This is why it’s foolish to draw too many conclusions from exhibition games.  In the pre-season the Green Bay Packers, particularly on offense, operated like a well-oiled machine.  Thus far in the regular season, that machine has seized up to a grinding halt.  Ironically, this was pretty much the game I expected last week.

All the maladies that afflicted the Packers in last week’s game against the Bears were even more in evidence yesterday against Cincinnati.  The difference last week was that the shortcomings were more sporadic and the Packers still managed to make enough plays to win with a big assist from Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler.  In contrast, yesterday’s game featured breakdowns across the board.  The Packers couldn’t block, tackle, run, pass, or catch.  Let’s see; did I miss anything there?  Oh, yeah.  They couldn’t cover punts, either.  And, unlike the Bears in week one, the Bengals weren’t inclined to save the Packers from themselves.

It was easier to dismiss the Packer deficiencies after last week’s win over the Bears.  But the continuation of last week’s problems, coupled with some new ones, will be harder to ignore after this Sunday’s performance (or lack thereof) against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The problems on offense once again began with the offensive line.  The only thing they did consistently was allow pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  And that was before left tackle Chad Clifton went out with an ankle injury.  After that, it got really ugly.  I admit that I’m not overly familiar with Cincy end Antwan Odom, he of the 5 QB sacks, but I feel pretty secure in suggesting that the Packers made him look a LOT better than he normally does.  

Certainly much more secure than Rodgers looks in the  pocket.  Aaron professes to have faith in his line but even early in the game he seemed to have a case of “happy feet” which affected many of his throws.  About the best thing you could say for Rodgers’ performance was that he didn’t throw an interception.  But then, you usually need time to do even that.  On those few occasions that Rodgers did have time to look downfield, he either held on to the ball too long or was victimized by dropped passes from his wide receivers.   Wide receiver Greg Jennings, only a week removed from a game winning touchdown pass, dropped the first ball directed his way and was held without a reception in a game for the first time in his career. 

Running back Ryan Grant did score a touchdown but averaged only 3.3 yards a carry and lost a third quarter fumble that led to the go-ahead score for Cincinnati.

Unfortunately, the Packers problems weren’t only confined to the offense.  The defensive line got pushed around as well, permitting Bengal running back Cedric Benson to run for over 140 yards.  Clearly, they could have benefitted from inactive rookie nose tackle B.J. Raji.   The defense was persistently plagued by poor tackling, failing to get off the field despite numerous opportunities.  The scenario was eerily reminiscent of last seson.   The only Green Bay defender who should be even remotely sanguine about his performance is cornerback Charles Woodson, who returned a Carson Palmer interception for a score.  But even he missed a tackle on a key third down conversion.  Defensive coordinator Dom Capers also appeared a little less agressive in his play calls, probably because of injuries to his starting safeties and the fact that Cincinnati’s receivers merited more respect than did the Bears of a week ago. 

Not to be outdone, the special teams made their own contribution to the loss.  The Bengals miniscule rookie Quan Crosby had punt returns of 60 and 32 yards that directly led to 10 of Cincinnati’s points.  Crosby was aided by Packer punter Jeremy Kapinos, who averaged well under 4 seconds of hang time on his 6 attempts.

Just to complete the meltdown, the Packers also committed 11 penalties for 76 yards, five of which were on special teams.  Pocket Doppler “favorite” and ‘special teams ace’ Jarrett Bush actually committed false start penalties on consecutive punts in the second quarter.

If you’re looking for silver linings, the Packers still had a slim chance to win at the end despite all of this, courtesy of a successful on-side kick.  But that may be as much due to the Bengals, who had 13 penalties of their own to go along with 2 interceptions.

After the game, the coaching staff replayed the familiar refrain of faulty technique in trying to explain the woes of the offensive line.  For some reason, it doesn’t seem to concern them that there remains a lack of fundamental play after an entire offseason of focus on that area.  I would submit that the flaws in fundamentals are a symptom, rather than a cause, of poor offensive line play.  Fundamentals will obviously be compromised when you’re getting beat by the man across the line from you.  The best way to remedy that would be to find more talented players. 

For now, the Packers are stuck with what they have.  If Clifton remains out of service for any amount of time, the Packers will have to make adjustments just to give Rodgers a chance.  That may mean limiting their options by keeping a back or tight end in to block.  Rodgers must also help himself by rolling away from pressure and getting the ball out more quickly even if it means throwing it away.  He may also need to pull the ball down and run more with it himself just to keep opposing defenses honest.  This may expose him a little more but as he’s getting hammered anyway it may be a moot point.

On one level, it’s admirable that players such as Daryn Colledge and Ryan Grant, among others, held themselves accountable for the loss.  But for the Packers to have the success they and their fans envision for them, they will soon need to perform to a standard that eliminates the need for apologies.

 

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  • http://www.retaggr.com/page/crichar3 Chris

    I also saw occasions where Rodgers held it too long, thus doing himself no favors. AR is looking to make a play and his courage in the pocket is admirable. But it would help the team more if he used that strong arm to fling it into the seats when no one is immediately open and his protection is decaying.

    I tend to agree with the notion that the major problem with the OL is not so much lack of technique, but lack of talent. They are (relatively, by NFL standards) a small, shy reticent unit, and as much as I — a Ted Thompson apologist — hate to admit it, that shortcoming falls on the GM and his staff. To this point it appears TT has assembled an thin and inadequate group that might derail what should be a potent offense.

  • Jon

    Look out below!!! Wow, are folks jumping off the bandwagon. It was a tough loss. The O-line is really bad right now. Nick Barnett is showing his colors. However…it was one game! Lots of season left with many many winnable games.

  • http://mike BigSnakeMan

    I wouldn’t say I was ‘jumping off the bandwagon’ since I don’t believe I was ever really on it. I’m certainly not ready to write them off after only two weeks but even in the Bear game there were areas that I thought needed to be addressed with this team; more so now.