Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hope Remains Despite Disaster

By: Matt Bove

I had the misfortune of being at MetLife Stadium on Sunday night for the Giants' 38-10 drubbing of the Packers. I can't believe I had to sit in the cold and watch a team that was uninspired and didn't seem to care about the game at all. From the coaching errors to the execution errors, it was an all around disaster. However, the Packers still have all their goals in front of them and remain capable of reaching them. 

I had a feeling that this would be a really toughs spot for the Packers to win in. The Giants were the much healthier,desperate and motivated team. The game wasn't vital to the Packers in the standings and they played like it. The Giants on the other hand needed the game, as they were in a slump, and if they had lost the hot Washington Redskins would have been right on their tail. However, you would have liked to have seen the Packers play better. 

The Packers need to get healthy. Against the middling teams they can get by but against elite teams like the Giants not having Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Sam Shields, C.J. Wilson, Greg Jennings, Desmond Bishop, Cedric Benson and Bryan Bulaga is going to really hamper you. There is no way around that. 

Once Matthews, Shields, Wilson, and Woodson come back the defense should be fine. They got absolutely blown off the line against the Giants. There is no way around that and it was a pitiful effort. However, that has not been the norm for them this season and Wilson being out was an underrated loss against the run. No one player means more to a defense in the NFL than Matthews and he will make a world of difference. However, Bulaga is not coming back, so this season will come down to protecting Aaron Rodgers. 
Per ESPN Stats & Info Rodgers been under the 10th-highest amount of duress on the season out of 34 quarterback qualifiers, having been sacked, hurried or hit on 26 percent of his dropbacks this season. Over the last two games with T.J. Lang at right tackle and Evan Dietrich-Smith at left guard that percentage has ballooned up to a staggering 39.1%. Albeit it came against two great defensive lines, that number is completely unacceptable and you cannot expect to win that way. 

How can this be fixed? It needs to happen with scheme and Mike McCarthy needs to take a look in the mirror and make some adjustments. McCarthy stated for the second week in a row that his play calling was suspect, but actions speak louder than words. 

With the Packers down 17-7, McCarthy got away from the running game and nearly got Rodgers killed. He called no screens or draws to slow down the rush and allowed the Giants' rushers to pin their ears back and come after Rodgers. Also, he did not call for any slants or quick passes, instead he called long developing routes with little extra protection that were doomed to fail on this night. 

McCarthy has been a great coach for the Packers and has a great offensive mind, but his stubbornness can kill him at times. The thing that disturbs me the most is that we are now coming up on almost a calendar year when the Chiefs defeated the Packers by rushing four, being physical with the receivers and playing two safeties deep in Cover-2- and McCarthy has yet to figure out how to beat it consistently. They have had some success, but they haven't gotten it done against defenses like the Giants and 49ers. 

To combat this problem McCarthy and the Packers will have to be able to run the ball more effectively, call more patterns that gets the ball out of Rodgers' hands faster and keep more players in to block. Lang's feet are to slow and his arms are to short to be a really good right tackle. Meanwhile, Deitrich-Smith has gotten mauled in his two starts. I would not even be opposed to moving Lang back to guard and giving Don Barclay a shot at right tackle. Then at least you do not have two weak spots and how much worse can it get? 

Jennings coming back should be a big help against the Cover-2. Jennings is still a huge threat and it is not a coincidence that the offense was not as solid in his absence. He has been a great slant runner, so maybe McCarthy will get back to that with him. He knows how to get open better than any other Packers receiver and if they can protect better his presence will be felt. 

The Packers still control their own destiny and have everything in front of them. You hope that a loss like this can be used to bring the team together for the stretch run of the season. The keys will be getting healthy and protecting the quarterback. If the Packers do those things, they can still achieve all of their goals for this season. 

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