Category Archives: 2009

20

December

Packers Periscope: Week 16 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Past: I’ve mentioned notable games of the past in this series (the Ice Bowl, Aaron Rodgers dismantling of the Falcons in the 2010 divisional game), but perhaps the most important game in the last decade for the Packers was their win in Super Bowl XLV in 2010 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Not only did it cement quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ position as one of the NFL’s elite players but it also justified Ted Thompson’s 6 year “draft and develop” philosophy which brought the Packers back from a salary cap nightmare.  Fans will remember Clay Matthew’s “It is time” moment of stripping the ball away from Rashard Mendenhall which preserved a Packers 4 point lead in the 4th quarter, but perhaps the biggest defensive play came from defensive tackle Howard Green, who knocked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s pass into the arms of safety Nick Collins, who returned the ball for a touchdown and at least historically sealed away the fate of the Steelers right then (no team has gotten a interception returned for a touchdown and lost the Super Bowl).

Moving back further, the Steelers and Packers last regular season game occurred in 2009 which quickly became a shootout; Rodgers threw for an impressive 383 yards but Roethlisberger proved even more dangerous, finishing the game with an astonishing 503 yards.  It also marked the rise of Jermichael Finley, who moved from a up and coming player to a serious receiving threat, which would continue until his injury in 2010.

The Present: The Steelers have been effectively eliminated from the playoffs; the Cincinnati Bengals have run away with the AFC North and are almost definitely going to win the division this year.  Baltimore trails behind Cincinnati, but also has a shot at a wild card berth.  Pittsburgh unfortunately only is predicted to get in as a wildcard team .8% of the time according to Football Outsiders, effectively making this game more of a statement game more than anything else.  Furthermore, the Steelers have always been a very deliberate and conservative organization and the coaching staff has not been rumored to be on the hot seat, this game probably does not have much meaning to the Steelers, aside for maybe extracting some revenge against the Packers for their Super Bowl loss.

24

September

Packers Need a Signature Win to Get Back Over the Mountain

The Packers beating the Jets was a signature win in 2010.

It seems like forever ago when everyone pegged the Packers as the NFL’s next dynasty.

It was only natural for people – including many in the Packers organization – to talk about a dynasty after winning Super Bowl XLV. A young team with a budding superstar at quarterback had just won it all with a ton of players on injured reserve. Talk of a dynasty was justified.

All that dynasty talk disappeared after the Packers went 15-1 in 2011, only to suffer an embarrassing loss to the Giants in their first playoff game.

Potential to production
Let’s rewind even further, back before the word dynasty was even in the vocabulary of Packers fans. In 2009, the Packers went on a nice run in the second half of the season to make the playoffs before losing a wild-card shootout with the Cardinals.

The 2010 season was supposed to be when the Packers took the next step. All that young talent was primed and ready to go from promising to great. Potential was to be replaced with production. Rebuilding with results. Playoff failure with playoff victory.

After six games, none of that happened. Midway through the 2010 season, Green Bay was 3-3, beat up, and spinning its wheels — stuck near the top of the mountain, unable to vault over it.

Then the Packers rattled off four straight wins, overcame a rough patch down the stretch, made the playoffs, and won the whole damn thing. The Packers not only made it over the mountain, they occupied the mountain, planted a green and gold flag on it, and claimed the mountain as their own.

They even chiseled the faces of Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy into the side of the mountain to create their own Packers Mt. Rushmore.

Falling off the mountain
Throughout the entire 2011 season, whenever another team tried to climb Packers Mountain, the Packers kicked them back down.

Then the Giants rolled into Lambeau Field for a divisional round playoff game, kicked the Packers off their own mountain, and sprayed graffiti all over the faces on Packers Mt. Rushmore.

Oh well. It was disappointing, but it happens. Mountains are high and often have difficult terrain. Every now and then, you’re going to slip and fall off.

20

May

Packers Jarrett Bush has Managed to Stick Around

Jarrett Bush

Packers CB Jarrett Bush has stuck with the team since 2006.

The pitchforks were out and the torches were lit after the 2009 season. Packers fans wanted cornerback Jarrett Bush off the team.

I admit that I was one of those Packers fans holding a torch high in one hand and a pitchfork in the other. I was sick of seeing Bush stumbling three yards behind a receiver after a double move left him in the dust and led to another touchdown against the Packers.

Ted Thompson has never paid much attention to the pitchfork- and torch-wielding sector of the Packers’ fanbase, and he held true to that philosophy with Bush. Now the undrafted free agent out of Utah St. and claimed by the Packers off waivers from Carolina is one of the longest-tenured Packers, a good special teams player and, dare I say it, somewhat beloved by fans.

I say “somewhat” because if Bush ever ends up playing significantly as a defensive back again, it will probably get ugly and fans will turn on him again. But as long as he remains the blue-collar, hard-working leader of the special teams unit, the love for Bush will only get stronger.

