Eye in the Sky: Week 3 – Kansas City Chiefs

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The Packers jumped out to a big lead behind the mastery of Aaron Rodgers and a ferocious pass-rush, only to see the Chiefs chip away at that lead in the second half.  Thankfully the offense kept their foot on the pedal (for the most part) and the defense did enough to hold them off.  The Packers now sit at 3-0 and I could not be happier.
I assume you all are happy, but are you happier than Ted Thompson?

10_ted_thompson_clap

I thought not.

Let’s get to the film.  As always, stats and ratings from Pro Football Focus.

THE UGLY

07_maclin_catch

This play came on third and 16.  The Packers brought a blitz and appear to be playing Cover 3 Man Under behind it.  I say it’s likely Man Under by the way Clay Matthews [52] jumps out to cover the slot receiver (might I add, he does a great job covering that receiver).  Sam Shields [37] is covering Jeremy Maclin [19] at the top of the screen.  While Matthews plays man, Shields is playing a shallow zone, looking at Travis Kelce [87] coming off the end of the line.  But Kelce is being covered (once again, man-to-man).  Shields sits back on the route while Maclin has the entire middle of the field to work with.  It’s an easy throw for 31 yards.  The Chiefs would score a touchdown on the next play to make it 31-14.

THE GOOD

Let’s take a look at a series of 3 consecutive plays in the first quarter.

02_backfield

First down: Even after telegraphing the Clay Matthews [52]/Nate Palmer [51] twist, Matthews is able to blow by his man and take away the fullback from his lead blocking duties.  In the very next gap, B.J. Raji [90] easily sheds his blocker to get into the backfield and force Jamaal Charles [25] to the edge.  The edge was set by Jayrone Elliott [91], forcing Charles back inside, where Mike Pennel [64] was waiting for him.  It’s a beautifully disruptive play up the middle and extremely disciplined play on the edge, ending in no gain.

03_daniels

Second down: Mike Daniels [76] shoots the gap between pulling linemen perfectly.  He slips the initial downblock and explodes behind the first pulling lineman and in front of the next one.  That leads to him absolutely destroying Jamaal Charles in the backfield for a loss of 3 yards.

11_banjo

Third down: Clay Matthews [52] is playing outside, going against left tackle Donald Stephenson [79].  Matthews drives Stephenson straight back into Alex Smith [11], which does not allow Smith to step into his throw.  He’s trying to throw a 13 yard out to Jeremy Maclin, but, because he can’t step into his throw, he floats the pass badly, allowing Chris Banjo [32] to step in front and knock it down.  He had a good chance to intercept this ball, but he couldn’t quite haul it in.

This was the Chiefs second drive of the game.  The defense set the tone early, and, though they gave up some big plays in the second half, they kept up the intensity throughout the game.  This was an impressive showing.

Here’s a similar play that didn’t end quite so well for Smith.

06_shields_int

Once again, the line collapses.  Instead of hanging in, Smith escapes (good) and throws across his body (bad).  Sam Shields [37] is there, and, unlike Banjo, he doesn’t drop it.  This wasn’t a bad idea by Smith: the receiver is sneaking behind the defenders and has a bit of room behind him (although Micah Hyde [33] is closing fast), but it had to be a great throw to get there.  It was a poor throw.  On the very next play, Aaron Rodgers would throw a touchdown pass to Randall Cobb to put the Packers up 31-7.

Let’s take a look at a great play by rookie Damarious Randall [23].

09_randall_hit_a.gif

Randall is lined up across from Maclin at the bottom of the screen.  The Packers are in Cover 2 Zone Under.  Randall sees this play as it’s developing and reacts quickly.  As Maclin cuts inside, Randall sees Charles leaking out of the backfield and Smith looking his way.  So he closes on the play and meets Charles as soon as the ball gets there, resulting in a huge – yet perfectly legal – hit.  Just an absolutely beautiful play from a young corner.
Let’s take a look at the hit from another angle.

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Sit down with your favorite album, pour yourself a cup of coffee and just watch this gif until the album is over.  I can’t get enough of it.

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Jayrone Elliott [91] starts on the left side of the screen.  At the snap, he makes a beeline for the backfield.  When he takes off, it’s unclear as to whether Alex Smith will be handing the ball off, but that doesn’t matter to Elliott.  On this play, he’s a man with a head full of steam and malice in his heart.  If it were a handoff, he’d be in a great position to blow it up. But it wasn’t a handoff.  Charles was leaking out of the backfield to become a receiver, but it never gets that far.  Elliott bulldozes Charles and Ben Grubbs [66] on his way to Alex Smith, taking him down for a 10 yard sack.  After an monstrous performance by Elliott last week, he turned in another solid performance here.  Still, his snap count was limited.  He played 9 snaps last week and 15 snaps this week.  If he keeps this up, I wouldn’t mind seeing his snap count go up and Julius Peppers’ snap count decrease (Peppers has been great so far, but I’d like to see him be able to conserve some energy early in the season).

Let’s take one last look at the defense before turning our eye to the offense.

04_palmer

Here is Nate Palmer [51], starting in the middle.  At the snap, he slightly shades to the middle of the line, as a hole is opening.  Palmer never takes his eyes off Smith, which allows him to read the screen play to the other side of the field.  He takes off to the left to cut off the screen.  He sheds the [admittedly weak] block by Ben Grubbs [66] , stays in a position to take away the cutback and is still able to get to the outside and run Charles out of bounds once he cuts towards the outside.  This is a great play by Nate Palmer.

Now we’ll look at a couple plays from the offense, starting with Titletown darling, Aaron Ripkowski [22].

