We all hoped that after the Packer bye week, our defense would start playing like the 2010 team. Sunday they sure found that turnover groove but they were exposed as mere impostors by the arm of Phillip Rivers and the hands of Antonio Gates.
I’m going to throw this out there and I know I will catch a lot of flack for it but I only speak the truth: The Packers will not go 16-0 this year. In fact, I highly doubt they will make a deep run in the playoffs with the quality of play on the defensive side of the ball.
Oh, I love the turnovers this group generates. Who doesn’t love that? And two pick-sixes in the first half were simply exquisite. But if you throw 14 points onto the scoreboard but then get torched for 4 TD’s, which side of a plus/minus equation would your performance land under? Seriously: 385 yards on 26 catches for almost 15 yards each. Unacceptable! I’ve been railing all year long that someday some quarterback was going to come along and make the Packers pay for their lack of coverage and Rivers almost did it.
The Packer pass defenders often look like first year practice squad guys, unsure of the play, unsure of their responsibilities and acting like the game is going to fast for them. I also see a lack of intelligence in the scheme: Even a keyboard blowhard like myself can tell you that you can’t cover Antonio Gates with a linebacker. And if I could just have a minute to address Dom Capers directly: Mr. Capers...can I call you Dom? Yes? OK, Dom, I have a little suggestion here: If you are sending five, six and seven guys at Rivers and they are picking up the blitz every time and he’s playing catch with Jackson and Gates, you need to quit doing that. You spent the entire third quarter trying to hit him and what was the result? 21 points on three TD passes. Your offense was doing everything it could to outscore them but your guys looked lost. And I know Tolbert is a tough, tough guy to tackle but if some of your men could actually put their arms around him, that would go a long way, you know?
Speaking of the offense, I think Aaron Rodgers deserves better than the blocking he’s getting. Yes, he held the ball way, way too long on multiple occasions but I detected whiffed blocks, missed blocks and just plain awful blocks, many of which led to hits on the most valuable man on the Packer team. The line gave up four sacks, one that was just barely over the line of scrimmage and another blind-side hit that got wiped out on a penalty. I don’t have the stats on other hits and hurries but they must be ugly. Aaron could have helped himself with a quicker release and some better decisions but a little more help from the big guys up from would have been nice.
But even given the amount of pressure he was under, Rodgers threw so many other-worldly passes I kept expecting a penalty flag to fly for witchcraft or illegal use of laser targeting systems. The TD to Jones: Perfect throw. The TD to Jennings: Perfect throw. The long completion to Nelson: Perfect throw. Aaron Rodgers was not only good, he was great. I could reel off the stats but this one strikes me: He only had five incompletions and four TD’s. If he completes one more pass, he has the same number of scores and incompletions. That’s just sick.
The missing component in the offense this day was the ability to close out the game. With a defense surrendering buckets of yards and bushels of TD’s, Rodgers and his offense could have won the game with a couple of first downs in the fourth quarter but they were unable to do it. Two weeks ago, they put the ball into the hands of Starks and he gained the yardage needed. This week, the punting of the Chargers put the Packers into unfavorable field position and only a penalty gave the Packers the ability to force the Chargers into burning timeouts. On the last Packer possession, he gained 16 yards on five carries. Yes, San Diego had stacked the line but the Packer o-line and Starks were not up for challenge.
Finding ways to win is important for any team to be successful. If you have weapons like Aaron Rodgers and his receivers, you can afford to be lackluster on defense. But when the weather gets colder and the teams get tougher, we are going to need this defense to actually stop somebody one of these days and that DAGGER interception can’t always be counted on.