Packers Vs. Colts - 3 Plays That Make You Go Hmmm

Jersey Al picks out three thought-provoking plays from Sunday's game against the Jaguars

After re-watching the Packers game, here are three plays that made me go hmmm, for various reasons.

SWARMING

We finally saw something I've been waiting to see; players swarming to the football, not just standing around and watching and assuming someone else has it taken care of. LaFleur addressed it in his recent zoom call with reporters, saying " The best run defenses swarm to the football. There were some really good moments of that yesterday, but it's just too inconsistent." And alas, there is the problem. It disappeared in the second half, and it's no coincidence the Colts suddenly had more success running the football. A couple of runs that could have been short gains went for longer yards as the main tackler had little or no help. Anyway,while there were several good examples in the first half, I chose this one because I also want you to see the great job Rashan Gary does on the edge, not just catching blocks but taking on two blockers and being that "force"  player that disrupts a play. That's not something you see very often from Preston Smith, who seems more content to catch blocks. 

 

THIRD AND TWELVE:

So how do the Packers follow up that aggressive, swarming stop with the resulting 3rd and 12 play? With perhaps another instance of what is perhaps the most maddening thing about this Packers defense - turning a positive (forcing long third downs) into a negative (allowing teams to convert). Sadly this is nothing new, and while I try to pick some less obvious topics for this weekly post, I just felt compelled to show it. I slowed it down and paused it to show where the Packers defenders are. Chandon Sullivan drifts out towards the sideline even as TY Hilton is cutting it inside. He ends up three yards behind the first down marker.  King does his best HHCD impression and retreats to the 40 yard line, a good five yards behind the first down marker. Kirksey retreats to three yards behind the first down marker. Despite all of this, Hilton could have been stopped short of the first down if only King were more aggressive (and closer to begin with). As Hilton makes the catch. Sullivan and Kirksey close in on him from both sides. Hilton has only one place to go (between them) yet instead of crashing that middle lane, King pulls up at the 37 yard line and waits for Hilton to meet him at the 35 yard line, which is where Hilton needed to get to. So in case the super soft coverage wasn't bad enough, the soft tackling effort should be the icing on this cake.

 

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Extra bonus: In case you didn't catch the LaFleur presser, our own Aaron Nagler straight out asked the coach how many times he can watch the Packers repeat this too-soft coverage gaffe before realizing the results are never good. Great question... 

 

 

Rodgers' Eyes:

This is a small thing, but something that Rodgers does all the time - he uses his eyes to influence defenders and make them think he is going to do something other than the thing he's already decided to do. Here the Packers run what has been one of their most successful plays all year - when a tight end comes back along the LOS from the opposite side and catches a pass in the flat from a rolling out Rodgers. Watch #53 and 54 on the Colts. As Rodgers takes a step past the hashmak he cocks his arm to start his throw as he's looking down the middle of the field. Rodgers knows full well he is going to throw it to Sternberger, but he makes it look like he's getting ready to throw down the middle. 54 fully takes the bait, stopping his pursuit to check the middle of the field. 53 gives a half hesitation step, which is enough to give Sternberger more room to pick up extra yards. Had 53 been an average LB and not Darius Leonard, he of tremendous catch-up speed who also takes the perfect angle, Sternberger likely scores a TD on this play. Again, this is a minor little thing but Rodgers is a master at it.

__________________________

"Jersey Al" Bracco is the Editor-In-Chief, part owner and wearer of many hats for CheeseheadTV.com and PackersTalk.com. He is also a recovering Mason Crosby truther.  Follow Al on twitter at @JerseyalGBP

11 points

Comments (53)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
ricky's picture

November 24, 2020 at 12:03 pm

This may be the single best article I've read this month (at least) diagnosing the problems with the Packers defense. The Smiths crashing in from the end, trying to get a sack rather than setting an edge; Gary proving he can do both. He might not get the sack numbers, but he definitely puts pressure on the QB, and sometimes that can have a very similar result- a poor throw, throwing while moving laterally, etc. Time to let Preston Smith see the field less, and especially not expect him to cover a TE. And the lack of swarming to the ball? Even Aikman said he was surprised to see that; I was also. About time! Not to mention the soft coverage on third down and long. Why bother putting a team in a precarious position if you're simply going to give them all the advantages on third down? This has been going on for years! A fish rots from the head, and although some help is needed, especially on the DL, it's time for the Packers to give some serious consideration to getting a new DC with a more hard edged attitude leading their guys.