08_ripkowski_block

Last week I wondered why the Packers would keep two fullbacks on the roster just to not really use either of them.  Prior to this game, Ripkowski had not seen a single snap on offense.  Someone from the front office must have read my post (I’d like a job, please!), because Ripkowski saw a whopping 3 offensive snaps this game (John Kuhn [30] was involved in 14 offensive snaps, so my question about keeping two fullbacks on the roster still holds).  This is one of those snaps.
It’s a full house backfield with Ripkowski, Kuhn and Eddie Lacy [27].  I’ve said it before, but this is one of my favorite offensive formations the Packers use, because they mix up the personnel quite a bit and it gives them a lot of versatility.  With the personnel on this play, it’s pretty obvious that it will be a run.  Ripkowski is on the left, and he will be plowing the road for Lacy.  Tyvon Branch [27] comes down into the box to fill the gap, but Ripkowski meets Branch in the hole and turns him outside easily, opening a huge hole for Lacy to run through.  Granted, this was a pretty cut-and-dry play and not an overly difficult blocking assignment, but it’s still a very good play by Ripkowski.

01_montgomery_td

I’ve made no attempt to hide my love of Ty Montgomery [88].  With Davante Adams likely to miss some time, we’re likely to see a lot more of him going forward (Montgomery had 66 snaps in this game, 25 in Week 2 and 1 in Week 1).  I really like Adams (and am terrified of what another injury could do to this receiving corps), but I’m excited to see more of Montgomery.  This play is a perfect example of why I’m so excited.
Montgomery starts at the top of the screen.  He is running a dig.  When he turns to look in, he sees Aaron Rodgers fleeing the pocket, so he abruptly stops – leaving his defender reeling – and cuts back outside, where he has an easy path to the end zone.  Rodgers finds him and the Packers take an early 7-0 lead.
With Rodgers ability to buy time, it’s crucial to have receivers who can recognize what to do in those situations.  Montgomery appears to be catching on quickly.

Speaking of guys who know what to do…

05_cobb_catch

Randall Cobb [18] starts in the slot at the bottom.  His initial route is a skinny post, but, like the above play, Rodgers is forced to flee the pocket.  Cobb sees this, quickly turns and comes back to the ball.  His defender falls down and it’s an easy 29 yard gain.
Time and time again, Cobb has shown an ability to read Rodgers and be in the right place at the right time.  It’s this ability – this connection between he and Rodgers – that made me so excited to have him come back to the Packers.

Random Thoughts:

– Part of the game plan for the passing game seemed to be “get the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands before he is murdered at the hands of Tamba Hali and/or Justin Houston.”  Last season, his average time to throw was 2.86 seconds after the snap.  In this game, it was 2.64 seconds.  But really, it didn’t matter how long he took to get rid of the ball.  When throwing in 2.5 seconds or less (23 dropbacks), he completed 69.6% of his throws for a QB rating of 136.4.  When throwing in 2.6 or more (15 dropbacks), he completed 66.7% of his throws for a QB rating of 142.4.
The plan worked.  On top of the insane numbers he put up (as a reminder: 24/35, 333 yards, 5 touchdowns), he also walked away with only 2 hits and 1 sack.

– When throwing to James Jones, Rodgers was 7/8 for 139 yards and a touchdown, for a QB rating of 158.3.

Mike Daniels was an absolute monster.  In 38 snaps, he racked up 2 sacks and 4 QB hurries.  I point out Daniels, but, as we saw above, the entire defensive line had a great day rushing the passer.

Damarious Randall finally got burned, but, aside from that big 61 yard gain, he turned in another solid performance.  When throwing in his direction, Alex Smith was 3/8 for 77 yards, for a QB rating of 73.4.  Randall also threw in a pass defense.  Three games in and he has been fantastic.

– I kind of didn’t want to talk about Pro Football Focus’ highly publicized rating of -0.8 for Aaron Rodgers in this game, and their subsequent article about it, but, since I use their stats a lot in my articles, I thought I would.  (It’s worth noting that Rodgers grade for this game now stands at 0.7.  This happens quite often, as the initial grade doesn’t take into consideration the things you can’t see during the broadcast.)
Pro Football Focus has a lot of great stats.  The “time for Rodgers to throw the ball” stat is from there site, as are the “when throwing to this receiver” stats I always use.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  They are a vast resource of statistics and I love them.  However, I have always taken their player grades with a grain of salt.  The grading system is so subjective.  It’s basically like taking baseball’s UZR, applying it to every play in the game and boiling it down to one number.  Expecting any one stat to sum up the whole of a person’s game is foolishness.  I use PFF’s grade as a guide, but I never stop there.
This grade highlights a big problem with PFF’s grading system, but it doesn’t mean all their stats are suddenly worthless.  They provide a lot of great statistics.  This flaw doesn’t change that.  I will continue to use their stats and I will continue to use their player grades as I always have: as an afterthought to everything else.
Still, if you really like having a single grade, I recommend Football Outsiders.  Their DVOA and DYAR stats are terrific.  They’re a little more involved than a simple plus or minus grade, but it takes into consideration a multitude of things, and they’re always looking for ways to improve it.  I actually prefer their work to Pro Football Focus, but PFF has cheaper premium stats and they’re easier to sort.  Still, Football Outsiders has been doing this a long time, and their free content is well worth checking out.  I visit their site daily.  If you haven’t already, make sure you grab their annual Football Outsiders Almanac.  It’s a must-read.

Albums listened to: Big Grams – Big Grams; The Bronze Medal – Darlings; Sexwitch – Sexwitch; Zola Jesus – Nail; The Lonely Wild – Chasing White Light

Thank you for reading. Dusty Evely is a featured writer for Titletown Sound Off. You can follow him on Twitter @DustyEvely. For even more Packers content, follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.

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By Dusty Evely

Lover of sports, horror movies & good music. Below-average second baseman.

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