2014 October : Packers Insider

Packers short-circuit themselves in New Orleans

October 27, 2014 by  
Filed under News

By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior editor

~The Packers turned a back-and-forth shootout into a rout in the third quarter, just as they did their last trip to New Orleans, as the New Orleans Saints turned a 16-16 halftime tie into a 37-16 lead just four minutes into the fourth quarter.

The Packers were blitzed for 21 straight points, and, just like the last visit, suddenly it was a blowout loss instead of a great game and a chance for a big primetime road win. But the game should have been a different story already by halftime as the Packers’ offense self-destructed in the first half, preventing what should have been a decent lead at the half.

In the end, the final score was 44-23, and the Packers head into the bye at 5-3, a game behind the first place Detroit Lions, who last week beat these Saints, and this week beat the Atlanta Falcons in London. Both Lions wins came without superstar Calvin Johnson, and both were essentially miracle wins as bot games seemed like certain losses until the last couple of minutes.

Where it went wrong

It went wrong on defense right away. The Packers got the ball first, and scored on a third and long play, a 70-yard bomb to Randall Cobb. Then the Packers defense responded, as the Saints defense did, and they let the Saints answer with an 80-yard drive of their own to make it 7-7, still on serve. But after that, the Packers defense kept the Saints out of the end zone the rest of the half on three more drives, for nine more points and 16 total.

Unfortunately, the Packers offense sputtered the same way, stalling and settling for three field goals.

On drive number two for the Packers, Eddie Lacy took a screen pass and rumbled and stumbled all the way down to the Saints 3-yard line on a 67-yard catch and run. It set up a first and goal at the 3-yard line, seemingly ready to hold serve and go back up by a touchdown.

But this is where coaching got in the way. Obviously a bit winded after the long catch and run, where he broke numerous tackles and carried guys with him, the Packers chose to hand it off to Lacy on first down. With no blocking, Lacy was swarmed and stuffed for no gain. Even if he wasn’t tired, there was no chance there as Lane Taylor was in the game.

Despite no (few) holes all night long, Lacy was a beast in the Superdome, with his parents watching in the seats.

Despite no (few) holes all night long, Lacy was a beast in the Superdome, with his parents watching in the seats.

Still, it was second and goal from the 3-yard line, and two chances for Rodgers to throw it, or scramble in, a touchdown seemed certain.

Someone decided that the Packers regular receivers weren’t good enough, so they put in Julius Peppers split wide left, and ran a slant in to him. Rodgers pass was right between the numbers, and Peppers dropped it. No touchdown, and third down coming up. At least the drop/deflection didn’t turn into a gift interception for the Saints.

Now it was 3rd and goal. The Packers called timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Rodgers was late getting the play ready at the line of scrimmage, was forced to rush the snap, combined with poor blocking, he was sacked for a loss of 11 yards, and now the 1st and goal from the 3 turned into just 3 points, and the lead was 10-7.

Coach McCarthy got cute, showing what little faith he had in his defense, by trying a sneak onside kick. Not a bad idea, not as bad as using Peppers as a receiver (and not throwing it up high to take advantage of his 8-inch height advantage), but it didn’t work, and the Saints started their second drive in Packers territory at the 46-yard line.

Ten plays later, on third and 9, Julius Peppers atoned for his dropped interception (which cost 4 points), by sacking Drew Brees and saving 4 points as the Saints had to settle for a field goal, making it 10-10.

Packers drive number 3 was marching along fine again, at the Saints 24-yard line and a first down. That’s when left tackle David Bakhtiari got called for another holding call on a Rodgers scramble, and the 10-yard penalty pushed the ball back to the 34-yard line and set up a 1st and 20. Since the start of last season, Bakhtiari leads the NFL in holding penalties.

Rodgers would miss two passes sandwiched around a James Starks 2-yard run, and another field goal made it 13-10 Packers. To this point, the Saints defense really didn’t do anything to stop the Packers offense, and without the Packers own miscues down in scoring territory, it very easily could have been 21-10 Packers.

But it wasn’t. It was only 13-10, and the Saints would get the ball next, march for over 7 minutes and 15 plays, but the defense stiffened at the 10-yard line and forced another field goal, making it 13-13.

The Packers, again, marched right down the field, and had a 2nd and 1 at the Saints 18-yard line. An 11-yard pass to Davante Adams was wiped out by the zebra who called Adams for the push-off (later in the game, Jimmy Graham caught a touchdown when he got away with a little pushoff on Tramon Williams).

