Monday, October 31, 2016

Packers (4-3) Stumble on the Road, Lose in Atlanta, 32-33

This was about as even a game as I've seen in recent years from the Green Bay Packers. Neither team's defense could do much to stop the other team's offense. The score was obviously close, a one point margin, but nearly everything was close during this game. Yardage, time of possession, neither team had a turnover (WR Davante Adams fumbled but it went out of bounds), neither team bothered much with their running games, etc.
The Packers's offense is going to be limited for the rest of the season by their inability to run the ball but it's getting better in some ways. WR Jordy Nelson had one of his best games and forced the Falcons to commit more defenders in coverage to stop him. The absence of WR Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery hurt, but they've found the best role for Adams (short routes instead of mid-range to deep sideline routes) and they used Nelson, WR Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis and even Geronimo Allison (his first game off the practice squad) to work downfield. With all those receivers running deeper routes, it opened up a lot of short routes for Adams (who could make one defender miss and pick up several more yards) and huge running lanes for QB Aaron Rodgers, who ran for a career high 60 yards and multiple first downs.
CB LaDarius Gunter has had an up-and-down season, but this was one of his up-games. He drew WR Julio Jones in coverage and Jones was a non-factor for most of the game, especially after he sprained his ankle in the first half. But the rest of the coverage was poor. The other starting CB (Demetri Goodson) allowed a long TD pass, and they would have had a better match-up against No. 2 WR Mohamed Sanu, who led the Falcons in receptions and receiving yards, if the Packers had their top 3 CBs available.

The late game loss of Gunter was significant too. On the game winning TD pass, the Packers had ILB Jake Ryan lined up in single coverage against Sanu, and being down to two healthy CBs (plus utility DB Micah Hyde) might have been part of the reason they found themselves in such a bad match-up on the decisive play of the game. Shields's long-term health is a concern but the other three players should return and make the defense much better.

This loss hurts. They led for much of the game and the defense couldn't make the late lead hold up. The next two games are more manageable, against the Colts and Titans, before two tough prime time road games at Washington and Philadelphia. The two NFC East games are looming large because they might be the key to a Wild Card spot at the end of the season. They just got to keep focused on winning each game, and getting their missing players back healthy.

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