7

November

Packers vs. Chargers: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 45-38 Win over San Diego

Photo: Packers.com

Aaron Rodgers threw for four scores, Tramon Williams and Charlie Peprah each had interception returns for touchdowns, and the defense held off a frenzied fourth quarter rally as the Green Bay Packers beat the San Diego Chargers, 45-38, on Sunday to remain the NFL’s lone undefeated team at 8-0.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. Defensive issues

There was optimism that the Packers defense might rebound after a bye week in which some key players were getting healthy and an adjustment or two could be made. That wishful thinking was dashed in San Diego with another disappointing performance. Philip Rivers threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns, and there were times in which the Chargers marched up and down the field seemingly at will. San Diego finished with 460 total yards on offense. So what are the issues? Or maybe the better question, what isn’t an issue? The Packers had breakdowns in both man and zone coverages on Sunday. Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson and Sam Shields were beaten several times, and each is having a considerably worse season than they did a year ago. No one in the front seven can consistently pressure the quarterback either. That’s a frightening combination for any pass defense. And don’t forget, the tackling has been atrocious through eight games. Mike Tolbert ran through several more arm tackles on Sunday.

At this point, it might be time to start considering that the Packers 2011 defense might be more like their ’09 version than ’10—at least in terms of yards and points. Even slightly above average offenses are going to move the football against the Packers. But you can’t overlook the fact that the defense got two stops—a punt and a pick—once the Chargers pulled with seven late in the fourth quarter. They have pushed “bend but don’t break” to its very limits, and to this point, the Packers defense hasn’t completely broken down. Turnovers have held this group’s head above water, as the Packers extended their NFL lead in interceptions with three more on Sunday. The defense gives plenty but they also take it away. That’s likely how the rest of the 2011 will go for the Packers on that side of the ball.

2. The Packers’ great equalizer

6

November

Packers vs. Chargers: 5 Things to Watch

Fresh off their bye week, the Green Bay Packers (7-0) travel west to take on the reeling San Diego Chargers (4-3) in Week 9 NFL action.

The basics 

When: 3:15 CDT; Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011.

Where: Qualcomm Stadium; San Diego, CA.

TV: FOX; Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick with the call, Laura Okmin on the sidelines.

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee), Packers Radio Network, Westwood One, NFL Sunday Drive (Sirius Radio).

Series: Packers lead, 8-1-0 (Packers won last regular season game, 31-24, in Green Bay on Sept. 23, 2007).

Five things to watch

1. Banged up Bolts

If the Chargers are to knock the Packers off the NFL’s undefeated perch on Sunday, they’ll have to do it by taking a page from Green Bay’s 2010 book. San Diego is a hurting bunch leading into Week 9, and a quick scan through the Chargers injury report shows a frightening list of talented players who will either be out or playing hurt. Defensive end Luis Castillo (tibia) and guard Kris Dielman (concussion/seizure) have both been ruled out. Shaun Phillips, arguably the Chargers best defensive player, is doubtful with a foot injury and not expected to play. Key offensive playmakers Ryan Mathews (groin) and Malcolm Floyd (hips) are both questionable, along with former Packers linebacker Na’il Diggs, who is fighting a knee injury. Mike Tolbert (hamstring), Antonio Gates (foot), Vincent Jackson (hamstring) and Curtis Brinkley (concussion) are also playing and practicing with lingering injuries.

And don’t forget; there’s been a lot of talk around the league about the health status of quarterback Philip Rivers. Some have speculated that his fall from grace in 2011 is the result of something structurally wrong in his arm or shoulder. As bad as that list sounds, the Packers know a thing or two about rallying together despite a long injury list. They won the Super Bowl in 2010 with 15 players on IR. There shouldn’t be anything taken for granted by Green Bay because of a Chargers team that is limping into this contest.

2. Attacking the tackles

4

November

Know Your Packers Enemy: Previewing Packers-Chargers With John Gennaro of Bolts From the Blue

In this week’s installment of “Know Your Packers Enemy,” I talked with John Gennaro, the managing editor of Bolts From the Blue. It’s hands down the best Chargers blog I found in my search and John does a fantastic job ruling over it. You can follow John and the blog on Twitter (@BFTB_Chargers) as well.

