Packers defense costing McCarthy, Rodgers again
From Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor
~I’m the first one to remind everyone that the Collapse in Seattle was just as much Aaron Rodgers‘ fault as it was anyone else’s, Brandon Bostick excluded.
Rodgers left four easy points on the table when he missed a simple basic short pass for a touchdown to Jordy Nelson.
That miss resulted in an early field goal instead of touchdown.
He also threw two horrible, hard to figure, interceptions that day. One was on a missed call by a ref who should have thrown the flag for offsides, and a free play. But Rodgers, not seeing the flag, still chose to challenge Richard Sherman on the play, to of all people, the rookie Davante Adams.
The other interception Rodgers threw that day was a totally unforced misread to either Cobb or Nelson, on a short pass on first down in field goal range. It went right to a Seattle defensive back for a gift interception and wasted at least three more points.
That was a game in which the defense totally shut down Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch for almost 55 minutes, and had Rodgers been sharp, the game would have been similar to last week’s win over Seattle, 38-10. Had Rodgers just been decent, it still would have been a comfortable win. But those three mistakes alone cost the Packers a minimum of 10 points, and as many as 18.
That bad playoff game aside from Rodgers, he’s also been outplayed by Colin Kaepernick two times.
His other losses in the playoffs, to Kurt Warner in 2010, and Carson Palmer this January, as well as to Eli Manning in 2012, those can’t be pinned on Rodgers. Those were defenses failing, big time.
That Dom Capers defense let Warner throw for more touchdowns than have incomplete passes. Rodgers put up 45 points, but it wasn’t enough.
The defense against the Giants couldn’t get a 3rd down stop in the first quarter, then allowed a hail mary pass to end the first half, a play after a “give-up” run went for enough yards to surprisingly get them into hail mary range.
Actually, the first loss to San Francisco was not Rodgers’ fault either as that defense made Kaepernick look like a future first ballot Hall of Famer. (Careful, not a good memory for Packer fans)
Even the next year’s playoff loss to San Francisco, Micah Hyde had a chance to seal that game with a pick, but it went off his fingertips.
Just like this year in Arizona when the Packers, Sam Shields particularly, let numerous interceptions go through their hands.
The 2011 Packers had the best offense in the league, were 15-1, and coming off a Super Bowl win. They were expected to repeat. But that defense was terrible. It started with letting Cullen Jenkins go, and losing the interior pass rush. It really took a hit when Nick Collins neck was injured by Carolina’s fat running back Jonathan Stewart’s big butt compressing Collins’ neck. That loss was the killer blow.
Just look how bad Seattle’s defense was in week 14 when the Packers lit them up for 38. And last week, Indianapolis carved up the Vikings who were missing their key safety Harrison Smith.
This year, the Packers safeties have magically stayed healthy. Both Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett have avoided injuries this season and have played well.
But they aren’t always able to cover up for blown coverages left and right, and down the seams, from backup cornerbacks who are forced to cover #1 and #2 wide receivers now. Or coverup for Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, who have taken steps backwards in year two.
I thought these two guys both had Pro Bowl written all over them, especially Rollins.
For some reason, they’ve been burnt repeatedly this season, starting with week two in Minnesota, where Randall made second year, mid-round pick Stefon Diggs look like Antonio Brown.
The next week, the Packers pass defense made pedestrian journeyman Marvin Jones look like Marvin Harrison in his prime.
We’re used to the Packers defensive backs getting torched by guys like Larry Fitzgerald in the playoffs, or like Julio Jones two years ago, who almost went for 300 yards in Lambeau.
Also, last year, Keenan Allen of the Chargers was about to beat them singlehandedly, until he went out late injured, like Jones did in that Falcons Packers Monday night game that the Packers hung on to win 43-37.
But to the point, and that’s this year’s edition of Dom Capers’ defense.
This year’s defense started bad by making Sam Bradford, in his first ever start for the Vikings, look like Peyton Manning, Randall couldn’t cover Stefon Diggs.
The following week, the Packers offense put up 30 in the first half, but the defense allowed Marvin Jones to blossom into Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison in the second half and almost steal that game for the Lions.
Later, the Packers defense set dubious records by allowing an average of 420 yards in those four consecutive losses in weeks 8-11, and was particularly hapless against the Tennessee Titans (446 yards) and finally, against the Washington Redskins (515) on Sunday Night Football for all to see. That was the low point, so far.
Dom Capers’ defense had just allowed 40-plus points in consecutive games, and the Packers soft, mentally-weak and poor-tacking, poor-covering defense had allowed 30 points or more in four straight games for the first time since the final four games of the 1953 season.
“Defense, we didn’t stop ’em,” McCarthy said. “Our pass defense, we didn’t get off the field. It was touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, field goal in the second half. I think that tells the story.”
And just now again this week, in the harrowing win in Chicago, the Packers defense responded to a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, by allowing the Bears to rack up 228 yards and erase that whole 17-point lead.
In 15 minutes, the 3-10 Bears’ 4th string QB rolled up 228 yards and 17 points. “That’s something we have to work on, closing out games,” Micah Hyde acknowledged. His play saved a touchdown and forced Chicago to kick just a field goal to tie it. He needed to close out that game three years ago versus San Francisco too, but he didn’t.
Remember the Packers #1-rated rush defense, facing the Dallas Cowboys #1-rated rushing offense back in week six? Ezekiel Elliott shredded it for 158 yards, while fellow rookie Dak Prescott threw for not one or two, but three touchdowns, and had a passer rating of 117.4 that day in Green Bay.
So any way you look at it, this defense stinks. It smells like rotting cheese in all areas.
The pass rush without a healthy Clay Matthews is terrible. Add in the bad finger to Nick Perry, and he’s unavailable. My hope is that by resting his poor fingers, he comes back now with a vengeance and with fresh legs, and is a terror for the final two regular season games and three playoff games to get to the Super Bowl.
But Sam Shields isn’t coming back, and his absence has demonstrated one thing for certain. He was the Packers true best cover corner. Forget the youngsters Randall and Rollins, and Ladarius Gunter. Those guys each have a lot to learn yet.
Without a good pass rush, those guys will continue to get exposed as they have by Diggs, Marvin Jones, Julio Jones, Fitzgerald, Alshon, etc.
That is the key. The pass rush. The pass rush is the thing that can save this team. A good pass rush, and we’ll see stops in addition to turnovers. A bad pass rush, and we’ll see another season end because Capers’ defense makes someone look like a Hall of Famer. Whether it’s Kaepernick or Eli, Warner or Fitzgerald, Stafford or Prescott, someone will put a dagger in another Super Bowl run.
If Capers can’t get this defense, with seven first round picks on defense (Peppers, Matthews, Perry, Datone, Clark, Randall, Clinton-Dix, plus the great Mike Daniels) to develop a consistent pass rush, then there will be another painful end to a season of greatness from the two-time MVP Rodgers without a Super Bowl. The window will close a little bit more.