12

December

Packers Drive Rewind: 7 Straight Runs Give Packers the Lead

Evan Dietrich-Smith

Evan Dietrich-Smith

Packers Drive Rewind is a new weekly post I hope to do for the rest of the season. That’s the goal, anyway. With the holidays coming up, I might not have time, or I just might forget. You never know.

Anyway, I want to take one key drive from each game and break it down with some film and my own thoughts. I’m not doing this to lecture everyone or prove how much I know about X’s and O’s. I just want to talk football. I did something similar last week.

If you think my observations are off the mark, or you have additional insight to add, please do so in the comments section. We have a lot of very knowledgeable readers on this site and I always enjoy their perspective on some of the more nuanced aspects of the game.

(Note: It’s hard to see numbers on some of the Lions players. My apologies if I mix up a few players.)

Here we go:

The Situation
Fourth quarter. Packers 17, Lions 17. Packers ball on their own 41 with 14:49 to play.

The Result
The Packers run the ball seven consecutive times, capped by a 14-yard touchdown from DuJuan Harris. The powerful drive appeared to demoralize the Lions and the Packers won 27-20. Packers fans tear off their shirts and start posing like Hulk Hogan.

Play 1: Alex Green runs left for 6 yards

Alex Green says, “Give me the ball and let’s get this party started.” Kyle Vanden Bosch slants in, but gets taken out by his own momentum and Marshall Newhouse pushing him down the line. Nice job by Green to recognize this and burst through the hole after John Kuhn got in DeAndre Levy’s way. We’ve seen Green fall over himself or not see similar cuts this season. Watching him burst through a hole is a good sign of progress. Jeff Saturday and Evan Dietrich-Smith manhandle Nick Fairley. I wonder if Saturday was supposed to get off the block and try to pick up Stephen Tulloch (who eventually made the tackle)?

Play 2: Green runs right for 2 yards

9

December

Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers Key Matchups

 

Aaron Rodgers and Ndomukong Suh

The Packers are hoping Suh won’t get this close to Rodgers on Sunday

We’re back to the Detroit Lions already?  It seems like just three weeks ago I was breaking down the key matchups between these same Lions and the Green Bay Packers.  That’s because I was.  Due to the fate of the 2012 scheduling, the Green Bay Packers ended up with five divisional games in their final seven and didn’t see either the Lions nor the Vikings for the first time until week 11.  That means there will be a short time in between each matchup.  In the case of this rivalry, it was a mere 21 days.

With not many changes in the game’s key matchups, I’m going to drill down on the top three and spend more time on them.

Packers Offensive Line vs. Lions Defensive Line

No, not an earth shattering proclamation and yes, it’s a repeat from the first matchup.  But alas, it’s still a key in this game.  Since the last matchup, the Packers are dealing with yet more injuries on the line.  Starting guard/tackle T.J. Lang did not participate in practice on Wednesday and Packers head coach Mike McCarthy did not seem too optimistic with his progress early on this week.  I don’t expect Lang to play on Sunday which clears the path for rookie undrafted free agent Don Barclay to make his first NFL start at right tackle.

Barclay will be matched up against Lions left defensive end Cliff Avril.  Avril has had another solid year for the Lions and has 8.5 sacks on the season.  His quick initial burst will immediately test Barclay’s footwork and I expect the Packers offensive game plan to slide some help to that right side.  In a one-on-one matchup, I would expect Barclay to struggle.  For the football junkies out there, keep an eye on this matchup throughout the game as there will surely be a few mano-a-mano opportunities.  This will tell us a lot about what the Packers have in Barclay.

One source that may provide that much-needed assistance to the right side is newly acquired veteran running back Ryan Grant.  Grant was signed after it was determined the James Starks would miss quite some time with a knee injury.  While not the fleetest of foot, Grant is solid in his pass protection and should provide a boost there.  He knows the offense and should be able to step in and contribute right away.

17

November

Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions Key Matchups

CB Tramon Williams and S Morgan Burnett fight for an interception against the Saints

Packers CB Tramons Williams and S Morgan Burnett will need to be on the same page this Sunday

The Green Bay Packers are back in action this week after their bye.  They head to Detroit to face the Lions for just the first time in 2012.  The Lions are coming off a loss to the Minnesota Vikings and have battled inconsistency all season.  They have yet to beat a division opponent and are 0-3 against the North so far.

In looking at a breakdown of the key matchups, it is much of the same old story.  Stop either team’s passing attack and you likely win this game.  Here are the areas to watch as Sunday’s game unfolds.

Lions WR Calvin Johnson vs. Packers CB Tramon Williams

This is becoming an old rivalry.  Since taking over as a starting corner in 2009, Williams has been blanketing Johnson in each matchup.  Minus last season’s finale when the Packers sat many of their starters, Johnson hasn’t had any more than six receptions in a game in which Williams matched up on him.  He did have a two-touchdown game in 2010 and the Packers struggled to contain him in that contest.  They can’t afford to allow Johnson to take over on Sunday.

While Williams will surely have help over the top, I am featuring him in this section because he will play the most vital role in keeping Johnson from becoming a quick and easy target.  A receiver of Johnson’s stature has been a problem for the Packers in seasons past and when tackling was an issue.  Any success with the quick slant could spell problems in trying to keep Detroit in long down and distance.  Johnson is also a matchup nightmare at the goal line and with the jump ball.

Williams has re-emerged thus far in 2012 and is playing more like the corner we saw in 2010 when he broke out and became key defensive contributor.  With the success that he has had vs. Johnson over the years, I expect Tramon to come into Sunday’s game confident that he can continue that trend.

1

November

Week 9 Packers Stock Report: NFC North Edition

Through eight weeks, Matt Forte might be the runner-up to Aaron Rodgers for NFC North MVP.

While the Green Bay Packers were enjoying their bye week, some potential challengers for the top seed in the NFC struggled on Sunday. The Saints laid an egg against the Rams. The Giants had to rally to beat the Dolphins, and the Cowboys got destroyed by the Eagles.

Meanwhile, the Lions overcame the power of Tebow to improve to 6-2 and the 49ers took care of business aginst the Browns to improve to 6-1.

In other news, the Vikings got a little bit of good fortune to win their second game and the Bears joined the Packers in taking the week off.

Even though the Packes didn’t play, their stock went up. If you watched any football at all this weekend, you’d be hard pressed to find a team that could beat the Packers right now. But instead of spending another stock report praising all that is right in Cheeseland, lets devote some attention to other stocks throughout the NFC North.

Which players in the NFC North are on the rise and could give the Packers some fits down the stretch? Which players are playing at a steady level and which have dropped off a cliff?

Rising

Matt Forte
Bears RB
A new contract might not be in his immediate future, but that hasn’t stopped Forte from carrying the Bears’ offense. In addition to 672 rushing yards and 5.4 yards-per-carry, Forte also has 38 catches for 419 yards. To put those receiving numbers in perspective, the only Packers player with more receptions is Greg Jennings (42). The only Packers receivers with more yards through the air are Jennings (677) and Jordy Nelson (465).

I know the Packers offense doesn’t rely solely on one or two players, but those comparisons are still eye-opening.

Calvin Johnson
Lioms WR
Speaking of eye-opening, Calvin Johnson has left many DBs wide-eyed this season. Johnson is averaging six catches for 101 yards and over one TD per game. More importantly, he makes defenders and coaching staffs feel helpless when trying to stop him.

How do you stop a guy that’s bigger than some TEs, runs faster than a lot of WRs and jumps higher than a lot of NBA players? Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson and Dom Capers better figure something out.