Green Bay Packers: DeAndre Levy

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Earlier this month, we revealed our All-NFC North team as voted on by the four NFL Nation reporters who cover this division.

In that exercise, six Green Bay Packers were honored.

On Wednesday, unveiled its All-NFC North team. It also featured six members of the Packers, but it didn’t exactly match what was selected by our team of reporters.

The matches were: left guard Josh Sitton, defensive lineman Mike Daniels and cornerback Sam Shields.

However, PFF selected quarterback Aaron Rodgers, running back Eddie Lacy and receiver Jordy Nelson. None of those three made the team, which included outside linebacker Clay Matthews and both specialists – kicker Mason Crosby and punter Tim Masthay.

On our team, Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions was the quarterback.

In selecting Rodgers, who missed nearly half the season because of his broken collarbone, PFF’s Nathan Jahnke wrote: “There were definitely steps in the right direction made by Matthew Stafford, but it wasn’t enough to put him on the same level as Rodgers even though Rodgers missed a big part of the season. When healthy Rodgers is just too accurate a passer and for that reason he remains in his own class here.”

While PFF picked only one running back, Lacy, we selected two – Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings and Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears.

“While Adrian Peterson might be a better runner, and Matt Forte a better receiver, Eddie Lacy gets this spot for being the better all-around player,” Jahnke wrote. “Lacy was among the best runners in the league and became a larger part of the passing game as the season went on. He also was among the best pass blocking backs which is typically something rookies struggle with and also something that Peterson and Forte aren’t great at.”

Nelson got the nod as PFF’s third receiver, along with Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Chicago’s Brandon Marshall. On our team, we selected only two receivers -- Johnson and Chicago’s Alshon Jeffery.

“Even though some teams in the NFC North often use a second tight end or fullback, it was impossible to not include at least three wide receivers,” Jahnke wrote. “While Alshon Jeffery had an incredible sophomore season, the trio of Johnson, Marshall and Nelson were three of the top four rated wide receivers this year. If a team had all three of these receivers, I don’t know how they could lose.”

PFF did not pick Matthews, who missed five games because of a broken thumb. Instead, its linebackers were DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch of the Lions (both of which were on our team) along with Minnesota’s Erin Henderson.

PFF picked Minnesota’s Blair Walsh instead of Crosby and Detroit’s Sam Martin instead of Masthay.

In all, 14 players made both our team and the one selected by PFF, which breaks down every play of every NFL game and assigns numerical ratings to every player each week.

Matthews fined for unpenalized hit

December, 6, 2013
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Not only was Green Bay Packers cornerback Tramon Williams fined $26,250 for shoving an official in the Thanksgiving loss at the Detroit Lions, but outside linebacker Clay Matthews also was docked $15,750 for his hit on a defenseless player.

Matthews’ hit came on a pass play to running back Joique Bell with 8:57 left in the third quarter. Matthews appeared to lower his helmet when he hit Bell and broke up the pass. He was not penalized on the play.

It was Matthews’ third fine of the season, but he had one of those cut in half and another wiped out all together.

Three Lions players were fined, according to an NFL spokesman. They were: receiver Kris Durham ($7,850 for grabbing Williams’ helmet by the earhole), safety Glover Quin ($7,850 for a late hit against receiver Jordy Nelson) and linebacker DeAndre Levy ($15,750 for unnecessary roughness, hitting tight end Ryan Taylor).

Examining third-and-1 pass plays

October, 9, 2013
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- No two plays drew more attention during our in-game chat from the Green Bay Packers’ 22-9 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday than the two third-and-1 passes that quarterback Aaron Rodgers attempted.

The questions about coach Mike McCarthy’s play calling came pouring in.

At the time, I wrote: “More goes into play calling than we can possibly know, but it’s worth asking what the thinking was on those third downs. Not that we’ll get any answers.”

Well, I was wrong; we got some answers.

And they might surprise you, especially those of you who pined for the Packers to use their power running back, Eddie Lacy, in those situations.

“Play caller; just beat up the play caller,” McCarthy said on Monday.

But in reality, that wasn’t exactly the case.

Let’s examine the two plays:

Third-and-1 from the Lions’ 48-yard line, 3:59 remaining in the second quarter

Out of a shotgun formation, the Packers were in a single-back set with Lacy to the right of Rodgers. The play call from McCarthy gave Rodgers the option to give the ball to Lacy on a running play or to pass.

“The first third-and-1 was a run/pass option play with Aaron, and I never question what he does,” right guard T.J. Lang said. “He’s always trying to get you in the best play. Obviously you’d like to run the ball there, especially with Eddie back there.”

But Rodgers got what McCarthy called “an odd look” from the Lions, so he went with the pass option. Receiver Randall Cobb motioned to the left, giving the Packers a bunch formation with three receivers to the left and one to the right. Rodgers tried to throw a bubble screen to Cobb, but linebacker DeAndre Levy read the play, was unblocked and broke it up. The Packers were forced to punt.

“Third-and-1 calls, we do a number of things at the line of scrimmage,” McCarthy said. “That one in particular, we got an odd look. It was a different look, so that happens sometimes. That’s why the decision-making at the line of scrimmage is difficult, and it’s definitely the strength of Aaron Rodgers. Sometimes, you get an odd look, and the ball in space with Randall Cobb is always a good chance.”

Both McCarthy and offensive coordinator Tom Clements said they agreed with Rodgers’ decision.

When asked whether the run call would have worked in that situation, Clements said: “Not the way we had it designed. There were things we could do now to try to get it blocked up that would give us the ability to run it.”

Third-and-1 from the Lions’ 13-yard line, 5:13 remaining in the third quarter

The Packers have had success taking shots down the field in short-yardage situations before, and that’s what McCarthy must have been thinking on this call -- a play-action to the left, roll-out to the right for receiver Jordy Nelson in the end zone.

But Lacy wasn’t even on the field for this play.

Cobb, who three plays earlier took a handoff and ran 67 yards, was in the backfield. Perhaps the Lions figured the Packers wouldn’t give the ball to the much smaller Cobb on third-and-1. So defensive end Willie Young went right after Rodgers and forced him to roll out wider and deeper than he probably wanted to. Nelson was not open, and Rodgers' pass sailed out of bounds.

The Packers settled for a field goal that gave them a 9-3 lead.

“Taking a shot on third-and-1, to me that’s a situation call,” McCarthy said. “Some people don’t view it that way. Some people, I don’t know what they think. I’ve been in conversations with different (coaching) staffs. I think the shot play on third-and-1, a couple things have to lead up to that. It’s an instinctive call, in my opinion. So when you do it, where you do it plays a lot into that.”

Both Nelson and McCarthy wanted a penalty on Lions cornerback Rashean Mathis, who had tight coverage on Nelson.