16 points
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Minniman's picture

November 24, 2020 at 01:00 pm

Re Rashan Gary, I thought that he played one of his better games. Consistently double teamed but getting pressure. One play in the first he could have ended Rivers career (but chose to block the throwing lane instead of pinning the ears back and smashing Rivers.

To Rivers........... NO TROY AIKMAN, Rivers is not ‘still athletic’, OLB’S are just now petrified of giving up ‘roughing the pensioner QB’ penalties.

6 points
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Razer's picture

November 24, 2020 at 03:17 pm

Had to give you a thumbs up simply because you made your point using the phrase..."a fish rots from the head". Too funny.

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Lphill's picture

November 24, 2020 at 12:15 pm

Remember when All Harris and Charles Woodson used to be right in the face of the receivers ?

9 points
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Oppy's picture

November 24, 2020 at 01:39 pm

That's what Kevin King actually excels at. The Press / Match defense of Sanders (or was it Slowiks to start with) would have been a great fit for King.

7 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

November 24, 2020 at 02:21 pm

Why play a guy to his strengths? The Pettine way still thinks he has Dix and Whitehead back there. The guy is out of it. Defense means aggression and change-ups in style of attack. His scheme keeps this group in limbo.

3 points
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Lare's picture

November 24, 2020 at 12:28 pm

I think MLF has a promising career ahead of him as a politician. Keep saying what he needs to do but then never doing it. Same mistakes week after week, some things never change.

4 points
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Minniman's picture

November 24, 2020 at 01:12 pm

Duly noted and agree that recognition of the problem and doing something are two different things.

It was a pretty bitter question to swallow and I applaud MLF for at least answering it honestly - MM would have just deflected it with something dismissive like ‘well, that may be how you see it...’.

Just thinking again about MLF’s language, I’d say that Mike Pettine is a goner at the end of the year (or before depending on the circumstances). Now I’m not on the ‘fire Mike Pettine’ wagon here, just thinking about what the head coach is saying..... he’s saying that the defense are not consistently doing fundamental things right, like knowing where the down marker is, that’s high-school football DB 101 stuff.

9 points
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Lare's picture

November 24, 2020 at 03:24 pm

At least the defense is right around average in the NFL, the Special Teams are bouncing around bottom of the barrel.

2 points
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Since'61's picture

November 24, 2020 at 07:02 pm

It is HS 101 football. It’s easy to see where the sticks are. Our HS coach would yell very loudly “get in front of the sticks” if you were beyond them as a DB.

This is one of the many things that I don’t understand how it happens at the professional level. I could understand it a little bit if you know that your guys can come up and make a sure tackle. But we don’t have guys who make sure tackles.

There is just no excuse for playing beyond the sticks on 3rd and 12 or any 2rd and long. WTF are the coaches doing?
Thanks, Since ‘61

6 points
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Minniman's picture

November 24, 2020 at 10:32 pm

Case in point Since 61’ - where did MVS fumble? Fighting for that extra 1 yard to make the down!

If he was already past the required hash he sits (possibly - he’s hardly a wizened vet like Larry Fitz who definitely would be all over that).

As it was he’s travelling laterally trying to fight for that extra yard and gets his pocket picked - The Indy DB’s knew where the down marker line was and were guarding it.

