Stay Classy San Diego

Posted: November 8, 2011 by Kodi in NFL, Pack It Up

Hopefully the Packers will learn an important lesson from this game against the Chargers

Green Bay is still undefeated but can their defense keep it together

But do they have to when Aaron Rodgers is playing so well?

The Green Bay Packers were coming off of their bye week as the only undefeated NFL team but were facing a valuable foe on the road against the Chargers. This is the Packers first trip to San Diego since 2003 and Green Bay has won 11 of their last 15 games coming out of the bye week and are 4-1 under HC McCarthy. Last season the Packers faced off against the Vikings and defeated them handily 31-3. The Packers have fared well in games after the bye week recording a 30-19 record under McCarthy and Green Bay looked to keep rolling.

San Diego is reeling after a deflating loss in Kansas City last week when QB Philip Rivers seemed to have literally just dropped the ball while the Chargers were going to run the clock and kick a game winning field goal. Rivers is having the polar opposite type of season that most Chargers fans are used to and he came into this game leading the league in turnovers. The game started and Rivers looked strong on the opening drive going 3-3 for 57 yards including a 23 yard TD connection to WR Vincent Jackson. It took San Diego just 7 plays and 4:28 to go 80 yards down the field and score.

This game felt like it could have been a trap game for the Packers, a team that just came off of a terrible loss to their division rival that was playing at home and just methodically went downfield. Rodgers and the Packers offense came on the field without a worry in the world and did what they have been doing all season long, slicing through defenses. Rodgers rushed for 20 yards in 2 plays while a 21 yard pass interference call brought the Pack to the 5 yard line in just a few plays. On first and goal Rodgers looked for one of his many targets and hit TE Jermichael Finley for a 5 yard TD.

Finley celebrated just his 2nd  touchdown since his 3 TD game against the Bear by doing his best village person impersonation spelling out YOTTO with his arms. For those of you who don’t know YOTTO stands for year of the takeover and was Finley’s motto during the 2010 season until his season ending injury, he now refers to this season as YOTTO dos. Finley has been somewhat disappointing to some fantasy owners but realistically he is one of many dangerous options in the Packers arsenal and is a legitimate threat whenever he is on the field.

San Diego had set the pace of the game and Philip Rivers looked to respond as well as Rodgers did on the Chargers ensuing drive. The Chargers ran the ball for a 3 yard gain then Rivers missed TE Antonio Gates on a short pass to the right but when San Diego was faced with a third and long Rivers went back to his pro-bowl TE. The pass seemed to have sailed on Rivers, something that seems to be happening to him a lot this year as he leads the league in turnovers but the beneficiary was S Charlie Peprah. Peprah picked the pass off but had the wherewithal to keep his head on a swivel, follow his blockers and return the INT 40 yards for a TD.

But the fun didn’t stop there. QB’s are taught to have short term memory of their play on the field and there was no doubt that Rivers was a true believer in that theory. It was just 5 plays after the Peprah INT when Rivers tried to sling a short pass to WR Patrick Crayton that was beautifully intercepted by CB Tramon Williams and returned 43 yards for the Packers 2nd defensive TD in 6 plays and 3rd overall TD in a span of 3:48. “I saw the receiver going out to the flat but I was off like I was playing man to man. I saw it the whole time and it worked out perfectly” Williams explained. It was Williams first INT of the year after recording 6 in the regular season in 2010 but was also the CB’s first pick six of his career.

Green Bay was quickly leading the game 21-7 but Rivers stayed confident and kept attacking the Packers secondary. He hit WR Vincent Jackson for a 38 yard connection during a 6 play drive that resulted in a 8 yard TD run by RB Matt Tolbert. Green Bay got the ball back for just their 2nd offensive possession of the game but after getting to the Chargers 36 yard line HC Mike McCarthy decided to go for a 4th and 2 rather than attempt a 53 yard field goal with K Mason Crosby. The play resulted in an incomplete pass to WR Greg Jennings and San Diego had the ball back with a chance to go downfield and tie the game.

The drive stalled inside the Packers 40 yard line and San Diego was forced to kick a 52 yard field goal with K Nick Novak to cut the Green Bay lead to 21-17 with just under 6 minutes remaining. Rodgers got the ball back at the Packers 26 and was immediately sacked by Antonio Garay and taunted with his own touchdown celebration. A short completion to WR Donald Driver left the Packers with a 3rd and 9 while the games momentum seemed to be shifting away from the visiting team, although their fans were heard thoroughly throughout the stadium. Rodgers spread his receiving corps out, let them all run deep routes and then scampered down the left side of the field for a 25 yard pick up.

