Green Bay Packers' Week 5 Offensive Grades vs. Indianapolis Colts
The rebuilding Indianapolis Colts led by a rookie quarterback were down 21-3 at halftime. They were facing the mighty Green Bay Packers, the 2010 Super Bowl champion that had a 15-1 record during the 2011 regular season.
Surely the hosts already realized they were beaten. The second half would be just a live scrimmage before the inevitable victory.
Maybe part of the problem is that no player from the 1999 season was there to warn them about playing an underdog riding an emotional wave. But I was about halfway up the stands around the 22-yard line behind the Packers bench.
It was a November 7 game against the team the Packers have played more than any other. But it was no ordinary day for the rival Chicago Bears. It was their first game after the death of Walter Payton, perhaps the greatest running back to ever play the game and certainly the best Bear ever.
At halftime, they trotted out the band with navy socks over the bells of their horns. Stitched into the fabric in orange was "#-3-4-S-W-E-E-T-N-E-S-S" in succession. I remember thinking we should not invoke the man who beat us so many times in his career.
I would still swear it was his hand—and that leaping ability he used to dive over the pile for the score—that blocked Ryan Longwell's short field goal to prevent the hosts from coming back to win.
A speech about that might have kept the team from its problem of switching to auto-pilot. This is not an unfamiliar sight for Packers fans. It needs to be said: Green Bay's players better realize they are not as good as they think they are, or this team will be out of the playoffs fast.
The Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings are 4-1. If the Detroit Lions grow up, they will be hard to beat twice. Considering Green Bay is facing one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL next week, they are likely to be behind at least four teams for the final wild card spot.
In the meantime, it is important to learn something from the loss. Here is an examination of each unit's performance, graded without such variables like being dinged or strength of competition.
MJ Kasprzak is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers and the original community leader for the Pack and San Jose Sharks on Bleacher Report. You can view more of MJ's work on both San Jose Sharks and SF Christian Examiner.
Aaron Rodgers finished with over a 100 passer rating 14 times in the 2011 regular season. Three weeks into 2012 Green Bay Packers season, that mark was already out of reach.
However, he has now reached that mark in the last two games. Sunday, he was 21-for-33 (63.6 completion percentage) for 243 yards (7.4 yards per attempt) with three touchdowns and just one pick—a 103.5 passer rating. He was the team's leading rusher with 57 yards on five carries (11.4 avg).
To put up those kind of numbers when under pressure (five sacks) might seem worthy of an A. But an individual's play does not exist in a vacuum, and statistics do not tell you what factors may have played a role in their inception.
For instance, I once had someone tell me it was fact that Aaron Rodgers was more accurate than Tom Brady because he had a better completion percentage. On a real field of play, teammates are just one outside factor in one's own stats.
In past games, Rodgers has generally not been blamed for shortcomings. This week, he has to take some of the blame for the five sacks.
Three sacks and one penalty occurred because receivers were not open, but Rodgers had plenty of time to throw the ball away. The team will need to work hard on the two-and-a-half second horn at practice, because Rodgers will have even less time against the Houston Texans on Sunday night.
Rodgers also missed multiple open receivers. Green Bay has precious few deep strikes this season because last year's downfield king has been off target.
Running Backs: C
After a shaky start in the season opener against a very good defense, Cedric Benson was having a very good season. He was providing the Green Bay Packers the balance that has been missing offensively since January 2011.
But en route to his 20th yard on his seventh carry (2.9 avg), Benson incurred a Lisfranc sprain. ESPN NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert pointed out that this puts the Packers "back where they started" since James Starks has recovered from his turf toe, but remained scratched due to Benson's solid play.
If it requires surgery, his season is over. Even if not, Green Bay may not want to keep a roster spot open for a minimum contract veteran that may be out eight weeks. Too bad, as he was an asset in the passing game, too—including receptions of 18-yards and three-yard on Sunday.
The good news is Alex Green is healthier than he was during training camp, and the team got a chance to see him as the feature back. He had nine carries and 55 yards (6.1 avg) and added an eight-yard catch. John Kuhn was also used more, with a seven-yard carry, a two-yard touchdown run and a six-yard reception.
In all, that gave the backs 119 yards on 22 touches (5.4 avg) plus a score. However, they were not effective in supporting the offensive line against the pass rush of the Indianapolis Colts, particularly in providing Aaron Rodgers opportunities to step up or break out of the pocket.
The Green Bay Packers wide receiving corps has suffered without Greg Jennings.
Jordy Nelson is simply not consistent enough to be a true top threat, with two catches for 19 yards and 10 yards. James Jones (four catches, 46 yards and two scores) and Randall Cobb (four catches, 82 yards and one TD) have stepped up. Donald Driver (one catch for 14 yards and one drop) and Jermichael Finley (three catches for 11 yards) have not.
Now, Finley is gone from the list of weapons Aaron Rodgers has at his disposal. That could be a problem, as Tom Crabtree and D.J. Williams had catches of just 12, eight and six yards between them filling in at tight end.
On numerous occasions, Rodgers stayed with the play because he believed in this corps to get open. That is why the six receivers combined for just 16 catches and 204 yards (12.8 avg).
Offensive Line: D+
The line would have played well enough for the Green Bay Packers to head home with a victory. But Jeff Saturday forced Aaron Rodgers to call the team's last timeout—negating a chance for one more play—by not snapping the ball on time.
Maybe he had to give one to his old fans and team for one of his old coaches. Whatever the reason, it was a crucial mistake. Saturday is also struggling to make adjustments at the line, and that may have contributed to the second-half protection issues.
But the difference between the sack-free first half and the second was partially Rodgers delivering the ball in a timely fashion. The line played well enough to open holes for a substandard group of backs to get 84 yards on 18 carries (4.7 avg). Finally, they did not take a single penalty.