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Opening Struggles Perfectly Illustrated

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Opening Struggles Perfectly Illustrated

This just dumbfounds me:

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers offered up an interesting detail in explaining his interception on the Packers’ first play of the game. According to Rodgers, tight ends Donald Lee and Jermichael Finley ran the same pattern. “We had a little bit of miscommunication,” Rodgers said.

Emphasis mine. And here's Rodgers' full quote regarding the play:

It was a bad decision. The tight end actually ran the same route so we had a little bit of miscommunication there. I thought that after Jermichael cleared that Donald Lee was going to come back towards me and we were just on different pages. But that's definitely a poor decision on my part.

Now, never mind the interception. Never mind Rodgers' poor decision. Never mind that this all happened because Rodgers ran to his right after not finding anyone initially.

Forget all that.

If what Rodgers is saying is true - that on the first play of the game, Finley and Lee both ran the same route when one of them wasn't supposed to - that is simply atrocious on the part of not only the player that ran the incorrect route but of McCarthy's preparation of his offense as well. And unfortunately, it speaks to a bigger problem, one that has reared its ugly head throughout McCarthy's tenure. For whatever reason, this team ALWAYS starts slow. The above is but a small piece of the puzzle as to why. I mean, how in the world do you script your plays, practice them, go through a walk-through prior to the game...and still have a route run incorrectly on the very. first. play?

Simply inexcusable.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (26) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

IronMan's picture

We finally agree on something. :)

packeraaron's picture

We agree more than we disagree methinks. ;)

SpartaChris's picture

While I agree with the article, and agree there's something needing work, let's not turn this into a "Fire TT and MM" rant. Looking at our entire body of work on the season, those guys put together a pretty damn good team and one that could be pretty damn good for many years to come.

JerseyAl's picture

I haven't watched it again yet, but I remember seeing that Finley was plenty open as Rodgers was rolling right. He didn't pull the trigger when he could have, continued rolling, Finley cleared and then made the ill-fated attempt to Lee. At least that's what I remember seeing and I remember thinking, why didn't he throw it to Finley? I made a live blog comment about it:

Jersey Al:
Damn - Rodgers had Jones open right in front of him and tried for the bigger gain...

(I thought it was Jones at first). I also remember thinking that those two were way too close to each other. Didn't notice that they ran the same route. I'll have to check it out again.

PACKERS.'s picture

OK, that was one mistake, but the offense got going pretty quickly. Usually, the offense actually strts out pretty fast. Just my observations.

BuckslayerNYC's picture

Guys.....The routes change according to what the defense shows, that's the essence of the WCO....sight adjustments in accordance with a given set of rules. What probably happenned is that Rodgers and one Receiver made the appropriate adjustment, and the other receiver simply did not pick up what the defense was doing. We will probably never know exactly, but you can bet it was Finley....and you can bet they practiced it in a myriad of ways and sets...the ball should not have been thrown, period. We should have come out with ball control running to settle down the QB.

FITZCORE1252's picture

IF that was indeed the case, A-ROD needs to recognize there is a problem, throw the ball away... LIVE TO PLAY ANOTHER DOWN!

Really thought Aaron played well, BUT, those are the types of decisions that you didn't see Warner make. With the amount of youth on this team, I hope that they take some things away from that game, because they will be back!


andrew's picture

Like to hear what everyone thinks needs to change in this offseason I don't think many will agree but I think signing chillar nd phasing out aj hawk is a big mistake aj hawk has a lot more potential he's still so young can run with tes is our best run stopping linebacker taking him out for chillar to "cover" the tes nd rbs which he does not even do that well is losin the run stoppin element aj brings to the game teach aj to drop into a zone if he is outmatched but don't take him out when they run the ball against our nickel package we get destoyed we need someone better than bush whether it be lee or someone new depth at safety we need to make sure collins comes back and bigby needs to have a solid backup since bigby is hurt often some depth on the line nd special teams players and I think we look pretty going into next season

foundindaho's picture

Don't take this wrong, guys, I think Aaron is a tremendous guy and I was inspired by his heart and desire yesterday...but did he just say someone ran the wrong pattern?

There are so many reasons the game was lost. There are so many reasons it should have been won. I think you can actually beat this dog to death.

jerseypackfan's picture

Hey Al, I think maybe he was throwing to Finley because he was breaking away from the man covering him but the ball was tipped by the Cards.

