The Green Bay Packers had their biggest game of the season in Week 12. So big, in fact, that the NFL flexed the game out of its original afternoon slot into Sunday Night Football.
How did they respond after having their entire bye week to prepare for the team with the NFC’s best record?
Horribly, is the short answer.
The Packers failed to get anything going offensively. They tired out their defense early and often due to their ineffectiveness on offense, and as a result, were blown out 37-8. No turnovers were forced and the game was almost never in question.
Instead of dwelling on the loss, let’s look at what Packers fans can learn from it. Here are three things we learned from Green Bay’s Week 12 drubbing.
Pressure is the key to beating the Packers
As many Packers fans feared, the Los Angeles Chargers did, indeed, show the blueprint to beating Green Bay.
The 49ers were in Aaron Rodgers’ face all night. They sacked him five times, and added six more “hurries” on top. Star rookie DE, Nick Bosa, led the charge collecting a sack and a forced fumble (which we will discuss later). Four other Niners got their hands on Rodgers for a sack, also.
Nick Bosa followed in his brother’s footsteps disrupting the Packers’ passing game. When Green Bay lost to the Chargers in Week 9, Joey Bosa had 1.5 sacks. Their other star, Melvin Ingram, also collected 1.5 sacks.
The offensive line did not play very well, but they were not necessarily a turnstile, either. They were just overwhelmed by superior talent on the other side. This is a huge problem, seeing as how defenses in the playoffs are not going to get any easier.
What these two games have in common is offensive ineptitude caused by constant pressure. The Pack do not have the kind of receivers who can create massive amounts of separation very quickly (apart from Davante Adams). That means if they have no time to let the play develop, Rodgers cannot always throw them open.
Rodgers and his first-year head coach Matt LaFleur are going to have to find a way to overcome this. If not, the playoff run will be dead on arrival.
Having to outplay the officiating is the new normal
This is not just for Green Bay. This lesson is being learned far and wide across the NFL.
Simply put, the officiating in 2019 is bad and shows no signs of getting better. Between the refs’ unending stubbornness to adhere to the new pass interference challenges, a ridiculous abundance of holding calls and phantom “hands to the face” flags, every team is learning they are absolutely going to be on the wrong side of some critical penalties in every single game.
Any Packers fan of a non-delusional nature knows that Rodgers gets calls to go his way, simply due to his talent. Much like Tom Brady, when something goes wrong for Green Bay offensively, their talent is such that refs assume it must be due to a penalty, rather than a miscue. The Lions got a taste of it on Monday Night Football in Week 6.
With that aside, the Packers had some questionable calls go against them on Sunday that further demoralized them, rather than spurring them to overcome.
For starters, the fumble on the first series that led the 49ers to score on their very first offensive snap was absolutely challengeable. It seems as if the ball was not quite out when Rodgers hit the ground. The referees usually air on the side of the fumbling team while the play is in progress. Blowing it dead if there is some ambiguity on whether or not the ball was out. Ask the Saints about that one.
Regardless, on this occasion, the refs let the play roll on, and LaFleur resigned to not challenge. His decision probably due to lack of coach’s challenge wins as a whole in the NFL in 2019.
Later on, Aaron Rodgers connected to Jimmy Graham on a third and eight. It was ruled incomplete, yet the slow-motion replay showed that he made a football move after catching and did not drop it until going to the ground. That would indicate a catch, and NBC’s rules analyst Terry McAulay agreed.
Again, LaFleur chose not to challenge. At a certain point, of course, a coach has to at least try by throwing the flag, but coaches cannot be blamed at this point to resigning to whatever is called on the field.
These are just examples from Sunday night’s game. During the Patriots-Cowboys matchup in the afternoon slot, there were two bizarre tripping calls that went against Dallas, one of which in a crucial moment in the fourth quarter.
On Thursday Night Football, there was a weird sequence in which Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson fumbled the ball. Not only did the refs choose to not review it, but the game clock had 13 full seconds run off while the officials discussed what to do. This turned out to hurt the Colts, potentially costing them the game and a lead in the AFC South.
Again, these are just examples from this week. And there are no shortage of other egregious errors that could be brought up from the first 11 weeks.
Simply put, Green Bay and every other team in the league has to resign to the subpar officiating. It is not going to get any better this late in the season. The name of the game is to power through, and come to the offseason meetings with stacks upon stacks of evidence to change this trend.
The defense is opportunistic, not generational
Through the first three weeks, Packers fans were justified in believing the defense was great. They did not allow over 16 points, and turnovers were coming at an incredible clip.
Since then, they have given up less than 22 points only once. And that game was against a Kyle Allen-led Panthers as the backup started to show cracks.
Green Bay’s defense is tied for 11th in interceptions, with nine on the year. They are tied for 16th in fumble recoveries with six, and have forced nine total. These numbers are not bad, and are miles ahead of the atrocious defenses the Packers have trotted out in the past.
It helps that once they turn the ball over, they have one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play back on the field to turn them into points.
However, they are fifth-worst in the NFL in yards allowed per game, at 380.5. Their biggest hole, the rush defense, is seventh-worst, as teams average 125.5 yards against them. The pass defense sits at number 10, with 255 yards given up per contest.
Any way you slice it, those numbers are terrible. And to think, Mike Pettine and the Green Bay defense were so heralded so early in the year.
In their three losses, the defense has failed to collect an interception. That is pretty telling in and of itself. On Sunday, not only did they not produce the same kind of pressure as the 49ers, they did not collect a pick or fumble against Jimmy Garappolo, who has been struggling with turnover problems.
Whether its defensive play-calling, positioning or just plain luck, it is clear that the Packers need to create more opportunities for the offense to hide their shortcomings. Otherwise, this unit is a below-average, “bend, don’t break” defense.
Featured Image courtesy of Associated Press
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