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Since'61's picture

November 25, 2020 at 09:00 am

Excellent point about the MVS play! Thanks, Since ‘61

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Since'61's picture

November 25, 2020 at 09:02 am

Sorry, double post. Thanks, Since ‘61

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tonym's picture

November 24, 2020 at 12:29 pm

Agree with all of this. I also think guys like Kirksey and P. Smith tend to overplay and rush to a spot only to see the runner change direction and go backside, running past them. Last year's SF games were prime examples. They mistake energy for over-anticipation. The best linebackers like Leonard and Kuechly wait that half beat before committing to the right spot.

6 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

November 24, 2020 at 02:24 pm

They are afraid of contact is another way to look at the situation.

4 points
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splitpea1's picture

November 24, 2020 at 12:34 pm

Great examples with the first two clips. The first one is defensive poetry in motion with everybody flowing to the ball, no over pursuit, and ZDS there to prevent any change of direction and clean up. It seems that Gary should be getting more snaps and maybe we should be seeing a little less of Preston Smith, especially in coverage.

The second clip, well, what can you say? Since we've seen the same thing so much, you can only assume that there's perpetual confusion as far as assignments go and a lack of situational awareness. I don't know--it's totally bewildering.

10 points
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Razer's picture

November 24, 2020 at 03:23 pm

...Since we've seen the same thing so much, you can only assume that there's perpetual confusion as far as assignments go and a lack of situational awareness...

I believe the confusion and assignment uncertainty has been hampering this defense for some time now. The secondary has enough talent and speed but is constantly dropping coverages. Keep it simple and let the guys play fast. Of course, having a D-line that people run through complicates a lot of things.

6 points
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TarynsEyes's picture

November 24, 2020 at 01:09 pm

I know the saying, players play and coaches coach, but why don't the players demand that Pettine allow them to show they can play tough, close? Are they really so soft and unable, and use Pettine as the fall guy to cover it up?

If I'm a player and I know I can play close and tough, but my DC won't put me in position to allow me to prove it, I'm saying it so aloud and don't care who hears me. Just like I do here.

Being quiet doesn't fix things or bring it to a head where it must be dealt with, as like many here until a loss, but only for an instant, and then stow it away immediately after the next win, even if over a team with a losing record. Wait, that's who they do defeat. I guess the cover up works well for both player and coach, not to forget all the fans who are fine with a Division Title defining success.

I hope the Packers can defeat the Bears, as it will certainly bolster the raves of fans, since the Bears still have a WINNING record, so it counts more, I guess.

3 points
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Oppy's picture

November 24, 2020 at 01:42 pm

You don't risk losing your job, or career, by doing it here.

-3 points
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cow7's picture

November 24, 2020 at 01:50 pm

Are you saying that if Jaire said "let me play press" he'd be risking his job?
Yeah... no.

4 points
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TarynsEyes's picture

November 24, 2020 at 01:59 pm

They'd get signed elsewhere and given a chance to prove their value. Why wouldn't you let a guy prove himself, if he fails, it will be seen sooner than later. Right now, the defense is failing and if players are afraid to ask to do more, than it's more than a failure, it's perpetual doom.

1 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

November 24, 2020 at 02:54 pm

I thought they wanted guys who go man/press to complement his system?

3 points
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Oppy's picture

November 24, 2020 at 01:48 pm

...I don't think you are considering how locker room dynamics work. There's absolutely nothing that says there isn't, or shouldn't be, discourse inside the locker room. Putting out there publicly is a different matter, and is frowned upon by most all that make up a team- players, coaches, front office.

2 points
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TarynsEyes's picture

November 24, 2020 at 02:09 pm

If a coach or scheme is hindering my ability to perform certain aspects the team can use for its betterment, and if saying such in any manner is deemed wrong because of an unwritten belief that can make those (coach. players, FO) responsible keeping the player wanting to or doing more unhappy, I want out asap.

