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Third and one: Packers

12/21/2009

After Green Bay’s 37-36 loss at Pittsburgh, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:

  1. A change in holders is always a warning sign when it comes to kickers, and Sunday it made little difference that the Packers switched from Matt Flynn to Jeremy Kapinos. Placekicker Mason Crosby was wide on a 34-yard attempt, his fifth miss in his past 11 attempts. In a league where an 80 percent conversion rate is considered low, Crosby is at 72.7. But I still think the Packers would be tempting fate to change kickers this week. The idea of bringing in someone off the street to kick at Lambeau Field, and then perhaps the playoffs, seems just as risky as trying to make it work with Crosby.

  2. Had the Packers won Sunday, I would have considered it a seminal game in the career of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. After completing only 13 of his first 35 passes, Rodgers finished the game with 13 consecutive completions in leading the Packers back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Rodgers said afterwards that he considered himself past the point of having to prove he could lead a fourth-quarter comeback, but actions always speak louder than words. His aggressive but collected approach as the game progressed was perfect.

  3. With a half-day to reflect, I’m still really surprised that defensive coordinator Dom Capers backed into a dime defense on the Steelers’ final drive rather than aggressively rush quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. I don’t doubt that defensive backs provide the best matchup for receivers, as went Capers’ post-game reasoning. But when two of those defensive backs (Jarrett Bush and Josh Bell) are relatively new to their jobs, and when Roethlisberger has been so effective when he's had time in the pocket, I just don’t like the matchup. There was no chance for a player like Bell to stay with a receiver like Mike Wallace when a quarterback like Roethlisberger is taking the snap. The only way to defend that final play is to get to Roethlisberger.

And here is one question I’m still asking:

Why didn’t the Packers run the ball more in the first half? Rodgers explained that everyone liked their receivers’ matchups against Pittsburgh’s pass defense, and that the decision to throw on 29 of their first 35 plays was planned. But there are certain risks a team takes when planning a pass-happy approach for an outdoor road game. You saw some of those Sunday when the Steelers’ pass rush blew up the Packers’ early attempts to throw. Running the ball at an aggressive pass rush is one of the best ways to stunt it, but the Packers kept throwing. I don’t deny the matchup situation. But with the Packers, you always have to take pass protection into account.