Jclombardi reviews and grades Packers loss to Dolphins.
Guest senior writer jclombardi @ http://lombardiave.com
Summary: The Packers lost to the Dolphins 23-20 in overtime when Dolphins K Carpenter hit the game winning 44 yard field goal. The Dolphins won through special teams and beat a worn out injury plagued, patchwork defense. For the Packers, this was the second straight overtime loss losing to Washington in overtime last weekend too. The inability to protect the quarterback and the allowance of big plays by the special teams beat the Packers through field position. In overtime, after holding the Dolphins, the Packers had a special teams penalty setting them back deep in their territory. When the Packers failed to move the ball, a poor 37 yards punt gave good field position to the Dolphins. The exhausted defense faltered allowing the game winning field goal.
Game Balls: CB Williams. LB Bishop. WR Jennings.
Lame Balls: Coach McCarthy. P Masthay. CB Woodson. FB Hall.
Injury report: TE Finley is officially on I.R. to make room for S Smith. Meanwhile, this week, CB Harris, SS Bigby, and RB Starks begin practicing after coming off the physically unable to perform list. LB Poppinga had arthroscopic surgery to repair damage to his left knee, probably out for three weeks to season-ending. WR Driver (quad strain) and LB Hawk (groin strain) will miss practice time this week preparing for the Vikings game.
Report Card Grades–Good, Bad, & Ugly (LA vs. SE):
Pass Offense—C- vs C. Under constant pressure, QB Rodgers had his shaky moments. He lacked confidence, failed to stay in the pocket, and failed to step forward to make good throws. He making bad decisions and throws against a cover 2 man underneath defensive scheme. He completed only 18 of 33 passes for 313 yards, 1 passing touchdown, 1 rush touchdown, and 1 interception. The Dolphins brought constant pressure getting 5 sacks. Dolphins OLB Wake had 3 sacks and six hits abusing inexperienced rookie RT Bulaga. Four of the five sacks were drive killers. With two drives into Dolphins territory, two sacks forced punts. The other two sacks came on third downs forcing punts including one in overtime. For almost three quarters, the Packers failed to score a touchdown. Then, QB Rodgers completed a late 4th quarter drive with a 1 yard touchdown run to force overtime. WR Jennings had 6 catches for 133 yards and 1 touchdown. WR Nelson caught 4 balls for 64 yards, but he had two key drops. In third down efficiency, the Packers were an awful 3 for 13. In the red zone efficiency, they were only 1 of 2. Now, Rodgers is 7-13 in games decided by seven points or less. Also, he is 1-11 in games decided by four points or less.
Rush Offense—D vs D. The ground game was very pedestrian getting 76 yards averaging 3.6 yards per carry. RB Jackson running for 53 yards. He never seemed to get going in the game. On the Packers scoring drive late in the 4th quarter, FB Kuhn was stopped twice at the one yard line. Then, the unpredictable quarterback sneak by attentive QB Rodgers finally got the score. In another bizarre call, the screen pass to FB Kuhn was absolutely awful. With the muscle on this Packers roster, they need to use power formations in big running downs.
Pass Defense—C- vs C-. Without pass rusher OLB Matthews, DE Pickett, and DE Neal, the Packers defense no longer looked stout and had no pass rush. They got exposed in the run and coverage. With maximum protection, the slow inaccurate QB Henne completed 23 of 39 passes for 231 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. No one could cover WR Marshall who had 10 catches for 127 yards. CB Williams did make a nice play on his interception. All-pro CB Woodson got constantly exposed along with two interference penalties.
Rush defense—D vs D. The Dolphins rushed 39 times for 150 yards running at the edge against the inexperienced rookie DE Wilson. Eventually, the patchwork Packers defense wore down in the late quarters and overtime. Running backs Brown and Williams combined for 137 yards averaging a solid 4.3 yards per carry. Also, the ILBs had a mixed game looking soft against the middle run game. LB Bishop has an okay game in the gaps and made a few big plays. Yet, he must improve to press the line of scrimmage. LB Hawk simply cannot get off blocks to make dominant plays to press the line of scrimmage. Yet, the inspired patchwork defense played a very competitive game considering its key injuries allowing the Dolphins got only 23 points against the patchwork Packers defense.
Special teams–D- vs D-. The Packers poor field position and key penalties cost game. K Crosby struggled with kickoffs getting only one touchback. KR Lee and KR Nelson combined for a meager 19.8 average on kickoffs. P Masthay punted five times averaging an awful 38 yards (gross) and 33.4 (net). On 24 punts, Masthay’s averages of 43.1 and 33.4 actually are worse than P Kapinos compiled (43.8, 34.1) last year in 66 punts. The bizarre penalty against an inexperienced LB Francois gave a first down to the Dolphins at the Packers 38. Then, the Dolphins marched for a touchdown to lead 20-13. In overtime, after holding the Dolphins, FB Hall’s illegal block on an overtime punt return put the Packers back to their 16. When the Packers failed to move the ball, a poor 37 yards punt gave good field position to the Dolphins. Then, the exhausted defense faltered allowing the Dolphins winning field goal. In one positive note, FB Johnson had a partially blocked punt for special teams.
Coaching–D vs D. The Packers lost a second straight overtime game. QB Rodgers is 0-5 as a starter in overtime. Head coach McCarthy is 1-6. The same old issues continued to plague to Packers including dropped passes, questionable play calls, failed conversion of big 3rd downs, and failed execution of fundamentals. McCarthy and his staff were outcoached, outmuscled, and outplayed against a predictable game plan. The Dolphins controlled the clock and ball possession grinding out the running game, getting more first downs (26 to 16), and having more time of possession advantage (37:56 to 28:03). Thus, the Dolphins dominated the game tempo exhausting a patchwork defense. Finally, the Packers cannot put games away, playing down to the level of the mediocre competition.
Overall Game—D. With a déjà vu atmosphere, in the 4th quarter and overtime, the special teams and sputtering offense units continued to be brutal costing games for the Packers.
Commentary–Improving the offense: If the Packers are to get their offensive back-on-track, they need to find ways to beat the effective Cover 2 man underneath scheme. They need to take more chances and creative play-calling. Further, the Packers could use power formations on big run third downs. Also, they could use four verticals scheme spreading the safeties out away for sidelines plays. Finally, they must neutralize the linebackers and get back to using effective slant formations too.