Thursday, October 15, 2015

Packers Charging into the Bye Week

Quinten Rollins' Pick 6 - Photo by Jim Biever
For the second week in a row, the Packers' defense had to carry the day, as the Packers struggled on offense, but came away with a 24-10 win over the Rams on Sunday.

There now seems to be a clear game plan to stay close to the Packers, for teams that have the horses on defense.  They have to have a strong front line, to put some pressure on Rodgers without blitzing, and to keep him from stepping up in the pocket.  Then they have to play a lot of Cover Two defense, which is generally effective against a West Coast Offense, and has always been frustrating for Rodgers.

But there are some problems with this strategy.  First, most teams don't have a strong enough front line to make this work.  And second, even if you can keep the Packers' offense somewhat in check, you still have to deal with the Packers' newly dominant defense.  So these past two weeks, the 49ers and Rams have caused problems for the Packers' offense, but they had no answer at all for the Packers' defense, which has allowed a total of only 13 points in those two games.  And maybe a third problem with this strategy is this: even if you have the defense to play this game against the Packers, the Packers have traditionally beaten this strategy with the deep outside threat.  In past years, Jordy Nelson was the guy who most frequently provided that threat.  That won't happen this year, but if the Packers can develop that threat, either in Davante Adams when he returns, or in Jeff Janis (who has the speed but not the trust of Rodgers or the coaching staff), or in Ty Montgomery (who has the trust but not necessarily the speed) there may be no stopping the Packers' offense.

The Packers intercepted Nick Foles 4 times (thanks in large part to a ferocious pass rush), once for the pick-six depicted in the photo above, and they sacked Foles three times.  I realize that the Packers gave up 159 yards rushing to Todd Gurley, but 95 of those yards were in the second half, i.e., many of them were garbage-time yards, and they produced a total of 0 points.  Time will tell if the Packers can continue to play like this on defense, but so far they look very good despite the defensive injuries sustained this year.

Sunday, the Chargers come to Green Bay, on a short week after their Monday night game.  This will be the last game before the Packers' bye week, and it would be a huge plus to be 6-0, with two weeks to get healthy before their trip to Denver for a Sunday night game.  The Chargers already trail the Broncos by three games after five weeks, so they would love nothing more than to be able to beat the Packers and at least keep pace with the Broncos for another week.  And the Chargers do have a good offense; in fact Philip Rivers leads the league in passing yards.  But his offensive line was a mess Monday night, and is still expected to be on Sunday.  That, combined with the way the Packers have been rushing the passer while keeping the running game mostly contained, is not a good combination for the Chargers.  I was not all that impressed with the Packers' offensive game plan last week, and I assume they realize, just like the fans, that it was lacking.  I expect them to correct this on Sunday, come out with a much better game plan, and put up a lot more points.  I think this should be a big win for the Packers.

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