This set up a 1st and 20, and then Rodgers again took too long to get the play ready and a delay of game now made it a 1st and 25, which led to another field goal and a 16-13 lead.

The Saints would get the ball back with 1:51 back, at their own 20-yard line, and the Packers defense was fortunate that time ran out, leading the Saints to once again kick a field goal as time expired, making it 16-16 at the half.

The second half started well as the Packers’ defense actually got a stop. The Saints, at the Packers 42, had a 3rd and 1. They lost a yard to make it 4th and 1, and went for it. Mark Ingram was stuffed, and the Packers got a break of serve and the offense took over with a tie game, at their 43 yard line, very good field position for once as all other drives for both teams had begun at the 20.

Again, Rodgers led the offense down into the red zone, and he picked up a first down on a 7-yard scramble to the Saints 6 yard line, stepping out of bounds untouched along the right sideline. But he pulled something in his hamstring, which seemingly affected him the rest of the game.

Still, it was 1st and goal at the Saints 6-yard line. Hopefully, this time, they’d punch it in and go back up by 7 instead of wilting and settling for another field goal. First down, and Eddie Lacy was stuffed for one yard, despite running hard, as the blocking was poor. Second down saw a misfire to Jordy Nelson in the end zone.

Third and goal from the 5-yard line, and the Packers ran the same play they ran in the 1st quarter to Peppers. Again, Rodgers put the ball right to the receiver, this time tight end Andrew Quarless. He failed to snatch it in, but worse, it bounced up into the air, right into the waiting arms of Saints linebacker David Hawthorne.

About to go up by 7 in the 3rd quarter, Quarless was unable to make the catch in the end zone, and let it get popped up into the waiting arms of the Saints linebacker. That was the #1 killing moment of the game.

About to go up by 7 in the 3rd quarter, Quarless was unable to make the catch in the end zone, and let it get popped up into the waiting arms of the Saints linebacker. That was the #1 killing moment of the game.

That was the Packers last chance to take the lead, as the defense allowed the Saints to score touchdowns their next 3 possessions and blow it open 37-16, before the Packers scored finally with 5:13 left to make it 37-23. The Packers failed to recover an onside kick, and a few plays later, Ingram ran in a 21-yard touchdown to make the final score 44-23.

Rodgers threw 2 interceptions on the night, both deflected passes. The second one on the night was a pass off rookie Davante Adams’ hand. Adams stopped his route, when he should have kept running to the inside, so the pass was ahead of him and he reached and tipped the ball into the air for another gift interception.

They were Rodgers’ first interceptions since week one, in Seattle, when Jordy Nelson tipped one into the air for a gift interception for the Seahawks.

The Packers now have their bye, then welcome the reeling Chicago Bears (3-5) to Lambeau Field. That game will also be on NBC Football Night in America, primetime. All 3 of Rodgers interceptions this year are on the NBC night games.

Player of the Game

  • Eddie Lacy, edges Randall Cobb

Despite crappy blocking, Lacy was a horse last night. He only ran the ball 13 times, for 59 yards (4.5 average), but there were never any real holes, as all his yardage came from breaking tackles and/or cutting against the grain. But Lacy also caught 8 passes, tops on the team, for 123 yards.
Cobb had the big 70-yard touchdown catch on the opening drive. He ended up with 5 catches for 126 yards.

Goat of the Game

  • Lane Taylor

Granted, he’s not a starter. But still, he’s on the roster, he’s getting paid, and he’s being counted on as the first sub if a guard goes down. That’s what happened to TJ Lang, somehow (no video of the play was made available and NBC didn’t say how it occurred).
Taylor was victimized left and right on running plays, including the key 4th and 1 that Lacy was stuffed on. He was the lowest-rated Packers player on offense in the game, according to Pro Football Focus, with a -4.2 grade.
Starting right tackle, Bryan Bulaga, again struggled on turf against a fast edge rusher. Bulaga allowed 6 hurries, and had a -3.4 pass block grade.

