16

November

Packers vs. Vikings: 5 Quick Observations from Green Bay’s 45-7 Rout of Minnesota

Photo: Rick Wood, Journal Sentinel

First off, I wanted to apologize for my absence over the past four or five days. Spending five days glued to my bed fighting a nasty head cold was bad enough, but not being able to write and share my opinions on everyone’s favorite team made it exponentially worse. A tiny part of me just wants to think you guys missed me. Now that I’m starting to get better, I’ll share my quick observations from the Packers’ 45-7 rout of the Vikings on Monday night.

1. Randall Cobb will be up and down

There’s a certain amount of risk in sending out a 21-year-old rookie to field each and every kick and punt for an NFL team. Randall Cobb’s three lost fumbles this season, including one against the Vikings that eliminated the Packers’ shutout hopes, are that risk in motion. But it’s the plays like his 80-yard punt return for a touchdown Monday night that make that risk a worthwhile adventure.  He’ll continue to improve in ball security, if only because Mike McCarthy preaches it so often. In totality, however, there’s very few who would say that Cobb hasn’t already exceeded expectations in 2011.

2. Blocking struggles

Marshall Newhouse and his struggles against Jared Allen are somewhat to be expected, as Allen is the premier penetration defensive end in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Newhouse allowed one sack and three quarterback pressures. Guard T.J. Lang wasn’t much better, as he allowed a sack on a stunt by Allen and two other pressures. Those two are still finding their way on the left side of the Packers offensive line. But don’t leave out Josh Sitton and Scott Wells among those who had blocking struggles against the Vikings. Sitton was beat a handful of times by former All-Pro Kevin Williams and Wells had his worst run blocking grade of the season. Only Bryan Bulaga, who has been a rock at right tackle, had a positive grade Monday night. On a night where the offense scored 38 points, the blocking up front is the only nit-pick you can really find.

3. Woodson’s revival

Few have been as critical of Woodson in 2011 as me, but he certainly looked like the player of old on Monday night. Dom Capers blitzed Woodson nine times, which resulted in four quarterback pressures and two batted passes at the line of scrimmage. In coverage, Woodson allowed just 36 yards and probably should have had two interceptions. But what I was most impressed with was Woodson’s activity level across the board. He finished with nine total tackles and contributed a season-high six stops, which PFF measures as a tackle that results in an offensive failure. Everywhere you looked he was making a play or near the ball. There were obviously many factors in the awakening of the Packers defense on Monday night, but none were as emphatic as Woodson’s revival in all aspects of his play.

4. Pressure cooker

The first problem I addressed last week when I dissected the Packers defensive decline was the reduction in pressure. On Monday night, the pressure came and never let up. Three sacks, including two from Clay Matthews, were the only hard stats to show for it, but the Packers also had 17 total quarterback pressures and two other hits on 39 drop backs from Christian Ponder. I’m not sure the Packers will be able to blitz every team as heavily as they did the Vikings on Monday night, but this drastic increase is a good sign moving forward.

5. Making the rare a common occurence

You’ll hear a lot of NFL commentators talk about the “zone” Aaron Rodgers is in right now. Really, how many times have you heard him asked about how it feels to be in this “zone”? Still, I don’t think anyone can rightfully say that Rodgers is just in a “zone.” This is him consistently playing at the level of he’s capable of. Through nine games this season, and adding the last six from 2010, Rodgers has made his record-breaking play the norm. Consider that of the seven incompletions Rodgers threw on Monday night, three passes were dropped and two others were thrown away. His four touchdown passes—which gives him 28 on the season and on pace to break Tom Brady’s 50 from 2007—were just another day at the office. There’s literally thousands of stats to confirm the historical greatness we’re seeing right now. The moral of the story: Don’t for a second take for granted the level of quarterbacking play you’re seeing from Aaron Rodgers in 2011. He’s making it look like commonplace, but this is rare air we’re dealing with.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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19 Responses to “Packers vs. Vikings: 5 Quick Observations from Green Bay’s 45-7 Rout of Minnesota”

  1. Chad Lundberg says:

    “Few have been as critical of Woodson in 2011 as me, but he certainly looked like the player of old on Monday night.”