Oh yeah, goodbye Donald Lee. Your services are no longer needed as you clearly cannot catch the damn ball!

nypacker's picture

Well you can't blame Mccarthy for everything. I mean he did turn up the heat in the second half and his decision making actually helped us tie the game up. If you want to point fingers at anybody for getting this team unprepared it should be Dom Capers. At least Mccarthy was able to adjust the offense after halftime, capers adjusted jack squat.

FreddieMacPack's picture

MH and Sherman always scripted the opening plays...Based on the miscommuications, penalties and slow starts we saw all season, how about it guys?

Driver was definitely NOT the same after midseason. Hidden injury HAD TO BE the case or else we're paying $4 million for a third receiver/4th option on the route.

No pass rush and our injured/feeble secondary (can anyone continue to watch Tramon and Jarret get beat play after play) and poor pass dropping LBs (yes all EXCEPT Mathews) gets surgically dissected by any accurate QB.

No one has said anything but HOW ABOUT our INCREDIBLY MEDIOCRE SPECIAL TEAMS. Can I have a kick returner who busts it or a coverage team that nails someone?


Free agent a quality CB then draft a high quality CB (for the dime) to allow AH to become our nickle.

TT has had great drafts from 2007-9 but check out all the ProBowl players missed out on in 2006:

How about a post about all the Packers cuts over the past two years who showed up on other teams rosters this season? I miss Jamon!

PACKERS.'s picture

This might be caused by the camera angle, but it looks like Donald and Finely were in the same place. They probably realized that and got confused.

jerseypackfan's picture

Really guy? Its bad, but not that bad! Hey Corey or Aaron... you know this cat?

andrew's picture

donald lee is a great pass blockin te thats what he has always been he is a good asset to have on a team obviously if your talkin about play makin ability finley is the guy he is almost considered a WR in our offense lee should be kept around for blockin nd pop pass options have him stay in to block wait a few seconds pop out even he can catch those overall i cant complain about rodgers throwin 1 pick.. first start in the post season obviously had the jitters favre would have thrown 3 picks nd no one would have complained.. so i tip my hat to rodgers

FITZCORE1252's picture

I've seen enough of Donald "hands of stone" Lee. Cut him (not sure where his contract stands)... Develop Havener and you have 2 young promising TE's. I don't see what Lee brings to the table other than adequate blocking and dropped TD's.


jerseypackfan's picture

A good asset to have on the team? I do agree he is decent in blocking, but come on Andrew... is it too hard to ask to catch the ball even though its hardly ever thrown to him anyway? I mean seriously, how many times did he dropped it this year? Also, a majority of those thrown his way were not hard catches to make either.
I some times wonder why Rodgers even threw the ball his way. He had to know 7 times out of 10 he wasn't going to catch the darn thing anyway.

Oppy's picture

Donald Lee has had two down years in a row, that's true.
But if you want to know what he "brings to the table", and the reason why he was given a good sized contract extension before last season, just take a look at how he played during the entire 2007 campaign.
He hasn't played to that level since, I agree. But he certainly didn't look like he had stone hands in 07.

Rockmolder's picture

That's some interesting stuff right there.
This might have just been a mental error, more than gameplanning. When you get a double TE set out of their and they have combined wonderlic score of 16, things like this can happen.
I know, Wonderlic scores don't translate into football smarts, but this has little to do with that.
I still think that Donald Lee is overrated. He had one up year in 2007, after being very mediocre for 4 years and returned to mediocrity for 2 years after that. It's pretty easy to call that one year a fluke, looking at it like that.
Favre likes to throw it to TEs. We had no legitimate TE but Lee on the roster (with Bubba declining and being out) that season and an overachieving team. His numbers where just a product of that.
And his contract, in turn, is just a product of that.
He's one of the most overrated guys on our roster. Or at least, was for a long time. He's a reasonable nr. 2 guy, though, if he stops dropping those gut wrenchers.

andrew's picture

i dont think he drops THAT many.. he isnt the best i think u give havner another year and havner will take lees spot.. i havent watched a lot of game film outside of when it airs on tv.. nd donald driver has been known to drop a few passes here nd there no one questions his value as a player? give donald lee another season here to prove he hasnt lost his touch if he has another down year hell probly start thinkin its time to retire anyways

C.D. Angeli's picture

I look at it a different way.

