*This will be a weekly post with updates after each game based on performance.*
Survive and advance. That is all that matters. Yes, they barely beat a win-less team. Yes, the defense looked very bad. The problem is, it doesn’t really matter. They won a game, which is something that is not as easy as it seems (see Cleveland). The offense looked fine against a pretty solid defense, outside of 1 bad Hundley blunder. The defense will need some work, but a potent offense makes their jobs a lot easier.
Oh, and I almost forgot – THE BAD MAN IS BACK! The rest of the NFC is dropping like flies, and the Packers get the best player on the planet back with a 91% of making the playoffs if they win out. This is story book ending kind of stuff if they can pull it off. The issue is, they will have to go through 2 division rivals to do it. No easy task, but fresh legs late in the season can breath new life into a team.
Let’s dive into this week’s ratings.
Coaching – 4 out of 10
The first 3 quarters of this game were brutal. Outside the first drive, the Packers couldn’t move the ball well, seemingly mystified by the Browns defense. The Browns offense moved the ball pretty much at will against an injured Packers defense. Then, the 4th quarter hit, and it was as though a switch had been flipped. The Packers scored a touchdown to make it 21-14, and all the wind was taken out of the stadium. Doubt crept in despite overwhelming evidence suggesting they had nothing to worry about.
Prior to the Njoku catch that was reversed, the Browns had a 96% chance of winning. When it was called a drop, everyone in the stadium knew what they were in for. The shift in win percentage? Browns had a 67.6% chance to win. Every shred of that final 3 minute momentum overhaul goes to McCarthy. Sometimes you can’t quite gauge how much momentum is shifted over the course of a game – but the significance of that challenge was monumental, and the Browns were staggering, waiting for the knockout punch.
McCarthy often gets a lot of flack for his in game management, especially from yours truly, but in a split second, with so little time to let his personnel review the catch, he didn’t hesitate. This call meant the season, and he was going down swinging. You have to respect that out of your coach – despite being down 21-7, he coached as though it was entirely surmountable. Frankly, his job was probably on the line if he dropped this one, and may very well coached his way into another year. Let’s just hope he treats every game like he’s down 14 pts to a win-less Browns team.
Offense – 4 out of 10
It really was not the day you were hoping for out of the offense for about 3 quarters of football. Outside of the opening drive, they struggled to move the ball, and were out-gained by the Browns – 345 to 341…that is not a recipe for success. The run game could never quite get going, and Hundley never really felt like he took over the game.
The 4th quarter looked like a different team offensively. The Packers capped a 13 play drive with a Williams touchdown, showing they could drag out a drive and punch it in the endzone. And they showed they could make a quick strike with the beautiful back shoulder throw to Davante Adams (that may or may not have been called for by Aaron). The simple slant to ice the game to Adams was both perfect and kind of frustrating, and something theye should have done way more often with Hundley.
Quarterback – 4 out of 10
“He’s not a good quarterback by NFL standards, but he has skills that can win you games.” I will stand by this statement until the end of time. He looked like he couldn’t throw a ball down field at all, continued to drop his eyes to the pass rush, and blew the 4th and goal that would have been an easy pitch to Jones for a touchdown. It was remarkable how mediocre he looked for 36 minutes, and then completely flipped a switch. His run that almost scored late in the 4th quarter takes a ton of guts, and he made it look like it was routine.
It seems very apparent he would do whatever he could to win, even if it meant risking a run at the heart of the defense. I don’t know if it’s a focus thing with him, but he just seems to put it all together in the games’ closing minutes. He did it against the Bears, the Buccaneers in OT last week, and he sure as hell did it in this one. Credit the kid for not having an ounce of quit in him. Hell of a game to pass the torch back to #12.
Runningbacks – 2 out of 10
The running backs were mostly invisible in this game, and I called this from the previous week. The Packers won a majority of their games without Rodgers because of the run game – but yards would be scarce on the ground against a very stout Browns run defense. The running backs accounted for 54 yards. They needed a far better game for this to be decisive. Williams touchdown catch was great considering it wasn’t a very well thrown ball by Hundley. Life won’t get much easier against the Panthers next week.
Offensive line – 7 out of 10
In the run game, they couldn’t get much going. The Browns were able to stuff running lanes well and make the RB’s work for every yard. In the passing game, they were great. 1 sack on the day and only a handful of QB hits with a QB notorious for breaking the pocket too early is remarkable.
