Saturday, January 5, 2013

Vikings-Packers game analysis

The Positives:

My keys to the game focused on stopping Ponder (or the passing game as it were) first and foremost. The Packers did just that. It was hard to tell if Webb simply did himself in or if the coverage was that good (and I'm guessing Webb was entirely awful), but the Packers got the Vikings one-dimensional and were able to focus on the run.

Aaron Rodgers took what was in front of him while the game was on the line. He did take more chances as the game got out of control. The little dump off passes to the running backs (Harris and Kuhn in particular) were extremely effective. They took what the cover-2 gave them and made the Vikings pay whenever they went to man coverage.

The Packers controlled the turnover battle, dominating Webb and then taking advantage of a special teams mistake later. It almost seemed like every time Webb had the ball in his hands the ball was going to be up for grabs.

McCarthy managed the game quite well. They probably scored too early at the end of the first half, and McCarthy wisely challenged the no TD call on Harris's eventually ruled TD run. Rodgers was impeccable at setting up the offense despite rolling in numerous packages. McCarthy kept it a little more simple this week basically keeping packages in for multiple plays or sometimes an entire drive.

It was also nice to see that most players wore at least somewhat appropriate winter gear. Still too many sleeveless warriors out there.

They held Adrian Peterson to 99 total yards. Once they were behind, they had to abandon the run.

The Negatives:

Starting the game in the no-huddle after the Vikings chewed the clock to start the game with 9 runs and 1 pass for a field goal, the Packers could not get on track and quickly went three-and-out. I have long said that the no huddle is a great weapon, but it needs to be used after the offense gets a first down on a drive so that at least the defense gets a couple minute breather as a bare minimum.

Masthay was only so-so on the punts. He's had a below-average last few weeks. Punting in the bad weather is difficult, but his specialty is the aussie-style pooch punt and it has been poorly placed of late. Kickoff coverage has been bad the last couple of weeks. It really misses Davon House. Hopefully his return will shore up some of that team's weaknesses.

The Packers had an inability to put the Vikings away with a long drive in the fourth quarter is disappointing considering how effective the run game was at times. Incomplete passes don't take time off the clock.

The Packers were pretty poor on 3rd down as well. 0-4 in the first half before finally getting a couple in a row to open the 3rd quarter. Still drives stalled on third down all night. The team either does not execute or goes for the homerun on 3rd down just too often.

Rating the Packers: (1 is bad, 5 is excellent); extra analysis given if appropriate

Quarterbacks - 4

Rodgers was fantastic for the first 2.5 quarters but as the game progressed, he tended to go for the big play too much and hold onto the ball too often taking sacks.

Running Backs - 2.5

Harris carried the rock effectively at times, as a single cut runner who runs as hard as anyone. When he sits down in his cut, he is extremely low to the ground, making him hard to spot and also makes him able to cut very abruptly. He was phenomenal on the TD carry refusing to go down. He really sniffs out the end zone. Grant was the odd man out much of the game. He got a short yardage carry that got stuffed and was given a toss play designed more for Harris that went for negative yardage as well. Grant is not good on the toss play, taking his eyes off the defense to catch the ball. Kuhn got stuffed on two goal line carries before finally reaching pay dirt on the third. He was effective on the check down, scoring again on a Rodgers dump-off. His pass protection was spot on and he took all of the snaps in the 2 minute drill.

Wide Receivers - 4

The unit was clearly better than the counterparts on the other side of the field. They did a good job of getting open in man, beating press and finding holes in the zone. Finley had a drop in the end zone (just his 2nd drop in the last 11 games believe it or not). I also thought their blocking on the edge during the first half was very good. Driver was inactive for the game, entirely because he doesn't play special teams. Cobb was pretty silent in his return to game action, but I'm guessing they didn't put too much in the game plan with his uncertain status. Crabtree did good in the check down role, but in a route with him and Taylor both out there running routes, Rodgers could not find anyone open and took a sack.

Offensive Line - 3

At times they were dominant. Newhouse had some fantastic blocks on Jared Allen that were just film-worthy textbook blocks. The interior line managed to get to the second level on running plays far more consistently than they did when Saturday was the center, and Dietrich-Smith has been effective at that position for the most part. Both he and Barclay are largely effective against the run. The line getting a hat on the linebacker is the difference between a two-yard run and a 5 yard run; it also opens the cut back lane. They still can't force the run when they need to though. In pass protection, they were decent. It's hard to tell sometimes without seeing the all-22 film if Rodgers is at fault or if the line is at fault. Still, keeping the QBs jersey clean is their job and they can improve there still.

Defensive Line - 4.5

The defensive line probably put in its best performance of the year. They penetrated regularly and forced Peterson away from his most preferred path. Raji is just too much for the Vikings to handle and if they double him it opens up for Mike Neal, CJ Wilson, or Ryan Pickett to go one on one. Raji, though without a sack on the year, has been rushing better than ever. He is a force out there and could be the MVP of the defense.

Linebackers - 3.5

A big bounce back game for this group. Walden lost contain a couple of times early but the Packers adjusted by moving Woodson down to the line and then Walden seemed to gain a lot of confidence and was a force from then on out. The group as a whole stayed home defensively much better and waited for Peterson to come to them. In coverage, Jones was beat a few times but was let off the hook with drops by Carlson. Moses over pursued too often and saw less time as the relevant portion of the game progressed. Hawk was largely absent. Mathews was excellent by forcing numerous bad runs and a fumble.

Defensive backfield - 3.5

Another bounce back game for this group as well. They tackled Peterson much better, thanks to Woodson being where Tramon was last week and Shields being a more willing defender. Burnett through his body around all night. Shields had a very good game. Still the team broke coverage late on Jenkin's touchdown and still gave up too many plays against a very sub-par group of receivers. MD Jennings seemed to play a lot more than McMillian. The group overall though, was active and had high energy.

Special Teams - 3

Crosby's kickoffs were decent. He hit is only chip shot field goal. The kick coverage was poor, but the team did get a fortunate fumble on punt coverage. Masthay's kicks were too short and with too little hang time. The group as a whole has missed Davon House. Hopefully that will help.

Next up:

@ San Francisco

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