Free Head Exam: Green Bay Packers
January, 24, 2011
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
After the Green Bay Packers' 21-14 victory over the Chicago Bears, here are three issues that merit further examination:
- Last week, we wondered what two of the NFL's most creative assistant coaches would have in store for one another. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers didn't disappoint. He engineered two successful surprises: Opening the game with three cornerbacks and one safety, and then making a rare line call that resulted in nose tackle B.J. Raji's interception return for a touchdown. The alignment in the secondary left cornerback Charles Woodson as a hybrid safety/cornerback, and defensive end Ryan Pickett said, "It gave us a chance to cover and it gave us a chance to play the run at the same time. We had big guys to match up on the run and we had the guys to match up with their receivers on the outside." If nothing else, it was the kind of back-straightening curve ball Capers is known for. Meanwhile, Capers accurately presumed the Bears would target tailback Matt Forte on a third-and-5 pass at their 15-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. As a result, he made a rarely-used call for Raji to "spy" on Forte. While rookie nickelback Sam Shields blitzed, Raji backed off the line and surprised quarterback Caleb Hanie. "We were taking away the quick routes," Raji said. "He looked for the check down, and I was there." With two weeks to prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who knows what Capers will come up with.Kevin SeifertThe Packers take a break from their preparations for the Super Bowl to step into the exam room.
- Raji is on the cusp of superstardom, at least that which is afforded to a nose tackle, both because of his big plays and his big personality. Nothing captures a national audience like a big football player happily galloping between unorthodox situations, and that's what Raji has done in the playoffs. He has now been on the field as an extra fullback for two short-yardage scores and now has a touchdown of his own after Sunday's interception. In fact, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Raji is the biggest player in history to score a postseason touchdown. Elias bases that ranking on listed weights, which aren't always accurate. But nevertheless, Raji is listed at 337 pounds -- 19 more than former Bears defensive tackle William "The Refrigerator" Perry was in 1985. Raji has taken to calling himself "The Freezer," but I like what @JBraun1610 suggested via Twitter for a nickname: "The Garaji." Let's see if we can get that one going.
- We noted last week the Bears defense has typically done a decent job preventing quarterback Aaron Rodgers from going downfield. So it's worth noting that Rodgers completed all three of his passes that traveled more than 10 yards in the air during an opening drive that set the tone for the game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But the Bears clamped down on Rodgers for much of the game, most notably on third down; in those situations, he was 1-for-7 with a sack and an interception.
The Packers are technically the home team for Super Bowl XLV. They have the choice between wearing their home green jerseys or their white road jerseys. In what clearly is the biggest question facing the Packers over the next two weeks, I'm not sure which direction I would go. Would I wear the traditional green I usually wear at home? Or would I feel superstitious about the white jerseys the Packers have worn in each of their three road playoff victories? These are the kinds of management questions that drive people into retirement. In all seriousness, only the Super Bowl platform allows us the opportunity to debate such sartorial conundrums. Let's have fun with it, and let's never stop having fun over the next two weeks.