    Hope you learned your lesson. (lol)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. Ron LC says:

    1. Cobb: Not worried unless it continues. His problem is obvious. Watch the playback in SlowMo and there it is, as the ball approaches his hands he is dropping his head and looking up field. Solution: teach him not to do that.

    2.So what you’re telling us is the whole Oline sucks. Not willing to go that far yet, but they sure as hell need work.

    3. No revival for Wood. DC finally turned him lose to do what he does. Loved the mini-musle he showed after the AP tackle. Kind of a take the CM3 thing. Loved it.

    4. Pressure cooker: See Woodson. They were finally turned lose to do what they do.

    5. Rare Occurence: Agree! What people fail to see, including many of the self-appointed football gurus, is the AR game is the same each and every game. Discipline added to natural talent, guided by MM, with a 9 deep receiver combination is the answer. The short answer is the Packers are really a team in the literal sense. Which make us the luckiest fans in the NFL.

    No predicting a perfect season here, just saying that they are a team and cannot be evaluated by an accumulation of individuals only as the whole – The Green Bay Packers.

    We are very lucky.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

    • Zach Kruse Zach Kruse says:

      Definitely didn’t say the whole offensive line sucks, but 4 of 5 have some troubles Monday night. As a whole the unit has been good this season

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Mojo says:

    Right Zach, regarding Rodgers and the “zone”. Rodgers is not a zone, like a b-ball player hitting everything he tosses up. This is his new normal. We are witnessing the birth of NFL greatness. As long as Rodgers does not become disinterested or injured he will perform this way for years to come. Not that he won’t make mistakes time and again, but his decision making and skill level will be a cut above others.

    Rodgers spoke one of my favorite Packer quotes a few years ago when he said; “Shut-up and enjoy the ride”. I think he was very aware of what was coming.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Zach Kruse Zach Kruse says:

      I think it’s his preparation every week that will keep him playing this well.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Chuck Cecil says:

    Hey Zach,
    Something to consider before you get too critcal of C Wood in the future…

    Zach Kruse: Zach is an aspiring sports journalist who loves the Green Bay Packers. He is currently working on his journalism degree and welcomes any and all advice on breaking into the world of sports writing.

    Charles Woodson:
    ■Super Bowl champion (XLV)
    ■7× Pro Bowl selection (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2008, 2009, 2010)
    ■3× First-Team All-Pro selection (1999, 2001, 2009)
    ■3× Second-Team All-Pro selection (2000, 2008, 2010)
    ■NFC Defensive Player of the Year (2009)
    ■AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2009)
    ■AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (1998)
    ■Heisman Trophy (1997)
    ■Walter Camp Award (1997)
    ■Sporting News Player of the Year (1997)
    ■Chuck Bednarik Award (1997)
    ■Bronko Nagurski Trophy (1997)
    ■Jim Thorpe Award (1997)
    ■Jack Tatum Trophy (1997)
    ■Mr. Football Award (Ohio) (1994)
    ■NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team
    ■Green Bay Packers record for most interceptions in a single season (9)

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

    • CSS says:

      I guess I’m confused. Are you saying Woodson’s current and future level of play is immune from criticism as a byproduct of his past accomplishments? Are you saying Zach also lacks the credentials to make an observation about a players overall decline in play from a prior year?

      Perhaps the answer is ‘no’ to both and I don’t quite understand your point. If it’s yes to either or, than your premise is absurd.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

    • Zach Kruse Zach Kruse says:

      I don’t think past success gives anyone an immunity to criticism, as CSS said so well in the response.

      I still hold to the fact that his play dipped during the first eight games. There’s a lot of tape that says the same. With that said, he played a hell of a game on Monday night, and I was obviously willing to admit that. Love Charles Woodson as a player, too.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Mr. Bacon Mr. Bacon says:

    1. Cobb is a Rookie, so the heading is a bit misleading. That being said, he is in the best position to be polished for the next two years.

    2. Offensive Line really is never Thompson’s specialty, always has been. Rodgers just has a quick release that negates this.

    3. Woodson never left, as he always is a risk taker with the hands of a Elite WR. The skillset has decreased with age, but he plays so well into Caper’s system.

    4. Patience. All it takes. Patience, Patience, Patience. Its harder to play Defense than Offense and I said Woodson would rally the troops. Remember to that their was no OTAs, or Practice time before the season so its only fitting that people begin to re-understand how to win ballgames because the Packers have weeks of tape to review what is coming.

