<
>

Free Head Exam: Green Bay Packers

11/15/2011

After the Green Bay Packers' 45-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. This week's crazy Aaron Rodgers statistic comes from Pro Football Focus (PFF), which uses video study to separate "aimed" passes from those that are obviously thrown away, spiked or otherwise intended to be incomplete. Rodgers completed 23 of his 27 "aimed" passes Monday night, and PFF judged three of those four incompletions to be dropped passes. That means by one measure, Rodgers was at fault from an execution standpoint for one incompletion among a total of 30 attempts. On the season, according to PFF, Rodgers is completing 82.5 percent of his "aimed" passes, which is five percent higher than the any other quarterback.

  2. Packers players appreciated the plentiful blitz calls from defensive coordinator Dom Capers. But they were also quick to point out they provided Capers a favorable template for calling so many blitz (74.4 percent of the Vikings' dropbacks). "The key is we were more able to shut the run down on first and second down," defensive tackle B.J. Raji said. "That's when Dom can do that, as opposed to always being in third and three. He doesn't know what to call at that point, because they could do anything." Here's one way to measure that circumstance: Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson had four runs on first down. They went for two, one, one and minus-6 yards. Overall, Peterson finished with 51 yards, his second-lowest production in a game this season.

  3. Rookie receiver/returner Randall Cobb has scored three touchdowns this season and has lost three fumbles. That's about right for a rookie playmaker who turned 21 during training camp. The Packers are taking a calculated risk by using a young player who clearly is having some ups and downs as their sole returner. A poorly-timed fumble could scuttle a playoff game, a cynic might say. But just the same, a well-timed touchdown return could win one. Overall, I think the Packers are doing the right thing with Cobb. Rare is the dynamic returner that doesn't have at least some risk-reward element.

And here is one issue I still don't get:

I'm curious how I missed the invention of the phrase "throwing open." That what I've heard several people around the Packers refer to what Rodgers is doing this year with so many of his passes. In essence, Rodgers is throwing to players that aren't open by conventional measures but are routinely coming down with the ball. These aren't wild passes. They represent calculated and premeditated strategy among a group of players that knows each other well. The two throws that stood out to me Monday night were a 22-yarder to Donald Driver, who was blanketed by Vikings cornerback Asher Allen, and a 25-yarder to tight end Jermichael Finley, who was surrounded by three defenders. They were open only in the sense that Rodgers felt confident they would come down with the pass.