-1 points
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Oppy's picture

November 25, 2020 at 09:40 am

Good for you and easy to say, but I'll reiterate once again, you're not risking a dream job (which happens to earn players extremely lucrative salaries) by professing how fiercely loud and proud you are here in a fan forum, unlike the player who is actually in the situation.

-1 points
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RCPackerFan's picture

November 24, 2020 at 01:16 pm

I noticed the swarming attacking defense early. I really don't know what or why it changed, but it was great to see early. It was great to see how active they were.

I don't know if it was a mentality shift in how they were playing or what. Maybe holding a 14 point lead made them go into a more prevent style? I don't know.

If they can keep that mentality for an entire game. Of when to keep attacking the offense and swarm to the ball, this team has as good of a chance as anyone to making a huge run.

6 points
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TarynsEyes's picture

November 24, 2020 at 01:35 pm

"If they can keep that mentality for an entire game."

That's the problem. Either they are incapable of such for more than a half, than its about stamina of the players, or the coach not having the trust in the players, or the defensive scheme is easily deciphered at half time, which makes the former moot.

1 points
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RCPackerFan's picture

November 24, 2020 at 02:43 pm

I don't know if being up by 14 if the mentality shifts to a bend but don't break kind of thing? I did not see the opening drive of the 3rd quarter as I was traveling, but listening to it and seeing what others were saying, it sounded as if they went purely to a dime defense. It seems like Pettine went into the we are making sure we don't get beat over top and we will give them everything underneath to chew up the clock.

I don't think its that the defensive scheme was easily deciphered. Because it seemed like they changed what they were doing defensively. But that is based on what I was watching during the game.

I really am not sure what the answer is to be honest. I'm basically asking the same questions.

3 points
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TarynsEyes's picture

November 24, 2020 at 03:28 pm

The Colts came out running and Pettine playing to not get beat over the top worked well. I can understand Pettine thinking such being up 14 points and thinking Ind would be passing to catch up, but how long does it take to realize the Colts are running. Surely after the first drive and getting only an FG. But how do you not adjust in-game after that and continue the bend don't break while your lead becomes erased and then losing. Even the Colts last drive was run oriented and luckily for all the holding calls, which a few were ticky-tack bs, the game would never have needed an overtime.

-1 points
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Wildcomet's picture

November 24, 2020 at 08:17 pm

Agreed entirely. The defense was on the attack on the first half and it was great to see. The Colts made some plays that half still but hey, they're pros too. If the defense can figure out how to swarm and attack like that every play each week they'll be good enough to hold up their end on a superbowl run. They have to quit this soft 3rd & long stuff though. Like others have said they're screwing up things a high school player should know on these plays and it's keeping a strong packer offense off the field.

1 points
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cow7's picture

November 24, 2020 at 01:38 pm

I remember the "swarming defense" play shown here.
Pretty sure 1 or 2 plays later the Colts ran a wr end around that took advantage of the Packers' overaggressiveness. Went for like 20 yards. Pretty much where the "swarming" stopped.

I didn't see the other 2 plays shown in this article. They must have taken place after the Packers' second consecutive 3 and out to start the 2nd half... that's when I knew they were going to lose so I shut the game off, did some work in the garage, and took the dog for a long walk.

0 points
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PeteK's picture

November 24, 2020 at 01:59 pm

A real die hard fan. LOL

2 points
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cow7's picture

November 24, 2020 at 03:22 pm

I'm usually right about those things.
Watched first quarter of last years NFCCG... that was it.
Watched until the pick 6 vs TB this year.
Watched the first series vs MN in Lambeau this year.

You can pretty much tell when it's going to be a loss.
Here's the clue... adversity.
When the Packers encounter adversity, they lie down.
They're front-runners.
Things going well? They roll and look awesome.
Bump in the road? Complete collapse.
As soon as you see Rodgers start to go off script and play hero ball you can shut it off.

-1 points
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Oppy's picture

November 25, 2020 at 09:42 am

I actually agree with your last comment.