Admit it: When Bush picked off Ben Roethlisberger in the Super Bowl, you slapped yourself and wondered aloud if you just watched Jarrett Bush intercept a pass in the Super Bowl. For the Green Bay Packers. In January of 2011.

That play sticks in my mind to this day. Bush, a player who didn’t even get love from the fanbase of the team he played for, kept plugging away and made an impact when called upon to do so on the biggest stage.

If you were paying attention throughout the 2010 season, you would have noticed Bush making an impact on special teams. On Packers teams not known for their physicality and tackling, Bush goes as hard as anyone on special teams and is never afraid to stick his nose in the middle of the action and attempt to make a tackle.

Ever since Bush has been able to focus on special teams (albeit for one start in the 2012 season opener that didn’t go well), he’s found a place in Green Bay as a veteran and emotional leader.

22

January

Dom Capers or the 3-4: Who’s to blame?

Many have called for the head of defensive coordinator Dom Capers (whose head ironically can’t be taken since his contract expired). However, some have argued that the problem goes deeper than just Dom Capers and really its that the 3-4 defense is inherently flawed and that the Packers should switch back to a 4-3 scheme.

This is actually a pretty interesting question: to put it another way, is the 3-4 defense something like the wildcat offense?  What I mean by that is the wildcat offense took the league by storm in 2009 with the Miami Dolphins, but when the rest of the league had proper time to analyze and defend against it properly it slowly faded back into obscurity (see Tim Tebow).  It could be argued that the “Blitzburgh” 3-4 defense run by both Dom Capers and Dick Lebeau took the league by storm when the Packers played the Steelers in the 2010 Super Bowl and perhaps the league has caught up and has finally figured a way to beat the 3-4 defense.

To look into this I’ve used some statistics available from Advanced NFL Stats (great site by the way) and Football Outsiders (also another great site) to look at defensive efficiency for the 2012 regular season.  Just as a little primer on the metrics we’re looking at, Advanced NFL Stats’ dEPA (Defensive Expected Points Added) looks at how many favorable positions a team puts itself in regard to scoring points (i.e. getting a 1st down at your own 10 yard line is nets less EPA than getting a 1st down at the opponent’s 1o yard line since the chances of scoring at your opponent’s 10 yard line are significantly higher than at your own 10 yard line).  For Football Outsiders’ dDVOA (Defensive Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, should it be Defensive Offensive-adjusted Value Over Average?) it’s a metric that attempts to normalize defensive efficiency in regards to offensive efficiency faced.  To put that in lay terms, some defenses get lucky every year by playing poor offenses/poor divisions and/or injured offenses and should not have higher efficiencies than defenses who perhaps perform worse against a far superior offense.  Each has it’s own merits; football is a situational game (which is measured by Advanced NFL Stats), while even the best defenses will struggle with the best offenses in the league (measured by Football Outsiders).  With all that said, for defenses negative numbers are good (I’ve reversed the y-axis to reflect that)

17

October

Packing the Stats: The Rise and Fall of Jermichael Finley

Packing the StatsFor Green Bay Packers fans, there has been no more controversial player during the past few years than tight end Jermichael Finley. His boisterous personality and recent penchant for dropped passes have clashed significantly with the perception of his physical talents and work ethic. And while we like to believe that on-field performance trumps off-field attitude, there’s no bigger catalyst for the disgruntled fan than when both start to head south.

I’m not going to look at the off-field issues, because we could talk about that for hours. What I want to focus on, instead, is the performance trajectory of Finley since he was taken in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft. (Actually, we’ll omit his rookie season, since Finley only saw 12 targets the whole year.) Please note that all stats have been acquired from ProFootballFocus.com.

Let’s start with some basic statistics from the past four years:

Year GP TA Rec. % Ct Yds Yds / Rec. YAC YAC / Rec. LG TD FD
2009 14 78 61 78.2 845 13.9 377 6.2 62 5 29
2010 5 25 21 84 301 14.3 106 5 34 1 12
2011 17 99 59 59.6 804 13.6 251 4.3 41 8 44
2012 6 36 24 66.7 210 8.8 74 3.1 31 1 12

What we first have to account for is the games played by Finley each season. 2011 was the only year where he played in every game, and as we all know, his time on the field in 2010 was cut short due to a knee injury (torn meniscus) in Week 5. That said, looking at straight-up totals won’t tell us much; instead, we need to focus more on percentages and averages that give us a better indication of per-play production.

My first impression of Finley’s basic production is that 2010 could have been his best year had it not been cut short. His catch percentage and yards per receptions were both his highest in four seasons, and his yards after catch per reception were the second highest. It’s a smaller sample size, so we have to take some things with a grain of salt, but there’s enough to indicate peak performance.

