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Monday, September 12, 2005

Breakdown in Motor City

by Mark Quarderer
PackerChatters Staff

Prior to the season opener, I opined that this was going to be a very difficult game for us because I knew that historically speaking, Detroit is not a place where we generally play very well. Sunday was no exception. This was a game that I had us picked to lose when I predicted 9-7 so we're still on track and there's no reason for people to be jumping off of bridges. There were many areas of the team that performed in a postive manner but right now we can't see them very clearly because we're blinded by the glare of the turnovers, penalties, and mistakes that really made us look pretty inept at times.

The Offensive Line

Let's start here because it was one of the bigger question marks going into the game and because if the big eaters up front don't get the job done then nothing else is going to matter very much.

Although one of the prevailing schools of thought is that Favre was under pressure every time he passed, I'm afraid that I just can't go along with that. Favre was sacked four times including twice on the final drive and for the most part he enjoyed protection that was as good as what Harrington was getting. We've been spoiled the past couple of years with an outstanding line.....possibly the best in team history......that was able to keep anybody from getting close to Favre most of the time. That's not the case anymore, and Favre is going to get the same protection that quite a few other QBs in the league get, which means he's going to get sacked a couple times a game, he's going to get hit a couple of times a game, and he's going to be pressured on a number of his passes.

Although I expect the line to improve during the season, I didn't think they play that badly. People who are expecting Favre to never be sacked, hit, or pressured are going to need to revise their expectations.

The Running Game....

I'm very disappointed that we didn't stick with the run more. Green had 8 rushes for 45 yards in the first half...that's over 5 yards per carry...and we're only down 7-3 at the half. So why did he only get four more rushes in the second half? I generally try to not be critical of play calling, but if your opponent doesn't stop the run you keep running. That's Football 101. And Detroit wasn't stopping our run but we repeatedly let them off the hook by showing how balanced and unpredictable we can be on offense.

It is my opinion that to win at any level you have to establish that you can do something well enough that the defense has to adjust. We didn't do that, and we saw what happened.

Although Green ran well, Davenport and Fisher were ineffective. Fisher, in particular, had about the worst game I've ever seen him have. He dropped a pass and fumbled and he's normally a pretty sure-handed guy. The people who think that we could trade Green away and keep Davenport as a feature back are hallucinating. Even with a broken leg Green is a much more effective runner. Personally, I'm kind of wondering why we kept Davenport and cut Williams.

The Passing Game

201 yards on 44 attempts is less than 5 yards per attempt, or less than Ahman was averaging on the ground. I believe we only had four completions of over 10 yards and folks......this Detroit secondary is not the best secondary that we're going to face this year. We had a couple of costly drops....Ferguson kind of short armed the pass that was ruled an interception......a couple of guys got open deep but we couldn't connect.

All in all, the passing game was pretty ineffective. We never hurt them through the air at all and you had to think that going into this game that if there was one thing we could count on doing well it would have been moving the ball through the air.

The Defense

Actually, overall the defense played a little better than I thought they would, and I thought they'd be improved over last year. They surrendered two passes over 20 yards and no big runs. In fact, they controlled the first down run better than I thought they would. They got some pretty decent pressure on Harrington and sacked him twice, but as usual they didn't do a real good job of keeping him in the pocket and he got loose and hurt us. As I've stated in the past, I think sacks are overrated and don't help you as much as QB scrambles hurt you but people really like and want those sacks.

Thomas is going to be fine for us although he looked like a guy who's only practiced a week. Lenon wasn't able to maintain coverage on the TE and Detroit exploited that for their first TD. Barnett......sadly, people, Barnett is starting to look more and more like just a guy to me. It doesn't appear that he's improved an iota since his rookie year and he just never causes fumbles or gets in the passing lanes. He had a bad penalty, too.

You didn't see Detroit receivers running free in the secondary for the most part. I though Ahmad Carroll got jobbed by the refs but he's probably offended them as badly as he's offended his teammates and now that he's made his bed he's going to have to lay in it. I believe I'd start Joey Thomas this week, activate Hawkins for the nickel, and play Carroll in the dime. He's plenty fast enough to cover receivers without using his hands. And he's going to have to keep his mouth shut. Going after refs with "Why you doin'me like that Dawg?" isn't going to endear him to them.
Clearly Ahmad Carroll has earned a reputation for holding penalties and every team the Packers play will be asking the referees to watch his coverage carefully. This guy will be more scrutinized by the refs more than any other player as a result.

Be that as it may, the Packers cannot place a player in a position to fail. Until Carroll can be trusted with performing at a high level, he must ride the bench and learn.

Lastly, did anyone notice just how much faster the Packers defense looked? I saw a lot of players pursuing the ball and not giving up on a play like we saw last year.

If the Packers still had Mike McKenzie and a defensive tackle that could complement Grady Jackson, I see no reason why the Packers couldn't dominate this year.
Thanks for the article and for the comment. I think that Carroll is now in as much trouble because of his mouth as he is because of his holding. He could outgrow the holding problem and still have the refs lined up against him because he can't shut up. It happens in baseball all the time, and I'm sure it happens in football too.
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