0 points
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PeteK's picture

November 24, 2020 at 01:53 pm

It seems to me that the defenders are coached to pull to prevent big plays , but to this extent is ridiculous. We might have seen some cap relief for next season ( 20 mill) in the form of Gary & Jenkins as starters over Preston & Linsley. In this season of parity it will be the team with momentum and health that will make it to the SB.

1 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 24, 2020 at 02:06 pm

Preston is worth $8M on a straight release and $12M in cap savings on a June designation (with $4M dead in 2022). Linsley is worth nothing since he isn't under contract for 2021. Not re-signing him saves whatever the Pack would have paid him - that is, what his cap number would have been for 2021.

Need $30M or so to comply with the Rule of 51 in March, and probably $40M and really more by September.

2 points
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PeteK's picture

November 24, 2020 at 05:49 pm

Linsley 8.5 salary for this year. A subject that will certainly be debated in 2021.

0 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 25, 2020 at 04:15 am

Linsley is having a career year. Certainly worth $8.5M and considerably more. He is the top rated OC and has the 15th highest pay.

Now, GB might have gotten by without Linsley (this presumes GB still goes 7-3 w/o Linsley, something which cannot be assumed) by using Patrick or Jenkins at OC, but that is in part with hindsight, and Jenkins and Patrick have has been needed elsewhere.

1 points
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Fabio's picture

November 24, 2020 at 03:05 pm

On 3 and 12 I think I see at least three colossal errors on our part ..... and also a large unseen Colts penalty. Greetings from Siena

2 points
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JerseyAl's picture

November 24, 2020 at 06:27 pm

Siena, Italy?

0 points
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Fabio's picture

November 25, 2020 at 05:26 am

Yes Al. A greeting and please correct me if I say anything irrelevant. I've been a fan for a long time but maybe I'm not very competent so if I say nonsense tell me. Thanks to all and go Packers. Your analysis of the 3rd and 12th in my opinion is good and identical to the problem of the 3rd and 19 of the 4th quarter where they arrived at 3 yards and then converted the 4th down taking a lot of time from the clock

1 points
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Lare's picture

November 24, 2020 at 03:20 pm

We can debate all we want but you're not going to win consistently in the NFL with an inconsistent offense, an average (or below) defense and a bottom tier special teams. Probably good enough to win the poor NFC North, but no real chance to be anything but one-and-done in the playoffs.

It obviously is good enough to please Mark Murphy or he would do something different.

4 points
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Razer's picture

November 24, 2020 at 03:58 pm

While I might want to defend for the sake of optimism, I can't get around the basic truths of your statement. I don't know where Mark Murphy comes into it but there have been enough front office misses and coaching deficiencies to keep this team from really being a serious contender.

1 points
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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

November 24, 2020 at 09:06 pm

Some of these would-be team presidents are obsessed with Murphy. They rely on their jealousy to suppress their own inadequacies. It's an unhealthy coping mechanism.

-2 points
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PeteK's picture

November 25, 2020 at 07:19 am

Who has a better chance? Seattle with their defense, Saints without Brees, Tampa ( did you see last night's game). It will be an exciting 6 wks .

2 points
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flackcatcher's picture

November 24, 2020 at 08:46 pm

There is not one team in the NFC with serious weakness in their roster. As someone said today, it all comes down to health and execution. Packers rank right up as an elite team with their known problems. But are in better health than most of their rivals. As always, it comes down to coaching and executing to win.

3 points
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4thandinches's picture

November 24, 2020 at 10:05 pm

I don't want Mark Murphy to make a change. He hired a young ascending coach to take over a 6-9-1 football team with an aging but very good qb. That coach went 13-3 in his first year, while we're drafting for the future, and had us at 7-2 last Saturday. Just how itchy of a trigger finger do you want the Packers president to have? I'm content to let the season play out.

