Tuesday, December 8, 2009

2009 - Packers v. Ravens SUPER-Analyzed

The Green Bay Packers rattled off their fourth consecutive victory by beating the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football. Green Bay caught a break with Terrell Suggs (OLB) and Ed Reed (S) out of the Baltimore line-up with injury. Green Bay took advantage of those injuries to the Baltimore defense by attacking Baltimore through the air.

Besides injuries, penalties played a HUGE part in this game. There were 310 combined penalty yards in the game, tied for the second most in NFL history. The Green Bay Packers were penalized for 175 yards and committed 3 turnovers but somehow pulled out a victory. Green Bay is only the second team since the AFL/NFL merger that holds that "distinction". The other occurrence came in 1988 when the Houston Oilers beat the Raiders 38-35 despite committing 175 penalty yards and 3 turnovers.

Sorry that it took me so long to cobble something together, but I made up for it by analyzing the top 10 plays instead of the usual top 5 plays. Here were the 10 most notable plays from the Monday Night clash between the Packers and Ravens, if you disagree please post a comment to get the discussion started:

#10) Green Bay lead 24-14, Baltimore ball on the Green Bay 1 yard line, 1st and goal with 9:46 left in the 4th quarter:
Chris Chester (Baltimore) and Haloti Ngata (Baltimore) reported in as eligible. Willis McGahee (Baltimore) tackled for a 2 yard loss by Charles Woodson (Green Bay).

I know this seems like an odd choice for a top play but it made the list for three reasons. First, Charles Woodson continues to play at a VERY high level and is a legitimate candidate for NFL Defensive Player for the Year. Second, cornerbacks don't usually knife through the offensive line when they are in goal line formation like Woodson did on this play to stop the running back for a 2 yard loss. Third, by pushing the ball back a few yards, Baltimore decided to throw on 2nd down and paid a hefty price (see play #5).

#9) Green Bay lead 17-7, Baltimore ball on the Green Bay 42 yard line, 1st and 10 with 3:14 left in the 3rd quarter:
Joe Flacco (Baltimore) threw incomplete deep middle to Demetrius Williams (Baltimore). 41 yard defensive pass interference PENALTY on Tramon Williams (Green Bay). Ball placed at the Green Bay 1 yard line.

With how many pass interference penalties were called, at least one had to make the top 10 list. By the NFL definition, Tramon Williams interfered with Demetrius Williams but the rules are becoming too offensive friendly (Steve Young even admitted that. Yes, you read that correctly, a former NFL quarterback and current ESPN commentator said that the rules are becoming too offensive friendly). Green Bay just committed their second consecutive turnover in as many plays. The penalty gave Baltimore the ball at the Green Bay 1 yard line. Willis McGahee punched the ball into the end zone 2 plays later to make the score 17-14. In the span of less than a quarter Baltimore flipped the mementum of the game drastically. When Green Bay kicked off to start the second half they were winning 17-0 and after McGahee's touchdown the lead was trimmed to 17-14.

#8) Green Bay lead 17-0, Green Bay ball on the Baltimore 41 yard line, 3rd and 6 with 8:15 left in the 3rd quarter:
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) threw short middle to Donald Driver (Green Bay) to the Baltimore 32 yard line for 9 yards and FUMBLES, RECOVERED Frank Walker (Baltimore) at the Baltimore 29 yard line for no gain.

This was an absolute surprise to see Donald Driver cough up the ball. Driver's fumble started a rapid change of events in the middle of the 3rd quarter that changed the entire complexion of the game. Instead of Green Bay having the ball 1st and 10 at the Baltimore 29 yard line marching towards a touchdown to possibly put the game out of reach, Baltimore took over possession and started to creep back into the game.

#7) Green Bay lead 24-14, Baltimore ball on their own 26 yard line, 1st and 10 with 7:00 left in the 4th quarter:
Joe Flacco (Baltimore) threw deep middle intended for Todd Heap (Baltimore) INTERCEPTED by A.J. Hawk (Green Bay) at the Green Bay 47 yard line and returned 13 yards to the Baltimore 40 yard line.

Is this the first big play A.J. Hawk's Green Bay Packer career? Hawk underachieving is well documented but the last few weeks Hawk has started to play much more effectively. Two things happened right before Hawk's in-season resurgence. First, Brandon Chillar went down with a hand injury and ever since Hawk's play has started to improve weekly. Second, everyone under the sun has been ripping Hawk and labeling him as a draft bust. Players claim they do not read papers but may be that was just what Hawk needed to spark his play.

#6) Green Bay lead 3-0, Green Bay ball on their own 19 yard line, 1st and 10 with 4:18 left in the 1st quarter:
Ryan Grant (Green Bay) ran left end to GB 17 for -2 yards FUMBLES and RECOVERED by Domonique Foxworth (Baltimore) at the Green Bay 21 yard line and returned for no gain. Green Bay challenged the fumble ruling, and the play was REVERSED.

A very smart challenge by head coach Mike McCarthy. In one of his post game comments McCarthy stated that he was in constant contact with offensive coordinator Joe Philbin throughout the game over his head set. After watching a few television replays Philbin told McCarthy to challenge. Later in the game McCarthy challenged an obvious touchdown for no apparent reason (may be Philbin talked him into that one too). In any case, by winning 1 challenge and losing 1 challenge McCarthy is now 5 of 12 in challenges this season.