6

October

Packers Running Back Debate: Modern-Day Cedric Benson vs. Ryan Grant In His Prime

Cedric Benson Vs. Ryan Grant

Cedric Benson Vs. Ryan Grant

Welcome to tonight’s Packers running back debate featuring Cedric Benson and Ryan Grant.

Television stations throughout Wisconsin were very upset that the last presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney drew a 0.0 rating. That’s right, not a single person tuned in to watch the presidential debate in Wisconsin. 

Research by Nielsen suggested that most television sets were tuned to highlights of the Packers 28-27 win over the Saints, or simply turned off because the weather was nice and people would rather stare at trees and grass than either presidential candidate.

Whatever the reason, Wisconsin television stations need to recoup the ratings that were lost during the debate and the there’s only one tried and true method to make that happen: Packers talk. 

Specifically, a Packers debate.

Tonight’s debate features present-day Cedric Benson vs. Ryan Grant in his prime. They will be debating who is the better running back. Remember, this is present-day Benson and Grant in his prime (late 2007-2009). We’re not focusing on overall career arcs or anything like that. We’re only focusing present-day Benson and Grant from late 2007 through 2009. 

Without further delay, let’s turn it over to our moderator, ALLGBP.com staff writer and the only undefeated team owner in the ALLGBP.com fantasy football league, Mr. Adam Czech.

Moderator: Welcome Mr. present-day Benson and Mr. in-his-prime Grant. Here are the rules for tonight’s debate:  

  • Don’t swear. The youth of America is watching.
  • Don’t hit each other. We’re on the same team here.
  • Take your time. We bought like three kegs of beer for the audience and they’ll be mad if the debate is over before they had a chance to drink it all.

The first question: A Wisconsin newspaper recently suggested that Benson might be the best Packers running back since Ahamn Green. So, Is Benson the best running back the Packers have had since Ahman Green? Mr. Grant, you may answer first. 

Grant: Hell no!

Moderator: Language, Mr. Grant. Think of the children. 

Grant: Sorry. No bleepin’ way! Did you see me run in the snow globe playoff game? Did you watch me gain 1,200 yards in consecutive seasons? Did you see how I pass blocked for Favre and Rodgers? Our quarterbacks and receivers might have gotten all the glory, but I fit in just fine with the Packers system and did some really impressive things. Benson is just the current flavor-of-the-month.

4

October

Packers Playbook (Hobbjective Analysis): Week 4 vs. New Orleans Saints

If you don’t listen to “Tuesday’s with Aaron” (hosted by Green and Gold’s Jason Wilde), I highly recommend that you do so (it’s free on itunes to boot).  One thing that always surprises me is how much Aaron Rodgers remembers about each specific play; not only does he remember the blocking assignments and routes, but he also remembers the context, the past tendencies of the defense and historically how’s it’s worked for the Packers in the past.  This week, he detailed the first touchdown play in the game versus the Saints and how James Jones stole a touchdown from Jermicheal Finley.  As it’s often hard to follow Rodgers when he’s describing a play on the radio, I have decided to diagram this play with what Rodgers stated (so presumably this is about as accurate of a play analysis as I can possibly do)

 

The Situation: The score is tied 0-0 in the 1st quarter with 9 minutes left to go.  The Packers are in the red zone with 2nd and 10 after LB Scott Shanle ripping the ball out of TE Jermicheal Finley’s hands on first down wiped out a potential touchdown. So far, both Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have had their way with the opposing defenses and it’s pretty obvious that the Packers offense is going to take another shot at the endzone.

Pre-snap: The Packers are in a 3-1-1 formation (3WR-1TE-1RB) with WR James Jones (89) aligned out wide to the left and TE Jermicheal Finley (88) inline to LT Marshall Newhouse (I’ve left the numbers off the picture for offensive linemen simply because there isn’t enough space with them all packed together; the line consists of the regular starters of LT Marshall Newhouse, LG TJ Lang, C Jeff Saturday, RG Josh Sitton and RT Byran Bulaga).  WR Greg Jennings (85) is in the slot to the right while WR Jordy Nelson (87) aligns out wide to the right.  QB Aaron Rodgers (12) is set out of the shotgun with RB Cedric Benson (32) to the right of him.

The Saints defense responds with their base 4-3 personnel: 4 defensive linemen (2 DT-2DL), 3 linebackers, 2 cornerback and 2 safeties.  Pre-snap it appears to be a pretty vanilla defense, both corners are about 3 yards in front of the receivers out wide and one safety has aligned on top of WR Jennings (who strangely as the slot receiver is given about 5 yards of open space) No defender motions or moves once set (honestly, I have nothing to write about after the insanity of a Dom Capers defensive formation).  Overall, a very standard personnel and formation.