Green Bay Packers Unit Grades: How Kansas City Chiefs Ended Perfect Season
Or start talking about last year's obsession, Brett Favre, again. They could go all the way back to Joe Namath for all I care, just please no more Tebow or Favre.
On the other hand, talking Tebow gets reads...I can at least hope my take entertains:
Tim Tebow is proof of divinity: God is the only thing that could be making him that successful, because you know it is not the world's slowest release, his inconsistent accuracy or his inability to read defenses. But why look a gifted Bronco in the mouth?
And the whole time, I thought Tebow's story was at least compelling, unlike the continued drama surrounding the last guy. But this is Stairway to Heaven—a fine tune that has been way overplayed.
I was like many other Cheeseheads—glad to see the spotlight off my team. And I did not allow myself to think about 19-0 until the victory over the New York Giants, so I only have two weeks of build-up to recover from.
So let me say congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs. Apparently, wearing my Bart Starr shirt did not bring the team any NFL-AFL Championship (commonly known as Super Bowl I) karma. There may be no combination of organization and fan base as classy throughout the NFL, so if it was going to happen...
Now let me put aside the Packers hat and put on the teacher's—as in it is time to grade how each unit did on this test.
(Note: units are graded based on performance without regard to personnel—when reserves come in, they have the same job to do the starters do.)
Last week, we learned that Aaron Rodgers was not other-worldy. This week, we learned that he was not a machine.
Rodgers was just 17-for-35 (.486) with 235 yards (6.7 per attempt) and one score without a pick (80.1 passer rating). It was his first game under a .500 completion percentage in over 13 months.
Of course, it would not have happened without four dropped passes. He also scrambled three times for 32 yards (10.7) and a score. He was under constant pressure, being sacked four times for 22 yards.
But ESPN's Total QB Rating (TQBR) factors those things in and still gave Rodgers a 44.5, basically saying his performance was good enough to win fewer than half of the games in the league. This is because Rodgers was off-target a season-high 10 times.
An average-at-best performance for any quarterback in the league and almost unheard of for Rodgers.
Running Backs: B
Ryan Grant looks like the running back who was second in the league in rushing between Week 9 of the 2007 season and the end of the 2009 season, except this Grant can be a weapon in the passing game, as well.
Grant had 12 carries for 66 yards (5.5 per carry) and caught three passes for 35 yards. John Kuhn added no yards on either of his two carries, but had an 11-yard catch. That gives the tandem 112 yards on 18 plays, or 6.2 per touch.
Jermichael Finley was open all day. Trouble is, his hands were only working 60 percent of the time.
His two drops meant almost as much as his three catches for 83 yards (27.7 average). The same can be said about James Jones (one drop, two catches, 17 yards).
Donald Driver (one drop, two catches, seven yards and a touchdown) was not much better, and Jordy Nelson did not get his first catch until the last drive (two for 29). The Packers need at least one of the four of them to step up with Greg Jennings out for the rest of the regular season.
Randall Cobb did step up, with four catches for 53 yards (13.3). He also ran the ball out of the wildcat once for four yards.
I always said when the Miami Dolphins were popularizing this formation that we would never see a team with an elite quarterback run it because they would not want to take their most dangerous player off the field. I have no idea why the Packers chose to run this for the first time, but I hope it is the last.
Overall, there were two sacks that had more to do with no one getting open than the line not making its blocks. Between not getting open and not catching the ball when it was thrown to them, the receivers let this offense down more than any other unit.
Offensive Line: D
The reason the receivers let the team down more than the offensive line is the Packers were playing someone other than the early-season starter at three of the five spots by the end of this game. Fortunately, Bryan Bulaga is expected to be back next Sunday.
However, the people in there still have to do the job that is in front of them. No unit on the field failed as badly as the Packers offensive line.
Without a healthy line, the concern may go from staying unbeaten to whether the Packers can repeat as champions.
