Green Bay Packers: The Good, Bad and Ugly of the 1st 4 Games of the 2012 Season
It’s been a rough month for the Pack as, at 2-2, the team has already lost more games than 2011’s entire regular season.
Had a few things changed in any given game, the Packers could be as bad as 1-3 or as good as 4-0. But, they’re split even, with two wins and losses apiece.
Here’s what caught my eye through the first quarter of the season.
The Good: Aggressiveness and Pass Defense
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I couldn’t narrow the good down to one specific entity, so I went with the two things that have made me most happy so far.
First of all, I love head coach Mike McCarthy’s newfound creativity and guts. He has traditionally been a conservative coach, but somewhere deep inside his brain, a switch has flipped.
Since he became head coach of Green Bay in 2006, I can’t remember off the top of my head any fake field goals or punts. The only major gamble that comes to mind is the Jan. 10, 2010 playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals, when he successfully converted a surprise onside kick in the third quarter.
But through four games this year, the Packers already scored a touchdown off a fake field against the Chicago Bears in Week 2 and converted on a fourth-and-one because of a fake punt against the Saints on Sunday.
Both plays resulted in eventual touchdowns, and the Packers won both games.
McCarthy displayed more aggressiveness in the win over the Saints when he decided to put the ball in Aaron Rodgers’ hands to convert the final first down. He could have run the ball one more time, ensuring that, at minimum, New Orleans received the ball with about 1:20 to go with no timeouts.
Instead, McCarthy trusted his best player, and Rodgers converted an amazing pass to Jones, who made an ever better catch and sealed victory for the Packers.
The pass defense also needs to be highly commended.
Last year, Green Bay gave up more passing yards than any other team ever had in the history of the NFL.
It was the one constant thorn in the side of the 2011 Green Bay Packers.
This year, however, the pass defense has turned into a strength.
Before facing the Saints, the Packers ranked first in the league in both passing yards allowed per game and sacks per passing play.
Those rankings are likely to drop, now that New Orleans passed for 429 yards and only surrendered two sacks to Green Bay. But it’s nothing to be ashamed about, considering it happened against one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Drew Brees, and he had to throw 54 passes to obtain his stats.
The Packers don’t face another elite passer until Week 11, when they travel to Detroit to face Matthew Stafford and the Lions. Expect the pass defense numbers to slowly creep back up from now until then.
The Bad: The Offense
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“I predicted the Packers’ pass defense would be ranked higher than their pass offense after four games.”
If you can honestly lay claim to that quote, you should immediately quit your job and move to Vegas to make a living off of gambling.
Seriously, though, I don’t think many people expected Green Bay’s offense to continue the pace it saw in 2011. The Packers scored the second-most points in NFL history last year. It’s unfair to expect that type of production year in and year out.
You can also cut the offense a little more slack from the fact that Green Bay has already faced three of the league’s best defenses.
Nevertheless, no one thought Rodgers and company would be sputtering along at their current pace.
Last year, Rodgers threw only six interceptions. This year, he’s already thrown three.
Last year, Green Bay averaged 35 points per game. So far this year, that number is at 21.3.
In 2011, the Packers moved the ball for 405.1 yards per game. In 2012, the average has dipped to 333.5.
It seems they may have righted the ship against the Saints, when they racked up 421 yards of total offense and scored 28 points, but it was against maybe the worst defense in the NFL.
Hopefully this will give the team the proper confidence moving forward.
The Ugly: The Officiating
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I absolutely hate blaming referees for any loss. As long as you play your best possible game, especially when you’re a team as talented as the Packers, there’s not very much the officials can do to prevent a victory.
But Green Bay has been victim of some devastatingly dreadful calls.
The most obvious, of course, was the heartbreaking "inaccurate reception" that literally snatched victory away from the Packers in Week 3 against the Seattle Seahawks.
In the same game, on the previous drive, a "pass interference" on Sam Shields and "roughing the passer" on Erik Walden, both of which were blatantly wrong, extended Seattle’s march towards victory. Had neither of those been called, there never would have been an opportunity for the "inaccurate reception" to occur.
Then, against the Saints, three more blown calls nearly cost the Packers yet another victory.
On New Orleans’ first touchdown, Marques Colston clearly pushed off and got away with an offensive pass interference. No flag.
In the third quarter on a third-and-five situation, Brees completed a pass to Jimmy Graham for eight yards. McCarthy rightfully challenged, as replay showed the ball hit the ground before Graham gained full control. Still, the refs ruled it a catch, and New Orleans went on to score a field goal on the drive.
Then, in the fourth quarter, Darren Sproles fumbled a kick return, and Green Bay recovered. But the refs decided to rule Sproles down, making the play unchallengeable. The Packers were out of challenges anyway, but the call was wrong either way.
Maybe this will all turn out positively in the long run. The law of large numbers says the more cases you have, the closer the average approaches the expected result.
That would mean the Packers are due some huge calls in their favor going forward.
I sure hope that theory turns out correct.