Jets, who were shut out by the Packers on Oct. 31.

That won’t be the case Sunday when Green Bay travels to Atlanta to face the 8-2 Falcons in what could turn out to be the game of the week. Not only are the Falcons nearly unbeatable at the Georgia Dome (QB Matt Ryan is 18-1 as a starter at home), they have the best offense the Packers have seen this season, the source said.

“They have plays they can run two ways, they have run-pass options on so many plays,” the source said. “They have so many looks. (Offensive coordinator) Mike Mularkey has put together some serious stuff. The quarterback is really comfortable, and he gets rid of the ball. They are really good.

“The offensive line is really good, collectively. Individually, there isn’t a Pro Bowler there, but as a group they block through the play, they’re tough and they work really well together.”

And then there’s wide receiver Roddy White.

“He’s a complete player,” the source said. “He’s doing things like catching the curl and hook routes he wasn’t so good at a few years ago and his yards after the catch, he’s really good once he gets the ball in his hands.”

Based on what Green Bay has done at times this season, I’d expect Williams to tail White for most of the game, which won’t be easy because the Falcons use White from every receiver-eligible spot on the field.

The Packers are looking forward to the challenge, which leads us to the main reason why the defense is playing at such a high level.

“On Victory Monday (this week) there wasn’t an empty meeting room,” the source said. “Guys were in there watching film and really preparing. That’s been the most incredible thing about this, the way guys have taken to preparation and film study on their own. They really want to be good.”

The contagious work ethic can’t be taken lightly. How else can you explain why a unit that has been hit hard by injuries is arguably playing its best with several frontline players on the shelf?

Full story HERE

Packers at Falcons: 5 what ifs …

November 25, 2010 by  
Filed under News

Nov 26, 2010 ~ by D. Orlando Ledbetter, AJ-C

~As the 8-2 Falcons are prepared to meet the 7-3 Green Bay Packers in a game with serious playoff ramifications, what if …

1. Fans are not tardy for the party: While everyone was breaking down their tables at the fabulous tailgate parties, the Falcons got jumped on by San Francisco earlier this season. Before the crowd get into the building and became loud and rowdy, the Falcons were down 14-0.

Falcons coach Mike Smith doesn’t want a repeat Sunday. He wants the crowd on time like they were for the Thursday night game against Baltimore.

“It was a big advantage for us as a football team to have the fans in the stands, rocking and rolling,” Smith said. “It should be a good game. The Green Bay Packers are on a roll.”

The Falcons are 18-3 under Smith in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons are 5-0 and averaging 29.8 points at home this season.

Matt Ryan is 18-1 in the Georgia Dome as a starter. He is much more comfortable at home, where he has had passer ratings of 117.3, 67.3, 118.1, 94.1 and 101.8 in 2010. He has thrown 11 of his 18 touchdowns passes at the Dome.

2. The Falcons continue to protect Ryan: The Packers’ defense has been playing lights out over their current four-game winning streak.

The Packers have 29 sacks, which ranks fourth in the NFL. The Falcons‘ offensive line faced a similar challenge last week against the Rams, who were tied for the league lead in sacks at the time. The Falcons held them sackless.

Todd McClure and his linemates have yielded only 15 sacks this season and have not allowed one in three of the past four games.

“I thought they did a great job with identification and communication,” Smith said.

The coaching staff schematically put together a good plan to neutralize the Rams’ rush and will have to do the same to slow the Packers.

“Our tight ends are also involved in that, as well as our running backs,” Smith said. “That is a very cohesive unit up front.”

The Packers were in their base defense for only seven snaps against Minnesota last week. They have a stout front line and left outside linebacker Clay Matthews Jr. has 11.5 sacks.

Atlanta Falcons' Roddy White pulls in a touchdown pass in front of Green Bay Packers' Will Blackmon during the first half of an NFL football game at Lambeau Field on Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008, in Green Bay, Wis. The Falcons won 27-24. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)

“This is a very talented Green Bay defense,” Smith said. “Defensive coordinator Dom Capers is one of the top defensive coordinators in the league. Whenever he puts a product out there on the field, they are going to know what they’re doing and they are going to play very effectively.”

The Packers rank second in lowest opposing quarterback passer rating at 66.5.

3. We see the Roddy White and Greg Jennings show: Both teams lean heavily on their marquee receivers.

White has 79 catches for 1,017 yards and seven touchdowns. Jennings has 46 catches for 703 yards and nine touchdowns.

“Roddy is just a guy that if you throw the ball his way, he’s going to catch it,” Smith said. “He’s got the speed to go deep, so he’s going to have some soft coverages. He’s got the ability, if they’re going to press him, to get off of the press coverages.”

Ryan and White have been in sync since the outset of the season. White has caught 11 passes or more in three games.

“Matt feels very comfortable hooking up in terms of throwing the ball [to White],” Smith said. “Roddy has a great understanding of what we’re trying to do with our offensive scheme, especially in the passing game.”

Jennings has been on a roll over the past five games. He has caught 32 passes over that stretch. Against Minnesota last week he caught three touchdown passes.

He has had six catches or more in five consecutive games.

4. The Falcons go for touchdowns in the red zone: Against the Rams, the Falcons had three drives stall inside the 12-yard line and had to settle for field goals.

If confronted with similar situations against the Packers, look for Smith to pass on the field goals and try to score some touchdowns.

“Normally we will consider taking a fourth-down shot,” Smith said. “Really in the red zone, we’ve taken our shots the majority of the time.”

On 37 trips inside their opponents’ 20, the Falcons have scored 183 points, which ranks fifth in the NFL.

The Falcons have scored 20 red-zone touchdowns, 13 on passes and seven on runs. Kicker Matt Bryant has added 14 field goals.

The Packers have not been allowing points in the red zone — or otherwise.

Over the past 13 quarters, the Packers have allowed one touchdown. In four road games, the defense has allowed five touchdowns. Also in road games, they kept the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings from scoring a touchdown.

The Packers ranked second in the NFL with 15 interceptions and are second in defensive touchdowns with four. The unit ranks first in fewest touchdowns allowed with 14.

5. The Falcons cool off Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers: The Falcons‘ defense has hemorrhaged passing yards at times this season.

New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Philadelphia’s Kevin Kolb and Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer each passed for more than 300 yards against the Falcons. Those three and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco each threw three touchdown passes against the Falcons.

Rodgers is one of the hottest quarterbacks in the NFL right now. He had a 141.3 passer rating last week against the Vikings. Overall, he ranks ninth with a 95.7 passer rating.

“They have a very good quarterback that’s operating as well as any quarterback in the league,” Smith said. “They’ve got some very good receivers. We’re going to definitely have to contain that passing game.”

Since losing 23-20 to Miami, the Packers have ripped off four consecutive wins and have outscored the opponents 85-10 over the past three games. In a 31-3 rout of Minnesota last week, Rodgers threw for 301 yards and four touchdowns.

The Falcons have searched for a successful formula against the pass. They have blitzed heavily in some games, but they allowed some big plays. They have elected to play zone and rush four at times, too.

Full story HERE

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