Enigmatic Aaron Rodgers Helps Packers Tame Lions: Good, Bad, and Ugly of Week 4
I'm writing this a little later than I normally do.
Not because I've got better things to do or my computer's crashed or anything so drastic. I just can't work out what to think about this week's "victory" over the Lions; maybe I'll have it worked out by the end of this column.
I'm so confused I considered naming this piece "The Smoke, Mirrors, and Undecided of Week 4."
Is this a good team playing below itself? Is this a team with fatal flaws that's just about covering them? Is this a team being given the slow death by the NFL gods to send it crashing from its Super Bowl prediction pedestal?
Lets' see if some grades can help us out...
First Half Aaron Rodgers
I think the second half can be put down as much to a lack of rhythm due to hardly getting a touch of the ball, but the much hyped Rodgers seems to be finally getting it together.
In successive performances against division opponents it's sometimes looked like he's simply unplayable, his connection with Jermichael Finley is getting scary for defenses, and he's getting it done without much support from his No. 1 receiver Greg Jennings.
John Kuhn is certainly no piece of art when it comes to running the ball, but I think he may have found a role as a game-killing bruiser. When defenses are tired, Kuhn is made for the situation where he can just plow through guys. He shows good desire and often gets more yards than he should due to excellent second effort.
The Pack needs another runner, no question, but Kuhn showed his mettle when he converted on the crucial 3rd-and-8 with around a minute to go.
Rodgers was not kept entirely clean, but Detroit has an excellent front four, so I'll give the big uglies the pass on this one. There was a drop in the number of penalties conceded, and Rodgers generally had time and space to throw, especially off play action, which his style is made for.
Josh Sitton continues to be one of the most underrated linemen in the NFL, and Mark Tauscher rebounded nicely after being terrible on Monday Night Football.
The Pass Rush
Shaun Hill is a competent backup and a player who I thought was unlucky to lose his job with the 49ers, having taken them to a decent record without Michael Crabtree. But there's no way that he should have been allowed to pass his way to over 300 yards. There were three sacks, and the D-line continues to play relatively well, but other than those three hits, he was hardly touched.
This is a young side, yes, but they need to learn consistency, and quickly. Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk sometimes play well, and sometimes they just go missing; we need more of the former in order to cover for other weaknesses.
People may well temper this with the fact we got two picks. Shaun Hill should not be allowed to pass for 300 yards. End of story. Charles Woodson is making plays, but he's also giving up more than last season, be it on flags or lack of pace. He needs to rediscover his mojo quickly.
The lack of depth is going to be painful very soon. Morgan Burnett is done for the season, which means that either Derrick Martin or Atari Bigby will start opposite Nick Collins, neither of which is a pleasing prospect. Tramon Williams is steady and, to be fair, is not getting caught out as much as I thought he would, but he's still going to struggle against elite wideouts.
I genuinely thought he could step it up and fill at least some of the void left by Ryan Grant. Wrong. He just seems to have no zip in his play to be able to make breakthroughs without absolutely stellar blocking. We may be seeing more and more of Dimitri Nance in the coming weeks.
How many times as a Pack fan in the last three or four years have you found yourself screaming at Mike McCarthy to not be so stupid? Too many.
To me one of the main factors in our inconsistent offense this year has been the fact that the scheme has been so patchy, Rodgers doesn't seem to have the same confidence he did last year in spite of the fact that his receivers have arguably gotten better, particularly James Jones.
Jackson is having a poor year, but that's just as much down to the fact that McCarthy still appears to give him not an ounce of confidence or leeway. He has to commit more to the run, even if it's not working well in order to keep defenses honest. Grant was given a lot of carries in games where his average was poor last year, but that meant that Rodgers and his receivers had more time against opponents who knew they had to honour the run.
I remember being really excited when Dom Capers joined Green Bay because finally we were going to get some more aggression on defense with a co-ordinator renowned for being blitz-happy.
I don't know what happened on the way to Wisconsin, but Capers seems highly reluctant to bring more than four rushers most of the time. Yes, it's partly down to a lack of depth in the secondary, but maybe more rushers could actually help that.
I'd certainly advocate being more varied on D, because I'm convinced that if somebody with better hands than Brandon Pettigrew had been on the Detroit staff, then the Pack may have lost this game.
If Nick Collins could actually catch the ball, then he'd be much more highly rated by many observers, as his interception numbers would be off the charts.
With all these injuries, Ted Thompson must really be grateful we have four TEs and three FBs, right?
Don't worry about Rodgers; if he'd actually had some ball earlier in the second half, this game would arguably have been a lot more comfortable.
Get well soon, Will Blackmon. Stay by your phone—you may be wanted at both safety and punt returner.
Get well soon, James Starks—you're surely worth a look in spite of not playing football for two years...hmm.
Do you have faith in McCarthy and his staff to turn this around? If you said yes, then can I have some of what you're smoking? He may yet sort it, but to expect him to do it is just blind faith...
Thank God Washington has only two bona fide receiving threats in Chris Cooley and Santana Moss...
Thoughts and comments are appreciated—this is one of the more confusing pieces I've had to write...
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