4

February

Packers Super Bowl Scenario – Big Games Needed by Brandon Jackson and Interior Offensive Line

Scott Wells needs to help contain the Steelers interior blitzes.

While everyone talks about how Aaron Rodgers and the Packers wide receivers match up against the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary, don’t forget about Brandon Jackson, Scott Wells, Daryn Colledge and Josh Sitton. If the Packers put up big passing numbers, chances are these four guys had good games.

I think rushing attempts by both teams will be few and far between, especially after the first quarter. Once both teams go to the air, Rodgers and the Packers wideouts have an advantage over the Steelers secondary, but that advantage can be negated by the Steelers pass rush.

That’s where Jackson and the interior offensive lineman can come to the rescue.

As the crew at Football Outsiders points out in its Super Bowl preview, the Steelers like to send crash blitzes up the middle, which allows outside linebackers to either come through the wreckage on a delayed blitz or jump back into pass coverage and mess up the quarterback’s hot reads. The theory is that by crashing the middle, you’re attacking a team’s worst pass blockers (center and guards) and forcing the running back into the middle of the chaos (which means he’s not a dumpoff option in the flat and he’s in the quarterback’s throwing lane). It also forces your tackles to win one-on-one battles on the outside.

If Wells, Colledge and Sitton hold up against these inside blitzes, I don’t see how the Packers offense is contained on Sunday. If they struggle, it’s up to Jackson to step up, make the correct read in blitz pickup, and buy Rodgers the extra time he needs to move around and make a play.

It sounds relatively simple, but if the Packers’ interior protection breaks down early, it’s going to be an uphill battle. I don’t want the Steelers collapsing the pocket early and forcing Rodgers to worry about pressure in his face while at the same time crossing his fingers that his rookie right tackle holds up against either Lamar Woodley or James Harrison.

Scott Wells has quietly put together another solid season, and I’m confident that he’ll be able to set the protection at the line of scrimmage before each play. Unfortunately, identifying who to block and then actually making the block are two different things.

3

February

Packers – Steelers Revisited: Film Study

As part of my preparation for Super Bowl XLV, I decided to take another look back at last year’s game between the Packers and Steelers. Ah, memories… I’m sure everyone remembers how the game ended, but do you remember how it started?

It was week 15 of the 2009 season. The 9-4 Packers with a red-hot Aaron Rodgers came  riding into Pittsburgh with a 5-game win streak following their incredulous loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the now-famous Monday morning “Come to Jesus” meeting. The Packers’ secondary, however, was missing Al Harris, Will Blackmon and Pat Lee, forcing the likes of Jarret Bush and Josh Bell into emergency duty.

The Steelers, on the other hand, had lost five games in a row, and at 6-7, their chances of making the playoffs were in sure-fire jeopardy. The defense was giving up too many big plays and the turnovers were not coming as was the norm.

Based on all of these facts, the game started just as you would have expected. The Packers came out throwing and the Steelers, knowing they would, went right after Rodgers with an obvious attempt to intimidate him and cover up for their under-performing secondary.

In just the first minute of the game, the Steelers blitzed Rodgers 4 times and on their first  and only offensive play of the first minute, the Steelers victimized the decimated Packers secondary and Jarret Bush in particular.

Lets relive that first minute:

Play 1: Packers 1st and 10 Steelers Blitz:

Steelers show blitz, Rodgers sets the protection, Korey Hall moves into position to take a fake handoff and is just barely able to pick up James Farrior who is in the backfield and almost on top of Rodgers before he can take his drop.  Lawrence Timmons also blitzes and is slowed down enough to give Rodgers time to side-step the rush and stay upright.  This is the classic inside cross-over blitz you saw the Packers use quite a bit that season. Also notice Ryan Grant’s lack of effort to help out with slowing down Farrior.

Play 2: Packers 2nd and 10 Steelers Blitz:

Farrior and Timmons switch positions, but again come with a cross-over blitz. Farrior is slowed just enough by a Grant shoulder bump  this time, but Scott Wells is slow to react to Timmons who is blitzing right in front of him. Wells is only able to graze Timmons, who takes Rodgers to the turf just after the throw. Totally Scot Wells fault on this play.

1

February

Super Bowl XLV Preview Part One: Green Bay Packers Offense vs Pittsburgh Steelers Defense

It’s here at last. Super Bowl Week.

We are T-minus five days and counting from Super Bowl XLV between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Five days away from a potential fourth Lombardi Trophy coming back to Titletown (I know the first two weren’t technically called the ‘Lombardi Trophy’ but bear with me).

Since the Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event of the year, I decided to do a preview on a much grander scale spread over five days. Starting today through the weekend, I will be breaking down the matchup for each team on each side of the ball plus special teams and coaching and ending with keys to the game and a prediction.

Today will be the Packers offense versus the Steelers defense. Tomorrow will be the Steelers offense vs. the Packers defense. Thursday will be the special teams comparison, Friday the coaching and then Saturday the keys to the game and my pick to win Super Bowl XLV.

Here we go with part one.

Green Bay Packers offense

Ever since opening day running back Ryan Grant went down with a knee injury in the first game against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Packers offensive attack has started and ended with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Without the support of a solid running game for the vast majority of the season, Rodgers carried this offense on his right arm and for the most part did so brilliantly. After tight end Jermichael Finley, arguably the Packers’ biggest offensive weapon went down for the season the Packers receiving corps had to step up.

Enter wide receiver Greg Jennings. Even though he was practically ignored early on, Jennings has come up huge since Finley went down. In 2010, Jennings earned his first Pro Bowl spot (even though he couldn’t play due to the Packers being in the Super Bow) and has finally earned discussion in being part of the NFL’s elite wide receivers. With deceptive speed, great hands and an even better ability to get yards after the catch, Jennings has arrived on the NFL’s biggest stage.

This isn’t to say Jennings’ supporting cast is weak either. Ageless wonder Donald Driver continued to defy Father Time and contributed as we all have come to expect him too. Jordy Nelson and James Jones played key roles in certain games as well, though Jones has shown an unfortunate knack for dropping the ball at the worst possible time.