#5) Green Bay lead 24-14, Baltimore ball on the Green Bay 3 yard line, 2nd and goal with 9:00 left in the 4th quarter:
Joe Flacco (Baltimore) threw short middle intended for Demetrius Williams (Baltimore) INTERCEPTED Tramon Williams (Green Bay) in Green Bay's end zone for a touchback. Ryan Pickett (Green Bay) was injured during the play.

The game was not over when Flacco made one of the worst decisions of the entire season. Instead of throwing the ball away, Flacco decided to throw late over the middle to a guy that was well covered. Does that decision remind you of anyone? I will give you one hint, he is know as a waffler. Tramon Williams atoned for a number of earlier penalties by securing the interception. Ryan Pickett hurt his hamstring on the play and if he is hurt for any length of time that might vault this play to the top of the list of impact plays. Pickett has been an absolute forced to be reckoned this season, let's hope for a good prognosis.

#4) Green Bay lead 3-0, Baltimore ball on the Green Bay 17 yard line, 1st and 10 with 4:26 left in the 1st quarter:
Ray Rice (Baltimore) ran to the Green Bay 18 yard line for a 1 yard loss. Clay Matthews (Green Bay) forced a FUMBLE, RECOVERED by Nick Collins (Green Bay) at the Green Bay 15 yard line and returned it 4 yards to the Green Bay 19 yard line.

After Green Bay kicked a field goal on their opening drive Baltimore methodically moved down the field and looked like they were going to score a touchdown until Rice coughed up the ball at the Green Bay 18 yard line. Rice is normally a sure handed runner. If Baltimore scores a touchdown on that drive they lead Green Bay 7-3, which would have changed the entire complexion of the game. As a side note, Ray Rice is clearly the focal point of Baltimore's offense. Baltimore likes to run the ball a lot with Rice and if they throw the ball, Flacco always looks for Rice on short dumpoffs. Despite a poor performance on Monday Night, Rice often turns what look like short losses into big gains...again he was picked one spot before the now departed Brian Brohm (I hope that is the last time I have to make that connection, it makes me cringe every time I think about it).

#3) Green Bay lead 17-7, Green Bay ball on the Green Bay 37 yard line, 1st and 10 with 3:22 left in the 3rd quarter:
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) threw short middle intended for Donald Driver (Green Bay) INTERCEPTED by Jarret Johnson (Baltimore) at the 50 yard line and returned 8 yards to the Green Bay 42 yard line.

Driver and Rodgers were both at fault on this interception. Rodgers delivered the ball low but Driver still should come up with the catch. The play reminded me of Antonio Freeman's famous acrobatic catch on Monday Night to beat the Minnesota Vikings. Unfortunately this time Driver did not come up with the ball and Baltimore scored a few plays later which made the score 17-14 in favor of Green Bay but Baltimore had ALL the momentum at that point.

#2) Green Bay lead 17-14, Baltimore ball on the Baltimore 21 yard line, 3rd and 17 with 14:03 left in the 4th quarter:
Joe Flacco (Baltimore) threw deep left to Derrick Mason (Baltimore) to the Green Bay 33 yard line for 46 yards. Offensive pass interference PENALTY on Mason. Unsportsmanlike conduct PENALTY Mason.

This sequence of events was set-up by Mason Crosby missing a field goal from 38 yards. Holder and back-up Green Bay quarterback Matt Flynn bobbled the snap and got the hold down late but Crosby should still make the kick from 38 yards out. If Crosby made the field goal then we wouldn't have to talk about this horrible offensive pass interference call. Just to refresh everyone's memory, Joe Flacco under threw Derrick Mason who was being covered one-on-one by Charles Woodson. When Mason slowed down to catch the ball he lightly shoved Woodson to the ground. I am not accusing the potential NFL Defensive Player of the Year of flopping but it didn't look like a lot of contact. Mason ended up coming down with the ball and would have put Baltimore at the Green bay 33 yard line down 3 points with 14 minutes left. Instead, after the penalties were enforced Baltimore was forced into a 3rd and 32 at the Baltimore 6 yard line. Baltimore tried to run a Mike Sherman Special (for those you that don't know the reference, it means a team called a draw on 3rd and long instead of trying to pick up a 1st down through the air) but Flacco and Rice had trouble executing the hand-off and almost fumbled the ball to Green Bay in Baltimore's red zone.

#1) Green Bay leads 3-0, Green Bay ball on the Baltimore 2 yard line, 1st and goal with 4:39 left in the 2nd quarter:
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) threw short left to Jermichael Finley (Green Bay) for 2 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Finley had a HUGE game: 7 catches for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns. Green Bay split Finley out wide and threw a simple jump ball to him that he easily hauled in. This play underscores the match-up problems that Finley gives opposing teams. Granted if Ed Reed plays this might not have been a touchdown but Green Bay smartly exploited a mismatch by splitting 6'5" Jermichael Finley out wide on 5'11" Tom Zbikowski (the guy playing in place of Ed Reed). Although Ed Reed is the same height as Zbikowski, Reed has a much better vertical leap. Also on reputation alone Green Bay might not have tried a play like this on Reed. Either way, Green Bay has a budding star in Jermichael Finley.

No comments:

Post a Comment