The deeper we get into the regular season, the funnier that State Farm commercial becomes whereClay Matthewsrallies a group of pretend teammates andAaron Rodgersin a locker-room setting and proclaims, “No one comes into this house without paying the price.”
Well, for the record, the 4-4 Green Bay Packers have now lost two of their last three home games and have unofficially joined the ranks of the so-so, second-rate run-of-the-mill NFL teams that alternate strong performances with dismal ones on a consistent basis.
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An injury-riddled defense almost gets a pass for doing what it could to harass a sturdy and unflappable Andrew Luck, who regularly shook off defenders as if they were stray kittens trying to bring down a 600-pound grizzly bear. But where was Green Bay’s offense?
From week to week, it seems as if Mike McCarthy is trying new things to spark an attack that goes through too many stretches where receivers aren’t getting open with Rodgers scrambling as if his pants are on fire.
After two games of getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hand quickly with a variety of short routes and screens, this week’s game plan seemed largely based on Rodgers heaving deep throws even when his target had no chance of coming down with a completion while in double coverage.
McCarthy inexplicably went away from featuring his younger, big-play receivers (Trevor Davis, Geronimo Allison, Jeff Janis) early on and kept plodding tight end Richard Rodgers in the lineup on far too may snaps while the running game was nothing more than window dressing.
But Green Bay’s latest setback isn’t all about McCarthy and his sub-par play calling; much of the blame rests on the shoulders of the players themselves who couldn’t match the opposition’s intensity.
Was this collective listlessness the result of the Packers overlooking a struggling Colts’ organization as many team members appeared to be overly proud about the moral victory of losing by only one point to the mighty Falcons on the road last week when many of us predicted gloom and doom?
No one can truly know or comprehend some of thoughts dancing through the minds of these modern-day gladiators going into their Week-9 meeting versus a reeling Indianapolis franchise that was thoroughly outclassed by the Chiefs only seven days prior.
One thing we can draw definitive conclusions from is their level of play on the field.
This week’s Stock Up, Stock Down report highlights a number of consistently productive contributors that were neutralized by Chuck Pagano’s group along a few stalwarts that brought their “A” game to the field in a losing effort.
Aaron Rodgers: He was far from perfect and quickly realized that quick screens toDavante Adamsweren’t going to work against a Colts’ defense that did their homework on Green Bay’s tendencies in recent games.
The Packers’ field general caught fire in the second half by challenging defensive backs with downfield shots instead of underneath throws to catch-and-fall master Richard Rodgers while repeatedly buying time with his legs.
Rodgers was at his best on his team’s final drive in which he connected with five different receivers and narrowed Indy’s lead to five points on a well-placed 3-yard touchdown pass toRandall Cobbin tight coverage by leading his target to an open spot in the back of the end zone.
On that same series, No. 12 eluded the rush and run around the right end for a 21-yard gain which put the Packers inside the red zone. While Rodgers did register 43 yards on the ground, he wisely stepped out of bounds whenever he sensed a nearby defender closing in.
The veteran triggerman’s greatest blemish took place during the opening drive of the third quarter when Rodgers appeared to be pressing and forced the ball to Adams in a small window without noticing a lurking Darius Butlerwho dove in front of the route and recorded the interception.
Overall, Rodgers was mostly accurate and took advantage of the free yards available to him during situations when the defense only sent three rushers after him while dropping eight. He completed 26 of 43 attempts for 297 yards and three touchdown passes.
Ty Montgomery: It’s time the Packers provide the second-year man with a running back’s number given how he’s beginning to look more like a true ball carrier with every passing week.
On his first carry, Montgomery followed fullbackAaron Ripkowskito the left side of the line and proceeded to make an oncoming defensive back miss once he got passed the second level on the 24-yard scamper.
His 17-yard gain in the second quarter saw him run decisively behind T.J. Lang and tacked on extra yards by flashing his explosiveness as he ran pastRashaan Melvin.
Montgomery may not be a 230-pound pile pusher, but he is running hard into crowded areas and, more importantly, running with patience by allowing holes to develop before he commits to the play.
He produced 53 yards on only seven rushing attempts. One can only wonder why he didn’t get more work.
Jordy Nelson: The Kansas native made one of the better highlight-reel plays you’ll see this week by hauling in a 26-yard touchdown pass by going airborne and snatching the ball away from cornerback Darius Butler all in one motion.
The interception wouldn’t have counted if Butler would have held on since it was a free play resulting from the Colts jumping offsides, but Nelson exhibited his unquestioned strength, savviness and athletic ability during the sequence.
When Nelson wasn’t getting open for deep shots downfield, he was catching underneath throws and fighting hard for extra yardage.