Consolation votes go to:

  • Andrew Quarless
  • Davante Adams
  • Julius Peppers
  • And whoever thought Peppers was a better option for catching a slant-in than either Jarrett Boykin, Jeff Janis, Adams, Cobb, or Jordy Nelson. Or Brandon Bostick, Richard Rodgers.
  • I understand how great of an athlete Peppers is. He is special. I also understand that he’s 6 foot 6, so he has about an 8-inch height advantage over the little cornerback who was one-on-one against him. So why not throw the high ball to him, let Peppers arms and rebounding ability be the mismatch that Jimmy Graham’s is? A slant-in? He couldn’t handle that.He might have height that Cobb and Boykin don’t, but his hands and pass-catching ability cannot be as good. As seen on TV now. That was costly.

After the bye, the Packers host the Bears, and the Lions host Miami.
The Vikings beat Tampa Bay in overtime, and are now tied with Chicago at 3-5. They get a home game this week against the Redskins, and have their bye next week.


Aaron Rodgers ‘much better’ than 2011 MVP season, says McCarthy

October 23, 2014 by  
Filed under News

From Chris Wesseling at NFL.com
(I’m not buying this though as THAT Rodgers was the best QB play for a season we have ever seen, in my opinion)

~Aaron Rodgers’ 2011 passer rating of 122.5 earned him the Most Valuable Player of the Year award and stands as the highest mark in NFL history.

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy insists his quarterback is a “much better player now” than he was a few seasons ago.

“His responsibility level has increased a lot since then,” McCarthy explained, via Fox Sports Wisconsin. “So, what he does during the course of the week, during the course of the game, at the line of scrimmage, the communication between (quarterbacks coach) Alex Van Pelt and myself, he is, in my opinion, watching him grow throughout his career, he’s clearly a better player.”

7 rodgers2

Rodgers put the onus on himself after the Packers slumped to 1-2 to open the season.

Since his much-celebrated admonishment to R-E-L-A-X, Rodgers has tossed 13 touchdown passes, completed 70 percent of his throws and is enjoying the longest streak of his career without an interception. He has also joined 2007 Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks to throw at least three touchdown passes without an interception in four consecutive games.

Still, Rodgers isn’t quite as adamant as McCarthy about his own improvement.

“Well, if Mike said it, it must be true, right?” Rodgers said. “He’s our leader, we’ve got to follow everything he says. I hope I’m better. I’ve had a lot of experience since then.”

Perhaps Rodgers is reluctant to take too much credit now because he’s been the best player in the league since the 2010 postseason. Much like Tony Romo and Philip Rivers, he’s benefiting from the improved play of those around him.

It’s understandable that Rodgers’ production was down during the Packers’ slow start. Derek Sherrod was a major liability filling in at right tackle. A pair of talented guards failed to open lanes in the run game. Perhaps hiding an injury, Randall Cobb looked ordinary in training camp and couldn’t separate in September. Jarrett Boykin wasn’t getting open as the No. 3 receiver.

All of those issued have been ironed out in October. 7 cobb 47 yards

As you can see in the video below, Cobb has been electric after the catch, which has allowed Rodgers to generate a league-leading 143.8 passer rating on throws in his direction — many on extended plays. The Rodgers-to-Davante Adams connection has generated a 126.7 rating compared to 39.6 for Boykin in a small sample size, per Pro Football Focus.

With right tackle Bryan Bulaga back from injury and second-year left tackle David Bakhtiari emerging as an above-average blindside protector, Rodgers has been playing pitch-and-catch with his receivers early in games, notching 24 completions on 28 first-quarter attempts over the past four weeks.

McCarthy lamented in January that last year’s offense could have been the best he has coached had Rodgers stayed healthy. If the past month is any indication, McCarthy’s assessment was just a season early.

Do you think the current Rodgers is better than that all-time record-setting 2011 Rodgers?

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Week 7 game, and breaks down Peyton Manning’s record-breaking night.
Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

Packers spank Panthers, move to 5-2

October 19, 2014 by  
Filed under News

By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior editor





~The Packers jumped all over the Carolina Panthers early and often Sunday, streaking out to a 28-0 lead en route to a 38-17 win.

Aaron Rodgers was nearly perfect Sunday at Lambeau Field, going 19-22 for 255 yards and 3 touchdowns and again, no interceptions. His passer rating was 154.5. He even chipped in 21 yards rushing, including a key first down early in the game.

The defense did their part as well, holding the Panthers to 3 points until the Panthers scored a pair of garbage-time touchdowns in the final 9 minutes after the game was 38-3.

Jordy Nelson opened the scoring by catching a gorgeous pass up the right sideline, and then side-stepping the safety on his way to a 59-yard touchdown. Nelson would have 4 catches for 80 yards in that opening quarter. That would be it for Nelson as Rodgers chose to spread it around after that, wisely.

