Taking a look inside the Xs & Os, personnel and schemes after watching video of the Packers 28-26 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday…
- The Lions were more than happy to get the ball to running backs and tight ends on screens, dump-offs and underneath routes against a “fire zone” blitz team like the Packers. Basically, the Lions were happy with how their personnel matched up with the Packers linebackers. Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith combined for 23 receptions yesterday. They knew their tight ends were bigger (and frequently faster) than the Packers linebackers. They also knew their running backs were by far faster than the Packers linebackers. No matter if they threw to their tight ends or running backs, it was a winning combination.
- For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the Packers didn’t use their dime personnel more on Sunday. I guess it just wasn’t part of the game plan. But when the linebackers (both inside and outside) were far slower than Best, Pettigrew and company, I think it would have been a smarter choice to have the speedier option of a Brandon Underwood or Pat Lee as opposed to the likes of A.J. Hawk, Brady Poppinga, Frank Zombo or Nick Barnett who don’t have near the sideline to sideline speed as their cornerback counterparts.
- Twice on the Lions’ second possession of the game, the Packers used a cross dog blitz with A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett blitzing up the middle and both outside linebackers (Frank Zombo and Clay Matthews) dropping into coverage. On the second of those two plays, Zombo erred in coverage trying to cover Pettigrew along with Matthews. The result was Scheffler being left wide open on a reception that turned into a first down. From that point onward, Zombo was used considerably less, especially in coverage. Zombo dropped into coverage 9 times the whole game, none after halftime. Poppinga dropped into coverage 12 times, mostly in the second half. Brad Jones dropped into coverage 4 times.
- Clay Matthews is the best linebacker in pass coverage on the team. Unfortunately, he’s also their best pass rusher. On the 9 times Matthews dropped into coverage, the Packers lost their best pass rusher on those plays.
- It was clear the Packers wanted Woodson lined up on Calvin Johnson nearly the entire game. Woodson game into the game as one of the most heavily blitzed cornerbacks in the entire NFL as evidenced by leading the league in quarterback hits and tackles for a loss among players at his position. The Packers didn’t blitz Woodson a single time on Sunday, although the blitzed Jarrett Bush 10 times on passing plays. Bush was far less disciplined than Woodson. Three times Bush blitzed on either runs or passes, failed to break down and missed the tackle in the backfield.
- Woodson missed three tackles on Sunday. I’ve said that Woodson makes two good plays for every bad one, and that held true yesterday. But just imagine if he had made those three tackles in addition to his already team-leading 13.
- The Packers only rushed 6 players twice. On one of those two plays, the Lions ran a tight end screen for a first down. Furthermore, the Packers only used their Psycho personnel once. The Lions also ran a screen on that play.
- Out of the 83 plays I tracked (including penalty plays in which a play was ran), the Packers were in the nickel 68 of those plays. They were in the base defense 13 times.
- Hawk’s facemask penalty should have been negated by a blatant block in back on Barnett.
- What the Lions offense did to the Packers defense got me thinking about the Packers offense. Outside of Jermichael Finley, the Packers don’t have a consistent receiving threat among their tight ends and running backs on underneath routes quite like the Lions do. Just some food for thought.
- The Packers used ran the rollout bootleg three times on Sunday. The first time Rodgers hit Jermichael Finley for an easy first down. Jonathan Wade learned his lesson and blanketed Finley the second time around to force an incompletion. The third time Finley was covered again, but this time Donald Lee made his way all the way across from the opposite side of the field in the fourth quarter for a huge first down that helped the offense run out the clock.
- The Packers went with only five players in pass protection the entire game with no help from either the tight ends or backs. The result of those two plays? Touchdown passes to Finley and Greg Jennings.
- Korey Hall and Tom Crabtree played huge roles on the Packers’ final possession of the game by opening holes in the ground game to keep the chains moving and control the clock. This is the best Hall has looked as a lead blocker his entire career and may make Quinn Johnson expendable when those players on the PUP list are eligible to come off after Week 6. At this point, I’m sure Ted Thompson would gladly accept a conditional seventh round draft choice in exchange for Johnson.
- On the Packers’ second possession of the game, Brandon Jackson was given the ball on second-and-2. He saw a linebacker fill the hole, hesitated and failed to get the first down. I know a linebacker is in the way, but when you’ve only got two yards to go, it’s time to put down your head and hope for the best.
- Jackson also is at fault for a failed screen pass in the first half by getting mixed in among his lead blockers, Josh Sitton and Mark Tauscher. Rodgers couldn’t even find him in the Land of the Giants.
- By my calculations, it was the first time in three games that the Rodgers threw a run/pass option pass, complete to Finley.
- At first blush, I didn’t think Finley was guilty of his holding call early in the game. Upon watching the replay, while not the most egregious play ever, Finley had his hands outside the framework of his body on the defender’s shoulders. There’s no reason he needed to even have his hands outside the framework because he had perfect positioning.
- Following the blocked field goal against the Bears, Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton switched positions with Sitton now at left guard and Bulaga at right tackle.
- Take Mason Crosby’s first touchback of the year with a grain of salt. It came after a 5-yard penalty on the previous extra point and enforced on the kickoff.
- Derrick Martin was the unsung hero on special teams this week for my money in both coverage and blocking.