Offensive Line leaks doom Rodgers, Packers
By Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor
~The Green Bay Packers didn’t lose a game last season until December 18th in Kansas City.
The new & improved defense of the 2012 Packers didn’t force a turnover today against Alex Smith’s 49ers, they still couldn’t tackle, and the Packers lost their first game of the season this year on September 9th, to drop to 0-1 and fall a game behind all three other NFC North teams.
The scientists at Cold Hard Football Facts may not be surprised, but Packer Nation is very surprised to see Aaron Rodgers have not one, but two opportunities to tie the game in the 4th quarter.
The first time, with the Packers having the momentum after a Randall Cobb punt return TD, and then a stop by the defense, Rodgers responded by throwing a Rich Campbell-like interception on the first play, throwing the ball right to Niner linebacker Navarro Bowman.
One play later, the Pakcers resorted to their 2011 form of tackling and let Frank Gore rumble 23 yards to put the Niners back up 30-15.
After Rodgers and James Jones hooked up for a touchdown to cut it to an 8-point game with just over 8 minutes to go, the defense got the ball back to Rodgers with about 3 minutes to go and a chance to march to tie the game.
Rodgers got the Packers to the San Francisco 45-yard line pretty easily, with 2 minutes to go. But right Bryan Bulaga totally whiffed on his blocking assignment and let Ahmad Brooks go right in off the edge to sack Rodgers for a quick 7-yard loss and make it 2nd and 17.
The next play, left guard TJ Lang went invisible mode and let Brooks run right in from the left side, forcing Rodgers into throwing it early.
On 4th and 10, Rodgers had no time to allow anyone to run their route, and he threw the deep pass right to a well-covered Jordy Nelson. Either hoping for Nelson to win the jump ball, or get an official to throw a flag, nothing good came from the attempt and Rodgers again had failed to come up with a 4th quarter comeback to silence the Cold Hard Football Study that showed this entering the season.
It showed that for all Rodgers’ greatness (and they pointed to much of his historic greatness), he has not come through in the few 4th quarter opportunities he has had to rally the Packers. Entering this season, he was 3-18 (.143).
Green Bay is 7-26 (.212) in fourth quarter comeback opportunities since McCarthy became the coach in 2006. That is seven fourth-quarter comebacks in six seasons. The New York Giants produced seven fourth-quarter comebacks in 2011 alone – albeit a number that tied the league single-season record.
There is no denying Rodgers does not produce the comeback wins that seemingly come so routine for the other top quarterbacks in the league. That’s not to say it demands a top quarterback. Even John Skelton already has more fourth-quarter comeback wins (5) than Rodgers (3), and he has played in only 13 games.
In games where Green Bay does not lead at halftime, the Packers are 6-18 (.250) since 2008 (just 2-8 at home).
When trailing by at least 7 points at any point in the game, Rodgers is 8-18 (.308) as a starter. Only three of the wins came when trailing in the second half. Just how long did Green Bay trail in the second half of those games? The Falcons kept them down for 11:18, but the lead only held for 157 seconds at Carolina, and 51 seconds at Minnesota.
Somehow, that 8-18 record includes an 0-8 record at home when trailing by 7 points at any point in the game. Consider Rodgers’ rival in Detroit, Matthew Stafford, has managed a record of 4-9 (.308) when trailing by 17+ points in his brief career.
Rodgers’ record is 2-14 (.125) when trailing by more than 7 points at any point in the game. The two wins came early last year at Carolina and Atlanta, with Green Bay already within a score by halftime, and never trailing in the fourth quarter of course.
Even backup Matt Flynn has the largest fourth-quarter comeback win in Green Bay the last four years, and that was a three-point comeback against Detroit last year.
Again, this loss is not on Rodgers.
The Packers offensive line is just that, offensive. Watching the Packers running plays, you would be hard-pressed to find any of their offensive linemen making a block more than at the line of scrimmage. Watching the other team, the Niners, run the ball, you would frequently see their linemen up field mauling the Packers inside linebackers DJ Smith and AJ Hawk. Clearly, the Packers missed Desmond Bishop, a lot.
Late in the 3rd quarter, on a play wide left where Frank Gore had a 16-yard run, DJ Smith ran too wide, and into another Packer defender who was getting blocked by a Niner about 7 yard upfield. He took himself out of the play.
The Niners two inside linebackers, Bowman and Patrick Willis, would always be in the designed holes and meet Packers running back Cedric Benson at or near the line of scrimmage.
Today showed how big of a difference there is in the trenches between these two teams. It also showed how truly great Rodgers and the skill players were last year to go 15-1 despite this soft offensive line.
Another thing to consider: many Packer fans will blame the refs for much of this. But these refs clearly gifted the Packers their touchdown that Randall Cobb had on the punt return. There was one questionable block in the back on the play that drew the flag. But there was a much more obvious one on Dezman Moses that went unnoticed.
It is true, however, that the refs had a very bad game in this one.
Despite that, the Packers had no business winning this game and had Rodgers come through at the end and tied it up and then won it, it would have felt like a steal.
Now the Packers sit at 0-1 and look up at each of the other three teams in the division, with the 1-0 Bears coming to Lambeau Field this Thursday night.
The Bears, you might recall, have done as good a job as any defense in containing Rodgers.
Coach McCarthy, the OL, and defensive coordinator Dom Capers have their hands full in this one. If they don’t straighten things out, they could fall to 0-2, and already be in a big hole in the division standings.
There is some good news from the loss Sunday: It appears all 5 of the starting offensive linemen came out of the game uninjured, so the team won’t have to insert any of those backup offensive linemen Packer fans saw playing Ole in front of Graham Harrell during the preseason games.