7 cobb 47 yards

Randall Cobb led the way with 6 catches and 121 yards, also scoring a touchdown.

Rookie Davante Adams also got into the end zone on his only catch (and only target) for a 21-yard touchdown to open the 3rd quarter and give the Packers a 35-3 lead.

Eddie Lacy and James Starks each rushed for touchdowns as well, in the 1st quarter.

Lacy and Starks combined for 99 yards on 19 carries, 5.2 per carry.

7 lacy td

On defense, once again rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix led the way in tackles, with 9. Fellow safety Morgan Burnett was next with 8, including a key stop on a 4th and 1 play where he got in the backfield quickly and made the tackle for loss.

Julius Peppers again had a good game, with 5 tackles and 1.5 sacks. The .5 sack was shared with Clay Matthews, who also got to Cam Newton right away on the same play. Matthews had a good game overall, with a couple of tackles, including a tackle for loss.

Tramon Williams played well coming off the ankle injury last week. Casey Hayward was solid again, with an interception, in place of Sam Shields. The Packers depth at cornerback has proven to come in handy.

This was a good matchup for Shields to be gone, as it allowed Sean Richardson to get on the field. Richardson is the Packers biggest and strongest safety, which came in handy against the physical Panthers.

News & Notes

Next week it’s onto New Orleans and the Drew Brees Show. The Saints blew a game late today in Detroit, up 13 with under 5 minutes to go, they found a way to lose by 1 point.
Brees was picked off to set up the Lions winning score, then Brees was unable to drive into field goal range afterwards to set up a potential winning field goal. It wasn’t all his fault, as the Saints OL had the same problems with the fantastic Lions DL that the Packers did in week 3.
Brees and the Saints offense actually fared better there than the Packers did when the Lions whipped the Packers 19-7.

By winning, the Lions remained tied with the Packers at 5-2. But since they beat the Packers head to head, they’re technically ahead of the Packers at the moment. Remember what looms ahead in week 17? Lions at Packers. It’s a long way to go, but it looms large at the moment.

In Chicago today, the Bears lost their 3rd straight game at home, dropping to 3-4 on the year and 0-3 at home. Their hometown fans were booing them, and there were some shouting fights and arguments among players in the locker room after the game.

A look at the NFC Playoff Contenders:

NFC East
1- Dallas 6-1
2- Philadelphia 5-1

NFC North
1- Detroit 5-2
1- Green Bay 5-2

NFC South
1- Carolina 3-3-1
2- New Orleans 2-4

NFC West
1- Arizona 5-1
2- San Francisco 4-3
3- Seattle 3-3

It’s way too early, but if the season ended now as it is, the Packers would be the #6 seed, final Wildcard team in, behind the Eagles, and would play at Detroit while the Cowboys and Cardinals would be your top 2 teams getting the byes. A lot is going to change, but isn’t it nice seeing Seattle and San Francisco on the outside-looking-in? Those top 3 teams in the NFC West have yet to start beating each other up yet.


Packers secondary has answered the call to improve defense

October 19, 2014 by  
Filed under News

From the great Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Bob McGinn

~Green Bay — The awakening of the Green Bay Packers’ defense can be traced almost exclusively to the clear-cut improvement of the secondary.

It’s certainly not scheme. The so-called “quad” base defense, or 4-3, basically lasted two games.

It’s not the defensive line. The Packers still can’t stop the run, and the pass rush from the lighter, more athletic unit hasn’t made up the difference.

The inside linebacker position remains an albatross around the neck of coordinator Dom Capers.

All things considered, the rotation system at outside linebacker has brought little more than comparable results from previous seasons.

It’s the cornerbacks and safeties. As a whole, they’ve played outstanding football.

True, the secondary hasn’t tackled well. The unit has 29 misses, 13 more than after six games last season.

But when it comes to coverage, few teams, if any, can do it any better.

The Packers rank second in interceptions with nine, six more than at this stage in 2013. Those nine picks have set up 45 points, 35 more than at the six-game mark a year ago.

Considering that three of the secondary’s six interceptions were the result of marvelous individual plays, and that one of the three picks by the linebackers was deflected beautifully by Tramon Williams, it’s a significant haul for a defense coming off a season in which its interception total of 12 was the fewest since 2005.

