Sunday, January 3, 2010

2009 Week #17 - Packers v. Cardinals Analyzed

Sorry for not posting a preview to this game. At kickoff the Arizona Cardinals and the Green Bay Packers were guaranteed to play each other next week in the first round of the playoffs (by virtue of the Minnesota Vikings thrashing the New York Giants) so I thought I would take input from this game to give a proper "Top 10" list of the Arizona Cardinals before the playoff game next week in Arizona.

In a mostly meaningless game, injuries played a big part in the game for both teams. For Arizona, they lost starting cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a knee injury in the 1st quarter. Arizona better hope Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is healthy next week because Green Bay picked on his replacement (Michael Adams) for the rest of the game very similar to how teams have picked on Jarrett Bush in Al Harris's absence. Arizona's starting wide receiver Anquan Boldin also left the game with a left ankle/knee injury. For Green Bay, Charles Woodson landed awkwardly on his right shoulder towards the end of the 2nd quarter and did not return.

At the start of the 4th quarter Mike McCarthy finally sat some of his offensive starters (Aaron Rodgers, Chad Clifton, Scott Wells and Mark Tauscher) but that seemed way too late given the outcome of the game was decided by halftime (Green Bay lead 26-0).

Here is a quick look at the top 5 plays from the under card before the real bout between these same teams next week:

#5) Green Bay leads 14-0, Arizona ball on their own 3 yard line, 3rd and 9 with 12:40 left in the 2nd quarter:
Matt Leinart (Arizona) threw deep middle intended for Steve Breaston INTERCEPTED by Atari Bigby (Green Bay) at the Arizona 20 yard line. PENALTY on Reggie Wells (Arizona) for Offensive Holding, enforced in End Zone, SAFETY.

This was set-up by Steve Breaston's (Arizona) bone-head decision to field Jason Kapinos's (Green Bay) punt at his own 1 yard line. I wish Breaston would have saved that gaffe for next week when it matters. Back to the play at hand, the safety marked the Packers' first safety since 2001. Reggie Wells (Arizona) held Clay Maatthews (Green Bay) in the end zone to prevent Matthews from sacking Matt Lienart (Arizona). In a crowded rookie defensive player of the year race, Clay Matthews continues to play at a high level. What makes Matthews so impressive is his ability to rush the passer and still play stout against the run. Ted Thompson has to be smiling from ear to ear for trading back into the first round to get a potential franchise player at outside linebacker.

#4) Green Bay leads 33-0, Green Bay ball on the Arizona 18 yard line, 3rd and 8 with 3:18 remaining in the 4th quarter:
Matt Flynn (Green Bay) threw short right intended for James Jones (Green Bay) INTERCEPTED by Ralph Brown (Arizona) at the Arizona 13 yard line and returned 80 yards to the Green Bay 7 yard line. PENALTY on Matt Flynn (Green Bay), Low Block, 4 yards, enforced at the Green Bay 7 yard line.

After three interceptions by the Packers defense (Charles Woodson, Atari Bigby and Tramon Williams) they were on pace to set a franchise record for turnover margin with plus-25. That would have bested a trio of Packers teams from the 1960's (plus-24 in 1965, plus-22 in 1962 and plus-20 in 1960). Unfortunately Matt Flynn's interception knocked the 2009 Packers back down to plus-24 turnover margin. Despite Flynn's interception, the Packers finish the season with the best turnover ratio in the NFL. Flynn's interception also set-up an easy touchdown for the Cardinals which robbed the Packers defense of their second shutout of the season (they shutout Detroit 26-0 at home in Week #6).

#3) Green Bay leads 26-0, Green Bay ball on the Arizona 5 yard line, 1st and 5 with 4:21 left in the 3rd quarter:
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) threw short right to Jermichael Finley (Green Bay) for 5 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

It is a close race between Clay Matthews and Jermichael Finley for breakout performance of the year for the 2009 Green Bay Packers. Finley's touchdown catch shows why he is such a match-up problem for other teams. As long as Rodgers gets air under the ball, Finley's size allows him to out jump defenders.

Finley's touchdown catch also marked Aaron Rodgers' last throw of the 2009 regular season, which has been anything but regular for Rodgers. Rodgers ranks in the top 5 in almost every important passing statistic: 4th in Passer rating (1st Packer to finish with a quarterback rating over 100 since Bart Starr...yes, you read that correctly...Lynn Dickey, Don Majkowski and Brett Favre in his 3 MVP seasons never finished with a passer rating over 100), 3rd in Touchdown passes, 5th in Passing yards (Rodgers finished the season 24 yards shy of Lynn Dickey's team record of 4,458 passing yards in a season with 4,434 passing yards), Fewest Interceptions and 1st in Quarterback rush yards.

#2) Green Bay leads 19-0, Arizona ball on their own 32 yard line, 2nd and 11 with 4:44 left in the 2nd quarter:
Matt Leinart (Arizona) threw short right intended for Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona) INTERCEPTED by Charles Woodson (Green Bay) at the Arizona 45 yard line and returns it 45 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.

Woodson's interception gives him a career high 9 interceptions for the season and 45 for his career. Woodson returned 3 of those interceptions for a touchdown, the others came against Cincinnati in Week #2 and at Detroit on Thanksgiving in Week #12. Woodson's pick-six gave him a franchise record for most defensive touchdowns (7 interceptions and 1 fumble return) in Green Bay Packer history in merely 4 season. It took the former record holds much longer to amass 7 defensive touchdowns: Herb Adderly (8 seasons) and Darren Sharper (8 seasons). Although Aaron Rodgers would have a good argument, Woodson is the best player on the Packers right now. Even though Woodson's pick-six came against Arizona's backups, it should cement his place as the NFL Defensive MVP.

#1) Game tied 0-0, Green Bay ball on their own 31 yard line, 1st and 10 with 14:56 left in the 1st quarter:
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) threw short right to Donald Driver (Green Bay) to the Green Bay 45 yard line for 14 yards.

That catch gave Donald Driver more than 1,000 receiving yards for the season. More importantly, it means the Packers finished their second consecutive season with a 4,000 passer (Aaron Rodgers), a 1,200 rusher (Ryan Grant) and two 1,000 yard receivers (Greg Jennings and Donald Driver). The Packers are the first team in NFL history to accomplish that feat.


  1. Great analysis - keep up the good work CSN.

  2. Cheese - do you think the Packers should sign Collins now? or just assume that it will be an uncapped year.

  3. I appreciate the compliment. I think it will be an uncapped year but Nick Collins is a special player. The Packers knew that when they allowed him to wear 36. Depsite the uncapped year looming, the Packers need to lock-up Collins or they might fall victim to a poison pill laden offer sheet.