The Big-12 product is an exemplary figure on this team that plays smart and tough, but you will never hear him making headlines with ridiculous actions or quotes that distract the organization from its primary goal of winning games.
Jake Ryan: The word “omnipresent” comes to mind in best describing Ryan’s performance. The rapidly ascending inside linebacker paced the team with 12 total tackles and one quarterback hit.
When he wasn’t filling the gaps and meetingFrank Gorehead on in the hole, Ryan was getting after Luck and forcing him to throw it from his knees. The young defender is finding the ball with greater frequency and doing a better job of wrapping up opponents on contact.
Ryan’s instincts to get through traffic are the secret sauce behind his elevated level of play in recent games.
Haha Clinton Dix: HCD was one of the few bright spots on a lackluster Packers’ defense, as the opportunistic safety cut off a pass intended forPhillip Dorsetton his first of two interceptions.
On the second turnover, Clinton-Dix was at the right place at the right time by being in position to pick off a overthrown Luck delivery that sailed over the head of his tight end Jack Doyleat the end of the first quarter.
The University of Alabama product also made his mark as a blitzer by sacking Luck on a 3rd-and-7 play in the second quarter forcing Indy to punt the ball away.
Clinton-Dix’s combination of aggressiveness and instincts should undoubtedly put him in position to make several more potentially game-changing plays in the coming weeks.
Morgan Burnett: The long-time starting safety made his presence felt as a blitzer versus the run and pass. His upfield charge on a 1st-and-10 play midway through the second quarter resulted in stopping Gore dead in his tracks for no gain.
Burnett was back at it in the third quarter when he beat tight endDwayne Allenand sacked Luck on 3rd-and-9.
The 27-year-old defensive back continues to be a versatile piece that can play in the box or drop back to cover running backs, safeties or even slot receivers on occasion.
Jeff Janis: Let’s face it: Janis still has a spot on this team because of his special-teams prowess and he even failed to deliver on that end yesterday by blowing his assignments on two longJordan Todmankickoff returns.
On the first one that went for a 99-yard Colts’ touchdown, he underestimated the return man’s ability to explode through an open crease and lackadaisically watched his opponent pick up steam all the way into the other end of the field.
Janis delivered another poor effort on Todman’s 61-yard kickoff return at the start of the second quarter by showing poor awareness in failing to notice a nearby Colt who blocked him out of the play and helped create a free path for the returner to exploit. Indy took advantage of the favorable field position and capped off the drive with a 28-yardAdam Vinatierifield goal.
But the young wideout’s biggest flub took place on a perfectly-thrown Rodgers rainbow that fell right over the receiver’s shoulder as he was running downfield in front of a trailingVontae Davis, but still managed to drop it.
Had he caught it, Janis might have scored on the play or, at the very least, put his team in great position to score inside the 10 yard line. But alas, Green Bay was forced to punt.
The third-year pro played a key role in costing his team points on special teams and in the passing game.
No one questions his ability, but the time has come for him to execute and stop playing like a rookie.
Mike Pennel: The only time you heard his name was on a third-quarter neutral-zone infraction where the referee mistakenly identified him as “No. 74.”
The 333-pound interior lineman was beaten on several plays by Colts centerRyan Kelly, but his most damning moment occurred on a fourth-quarter Frank Gore touchdown run that saw Pennel get taken out of the play by Dwayne Allen.
Letroy Guion: The 29-year-old was mostly a no-show and was no match for Indy’s run-blocking efforts. Guion had a clean shot at bringing down Gore on a second-quarter screen play, but came up empty as the running back sped right by him. Mike Danielswas the only one from the defensive line to exert his will and win some battles upfront…although the Big-Ten import also had a fairly sub-par showing by not performing up to his usual standards.
Nick Perry: The outstanding pass rusher was arguably Green Bay’s biggest disappointment. Perry was a non-factor in generating pressure thanks to left tackleAnthony Castonzowho impeccably controlled and steered his man preventing No. 53 from disengaging.
Perry was also overpowered by Allen (yeah, there goes his name again) on Gore’s 7-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Is Green Bay’s leading sacker getting worn down? It’s a legitimate question considering he’s put up back-to-back ineffective outings.
Datone Jones: We may have to file a missing person’s report if Jones keeps this up. If not for an early pass deflection in the first quarter, you would have never known if the former first-round pick ever made it to the game.
Jones is playing himself out of Titletown.
Ladarius Gunter: The talented, but inconsistent cover man couldn’t hang withDonte Moncrief, who beat him on a back-shoulder play for a touchdown right before halftime and later accelerated right by him on a 39-yard sideline route.
On that second play, it almost seemed as if Gunter underestimated the 6-foot-2 receiver’s uncommon burst for a man his size.