Report Card: The Packers Fall Just Short Against Undefeated Tennessee
The Packers seemed to come into yesterday's game with a sense of pride, and why shouldn't they? They came into the day tied for the division lead, were coming off a win and a bye week, and had some top notch players returning to the line-up in Al Harris and Atari Bigby.
Confidence proved to not be enough as the Packers were felled in overtime by the still unbeaten Tennessee Titans, 19-16.
Still, I don't think the Packers can be too upset about this week's game. They took the only undefeated team in the NFL to overtime. And while they had a few opportunities to take the win, the Titans had their share of shots at taking that game before overtime, but Green Bay was resilient.
Packers Passing Offense: B
Against this Titans stout defense, Green Bay seemed to want to beat them through the air, and Aaron Rodgers and his receiving core looked up to the challenge.
The real weakness of the whole deal was the offensive line not being able to get Rodgers adequate time in the pocket. On more than one occasion, I saw Rodgers having to make quicker decisions than he'd like because the Tennessee defensive line was certainly got the better of the Packers offensive line.
However, Rodgers ended up with over three hundred passing yards on the game, and the receivers looked good, especially in trying to gain yards after the catch.
Donald Driver had one of those, "remember me?" kind of games. 136 yards on seven catches and a touchdown were more than helpful to re-establish himself in the Packers receiving core now that Jennings has taken over the No. 1 receiver job.
One particular play that stood out in my mind was in the fourth quarter, while the Packers were on their second drive of the half that got them the field goal.
On a first and ten, Driver made a move like he was going to run a slant, and the DB bit heavily, because the inside slant has become a staple of Driver's talents. He then broke like a fade route, leaving himself wide open for the 29 yard pass, before being pushed out of bounds.
While it wasn't perfect, as referenced by a Rodgers interception and below 60% perception completion percentage, the passing game did it's part toward helping the packers toward a win.
Packers Rushing Attack: C+
Generally, if a team rushes for just 102 yards, I would make that at the very least a "D". But the fact of the matter is, the Packers only ran the ball twenty-four times. A 4.2 yards per rush average is satisfactory by me.
The offensive line was a little suspect at times, but against this Tennessee front seven, anything that can be gained is fantastic.
I just miss the big runs. Once again, Grant's longest run of the day was fourteen yards. I feel like the big play potential that we saw in Ryan Grant last year is gone, which is disappointing because with that, this offense becomes WAY more dynamic.
I have a funny feeling that one of the big reasons that the potential is limited is McCarthy's unwillingness to run this year. Grant's twenty rushes for 86 yards isn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but I think if we do run the ball more, we can grind down a few defenses this year, and get carries for other backs, not just Grant.
My last point about the unwillingness run definitely ties in to my next grade...
Offensive Gameplan: D-
Yesterday's game may have been some of the most lack of inventive play calling I have ever seen.
Let's get the record straight. I'm a big fan of Mike McCarthy. You don't get to 13-3 in a season with a bad coach.
But there was no direction that the Packers were going with the offense. It didn't seem like he was trying to set up any big plays throughout the game. Aside from the slant routes to set up fades we saw a bit from the passing attack, the entire game plan just seemed like some random, yet basic play calls, that were easily stopped by Tennessee.
I would have loved to see the Packers run the ball more, or at least run to setup some play action, because we may as well have put the playbook on a wall and played a fun little game of darts, because the game plan was that bad.
Rush Defense: C-
I feel like the front seven still needs some work, but they are improving a little bit. Chris Johnson and LenDale White is one of the best "thunder and lightening" combinations I've seen in a long time.
And with Chris Johnson's willingness to go inside and bang up against the big boys, the Titans rushing attack is certainly their bread and butter.
The Packers did an acceptable job of defending the run, but against the Titans, the key is doing everything you can to stop the run, because I think many defensive coordinators would be far more willing to have to deal with the run and let Kerry Collins try to beat them.
178 isn't quite up to par with stopping them however, and so the Titans were able to keep their play calling at a good balance and it showed, as the Titans got the big runs for first downs when they needed them.
On a lighter note, it was good to see Justin Harrell in the mix again. Three tackles, including one for a loss, the rotation should look great in the weeks to come, so watch for that.
Packers Pass Defense: B-
Much like the rush defense, there's not a lot to love, but not much to hate either. Kerry Collins isn't gonna go for huge days, we all know that. And thank God, the Packers didn't let him.
The fact that Green Bay couldn't get a pick is disappointing, but Collins is definitely proving that he is going to be able to protect the ball this year, which is all the Titans are asking of him.
They never gave up a real big pass either, as the longest pass play for the titans was twenty-five yards, and that was a screen pass. Two sacks is also a pretty mediocre stat, but I do give the Titans credit for their play calling that kept Green Bay guessing for much of the game, which allowed for some of those short passes to go for ten or twenty yards.
Special Teams: B+
I think this is one of the hidden strengths that the Packers have. Mason Crosby is a very good kicker, and another three converted field goals are evidence of that. Frost isn't exactly a stud at punter, but he's getting the job done. I'm certainly all right with a forty yard net average.
As for the return game, Will Blackmon is good on punts, with 27 return yards there yesterday. He definitely has no fear in terms of getting hit on punts, as averaged by one he took where he was immediately hit, but popped right back up. Kickoff returns were also a strength yesterday, as the packers turned in 97 yards on three returns.
All the numbers were solid from the kicking and return games. This is especially nice to see, as special teams is much like a set-up man in baseball. They don't get all the glory when they play well, but when they falter, everyone blames them.
Overall Grade: B-
I apologize for most of these grades being pretty bland, but the fact of the matter is, the game was pretty bland. It was exactly what I expected, in terms of the big match ups. And it was a close game, which is great to see considering the fact that Tennessee is undefeated. There are plenty of good things for the Packers to build on though.
The defensive tackles now seem to have the full rotation back, and that will only help later in the season when they all are still fresh on every snap. The defensive backs have a new rising star in Tramon Williams, which is great to see since Al Harris may still need some time to get back to his old self.
On offense, they are just a few clicks away from being top notch. The main point is that Green Bay needs to stick with this run game. It's coming around, as Grant's yards per carry stat has been going up pretty steadily this season.
And if the Packers can prove that their running game is sufficient, that can really open up the passing game as well as some potent play action that could turn into a lot of points for Green Bay.
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