Sunday, November 22, 2009

2009 - Top 5 Plays Analyzed - Packers v. 49ers

The Green Bay Packers won an important conference game at Lambeau Field over the San Francisco 49ers but the victory came at a steep price. Green bay lost defensive standouts cornerback Al Harris and outside linebacker Aaron Kampman to season ending knee injuries (source: here). The injuries to Harris and Kampman have both short and long-term implications. With the short week (Green Bay plays Detroit on Thursday) it will be hard to get anyone from outside the organization acclimated in time to contribute against Detroit. For the rest of the season it will be hard for Green Bay to replace their production. Without further ado, here are the five most important plays from the game:

#5) Green Bay leads 23-10, San Francisco ball on their own 2 yard line, 1st and 10 with 13:31 left in the 4th quarter:
Alex Smith (San Francisco) threw deep left intended for Vernon Davis (San Francisco) INTERCEPTED by Nick Collins (Green Bay) at the San Francisco 21 yard line. Nick Collins (Green bay) returned the ball to the San Francisco 11 yard line.

At the time, Collins' interception looked to put game out of reach. The game looked all but over a few plays later when Ryan Grant scored from the 1 inch line to put Green Bay up 30-10. The game looked out of reach at that point until play #4...

#4) Green Bay leads 30-10, Green Bay kicked off to San Francisco with 11:05 left in the 4th quarter:
Mason Crosby's (Green Bay) kick traveled 70 yards from the Green Bay 30 yard line to the San Francisco goal line. Josh Morgan (San Francisco) returns the ball 76 yards to the Green Bay 24 yard line.

After going up 30-10, Green Bay could have put the game out of reach by holding San Francisco to a short return. Instead, the Green Bay Special Teams gave up another big play to put San Francisco in scoring position. San Francisco scored a touchdown a few plays later to keep the game interesting.

#3) Green Bay leads 6-3, Green Bay ball on their own 36 yard line, 1st and 10 with 8:59 left in the 2nd quarter:
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) threw short middle to Greg Jennings (Green Bay) for 64 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

As Green Bay went with an empty backfield (five receivers) I started to yell NOOOOOOOOOOOO. Then Rodgers hit Jennings on a short slant and my displeasure with the formation turned in into jubilation! Rodgers hit Jennings on a short pass and Jennings did the rest. Although the offensive line played better this week against San Francisco's stout front seven, leaving Rodgers without any blockers in the backfield is always a risky proposition. Remember the first play of the 4th quarter, Rodgers got sacked for a 12 yard loss when Mike McCarthy called another play with an empty backfield.

#2) Green Bay leads 23-3, San Francisco ball on the Green Bay 38 yard line, 2nd and 20 with 7:42 left the 3rd quarter:
Alex Smith (San Francisco) threw incomplete deep right to Issac Bruce (San Francisco). Aaron Kampman (Green Bay) injured on the play.

Kampman was inactive against Dallas last week because of the concussion he sustained against Tampa Bay in week 8. Kampman returned to the lineup this week and made an instant impact with 4 tackles and a sack (the sack came in a 3-point stance NOT a 2-point stance) before getting injured. Yes, Kampman looked out of sorts as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 but Green Bay is clearly a better team with him in the lineup. With Kampman most likely lost for the season, it leaves two open questions:

#1) Who will play in place of Kampman?
Luckily Green Bay has quality depth at the linebacker positions. Although hampered by a broken hand, Brandon Chillar has played a number of different positions for Green Bay. From back up middle linebacker to starting safety in the "Big Okie" formation, Chillar has played everywhere on defense for Green Bay. Now Chillar might be asked to move to outside linebacker. If not, Green Bay has a number of back-up outside linebackers: Brady Poppinga (former starter), Jeremy Thompson (making transition from defensive end to outside linebacker) and Brad Jones (rookie that played outsider linebacker 3-4 in college). Another crazy theory would be to give A.J. Hawk a look at outside linebacker. Moving Hawk outside would allow Brandon Chillar and Desmond Bishop to split snaps opposite Nick Barnett at middle linebacker. As you can see, Green Bay has options at linebacker.

#2) How will this injury impact Kampman's future?
Kampman is scheduled to become a free agent in the off-season. Unfortunately for Kampman, he is in a similar situation to Mark Tauscher last season. Tauscher tore his ACL on December 7th, 2009 against Houston. Tauscher was only able to return to football action on October 1st, 2009, a little less than 10 months after he tore his ACL (the normal recovery time for a torn ACL is 8 to 12 months). As a result, Kampman will most likely not be healthy in time for training camp in August of 2010. Another layer of complexity is that the NFL will most likely be uncapped for the 2010 season. Green Bay has three options: place the franchise or transition tag on Kampman, allow Kampman to leave via free agency or apply the "wait and see" approach to gauge Kampman's health before offering him a contract.

#1) Green Bay leads 30-10, San Francisco ball on the Green bay 24 yard line, 1st and 10 with 10:52 left in the 4th quarter:
Alex Smith (San Francisco) threw incomplete short left to Frank Gore (San Francisco). Al Harris (Green Bay) was injured during the play.

If Harris is in fact lost for the season, Green Bay will have 4 cornerbacks on the active roster: Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Jarrett Bush and Brandon Underwood. Green Bay also has Trevor Ford on the practice squad. The most logical move with a short week would be to promote Ford from the practice squad to the active roster. Ford has a similar back story to Brandon Underwood. Ford started his collegiate career at a national powerhouse (Florida State while Underwood went to Ohio State) but transferred to smaller school (Troy while Underwood went to Cincinnati) where he finished his college career on a positive note. Ford joined the Packers as a non-drafted free agent on May 4th, 2009. After Green Bay plays Detroit, they have 10 days before their Monday Night clash with Baltimore which gives management a chance to assess the free agent cornerback market.

Final Thought:
The Green bay Packers are returning the mystic to Lambeau Field. Back to back wins against Dallas and San Francisco gives Green Bay momentum and a share of the wild card lead as they head into their clash with Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. Check back Wednesday for a preview of the Green Bay/Detroit Thanksgiving Day Game.

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