0 points
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Swisch's picture

November 24, 2020 at 04:08 pm

As discussed somewhat above, my hunch is that most defensive players want to be aggressive.
They live for blitzes, and cherish the challenge of tight coverage.
They'll go hard doing the more conventional things on the field, but it's those aggressive plays that give them a surge of adrenaline to carry on the long fight of a full game.
It seems Pettine is sapping our youthful defense of its vitality and its verve.
He's crushing the spirit of our guys by rarely, if ever, letting them take risks, and test their skills, and try for a big play.
He demoralizes his players, and that eventually drags down the whole team.
Plus when you're so very passive by the constraint of coaching, it's hard to summon up the aggressiveness when it's needed. It's like a wide receiver who doesn't get any targets, and subtly loses his edge.
Besides that, doing the same thing over and over and over again in the NFL is madness -- making it so easy for the opponent to adjust and take the advantage.
All this is perhaps why the defense did so much better late in the game against the Jaguars when the drama of the tight situation would have upped the motivation, and it seems they were set loose to be much more aggressive.
If I'm pretty much right about these impressions (and I'm glad for others to add various observations and opinions), and Pettine has not figured this out by now, then Pettine must go right now for us to have a real chance for a deep playoff run, perhaps even the Super Bowl.
One way to think of it is that our guys on both sides of the ball must feel much the same as we do about the passivity and ineptitude of the defense. It's agonizing.
In the first half against the Colts, it seems our young defensive players showed signs of talent and determination and energy and enthusiasm.
Let me know if you think I'm way wrong, but it seems we cannot allow Pettine to squander this promise for any more games!

2 points
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13TimeChamps's picture

November 24, 2020 at 06:48 pm

You're way wrong about them firing Pettine and bringing in a new DC and instituting a new system this deep into the season. Not happening....no way no how.

I'd say there is a better than 50/50 chance Pettine is gone after the season, but it's not happening in-season.

1 points
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Swisch's picture

November 24, 2020 at 07:32 pm

Maybe it wouldn't have to be a new system, or at least not totally new, just being more aggressive in somewhat the current system. Not the same thing on every play, but mixing it up with different levels of aggressiveness from different places on the field.
Anyway, what a long and miserable stretch run it will likely be on defense unless something changes dramatically.
I guess the offense could keep things interesting and exciting, but remember how in the playoffs last year the Seahawks stormed back from a big deficit to almost beat us, and then San Francisco ran all over us to the point of humiliation.
Maybe better risking a switch at defensive coordinator -- and I'll add at punter, as well -- right now to save us from a finish to this season of high stress and ultimate devastation.
I'll be glad to be wrong if things turn around in a way that seems almost impossible. I'm hoping for a happy ending.
Happy Thanksgiving, 13TimeChamps.

1 points
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Since'61's picture

November 24, 2020 at 07:16 pm

First off, Gary made an excellent play on the play that Al picked to show. Gary had a good game considering his limited snaps. He really should be getting more snaps. I don’t know why he isn’t getting more snaps this point.

3rd and 12 or any 3rd and long are given up for 1st downs far too often. Can’t understand why our guys are playing so far off the LOS.

As for Rodgers, he’s a brilliant player. As I posted on another thread he should have been rolling out on the 4th and 1 late in the game.

Finally, if Al and most of us can pick up on these plays WTF are the coaches doing? I don’t know, third base.
Thanks, Since’61

5 points
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Ferrari-Driver's picture

November 24, 2020 at 07:22 pm

Excellent points, Al
I'm disappointed in the results, but the Packers will be a handful in the playoff and have the ability to beat any team in the NFL.

5 points
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blacke00's picture

November 25, 2020 at 07:36 am

As has been noted previously by others, this defense has been obtaining the same results(crap) for many years. Very predictable!

It all starts with he GM. He and his staff are just not good at evaluating talent. Next it comes down to coaching. Pettine and his staff are not very good at their jobs. Lastly, the players are just not that bright. I can't tell you how many times I saw players totally out of position unable to anticipate. That's coaching or total lack of brain power.

0 points
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