Enough with the intros, let’s talk some Packers-Chargers.

ZACH KRUSE: First things first. What’s the vibe around San Diego right now? The Chargers still find themselves atop of the AFC West at 4-3, but is this a dejected fan base after the OT loss? What about Norv Turner? Are you as down on him as the head coach moving forward in San Diego as some of the other Chargers fans I’ve talked with?

JOHN GENNARO: Yes, yes, yes. Not just the loss to the Chiefs, but the loss against the Jets has also left a bad taste in the mouths of Chargers fans. With no wins over teams with winning records, and the Chargers constantly playing against themselves (due to turnovers and penalties) as much as they’re playing against an opposing NFL team, it’s hard to imagine this team going anywhere.

I’ve jumped off the bandwagon that typically supports Norv, although I’m not ready to fire him just yet, for one reason. Norv is here to make sure that the offense and Philip Rivers plays well. Those things are not happening.
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ZK: I’d like to hear your take on Philip Rivers. Obviously, the numbers in 2011 are far off what we’ve seen from him during his career. What’s the issue? Is there an injury he’s covering up? I obviously haven’t watched Rivers at length like you have, but the tape I’ve seen from this season suggests a more labored motion than usual that could be hiding a deeper structural issue, possibly in the shoulder. That’s just my take. What’s yours?

JG: Football Outsiders did a great job of running through the theories (http://www.footballoutsiders.com/extra-points/2011/what-wrong-philip-rivers) as well as looking over the tape, and came to the same conclusion that everyone else has: We don’t know. It’s obvious that his footwork is messier than usual, but there’s no real reason why. He’s throwing off of his backfoot and falling away instead of stepping into his throws, but again this seems to be more by choice and panic than anything else. Outside of a possible personal problem (that I won’t speculate on), there’s no easy explanation as to why Rivers is playing so much worse than what we’ve come to expect from him.

3

November

Packers Film Study: How Green Bay’s Offense Can Attack the San Diego Chargers

In anticipation of the Packers’ Week 9 matchup with the San Diego Chargers, I sat down with some tape of the Chargers in 2011 to decide how the Packers might go about attacking their defense. This is what I found:


Manipulating the safety in the red zone

Here we see Tom Brady and the Patriots offense in a 1st-and-10 look from the Chargers 14-yard-line. It’s a two-tight end, one-back set, with Rob Gronkowski to the top of screen and Wes Welker in the slot to the left of the formation. Aaron Hernandez lines up in the right slot with Deion Branch out wide. The Chargers combat this look with three down lineman, four linebackers and four defensive backs—their standard 3-4 personnel. They show man coverage and keep Eric Weddle as the single safety high. Bob Sanders, the other safety, lines up in the face of Hernandez. Brady motions Gronkowski back into the line to help in protection, but the motion also confirms to Brady the man coverage look as Donald Butler follows. At this point, Brady knows exactly where he wants to go with the football in his pre-snap read.

In the coaches tape, you can clearly see the man coverage. Brady initially locks on to the left to Welker, who is running an 8-yard square out. That forces Weddle to take two or three steps to his right to honor that look, which keeps him in no-mans-land for all three receivers. At this point, it’s up to Brady which receiver scores the touchdown. Welker has his man beat to the left, but Hernandez has a clear size mismatch on safety Bob Sanders. With Sanders’ back turned to the throw and no help in the area, Brady gives Hernandez a chance to make a play on the ball in the air. The Patriots tight end makes a rather routine catch in the end zone for a touchdown. If the Chargers give Aaron Rodgers and the Packers this look in the red zone, it’s going to be similarly easy score. The way Rodgers uses his eyes to manipulate safeties, like Brady does here, makes this play grand larceny.


Use of playaction

Let’s go back to the coaches tape for a 1st-and-1o play from the Patriots own 18-yard-line. New England again lines up in a two-tight end, one-back set with Welker out wide to the right of the formation and Chad Ochocinco to the left. The Chargers counter with their base 3-4 look. The offensive set and down suggests a run.