The Packers ended the 2018 season on Sunday after falling to the Lions 31-0. Sadly, it almost seems like a fitting end to a terrible season. I didn’t like the Packers chances going in to the game, but I certainly didn’t see them getting blanked by the Lions.
Every loss to a division rival is bitter. This game had nothing on the line, but you still want to see some positives. Some fans argued that the Packers should purposely lose the game to get a better draft pick. I adhere to the old Herm Edwards saying of “You play to win the game.” To me, it doesn’t matter if anything is on the line or not. No team should ever go in to a game thinking of losing.
Some will argue that playing for pride is a bad thing. I don’t see how it would be a bad thing at all. Sometimes you will learn more about a team from a bad season than you will a good one. Adversity reveals what is within players. We saw some decent things against the Lions (mostly Antonio Morrison) and some bad things.
Time to break down film of one more game for the 2018 season.
Lets kick things off with the first quarter. Here the Packers come out in 12 personnel with the 2 tight ends to the short side of the field. The numbers match up on the wide side of the field with 3 offensive lineman able to block 3 defenders. The weakside linebacker starts to shuffle presnap, giving the Lions a slight advantage as soon as the ball is snapped.
It is crucial here that Lucas Patrick gets a block on the linebacker. He is trying to climb to the second level and chip him, but is too late. All blocks up front have to be on point in any zone concept and the offensive line has to get a hat on a defender. Not the case here. This goes to show how important backside blocks are in any play.
Here is the play where Rodgers took a big hit. If you take a look at David Bakhtiari you can see a good example of what it looks like with a hand placement battle. Both the rusher and tackle are fighting to win hand position. I usually say that whoever wins the hand placement battle will usually win the 1 on 1 battle. We don’t often see this from Bak. The rusher gets good leverage on him and is able to swipe the outside hand away.
One of the most infuriating things to me all season is the lack of a rush. No different on this play. There just seems to be little-to-no rush. If you are rushing the passer and feel yourself going nowhere, the best thing to do is to use the hands to shed blocks, dip the shoulder, get low…anything. Matthews go inside on this rush. I don’t know if this is designed or not, but I do know that I’m glad Stafford isn’t a mobile quarterback. With Martinez matched up on the running back there is no one holding the edge.
One of the most surprising things we’ve seen this season is the emergence of Tyler Lancaster. This clip should be showed at every defensive line clinic in the country on how to get separation. Josh Jones also does a good job coming down the line and helping finish the tackle.
I’m a big fan of the bunch formation. I’ve noticed a lot of teams around the league are running more and more of it, such as the LA Rams and Kansas City Chiefs. I wish we would have seen more of it this season. The bunch creates a lot of problems for defenses. It can force them to jump in and out of coverages and make reads hard for defensive backs.
Kyler Fackrell took a tremendous leap forward this season. He established himself as one of the better players on the edge.
Think about that. If I would have told you that back in August you would think I was crazy.
He ended the season with double digit sacks put some good stuff on film. Here, he takes on the tight ends, sheds the block and gets the tackle. Watch how he almost gets beat off the snap. The tight end did a good job at the snap of reaching his playside shoulder but Fackrell used his hands, stayed square and found the football. That’s outside linebacker fundamentals 101.
Not a good showing on this play from Kentrell Brice. He plays his assignment well and steps up in the alley to go one on one with Theo Riddick. He seems to be in good position until Riddick puts on a nice spin move and Brice whiffs. The defensive backs had a bad day on Sunday all around.
Aim points are important when playing the bubble screen for a slot corner. Stafford hits a quick bubble for a good gain but it could have been shut down at the line of scrimmage. The angle here for Breeland is tricky. If he plays it too wide then there is the possibility for a cutback, if he doesn’t take a flat enough angle then the receiver can bust a big gain up the sideline. Unfortunately that’s what happened here.
You can see him hesitate slightly during the play, most likely because he thinks that Powell is going to turn it up field. That hesitation hurts Breeland and he ends up out of position.
I think I have seen more slot corner blitzes this year than ever before. Breeland starts the play head-up over the #2 receiver. Its disguised well, and he gets a small pre-snap shuffle before the play begins. That pressure forces a bad throw by Stafford on a play that could have been a big gain play or even a touchdown. Any time a blitz is dialed up, I’m all for it. I’ve always been a big believer of the “force the issue” philosophy as opposed to “bend but don’t break” one.
Matt Prater throwing a touchdown pass against the Packers has got to be the low point. Has a kicker ever thrown a touchdown pass at Lambeau Field before this play? No idea. (ed. Jon Ryan threw a TD pass in the 2014 NFC Championship Game. Not a kicker, but a punter is pretty close.) What I do know is this was a huge lack of focus and communication on the Packers part.
Josh Jackson was the end man on the line of scrimmage. Detroit had a split man here, with absolutely no one near him. Its easy to get in a routine on field goals, but this was just bad. This was a pretty fitting way to sum up the Packers special teams play in 2018.
To say this season was disappointing would be an understatement. Back in training camp I had the Packers winning 11 games this year. This season felt a lot like 2008 to me. The Packers were in a lot of games but never could finish. If you think back to it, Minnesota (both times), Los Angeles, New England, Seattle, Arizona and Chicago (away) were all winnable games. These were games the Packers were in but never could finish. