I turned on my TV to watch the game, saw the snow falling and couldn’t help but smile. The Packers had been away from Lambeau for a month. It was December, and the snow had decided to welcome them back.
This game wasn’t as exciting and awe-inspiring as the game in Philadelphia last week. At times, the offense felt like it was caught in a bit of a slog. In the end, the Packers walked away with a victory, got back to .500 and still have dreams of the playoffs.
Let’s hope for a little more snow next week when the Seahawks come to town. I’m not asking for the same amount of snow we got in the 2007 NFC Divisional Round game, but I’d be perfectly fine with the same outcome.
That reminds me: I need to watch that game again.
Let’s get to the film.
I talked about Jordy Nelson’s huge catch on 3rd down in One Big Play this week. You can read it here.
I’m putting this in The Bad, but I really just put it here to illustrate how a receiver can get open. Since this ended up being a 24 yard gain, it ends up here.
The Packers are in Cover 2 Zone Under, with both Ladarius Gunter  and Damarious Randall  playing zone about 15 yards deep on the edges. You can watch as Gunter and Randall do the same thing: get inside their receiver, backpedal to their spot and set up.
Will Fuller  is running a 20 yard in from the top of the screen. Randall has him initially, but releases him to Micah Hyde  once he exits Randall’s zone. However, Hyde is tied up with Keith Mumphrey  running a post. Fuller cuts to an open spot of the field behind Randall and Brock Osweiler  is able to connect.
The safety on the opposite side of the field is Ha Ha Clinton-Dix . He’s playing behind Gunter, where DeAndre Hopkins  is running a corner route. It looks like Hopkins is uncovered at the end, and that’s because he is, but it’s with good reason. Clinton-Dix is watching Osweiler as the play unfolds. When Osweiler steps up in the pocket, he takes a couple stutter-steps while loading up to throw. Clinton-Dix sees this and abandons his post in order to try to make a play on this throw. He doesn’t get there in time, but it’s a great, instinctive play from Clinton-Dix.
3rd and 12. The Packers have two down linemen: from left to right, Julius Peppers  and Datone Jones. Nick Perry  is holding the edge on the right side, accompanied by his massive cast. That sucker must weigh 200 pounds, because Perry can’t seem to lift it. Clay Matthews  is playing the edge on the left side.
(You guys remember when Reggie White played with a cast and just used it as a weapon? That was awesome. And it probably hurt a lot. RIP, Reggie.)
The Packers went light on the defensive line because it was third and 12. This allowed the Texans offensive line to shove them around and open a huge hole for Jonathan Grimes .
It all goes south immediately. Greg Mancz  snaps the ball, turns, and is able to hold Jones in the middle of the field. Peppers is double-teamed by Duane Brown  and Xavier Su’a-Filo  and shoved completely to the middle of the field. Clay Matthews  – there to rush the passer on an “obvious” passing down – rushes into the backfield and is easily shoved to the side by the pulling Jeff Allen . Joe Thomas  is standing in the gap but then he just kind of vanishes, wiped out by Brown and is never heard from again. Nick “Of The Nine Fingers” Perry awkwardly engages Stephen Anderson  before trying to come back to the play.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix  rushes onto the scene, only to be blocked just enough by Keith Mumphrey .
Just look at the Texans. It’s just a giant wall of humanity, devouring anything in its path. Kind of like Unicron, but with people. Anyone?
By the time the dust had settled, the Texans had picked up 14 yards and a new set of downs.
2nd and 10. David Bakhtiari  had been struggling in pass protection a bit, so I was happy to see Aaron Ripkowski  on Aaron Rodgers’  left to help with protection. Since James Starks  had a run for no-gain on first down, this seemed like a pretty obvious passing down.
At the snap, James Starks  runs through the opposite side of the line to go into his route. Ripkowski hesitates for a moment, then runs through the same exact hole. They bump into each other, then just kind of stand awkwardly side-by-side and watch their quarterback get slammed around in the backfield a little.
I’m not exactly an expert, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t the way the play was drawn up.
My best guess is that Ripkowski was supposed to stay back for a beat to help block, then release out of the backfield slightly after Starks does. By delaying the release out of the same gap, you may be able to catch the defense sleeping, or cause some confusion with the zone scheme. Instead, they bump into each other, neither gets open and Rodgers gets sacked. It’s not the prettiest play I’ve ever seen them run.
4th and 2. Packers run Aaron Ripkowski  into the left side of the line. Vince Wilfork  is a very large and strong man. He is able to get turn Corey Linsley  and plug the hole Ripkowski was supposed to hit. Ripkowski attempts to cut it back, but D.J. Reader  is able to get inside position on Bryan Bulaga  and he’s able to plug the cutback lane.
When I saw this live, I thought there was a chance that Jordy Nelson  was open on the slant from the slot position to the right of the line, but that throwing lane is blocked by Whitney Mercilus  at the outside linebacker position to that side. He doesn’t do much; he just kind of stays home. That blocks the quick throwing lane to Nelson and makes sure that Aaron Rodgers  won’t be scrambling to that part of the line in the event of a read option.
This play occurs on 3rd and 9. It appears as though the Packers are in Cover 2 Zone Under. There is a line of three defenders in the middle of the field, just past the first down marker: from left to right, Quinten Rollins , Morgan Burnett  and Joe Thomas .
Ryan Griffin  starts the play as the tight end on the left side of the line. At the snap, he stays back to help block on Nick Perry . After successfully blocking Perry to the middle of the line, Griffin releases to the outside. Here’s a better angle of his release off the line.
By dropping back as deep as they do, it allows all three defenders to get a good look at the play unfolding. Rollins initially takes DeAndre Hopkins  as he crosses the field, but he turns his attention back to his zone as soon as Hopkins crosses into Burnett’s zone. Rollins is able to see Griffin releasing off the line, and breaks towards the route before the ball is out of Brock Osweiler’s  hand. It’s a great read and reaction by Rollins.
On the outside, Ladarius Gunter  drops deep enough to take away the deep throw to Will Fuller , but is still able to come back and help out with the tackle on Griffin.
They force the fumble, Burnett scoops it up and rumbles 35 yards, setting the Packers up with great field position.
Even if they had not forced the fumble, Griffin would have been stopped short of the first down marker. A slightly shallower drop by Rollins wouldn’t have made it quite so close, but he still made the stop short of the sticks.
I already briefly talked about these next two plays on Twitter – where I have started posting plays I don’t write about here – but these were too good to leave out of this space.
This first play is a perfectly timed delayed blitz by Morgan Burnett  and Joe Thomas . The Packers have two down linemen spread wide. At the snap, Burnett waits to see what Greg Mancz  is doing. Once Mancz shifts left to help with Mike Daniels , Burnett loops around and into the vacated gap. Thomas follows closely behind. The idea is that, while the first blitzer may be picked up, the second one will not be. Burnett hits Brock Osweiler  as Osweiler is releasing the ball. Osweiler throws off his back foot to avoid the hit and the ball is flung into the ground.
The first play was a perfectly timed delayed blitz. This is just a perfectly timed blitz. Jake Ryan  starts this play on the left side of the screen. He’s standing perfectly still. There is no sound on the All 22 film, but I’ll bet you he’s nonchalantly whistling. He times the snap perfectly and shoots between Duane Brown  and Xavier Su’a-Filo . He hits Lamar Miller  directly after he gets the ball, dragging him down for a loss of 4.
Texans have 4th and 1 at Green Bay’s 49 yard line. It’s the first play the Texans have run in Packers territory all day.
It’s a run to the left side of the offensive line with Alfred Blue . Keep an eye on Datone Jones  and Joe Thomas . Let’s start with Jones.
Jones starts the play on the right side of the screen. At the snap, he engages C.J. Fiedorowicz  and tosses him aside like he’s a doll. Just watch that move over and over. Jones absolutely manhandles Fiedorowicz.
At that point, Jones finds Blue is running right at him, so Jones wraps him up.
Jones makes a great play here, but Blue is already slowed by that point, thanks to a great play by Thomas, slightly aided by the snow-covered field. At the snap, Duane Brown  loses his footing, which allows Thomas to jump inside the block and into the backfield. Blue is rushing to the next gap over, so Thomas has to make a twisting, leaping tackle attempt to hit Blue before he gets to the line. This move allows him to get his hands on Blue from the inside at the same time Jones gets his hands on Blue from the outside.
Great defensive stand from the Packers. The short field from this stop allowed the Packers to march down the field and take a 7-0 lead.
I don’t really have anything intelligent or enlightening to say about this play. Sometimes I just like to watch Mike Daniels  maul people, and that is exactly what he does here. It’s just a bull rush, straight into the chest of Xavier Su’a-Filo . Daniels gets leverage on Su’a-Filo from the jump and uses it to drive him back. Look at Su’a-Filo. Poor guy. He’s frantically trying to get his footing the entire time, and he just can’t. I’m amazed he was even able to stay upright.
Mike Daniels is a monster.
We already looked at a 4th and 2 that went poorly, so let’s look at one that went well. This one stars Christine Michael . Until he establishes himself, I’m sure I’m just going to have flashes of Brandon Jackson every time I see him.
Let’s just look at the line play here, because it’s lovely. From right to left.
Bryan Bulaga  doesn’t have to do a whole lot: just make sure his man doesn’t get down the line. The line is sliding to the left, so Bulaga gives his man a little hook. It’s not holding; it’s just enough to throw him off.
Jason Spriggs  has a bit of a harder role, as he’s reach-blocking Benardrick McKinney , a linebacker starting off the line. McKinney has a decent angle, but Spriggs is able to get out and give him a little hook. Again, it’s not enough for it to be holding, but it’s enough to redirect him and slow his momentum from getting down the line. Spriggs stays with McKinney down the line, knocking him to the ground just outside the gap Michael is running through.
Corey Linsley  gives a little chip on Antonio Smith , then allows Vince Wilfork  to get to his right shoulder and just kind of turns Wilfork to the inside.
Lane Taylor  is the star here. He pulls around David Bakhtiari  and blocks Brian Cushing  out of the gap. From there, he shoots across the gap to take out A.J. Bouye .
David Bakhtiari takes Antonio Smith and pushes him to the inside, sealing off the gap.
Aaron Ripkowski  pulls through the gap ahead of Michael, securing the block on Cushing that Taylor set up.
Michael has good burst. He hits the hole, avoids the tackle by the falling McKinney and follows Taylor to the outside. The Packers pick up 5 yards on 4th and 2.
I love a good run blocking play.
This is just a beautiful throw. Jordy Nelson  is at the top of the screen. The Texans are in Cover 2 Zone Under. Aaron Rodgers  keeps his eyes to the middle of the field to hold the safety as long as possible. The Texans are in a tight zone on the outside, leaving very little room for this ball to fit. Once Nelson has cleared the first zone, Rodgers drops the ball in right as the safety arrives. Nelson is able to duck his head just enough to avoid the full brunt of the oncoming defender.
How do you feel after making that catch?
I thought as much.
Let’s close out by looking at our trio of touchdowns. Instead of putting them in chronological order, I’ll save my favorite one for last, because I make the rules around here.
Man…listen. Sometimes you can have everything schemed perfectly, and someone just falls down. It happens, and that’s what happened here.
Jordy Nelson  is in the slot to the left of the line. He’s basically running a go route, veering over Davante Adams  on the outside to get to the sideline. This does two things:
1. Getting to the sideline ensures that the single high safety has more ground to cover.
2. If the Texans were in zone, Nelson would have been handed off from the inside zone defender to the outside zone defender. With Adams running a short curl, the outside defender likely would have been taking a step up on that route, making it tough to get back in position to cover Nelson streaking down the field. As it stands, the Texans are in man coverage, but this could have caused some confusion if they were in zone.
Nelson is gaining speed and seems to be in the process of getting past his defender, but that doesn’t matter. His defender falls and the safety is preoccupied with the other side of the field. By the time he realizes what has happened, it’s too late; Nelson is uncovered in the end zone.