Taking away the ball remains the most critical component of a winning defense. Capers and his veteran assistants, five of whom have been with him since 2009, were more interested this season in reducing the numbers of big plays that have wrecked the defense for too long.

Packers safety Morgan Burnett (left) helps make a key stop on fourth down against the Dolphins. -Rick Wood photo

Packers safety Morgan Burnett (left) helps make a key stop on fourth down against the Dolphins. -Rick Wood photo

“You remember me talking at the beginning of the year,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said last week. “It was less about interceptions and more about limiting explosives.

“People are going to throw us the ball, and we’re going to catch ’em. We just can’t allow them to catch that big one.”

His colleague in the secondary, safeties coach Darren Perry, was just as emphatic that minimizing long gains was the paramount emphasis for the defense this season.

“It’s the biggest thing…the biggest thing,” said Perry. “We’ve got to make teams drive the ball on us.”

The Packers have yielded one pass of 35 yards or more, compared with six in six games last year. The six-game average in the first five years under Capers was 4.2.

They’ve also allowed seven touchdown passes, a significant drop from 12 after six games of 2013 and from the six-game average of 11.6 from 2009-’13.

According to STATS, the Packers are tied for seventh in completions of 20 yards or more with 15, a big drop from their six-game yield of 23 a year ago.

Neither Perry nor Whitt was suggesting the Packers have arrived. Their opening opponents rank 31st, 32nd, 14th, ninth, 30th and tied for 25th in passing yards.

Beginning with Carolina’s Cam Newton Sunday at Lambeau Field, six of the next seven teams on the schedule have quarterbacks that could turn a strength into an issue.

The vulnerability of inside linebackers A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones and Jamari Lattimore against the pass might limit just how effective the pass defense can be.

Still, it should be obvious that the Packers have the hardest part of the coverage game under control. As a group, the four cornerbacks can cover with anybody, and the safety play is getting better almost by the week.

The events late last Sunday at Miami spoke volumes about the seven leading defensive backs (nine, if you count Sean Richardson and Jarrett Bush) and their ability to shut people down.

Remember, Williams and Sam Shields were sitting on the bench injured when the Dolphins began their four-minute push from the 20. It didn’t deter Capers, who waved out his 3-4 base to stop the run, flooded the box and told Davon House to cover Mike Wallace man-to-man and Casey Hayward to cover Brian Hartline man-to-man.

On the Dolphins’ first three snaps, free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was in the middle of the field as Capers rushed six, five and six players.

On their final four snaps, Clinton-Dix was in man coverage against Jarvis Landry or with strong safety Morgan Burnett near the line as Capers came with seven, seven, six and eight men.

Like Capers, other coordinators might have felt just as compelled to stop the run at all costs and been equally as daring in coverage.

Odds are, however, coordinators with both starting cornerbacks sidelined wouldn’t have been successful.

Those final four plays saw the Packers in so-called “zero” coverage. It means the cornerbacks are responsible for a wide receiver wherever he goes without having any safety help.

Despite the fact that Hawk and Jones were responsible for giving up first downs on pass plays, the strategy ultimately enabled the offense to get the ball and drive for victory.

Those seven plays illustrated so much of what this ascending secondary does well.

House stayed in Wallace’s back pocket. House was something of a tease in the first three seasons, but now some teams might kill to have him starting for them.

Hayward managed to hold up against the clever Hartline. Hayward’s better in zones and inside, but with his ball skills and cunning many teams would very much like him, at least as their nickel back.

Clinton-Dix brought down Lamar Miller on third down, forcing Miami to punt. In the first half, he stopped Miller cold in the classic confrontation between juking, breaking-away running back and single safety coming up to tackle. Miller’s gain was 14, not a possible 55.

“If we miss, it’s an explosive and demoralizes the defense,” Perry said. “When a back gets through there, that’s a tough tackle.”

Certainly, Burnett is more comfortable playing off the edge shifting in against the run and covering short-to-intermediate routes. He helped muck up all three of coach Joe Philbin’s running plays.

When Capers switched to his dime on third and 9 and run-blitzed with eight, versatile Micah Hyde alertly shot a gap to insure that Miller had no chance to get out of the gate.

Has anyone expressed more than mild misgivings about facing Cam Newton without Williams and Shields?

It’s mute testimony to just how deep the Packers are at cornerback. House hasn’t allowed a play for 20 yards or more in 176 snaps, and the one that Hayward allowed in 150 plays stemmed from a missed tackle.