You are being flushed out of the pocket. Your guys are covered. By the time you've reached the sideline, your tight ends are no longer running their "routes", but their secondary assignments and probably just trying to get open.

You throw the ball away. And had Rodgers done that, he may not have been so gun shy the rest of the game and taken unnecessary sacks.

I think AR is great, and he is granted a few mistakes. But this is bordering on throwing your teammates under the bus. How ironic that one of them is Finley.

Steve in Mpls's picture

Yes, I realize all of us watched the game.
None of us is talented enough to play the
game. As we tap our keyboards,(wiping away
the tears)... There are naysayers and doubt
ing Thomases on this line of mutual communication and devotion to our team, at
least in my case going back to 1965.Pack66
and Dan in Mpls. are off season enemies.
I myself will take care of DannyBOY.The
rest of you find out where 666 hangs his
hat. This is getting personal. GO PACK.

Jersey Al's picture

Watched it again - what I thought I saw last night was correct. Finley running an out has 3-4 yards on his defender, nobody in front of him, right in front of Rodgers. Would have been such an easy (and safe) throw for Rodgers. Instead, he bypasses the easy to try for the bigger and much more difficult completion. This was his often-repeated mistake early in the season, which he had since corrected, but it came back to rear it's ugly head. Say what you want about the tight ends running the same pattern, but this one is on Rodgers.

Not that I'm trying to be critical of Rodgers or blame him for the loss - God no, I'm not one of those Yahoos. Just pointing out what happened and hopefully, with more experience, these kinds of mistakes are eliminated.

packeraaron's picture

Like I said in the post - the interception is immaterial. The fact that someone ran a wrong route on the first play of the game is damning.

CSS's picture

C.D. Anglei - Do you read or listen to ineterviews to comprehend? Rodgers took blame for the play, he accepted responsibility. I have no idea how you could make the leep here and question if Rodgers is throwing his players under the bus. The Packers are second only to KC in dropped passes this year at 42 and he never 'threw anybody under the bus'.

Look, I have no problem dissecting Rodgers game. Once you're an elite QB 3.5 quarters of great play aren't always enough. That being said, some people on these boards can't have it both ways. You can't praise him for extending plays with his legs and having the highest 3rd down conversion rate in the NFL and then turn around and criticize him for holding onto the ball and moving the pocket.

So we praise him when he converts and scores, but when he's sacked he gets hammered.

WisconsInExile's picture

Jersey Al, BuckslayerNYC and others:

I attended the game on Sunday, and I have a slightly different take on the game than many of you. In short, the biggest factor in the game: crowd noise. Ya, I know, U of P Stadium? Cardinals fans? Dear God it was loud...EVERY...SINGLE...DOWN. Cardinal fans regularly admitted the grounds crew kept the dome closed to enhance the noise. By comparison, I attended the game against the 49'ers at Lambeau this year, and it was not nearly so loud (*). This was not due to the fans, though, just the open-air stadium design. Domes make a difference.

I feel certain that McCarthy's game plan was to come out aggressive on the first drive, score quickly, and take the crowd out of the game. Unfortunately, that turn over, along with the Driver strip/fumble, only increased the volume of the crowd. The crowd volume diminished only after the Packers tied the game, if you can believe that. Even then, it was still loud.

Why am I making a big deal about this? Rodgers's explanation of the first play is your answer. It was nearly impossible to audible effectively. I suspect that Rodgers may have called an audible to flip the play, and Lee might not have heard the "live" word indicating whether the audible was fake or real. If that were the case, Lee had a coin-flip situation and chose wrong.

I like the first play call. Everyone knew that Finley would be critical to the Packers game plan, and everyone knew he would get either double-teamed, kept short underneath, or both (which happened much of the game, including this play). If you watch the play, Lee eventually found himself over the top of both the outside linebacker AND the strong safety. Rodgers made the right call by going to Lee. If he had completed the ball, then Lee would have had a huge gain guaranteed, and would only have had to beat the free safety, coming across the field, for a TD.

As it happened, Rodgers threw the pass too short, and the OLB successfully batted down the pass which happened to land in front DRC who made the interception. I think Rodgers will be graded down for the short throw, not on the decision to go Lee. Incidentally, I wonder if the memory of that mistake contributed to Rodgers later overthrowing Jennings in OT when Jennings also managed to beat the safety.

* And in case you're wondering, I used to be a professional sound recording engineer who has recorded sound on the field during NFL and college games before.

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