One of the unsung heroes so far is Jason Spriggs. He got beat badly for one of those 4 QB hits, but he has been a rock at RT since Bulaga went down. It may have something to do with playing an actual tackle there instead of the litany of guards, but it’s still difficult to be thrust into the lineup and play against NFL talent game in and game out. I don’t think we are sitting here talking today about potential playoff runs if they don’t solidify this offensive line.
Receivers – 5 out of 10
Adams might get a trip to the Pro Bowl this year. The only 2 NFC wide receivers I would give any time of day to are Julio and Michael Thomas. Past that, I think Adams is more deserving then anyone given his importance to the team over the last 2 months. His back shoulder catch was phenomonal body control, and his walk off touchdown was a beautiful run after the catch with a nice spin move. He might be one of the highest paid free agents this off season.
The rest of the recievers were quiet. Cobb had a few nice snags, but nothing too flashy. Nelson remains mostly off Hundley’s radar. It’s telling that Williams had the second most receiving yards as to how bad the WR’s have been this year outside of Adams.
Defense – 2 out of 10
It’s not that they couldn’t stop the Browns all game – but they gave up everything underneath. Outside of the 1 catch to Gordon on their first drive, they mostly kept everything in front of them. However, they seemed to be set on letting the Browns beat them underneath, which goes against all logic. Kizer, outside of 1 throw to Gordon, has showed very little ability to move the ball down the field. Why would you think playing HHCD 20 yards off the line of scrimmage was a smart thing to do? They Browns took up every yard the Packers gifted them and made this a game. No excuses, that simply can’t happen.
Defensive Line – 4 out of 10
The line had a tough time getting through Cleveland’s stout interior line. The Browns spent a good amount of coin on their line this offseason and it showed. Former Packer J.C. Tretter is their center and didn’t look overmatched against the Packers 2 dominant linemen. Former Bengal Kevin Zeitler is one of the better guards in football, and Joel Bitonio is right up there as well. Those 3 guys account for $25 million in salary cap this year alone, and it showed. Hard to be mad with a down performance from the interior against these guys.
Linebackers – 2 out of 10
If Adams was the reason the Packers won the game, then Matthews deserves at least part of the credit. The Kizer INT in overtime doesn’t happen if Clay doesn’t extend his arm to prevent Kizer for hitting a wide open man down field. Clay’s heads up there led to the interception that led to the Adams touchdown. Most of the game was tough sledding for the OLB’s but he was great when it mattered most.
With no Perry, the OLB’s couldn’t sniff the QB, and it led to a lot of ugly drives for the Browns. The ILB’s were mostly quiet on the day, but Martinez still managed to get a team high 9 tackles. This front 7 needs to play better for the Packers to have any chance of getting to the playoffs.
Cornerbacks – 2 out of 10
Another not so hot day for the Packers already banged up Corners. Early in the game, Gordon torched the Packers for a 38 yard run after the catch, and scored a touchdown a few plays later. Randall mostly held his own, though definitely had his moments where he looked vulnerable. House played ok until he got hurt late in the game. Hopefully he isn’t out too long. The rest of the corners are just guys, and may be a liability moving forward.
Safeties – 5 out of 10
I think a vast majority of HHCD’s struggles are that he is playing way too far off the line of scrimmage. It’s one thing to see it on television, it’s entirely different to see it in person. He’s covering way too much ground, and is forced to take terrible angles because his coming in full speed from way too far out of position. That’s not on him, that’s where he’s being told to line up. He did, however, make a great play on the ball to intercept Kizer late in the second. The other interception shouldn’t really be credited to the safeties, but it will. The rest of the safeties played fine given their expanded roles and thin secondary.
Special Teams – 9 out of 10
Vogel was brilliant all day, having 4 punts for 47.8 yard average. He regularly pinned the Browns back and kept them from any kind of return. Crosby had an easy day, but converted on all 3 extra points.
Trevor Davis – the burner, breaker of tackles, master of terrible fair catches, savior of games. Davis’ 65 yard return helped set up the game winning touchdown, and it was pure brilliance. He continues to show why he needs to be their primary returner game in and game out…and then will fair catch a ball at the 1 or get negative yards on a return (he had 63 yards on punt returns against the Browns). So long as he’s not turning the ball over…I’m fine with this, and it can be an absolute game changer. Just stop fair catching the ball inside the 10, dammit!