Free Head Exam: Green Bay Packers

October, 29, 2012
10/29/12
11:00
AM ET
After the Green Bay Packers' 24-15 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. Free Head Exam
    ESPN.com
    This is an admittedly subjective observation, but I thought quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked and played subdued after his second-quarter sack/fumble. If you watch the play closely, you see Jaguars defensive lineman Andre Branch launch himself (legally) toward Rodgers and force a collision with linebacker Julian Stanford. Rodgers falls backwards, hits the legs of left tackle Marshall Newhouse, lands on his back and doesn't immediately get up -- even when guard T.J. Lang tries to help him. The Packers didn't score on their next four possessions. Did the hit knock Rodgers woozy? Speaking about his health afterwards, Rodgers said: "It's just bumps and bruises that in Week 8 bother you at different times. Today I got a helmet to the arm, which kind of hurts. I got hit in the head a couple times, [but] I'll be all right." All's well that ends well, of course, but Rodgers is usually very quick to his feet after a hit. Monday morning, many of you noted on social media that Rodgers' helmet appeared to be cracked when shown on a close-up shot just before Mason Crosby's 25-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. I checked it on the NFL's Game Rewind, and all I can tell you is there is a dark line in a semi-circular shape to the left of the tape that runs down the middle of the helmet. Is it a crack? A shadow? A sticky blade of long grass? I can't know for sure. Before returning to the field for the final-play kneel-down, however, Rodgers placed a helmet on top of an equipment case and put on another one.
  2. I'm all for aggressive and unorthodox play-calling, but I thought the Packers got too cute with the design of third-quarter fake punt. It required punter Tim Masthay to make a pre-snap read on the defense, but he told reporters he didn't have time to do it and assumed it was in man-to-man. By the time he realized the Jaguars were in a Cover-2 look, Masthay said, it was too late to adjust his throw from a deep pass to tight end D.J. Williams to a shorter one for a wide-open Ryan Taylor. "If I would have recognized the defense pre-snap, we probably would have gotten the first down," Masthay said. Coach Mike McCarthy said: "I think it was pretty obvious that the decision that was made was probably not the best decision." There's no doubt about that, but I'm not a fan of the decision to ask a punter to, uh, make that decision -- no matter how smart or football-savvy he might be. I'm sure Masthay knows the difference between the two coverages. But the play demonstrated how difficult it can be to put everything together in a live situation. There's nothing wrong with telling a punter on a fake to either throw it to one receiver or tuck the ball and run it.
  3. We've mostly preached the value of quantity when it comes to the Packers' running game, but this was one game where quality would have been of equal value. The Packers were without receivers Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, and the Jaguars entered the game with the NFL's lowest-ranked rush defense. It made perfect sense to craft a game plan around some early running success, and the Packers certainly tried. Tailback Alex Green carried on 10 of the Packers' 26 first-half plays and finished with 22 carries. But Green managed only 54 yards, bringing his three-game total to 154 yards on 64 carries. Asked about the absence of Nelson and Jennings, Rodgers said: "I think it was more that we didn't run it well." On paper, the Packers should have a much better running game than they've had since Cedric Benson's foot injury.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
I can't decide if the Packers should be proud of winning a game when they neither played well nor with much energy, or if they should be worried about why it happened. Mostly, I think they were fortunate to be playing one of the NFL's worst teams on their bad day. The Packers are in a bit of an emotional lull in their schedule with consecutive home games against the Jaguars and Arizona Cardinals before they have their bye. Things start getting more interesting when they return, beginning with a Week 11 game at the Detroit Lions followed by games at the New York Giants, at home against the Minnesota Vikings and Lions, and then at the Chicago Bears in Week 15.

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