Free Head Exam: Green Bay Packers
September, 26, 2011
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
After the Green Bay Packers' 27-17 victory Sunday against the Chicago Bears, here are three issues that merit further examination:
- Handed an array of explosive skill players, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has made clear he will throw where the coverage dictates and won't force passes to anyone he doesn't consider open. Rodgers has stayed true to his word and makes no apologies for targeting tight end Jermichael Finley on only 17 passes through three games. What's amazing is how efficient the pair have been when the opportunity arises. Of those 17 throws, 15 have been completed -- including seven of eight on Sunday. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rodgers and Finley have the highest completion percentage (85.3) of any quarterback-tight end combination with at least 30 attempts since the start of 2010. I know it's tempting to say Rodgers should throw more often to Finley if they have such success. But their success is based on Rodgers throwing his way only under the appropriate circumstances.
- As we discussed Sunday night, a number of Packers players were awed by the trick punt return the Bears nearly pulled off at the end of the game. I didn't get the sense that Packers coach Mike McCarthy shared that view. "Frankly," McCarthy said. "It was poor awareness by our coverage unit." I had a mixed reaction. The Bears' design was brilliant, the timing was perfect and it's hard to imagine that anyone on the Packers' coverage team had ever seen something like it. On the other hand, you would hope that at least one or two cover men would have wondered why almost every Bears blocker was moving away from the sideline where the punt was supposed to go. Someone, anyone, could have looked to see if punter Tim Masthay had mis-hit the ball, which he hadn't, before following the Bears blockers.
- Rookie Randall Cobb drew a few gasps Sunday by fielding all five punts kicked his way, including a few in heavy traffic that could have led to a turnover. Personally, I like his fearlessness and think the Packers should value a player who wants every last yard he can get. I know he's already fumbled a kickoff this season, and I'm sure the Packers will talk to him about the appropriate time for making a fair catch. But in general, I would prefer aggression over caution from returners, providing they have reasonable ball security skills.
Kevin SeifertFollowing their win against the Bears, the Packers take their turn in the examination room.
Many have assumed that veteran Charlie Peprah would move seamlessly into the spot formerly held by Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins. But the Bears absolutely targeted Peprah for much of Sunday's game, and I think it's fair to say he wasn't always up to the task. One sequence that stood out in particular: Back-to-back passes of 17 yards to receiver Sam Hurd and 24 yards to receiver Johnny Knox. Peprah also missed a few more tackles than you would like to see from your free safety, at least when the Packers weren't in their one-safety scheme that brought Peprah to the sidelines. "I wouldn't give it a winning grade personally," Peprah said. "But at the same time, that's why you have 10 other guys out there playing with you." Peprah showed us last season that he can play at a relatively high level. But it didn't appear Sunday was one of those days.