Extremely dangerous in off coverage, Williams has been playing aggressively and well. He’s allowed just one-half of a 20-plus play, also the result of a missed tackle.

The team-leading total of four 20-plus plays charged to Shields reflects his inconsistent eye discipline and less-than-physical approach. The only pass for more than 35 yards was the 52-yard bomb in Detroit when Shields got beat deep by Corey Fuller.

At this point last season, the coaches and players were trying to dig out from a deluge of six 35-plus passes.

Safety Jerron McMillian stopped his feet, came up from the deep middle, fell and watched the Ravens’ No. 4 wideout race by him for 63 yards. It had been fourth and 21.

Williams tried to tackle another Ravens receiver high, took a stiff-arm to the chops and watched him go for 59 yards.

In the same game, McMillian didn’t attack a crossing route, was knocked off and, when House loafed in pursuit, ancient tight end Dallas Clark legged it for 45. Clark’s longest reception in the previous 10 games was 17.

Clay Matthews was out of position on a 44-yard bubble screen. Nick Perry and Hawk were at fault on a pass for 43. M.D. Jennings was mauled by the 49ers’ Vernon Davis for 37.

The dysfunction didn’t end at six games. Seven wideouts surpassed 100 yards in the final 10 games (none this year). The yield of 30 touchdown passes was third most in club annals. Nary a pass was picked by a safety.

After re-signing Shields, general manager Ted Thompson drafted Clinton-Dix in the first round after just missing out on every-down inside linebackers Ryan Shazier and C.J. Mosley.

Clinton-Dix was rather passive in August. Not only wasn’t he making any plays on the ball, his run fits were inconsistent.

After a poor opener in Seattle (he was at fault on two 33-yard receptions), the Alabama rookie hasn’t allowed a 20-plus gain since. The passivity of two months ago has become a disciplined aggressive approach no doubt drilled into him by Nick Saban.

In the second quarter at Miami, Wallace ran an over route in what appeared to be three-deep zone coverage. Williams had the most difficult assignment, carrying Wallace to the limits of his third and turning him over to the center third occupied by Clinton-Dix.

The rookie reacted instantly, broke forward and smashed Wallace just as the on-target pass was falling incomplete.

“That’s not (difficult) when we get our communication like we had there,” said Perry. “Ha Ha’s got some natural ability for feeling routes.”

Although House argued that Jennings was in complete command of the defense, he was too slight and lacked the confidence to make such a play. He also played at Arkansas State; McMillian played for Maine.

Already, Clinton-Dix and Burnett, freed from having his modest level of quickness exposed by a steady diet of deep middle, are playing like a top-10 pair of safeties.

“We’ve done a better job of communicating between the nickel (back), the dime (back) and the ‘backer,” said Whitt. “Everyone has done a good job talking. It’s a reason our coverages have been tighter and better.”

Using the same criteria that I’ve maintained for two decades, the pass rush in six games this season (13 sacks, 28 knockdowns, 37 hurries, four bats) is just slightly better than last year at this time (20 sacks, 13 knockdowns, 38 hurries, three bats).

It’s not the rush, and it’s certainly not the inside linebackers.

As usually happens, the rise of the secondary is due to more and better athletes becoming better football players.

Now we’ll see if the group can sustain, if not build upon, its fast start in denying those debilitating explosive plays.


Cardiac Pack: Rodgers to Quarless with 3 seconds left lifts Packers to win over Dolphins

October 12, 2014 by  
Filed under News

By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior editor

Andrew Quarless catches the game-winning touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers with 3 seconds left in the game. Linebacker Philliup Wheeler gave Quarless the cushion he needed.

Andrew Quarless catches the game-winning touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers with 3 seconds left in the game. Linebacker Philliup Wheeler gave Quarless the cushion he needed.

~Similar to many a last-second win back in the 90’s, Aaron Rodgers hit tight end Andrew Quarless in the end zone with 3 seconds left in the game to give the Green Bay Packers a 27-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins and move to 4-2, keeping pace with the Detroit Lions atop the NFC North.

The Packers got the ball back at its 40-yard line with 2 minutes, 4 seconds left in the game and trailing 24-20. Knowing a field goal was not an option, it was touchdown-or-lose territory, not the kind of wins the Packers are accustomed to during the Rodgers Era.

Rodgers was 6-for-9 on the game-winning drive.
The biggest play on the drive was an 18-yard pass from Rodgers to Jordy Nelson on fourth-and-10 from the Miami 30.

