Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 11 at Detroit Lions

Happy Thanksgiving recovery day/Black Friday to you all.  In this weeks installment of Hobbjective Analysis, I will be looking at Jermichael Finley’s 31-yard screen play and going in depth on why the Packers executed the play so well.

The Situation: The Packers are trailing by 6 with only 3:43 left in the 4th quarter.  While the Packers haven’t exactly been playing stellar football, the Detriot Lions have been all over the place, Matthew Stafford is consistently overthrowing his targets while getting chased around by a Packers defensive front seven that is missing Clay Matthews.  The Packers know that they have to score on this drive in order to win the game, going 4 and out or committing a turnover essentially seals the game for the Lions.

The formation: The Packers are in a 3-1-1 (3WR-1TE-1RB) set with WR James Jones (89) split wide left, WR Jordy Nelson (87) split wide right and WR Randall Cobb (18) in the right slot.  TE Jermichael Finley is inline of the right tackle. In the backfield RB James Starks (44) is aligned to the right of QB Aaron Rodgers, who lines up in the shotgun.  On the offensive line, there has been a lot of shuffling going on; after starting RT Bryan Bulaga landed on IR, LG TJ Lang has shifted over to RT while Evan Dietrich-Smith (62) has taken LG Lang’s spot.  The three other starting linemen (LT Marshall Newhouse (74), C Jeff Saturday (63), RG Josh Sitton (71)) remain in their original positions.

In response, the Lions play the standard 4-3, Tampa-2 scheme with 4 defensive linemen, 3 linebackers, 2 corners and finally 2 safeties each aligned about 10 yards away from the line of scrimmage.  Overall, the Lions had been playing the majority of the game (and their season) under this formation.  The Lions have heavily invested in their front 4 in order to generate pass rush without having to send extra players and they need to cover up for a tattered defensive secondary who has back-up and back-up of the back-up safeties in play.

The Snap: RB Starks leaks out of the backfield immediately while Rodgers drops back to a clean pocket.  On the perimeter, the Lions are playing man-cover with their corners covering WR Jones and WR Nelson on the outside while OLB Justin Durant (52) covers WR Cobb in the slot.  This leaves the safety to cover TE Finley while presumably the other safety drops back into zone coverage making it a cover-1 man defense.



Packing the Stats: Did Jermichael Finley Steal Attention From Greg Jennings?

*** Packing the Stats ***

As a new Collective Bargaining Agreement looms hopeful in the future, the return of Jermichael Finley to the Green Bay Packers offense has become an exciting topic of conversation. During the Week 5 game against the Washington Redskins, Finley suffered a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee, permanently sidelining him for the remainder of the 2010 season.

Now, after surgery and months of rehabilitation, the match-up nightmare tight end is set to return stronger than ever in 2011. (Even most of our readers agree he’ll be the “Comeback Player of the Year.”)

But some people have wondered: what is going to happen to Greg Jennings’ production with Finley back in the mix?

After not having a 100+ yard game until Week 6 (and after letting his frustrations be known publicly), Jennings seemed like he was being overlooked by offensive play-caller Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers in favor of Finley. Even the fans started wondering why, over the first four games, Jennings only had 12 receptions for 161 yards.

Meanwhile, in that span of time, Finley had 21 receptions for 301 yards.

You can see where the criticism stems from. You’ve got the best receiver on the team apparently playing second fiddle to the best tight end on the team. Not only did Finley gain, on average, 35 more yards per game, he also had two games with 100+ receiving yards. Jennings had none.


1 @PHI 5 82 4 47
2 BUF 3 36 4 103
3 @CHI 2 18 9 115
4 DET 2 25 4 36
TOTAL: 12 161 21 301


Do these numbers tell the whole story, though?

I, for one, was skeptical.

Receptions and yards are a nice indicator of how good a receiver is. After all, a player with high stats in these areas is someone who can get open and make plays for the offense. They are the primary measurement of elite receivers.

However, any good Fantasy Football team manager will know that catches and receiving yards aren’t the whole story.