Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City Chiefs: How the Loss Spelled Doom for 2011
The signs were there. We all saw them; we all knew there was at least a weakness or three.
We ignored them because the Green Bay Packers could blow up an opposing defense at any time, so the lack of pass rush, the secondary issues—they didn't mean anything, right?
They did, though, and the offense's domination of the opposition covered it up, but as it turns out, only under a thin film of dirt.
Today, we'll look at some plays highlighting just how Orton did it—and how the Chiefs stifled an offense that was averaging 35 points a game.
First, though, let's look at how the Chiefs used the Packers' issues with the pass rush against them.
Early in the first quarter, the Chiefs were driving. Kyle Orton was doing what Orton does—gaining yards on short, controlled passing. He would hit his receivers on short, dump passes, and they would do the rest—though, for the most part, there were little yards after the catch.
The Chiefs also mixed in plenty of rushing attempts, in part because they worked, and in part to sell the play action later.
Orton had just completed a short pass to LeRon McClain for nine yards and a first down.
Clay Matthews set up on the left side of the line, a five-man front that was designed to enhance his opportunity to get at Orton.
It was a straightforward defense for a pretty straightforward-looking offense.
At the snap, Matthews rushes in, with no blocker save running back Thomas Jones to prevent him from sacking the quarterback.
Orton had faked a handoff to Jones, but Matthews didn't bite—which happened to play right into the Chiefs' hands.
As you can see from the second cap, there isn't a Packer on the short side of the field. They are all spread out from the middle to the top of the field.
Right after Jones gets past Matthews—and away from every single Packer on the field—Orton throws a short lob to Jones, who hauls it in and immediately turns upfield.
Note again the huge open space. There are no Packers, but there are several Chiefs in good position to block for Jones.
The running back heads toward the open sideline and toward the end zone. With three blockers in front and to his side, Jones has a clear lane for big yards.
Only a great sideline-to-sideline run and tackle by Charles Woodson saves this from being a touchdown.
Luckily for the Packers, there is a reason Orton was benched for Tim Tebow and now backs up Tony Romo—once he gets past the 20-yard line, he can't find a way to get a touchdown. He had Steve Breaston open in the end zone but threw a laser a yard-and-a-half behind his receiver.
That's Orton—got to love him!
I have no idea why, after Jackie Battle carried the ball to the 1-yard line on the next play, the Chiefs called two passes. But they did, and the Packers held them to three points.
Which, if you think about it, makes the loss all the more frustrating.
The defense did its job for the most part—Orton threw for just about 300 yards but no touchdowns. The only touchdown, in fact, was a Jackie Battle run in the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs offense was kept in check.
It gives you perspective on the loss to the Giants in the playoffs. In that game, the Giants were able to contain the Packers offense, but the reverse was not true.
It's one thing for a struggling defense to slow down and stop Kyle Orton. It's an entirely different thing against Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.
When you over-pursue against Orton, he kills you short and, if you are unlucky, his running back does what Thomas Jones did.
If you over-pursue against Manning, he hits Nicks for a huge gain.
Or just as crippling, if he goes short to Ahmad Bradshaw, who runs it to the 1-yard line, you can bet that nine times out of 10, the Giants get that touchdown the Chiefs couldn't.
Offensively, there were three things that hurt the Packers in this game. First, the Chiefs did a great job covering the Packers receivers. They were good in man coverage, and they did a great job shutting down the middle of the field.
In the rare moments when they had nobody in the middle of the field, Rodgers made them pay. In the above cap, the Chiefs sold out for the blitz, and Rodgers hit Finley for a big gain.
Finley did a great job of getting inside his coverage, which, as we have shown before in these breakdowns, usually means a completed pass.
It did this time, as Finley hung onto the ball ahead of the defender.
Most of the time, though, the Chiefs were patient and "stayed home." It paid off, as it would for the Giants in the January playoff game.
Second, the pass rush was very effective. Even when the Chiefs didn't send the house, they got to Rodgers.
Rodgers was sacked four times and pressured many more times than that. The offensive line had some issues—first Bryan Bulaga went down with a knee strain, then Derek Sherrod broke his leg.
The line shifted players around a few times, and that caused some issues, which the Chiefs took advantage of.
The third was self-inflicted. There were a tremendous amount of drops. Donald Driver, Jermichael Finley, James Jones.
Jones either stopped on a long route in the fourth or just flat-out lost the ball in the sky—neither of which is a good thing, and the throw almost ended up intercepted.
On the play, Rodgers had plenty of time to throw deep and hurled the ball into the end zone. Now, the ball was a little long, but Jones seemed to slow down as he hit the end zone.
It's hard to say for sure if he lost the ball in the air or not, but he stopped running, and if it wasn't for Chiefs cornerback Brandon Carr being unable to keep both feet in bounds, the ball would have been intercepted.
By the way, the subsequent challenge by Crennel was one of the worst ideas I have seen. I don't know who is upstairs advising Crennel, but they should have been fired. Carr's left foot was clearly out of bounds.
The Chiefs are lucky they didn't need the timeout later.
With the drops, a myriad of penalties and what looked like a lack of timing, the Packers were their own worst enemy much of the time.
This—like burning the Packers as they blitzed—would be a factor against the Giants as well. The Packers looked out of sorts in the playoff game—more than once, receivers and Rodgers looked like they were on different pages.
That never bodes well, especially against a defense like the one the Giants trot out. You have to be on your A-game, and the Packers just weren't in either game.
Struggling against a team like the Chiefs happens. Few teams can be great every day, especially with so many players out—no Greg Jennings, no James Starks—or injured during the game—Bryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod.
However, looking at the game closer, we see where the flaws were that allowed the Chiefs to win—the same ones that allowed the Giants to beat the Packers so handily.
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