All in all, there were some holes for the backs to run through (70 yards on 15 designed runs, a 4.7-yard average). But even with two of the four sacks being due in part to good coverage, Rodgers was regularly under pressure.
Even before Bulaga went down, the line was struggling. That injury forced the Packers to go with Derek Sherrod and Marshall Newhouse as the bookends. Then Sherrod's leg was broken, and T.J. Lang had to move over to tackle while Evan Dietrich-Smith came in at guard.
With Sherrod's season over and Chad Clifton's rehab for a hamstring injury not going well, the Packers would be smart to give Mark Tauscher a call. He is not a starting calibre tackle anymore and is not durable enough to last a season, but he is a great emergency solution should there be another injury.
There is no one on the Packers bench right now who should give anyone more confidence at the position. Tauscher knows his linemates, assignments and most of the players he would face, and should be available for little money if he can play.
Defensive Line: C
The defensive line held the Chiefs backs to 119 yards on 34 carries (3.5 average) and stuffed a fourth-and-one deep in their own territory. However, they could not stop the run when it was needed most in the final minutes even though they knew it was coming.
Moreover, they got no pressure all game long and drew almost no penalties. It was clear that they missed Ryan Pickett, out with a concussion.
Howard Green got only one tackle in his place, and ends C.J. Wilson (two tackles) and Jarius Wynn (one tackle) did not do much better. B.J. Raji's two tackles were solid considering the amount of attention he got, but no one stood out here.
After having arguably their best game of the year, the linebackers had arguably their worst Sunday.
For one thing, Kyle Orton was almost perfect between the numbers. Part of this is because the linebackers were not cutting off the passing lanes.
Backs and tight ends accounted for 12 of Orton's 23 completions and 163 of his 299 yards. It is difficult to stop the eight dump offs to backs, but allowing 71 yards—almost nine per attempt—is too much. And while the responsibility for tight ends is shared with the safeties, a blown coverage by D.J. Smith made for one of the big plays in the passing game.
Naturally with how many times the Chiefs ran the ball, this group accumulated a lot of tackles: 22 solos and nine assists. But there was not one sack between them and little pressure, and Steve Breaston got around the backside on a reverse for 25 yards.
Smith led the unit with six tackles and three assists, and A.J. Hawk had six and two. Both Walden and Clay Matthews III, had five tackles and an assist.
When pressure came early on a Morgan Burnett blitz, it looked like the Chiefs may not have time to throw Sunday. Unfortunately, those blitzes were dialed up too infrequently and other pass rush schemes were ineffective.
This is the main reason that the Packers failed to get a turnover for the first time all season. But the defensive backs were just about the only unit on the field for Green Bay that was satisfactory.
A talented wide receiver tandem of Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston managed just four catches each and 99 yards total. Other wide receivers accounted for just three catches and 37 yards.
Even with some of the tight end production falling on the secondary, the fact is the defensive backs forced Orton to go short over the middle and dump the ball off.
The usual suspects were also prevalent in run support: Charles Woodson ended the game with 10 tackles and an assist, Charlie Peprah had six solo tackles, and Burnett had four tackles and an assist. Tramon Williams added two tackles and an assist, and Sam Shields had a tackle.
Special Teams: C
Special teams largely failed the Packers, but at the same time were not given good opportunities to succeed.
Mason Crosby missed his first field goal attempt, but it was from 59 yards out. Even his second bite at the apple (also kicked wide right) was from 54.
The Packers failed to recover his onside kick, but that is also to be expected. His two deep kicks both resulted in the Chiefs starting from no better than their own 20—one on a touchback and one an a 22-yard return that drew a holding penalty at the 21.
Tim Masthay was called upon five times and three of them resulted in the Chiefs starting inside their own 20. Three punts were returned for a total of 36 yards, but he still had a 46.2-yard net average because his gross was 53.4 yards.
But Randall Cobb had substandard results, with no yards on his only punt return but a passable 22.7-yard average on three kicks.