    5. Rodgers is hardly in the zone. He is borderline obsessive in studying week in and out on how to kill the secondary, crush it to death. Dedication to perfecting his craft. Its how you earn the millions, Aaron is the first one to arrive and the last one to leave.

    Awesome article :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. BTF says:

    I read somewhere that Hester had 8 fumbles in his first year and 6 in his second…puts Cobbs up and down in a bit of perspective. I agree with Ron he’s looking for the run before securing the ball. Easy fixed. What I loved was the KO return after the fumble. That’s how good players respond..

    Woodson was great last night in that hybrid role that suits his current skills so well. He’s still not a cover corner anymore though ;)..

    If by in the zone people mean relaxed, utterly confident in his own abilities and performing at a freakishly high level consistently then he’s in the zone. Or may be he’s just bloody good and at the peak of his powers. Either way it’s beautiful to watch..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Zach Kruse Zach Kruse says:

      That’s a great stat on Hester. I double-checked it, just to make sure, and you were right. He had six fumbles on punts and two more on kicks during his rookie year.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Oppy says:

    Woodson should be considered a great defensive pressure player, but he’s not a great CB in the sense of a traditional CB.. Wood is sub par at this point in his career when it comes to lining up across from a WR and covering him down field.

    He does understand football, however, and he recognizes formations, personnel, and tendencies, and that’s how he jumps routes and makes big turn overs happen. He’s a great tackler- almost like a small linebacker at times- and does a good job of ripping at the ball as he takes a guy down. He’s ALWAYS looking for the turnover.

    But at this point and time, if you had one WR that had to be covered down the field on one last down to seal a game, I’d rather have Tramon or even Shields line up across from him than Woodson.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Zach Kruse Zach Kruse says:

      Yup, I can agree with that. He’s best used as a “disrupter” than a shutdown corner right now, and that’s really fine—the Packers need him causing havoc and turnovers more than they need an opposing receiver shut out (like Revis in New York).

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Packet says:

    I would love to hear any update on Mike Neal and Frank Zombo. Anyone know status?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Chuck Cecil says:

    I’m sorry you’re so confused. It bothers me when people (Zach or otherwise) bust on the players who we are truly lucky and/or blessed to have. Woodson is a warrior! A throwback. Not some clown running his mouth talking trash twittering during the game. He is a stud! If we had 11 guys a side, who played the game like he plays it, how often do you imagine we’d lose? His decline in play??? 5 intercepts with next to no pass rush in front of him??? Hmmmmm… Very absurd indeed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

    • Zach Kruse Zach Kruse says:

      Chuck, did you read my article where I talked about the decline in the defense? It’s linked in this one where I talk about Charles. There were plenty of statistical reasons why I have been critical of him before Monday night. I’m not saying he’s not a great player—because he most certainly is—but that doesn’t make him immune to warranted criticism sometimes.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Chuck Cecil says:

    Zach, I’m saying your prior criticism was unwarranted. It’s completely impossible to effectively play corner, safety or some mixture of the two in the NFL without a front four that gets pressure. Revis and Asomugha couldn’t cover behind our inept pass rush. Nothing personal Zach, but I don’t think your analysis was fair to Woodson. Fair to the defense as a whole, sure. So, if Aaron Rodgers spends most of Sundays game on his back and getting drilled, lets not be too quick to be critical of his play as well.
    “No one seems to want to say it, so I will: All three of the Packers starting cornerbacks—Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields—have taken pretty noticeable steps back in 2011.”

    There is a good reason no one wanted to say it. Not fair to say it.

    Again Zach, I like reading your stuff, and I usually agree with allot of it. But the Woodson thing chapped me. If you continue to feel Woodson played poorly prior to last week, then ok. I choose to think his production (game changing interceptions vs rookie qb’s or otherwise) is impressive, given the lack of pressure and defensive cohesion.

    I was once at a game at Lambeau and witnessed a bunch of supposed packer fans in my section booing (an admittedly somewhat long in the tooth) William Henderson of all people, for dropping a flat pass that Favre had thrown behind him. It made me puke in my mouth a lttle bit. Booing Henderson, like a bunch of lame Philly fans! Don’t be the Philly fan Zach.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1