8 consecutive passes later the Packers were in the red-zone again and facing a 3rd and short but rather than pounding the ball with RBs John Kuhn, James Starks or Ryan Grant Green Bay decided to throw the ball deep. Rodgers laid it down the right sideline to WR Jordy Nelson who leaped for the ball and pulled in the pigskin while rolling into the end-zone before any defender contact. It seemed like the play could have been marked at the 1 yard line but the review ended with the play being upheld and the Packers increased their lead to 28-17 and leaving just 18 seconds on the clock. It is the 4th time this season that the Packers scored at least 28 points in the first half, something the entire league has done just 3 other times this season.

The Pack opened up the second half with a 47 yard field goal by Crosby and Rivers came back on the field to lead his team to another TD. This time it was to Antonio Gates for 11 yards and the Chargers had cut the lead to a single touchdown. Rodgers responded in just 7 plays throwing a 21 yard TD to WR James Jones for his only reception of the game. A quick three and out by the Chargers gave Rodgers the ball back and the QB wowed us again with a cold blooded connection to Jordy Nelson for 64 yards. We have seen it before where the QB rolls out to the right and on the run makes a nearly picture perfect pass to a streaking WR. After a incomplete pass to Finley, Rodgers connected with WR Greg Jennings for a 4 yard TD pass and the running game had been completely obsolete up to this point.

Green Bay was up 45-24 and the television cameras showed a jovial Packers sideline but they were in for a big surprise. Rivers led his team and went 80 yards in 7 pass attempts and threw a 5 yard TD pass to Vincent Jackson for his 2nd of the day. San Diego knew their backs were against the wall and kicked an onside kick that they recovered. A completely blown coverage by S Charlie Peprah and CB Tramon Williams allowed Vincent Jackson catch his 3rd TD of the game. He was wide open in the back of the end-zone and the 29 yard connection cut the lead to a single TD yet again.

There was just over 6 minutes left in the game and the Packers got the ball back but instead of relying on their running game they put the ball in Rodgers hands, for obvious reasons. The Packers went three and out and the Chargers had the ball near midfield with just under 5 minutes left in the game. The Packers defense played better but a 4th down pass interference on CB Charles Woodson allowed the drive to continue although the Chargers fizzled and were forced to punt after gaining just 10 yards in 7 plays.

Finally the Packers decided to run the ball and burn the Chargers timeouts but were forced to punt with just 1:05 left in the game. Rivers was on the field and had his opportunity to make up for last weeks debacle in Kansas City. He hooked up with Gates for a 19 yard gain and another PI call on Woodson on 4th down gave them yet another chance. Two plays later Rivers threw the ball deep down the right sideline looking for Vincent Jackson but Charlie Peprah intercepted his 2nd pass of the day on the 18 yard line and returned it 76 yards before getting pushed out at the 6 yard line, oh so close to the Packers 3rd defensive TD of the game.

A Kneel to kill the final 14 seconds of the game and the Packers had secured their 8th victory of the year but Rodgers isn’t satisfied. “I don’t think we’re ever satisfied. We’ve got a coaching staff that is definitely not going to pick out the mistakes we’ve made. Not being able to finish the game with the ball is something that we’re frustrated with” Rodgers said after the game but is it that HC McCarthy is leaning on Rodgers too much? Don’t ask him that but some poor bastard did and he adamantly stated that “Rodgers has earned the opportunity to run this offense as far as the decision-making”. Clearly we know who wears the pants in that relationship but why wouldn’t it be that way.

Rodgers finished with a season low 247 passing yards but threw for 4 TDs and had just 5 incomplete passes going 21-26 in the game. He also ran for a career high tying 52 rushing yards including a huge 3rd down rush for 25 yards that eventually led to a TD. Rodgers is on another level and the clear front-runner for the league’s MVP title. In 8 games he has thrown for 2,619 yards, 24 TDs, 3 INTs, completing over 72% of his passes and posting a 129.1 quarterback rating. Those are video game numbers folks and its happening week in and week out. The best defense is a good offense but I don’t like how much the Packers are relying on their QB and not balancing out their offense with a bigger dose of the running game.

The defense however needs to get their shit together after allowing San Diego more than 400 offensive yards. I have ferociously supported their bend but don’t break mentality but San Diego should teach the Packers a lesson. HC McCarthy agrees, “we’re not going to turn a blind eye to the negatives. We’re 8-0/ that’s a fact”. The pass rush has struggled and Clay Mathews and B.J. Raji need to step up but the big Nose Tackle explained “every game is not going to be peachy, we’re probably going to have some interesting meetings when we get back. Our stats won’t equal up to other defenses, but other defenses’ wins won’t equal up to our wins”.

Winning is great, until it stops. The Packers are still undefeated and haven’t played a complete game on offense and defense, which is scary, but they need to get it together. Injuries aren’t an excuse and Green Bay has faced adversity before but they cannot take their success for granted and need to keep their foot on the gas pedal throughout the game and their defense needs to step it up. Turnovers have saved the Packers defense and solid play when they need it most, but busted coverage and blown 3rd and 4th down plays are mistakes a championship caliber team cannot be making. Minnesota is coming to town, this should be interesting.

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