If the pocket hadn’t started to break down right as Nelson’s defender was falling, this would have been even easier. Let’s look at that pocket.
Lane Taylor  appears to be in dire need of some longer spikes on this play. He braces himself, but he’s put on skates and shoved into the backfield. Aaron Rodgers  has to escape to his left before throwing this pass. Keep an eye on his feet. He is within inches of being tripped by Taylor as he attempts to escape. Had that happened, we would have been treated to a whole lot of, “I tell ya, Rodgers had that guy WIDE OPEN. His man fell, JIM. He just FELL,” from the mouth of Phil Simms. Then probably something like, “Talk about being put on skates. LITERALLY.” Thankfully it did not come to that.
Hey Jordy. How did you feel about that touchdown?
At 32 yards, this was Nelson’s longest receiving touchdown of the year. Prior to this, his longest touchdown of the year was 26 yards against Indianapolis in Week 9.
This is the Aaron Ripkowski  touchdown that put the Packers up 21-7 late in the 4th quarter. I had a lot to unpack in the last running play I looked at. This one I don’t have a ton to say.
Lane Taylor  and David Bakhtiari  turn their men out, creating a nice lane to run through. Ripkowski gets the quick handoff going left, while Ty Montgomery  goes right. Montgomery draws the attention of Brian Cushing , meaning Ripkowski only have to deal with Max Bullough . Bullough has stayed in his gap and is there to meet Ripkowski. Ripkowski gets to Bullough’s outside shoulder, knocks him back and gets into the end zone.
Ripkowski doesn’t have a wide skill set, but he is able to knock grown men backwards at an alarming rate.
Randall Cobb  starts this play in the slot to the left of the line. He runs a quick curl. The pocket breaks down for Aaron Rodgers  relatively quickly, forcing him to his right. Cobb sees this and reacts, running into the end zone across the field. Kareem Jackson  is in man coverage on Cobb and stays with him the entire time. Cobb clears the linebacker in the middle of the field. There’s a pretty small window here: Jackson is still on Cobb’s hip and Cobb is running directly into a crowd. Rodgers somehow fits this ball in. Let’s look from another angle.
Rodgers is on the run and throws this across his body into coverage. On a line. From 15 yards out. In the snow.
Let’s just look at the throw.
It’s beautiful. It’s ridiculous and beautiful. This kind of thing should be illegal.
To cap it off, Cobb had an appropriate celebration.
If I’m not mistaken, the rule states that a player cannot go to the ground for a touchdown celebration, but, since Cobb was already on the ground, this snow angel was not flagged. I really don’t understand the difference between a player already on the ground doing this and a player going to the ground to do this, but whatever.
– When throwing to Jordy Nelson, Aaron Rodgers was 8/10 for 118 yards and a touchdown, for a QB Rating of 149.2.
– On the Packers 98 yard drive, Rodgers was 5/8 for 75 yards and a touchdown, for a QB Rating of 132.8.
– Dean Lowry picked up his first career sack in this game. He played 18 snaps (27%) and he looked pretty good while out there, knocking down one pass at the line and applying pressure on a couple other snaps. I don’t think he’s ready to be a full time player, but he seems like he could be pretty useful down the stretch.
– Mike Daniels is always good, and that was no different this week. He seemed to be manhandling his defender on more plays than not, and he always seemed to be in the backfield.
– Speaking of defensive players, the secondary played really well in this game. Morgan Burnett had a monster first half and was great all game, both around the line and in coverage. After some less-than-ideal games, Ladarius Gunter turned in a gem here, playing tight coverage and getting his hands on a couple passes. Damarious Randall was rough earlier this year, but he was very good this week, playing tight coverage all game.
– My daughter has started saying, “Go Packers.” We have to prompt her to do so – and sometimes bribe her – but she says it all the same. Anytime someone wants to send me a #1 Father trophy, I will gladly accept it. Cash is also fine.
Albums listened to: Ladylike Lily – Dans La Matiere; Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!; The Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome; The Naked & Famous – Simple Forms; Coves – Peel; Monk – Hush; Pascal Pinon – Sundur; Rachael Yamagata – Tightrope Walker