Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 9 versus Arizona Cardinals

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Packers win over the Arizona Cardinals was that they run the ball effectively.  I’m pretty sure Packers fans were as surprised by me, but the Packers really ran the ball well and actually committed to giving their backs enough reps to feel comfortable with the offense.  The final stat line: Alex Green (11 rushes for 53 yards, 4.8YPC), James Starks (17 rushes for 61 yards, 3.6YPC), is a stark contrast from last weeks game against the Jacksonville Jaguars where Alex Green gained one more yard, but took him double the amount of carries to get there (22 caries for 54 yards, 2.5 YPC).  So the question becomes, why were the Packers so terrible at running the ball against the Jaguars, who have one of the worst defenses in the league at the moment but so dominant against the Arizona Cardinals, whose defense might be the only reason why they’ve even won four games?

The situation: The score is tied at 7 a piece in the beginning of the 2nd quarter.  After a costly fumble/interception by Randall Cobb, one long pass to Andre Roberts and one failed goal line stance (though the defense read the play right), means that the Packers offense wants to respond quickly to the turnover and quick touchdown, and in this instance the Packers elect to slow the pace down and wear the Cardinals defense a little bit, which means pound the rock. The very first play is a designed run by Randall Cobb and this is the second play in the drive.

The formation: The Packers are aligned in a 3-1-1 formation (3WR-1TE-1RB), with WR James Jones (80) at the top of the screen out wide, WR Randall Cobb (18)  in the slot at the bottom of the screen and WR Donald Driver (80) out wide at the bottom of the screen.  In this instance TE DJ Williams is operating as a fullback because regular FB John Juhn is out of the game with an injury.  Finally, 7 yards behind QB Aaron Rodgers (12) is RB James Starks (44).  Overall this is not an exotic package by any means, defenses know that the Packers (and most teams at this point) use multiple receiver looks all the time and even go with running plays out of these looks.



Arizona Cardinals vs. Green Bay Packers Key Matchups

Arizona Cardinals Daryl Washington

The Packers need to keep Cardinals LB Daryl Washington as far from Aaron Rodgers as possible on Sunday

The Arizona Cardinals visit Lambeau Field this week in desperate need of a win, having lost their last four games after starting 4-0.  The Green Bay Packers have won three straight and want to head into their much needed bye week at 6-3.  Let’s jump into the key matchups that will determine the fate of this week’s game.

Offensive Lines vs. Pass Rush

Both Green Bay and Arizona head into this game in 1st and 2nd place, respectively, in QB sacks.  Each is also surrendering more than any team.  Many have already dubbed this game a “sack fest”.  Of course, games aren’t played on paper as we saw last week in the Packers/Jaguars game.

Each team’s offensive line has come under fire this season for inconsistent play.

Green Bay’s unit has struggled in their run blocking as well as in spots in pass blocking.  Newly acquired center Jeff Saturday hasn’t been what many Packer fans had hoped thus far.  Steady right tackle Bryan Bulaga has committed more penalties than in the past.

Arizona’s line has had troubles of their own.  Who could forget that week 5 game against St. Louis in which Cardinal quarterback Kevin Kolb was sacked nine times in a losing effort.  Just a few weeks later, Kolb would be taken down five times by the Buffalo Bills and forced out of that game with a rib injury.

It would seem like this will become a chess match in who can more creatively protect their quarterback.  Putting added protection in the backfield means less hands available at receiver.  With Packer wideout’s Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson likely to miss this game, it puts each team’s receiving units at about equal.  Arizona has All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald on their side while the Packers have the hot hands in Randall Cobb and James Jones.

It goes without saying that the team that wins this battle likely sits in the driver’s seat to a win on Sunday.

If the Cardinals should elect to blitz Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, they better have a backup plan.  Rodgers is, once again, having a stellar season throwing against the blitz.  At least ten of his 21 TD passes this season have come against an added pass rusher.