Rodgers performance was remarkable considering he was getting hammered and pressured from all sides, and the back judge was not protecting him. He absorbed a half-dozen hits after the pass and not one flag for a late hit was thrown. Cameron Wake made Bryan Bulaga look like a backup.  Wake hadn't had a sack since week one.

Rodgers performance was remarkable considering he was getting hammered and pressured from all sides, and the back judge was not protecting him. He absorbed a half-dozen hits after the pass and not one flag for a late hit was thrown.
Cameron Wake made Bryan Bulaga look like a backup.
Wake hadn’t had a sack since week one.

The Dolphins had scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions of the second half, driving 80, 80 and 79 yards to take a 24-17 lead with 9:13 left in the game, and the Packers’ defense was wearing down after losing cornerbacks Sam Shields and Tramon Williams to injury on the same drive near the end of the third quarter.

The Packers pulled to within 24-20 on a 30-yard Mason Crosby field goal with 4:09 left in the game. The Packers defense finally stopped the Dolphins as Miami got conservative trying to salt away the game.

Critics have pointed out that Cardiac Last minute wins like this have been rare for Rodgers. While it’s true that he hasn’t had the stealing-victory-from-the-clutches-of-defeat kind of last minute wins that Brett Favre often had, in the regular season, in the 90’s, Rodgers has been fine late in games. But this win ranks up there at the top for pulling out a win when a loss was so close.

The win gave Mike McCarthy and Rodgers a win over former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin.
Rodgers finished 24 for 42 for 264 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, again. He only has one interception on the year, and that was the tipped ball in Seattle on opening night.

News & Notes

TJ Lang made the real play of the drive when he hustled his butt off and dove head-first for the loose football after Rodgers coughed it up on that final drive.  #UnsungHero

Rodgers fumbles the ball away on the final drive, but TJ Lang sees it and would go after it and recover it, saving the game. -Photo credit Rick Wood

Rodgers fumbles the ball away on the final drive, but TJ Lang sees it and would go after it and recover it, saving the game. -Photo credit Rick Wood

Jamarri Lattimore whiffed on a block on a Tim Masthay punt and allowed a blocked punt early in the game. Lattimore later left the game, in the second quarter, and did not return. No word on the injury, but it was in the neck area.

Jonathan Freeny blocks a Tim Masthay punt after he blew right past Jamarri Lattimore on the left side.

Jonathan Freeny blocks a Tim Masthay punt after he blew right past Jamarri Lattimore on the left side.

Mason Crosby saved a touchdown on a kick return as Special Teams coach Shawn Slocum watched his team break down twice early in the game.

Mason Crosby saves a touchdown by tripping up Jarvis Landry.

Mason Crosby saves a touchdown by tripping up Jarvis Landry.

Sam Shields, untouched before even a play was run, and then Tramon Williams two plays later, both were injured early in the 4th quarter and were unable to return.
Though the Packers are deep at the cornerback position, those are the two starters and they are good. The Packers face Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers next week in Green Bay. The last time Newton faced the Packers was in 2011 in Newton’s second game as a pro and he torched the Packers for 400+ yards, but the Packers won by 7 on their way to the 13-0 start that season. That was the game Nick Collins’ career ended.

After Carolina next week, the Packers travel to New Orleans to face Drew Brees and the Saints. Cornerbacks will be needed that night.

Shields injury is a mystery as it was before the play even began to start a drive. I thought it was a cramp in the heat, but they said the knee area.
Williams foot was twisted up in a pile making a tackle.

Rookie receiver Davante Adams continues to step up. He caught 6 passes on 8 throws his way (75%) for 77 yards. Included in those were two key third down passes earlier, and the big fake-spike catch that set up the game winning pass to Quarless.

The run blocking again was non-existent for the most part. Eddie Lacy had another 2.9 per carry day, finishing with just 40 yards on 14 carries. This was against a defense that was pinning its’ ears back going after the QB all day long. James Starks and John Kuhn fared a bit better, averaging 3.8 per carry each.

This would have been a good opportunity for DuJuan Harris to be put in there with his change of pass, quickness. Sometimes I think McCarthy has forgotten about the little man down the stretch in 2012. He was good.

Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers shakes hands with head coach Joe Philbin of the Miami Dolphins. Philbin, of course, was McCarthy's offensive coordinator until getting the head job in Miami.

Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers shakes hands with head coach Joe Philbin of the Miami Dolphins. Philbin, of course, was McCarthy’s offensive coordinator until getting the head job in Miami.

Clay Matthews was silent. He didn’t get a sack, a tackle for loss, or even a tackle period. He was blanked on the score sheet aside from one batted ball, which could have easily resulted in a gift interception for someone. But it fell harmlessly to the ground away from all the green jerseys.

Julius Peppers had one tackle for loss and four solo tackles.

Letroy Guion made an unnoticed, but huge play early in the game. On fourth and goal from the one in the first quarter, Miami elected to bypass the sure field goal and go for it. They gave it to the super KnowShon Moreno, but Guion guessed and shot the gap, getting to Moreno about three yards in the backfield, forcing Moreno to cut right, which is right where safety Morgan Burnett had filled. The Dolphins got nothing.

Rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix celebrates the Packers win in Miami.

Rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix celebrates the Packers win in Miami.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix led the team in tackles with seven, while fellow safety (and cornerback once Shields and Williams departed) Micah Hyde was next with six.

Before exiting from the mysterious injury, Shields had an interception as did Casey Hayward.

Sam Shields intercepts a Ryan Tannehill pass in the first half. The Packers fastest player, it was quite odd that the Dolphins went at him deep with Brian Hartline, a 4.6 possession kind of guy. He's no Jordy Nelson.

Sam Shields intercepts a Ryan Tannehill pass in the first half.
The Packers fastest player, it was quite odd that the Dolphins went at him deep with Brian Hartline, a 4.6 possession kind of guy. He’s no Jordy Nelson.

Former Packers starting LF Daryn Colledge, member of the Super Bowl winning team of 2010, faced Rodgers.

Former Super Bowl teammates Daryn Colledge and Rodgers embrace after the game.

Former Super Bowl teammates Daryn Colledge and Rodgers embrace after the game.


Defense, Eddie Lacy, Packers rout Vikings Thursday night

October 2, 2014 by  
Filed under News

  • By Gregg Rosenthal, Around The NFL Editor

It didn’t take long for the Green Bay Packers to restore some order to the NFC North. The division still goes through Aaron Rodgers and company until proven otherwise.

The 3-2 Packers trounced the Minnesota Vikings 42-14 on Thursday night, the second blowout against a division opponent in five days. Rodgers and Mike McCarthy answered the hand-wringing over their offensive production in the best way possible, with 80 points over the last two weeks against Minnesota and Chicago.

This was the Green Bay offense we’ve expected all season because it was finally balanced. Eddie Lacy topped his season high for rushing yards with 10 minutes left in the first quarter, eventually finishing with 105 yards and two touchdowns. The Packers‘ offensive line mauled Minnesota’s front seven and Lacy did the rest, decisively hitting the hole and bouncing off tacklers at the second level. Rodgers only had 12 completions, but made them count for 156 yards and three scores. He didn’t need to improvise Thursday; his throws were open and in rhythm.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota’s last-minute replacement for injured rookie Teddy Bridgewater, never truly stood a chance(Mike Zimmer said after the game that Bridgewater will play Week 6 against the Detroit Lions). The Vikings‘ offensive line has been uneven all year, and they were steamrolled by the Packers pass rush. Mike Daniels led the way with four quarterback hits; the Packers put up a ridiculous total of 14 QB hits and six sacks. Complaining about Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers can stop for a week.

Ponder needs to get rid of the ball faster at times, but many of his errant passes came after quick pressure that no quarterback could deal with. A deluge of three consecutive turnovers from Ponder and running back Matt Asiata arrived in the second quarter, essentially ending the game. Rodgers was able to watch the final frame from the sidelines, or the Packers could have eaten a 50-burger at home.

The game continues a string of Thursday night laughers, and was a reminder of how good this Packers team can be. They have dismantled two solid division opponents by 53 combined points. Before the year, we expected their defense to make strides this season. They have started to look more like a playmaking unit, with free agent pickup Julius Peppers looking like a steal. He looked faster than some wide receivers during a pick six return Thursday, and has outplayed Clay Matthews through five games.

The Detroit Lions remain in first place at 3-1, and they should have staying power. But the Packers have served notice that their third straight 1-2 start was no reason for panic. This remains a complete team with the most talented quarterback in the league. It took a few weeks, but they are playing like it now.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews “Thursday Night Football” and discusses the biggest surprises in the season’s first quarter.

Full story and videos HERE