Tom Pelissero, as usual, does a great job of breaking down the tape and hits upon one of the biggest things McCarthy needs to work on over the next month - his red zone offense. Pelissero:
The black mark on the Packers’ improving offense remains in the red zone, where coach Mike McCarthy keeps spreading the field with mixed results.
Touchdown passes to TE Donald Lee and WR Donald Driver both came with at least three players split out. But for the second straight game, the Packers failed to seize control when two red-zone drives stalled in the first half — and the sequences again were heavy on throwing formations.
The Packers had three receivers on the field on first-and-goal from the 8 when QB Aaron Rodgers threw the backside one-step option on a designed run to WR James Jones, whom CB Phillip Buchanon dumped for no gain. Rodgers missed low on a quick in for wide-open WR Donald Driver — one of four players split out — on second down, and then a quick swing for Driver behind the line from a three-wide shotgun only picked up 5 on third.
The next possession featured first-and-goal at the 9. TE Jermichael Finley lined up as a third receiver in the right slot as Rodgers came up short on an out for tightly covered WR Greg Jennings. The Packers ran out of three wides on second, and RB Brandon Jackson didn’t get much as DT Joe Cohen appeared to get away with holding LG Daryn Colledge. That left third down from the 7, a four-split shotgun and a stop route from the right slot for Finley, who might have had it if SS Marvin White didn’t deflect the ball from behind.
Perhaps it’s time to mix in some power football in that area — or at least present the threat of it.
I understand McCarthy's reluctance to use a true power game in the red zone, if only because of the inconsistency in that area as we discussed below, but Tom is completely correct that the formations and personnel groups that McCarthy is using when he gets inside the 20 are frustratingly static. More often than not he will run out three or four wide, possibly splitting out Finley, and then drop Rodgers back and let him go to work. It's great when the receivers win the one on ones or when the opposition blitzes. But when teams play coverage, Rodgers struggles to find people and when he does, he is famously reluctant to pull the trigger, not wanting to throw the dreaded interception.
What's interesting is that during the preseason, McCarthy ran quite a bit inside the 10, especially to the outside. Grant got two or three TDs on sweeps that have gone strangely missing during the year. Perhaps the constant fluctuation of personnel used on the offensive line and tight end has cause McCarthy to shy away from it, but he would be well served to take another look at not only the wide sweeps we saw in preseason, but some of the offtackle stuff as well. Yes, it's always an adventure with this crew, as fans will remember from the multiple attempts it took Grant to crack the goalline against Cleveland back in October, but McCarthy has to do something to break the stagnation his squad has fallen prey to inside the 20, especially early in games.
If McCarthy is dead set on passing in the red zone, he would do well to move the pocket as well. How many times have we seen Rodgers drop back, survey the scene, duck an opposing lineman and start running for his life? McCarthy would be doing Rodgers a favor if he moved the pocket on occasion and didn't make it so easy for the defense to know where the launch point was going to be every time the team gets down inside the 20.
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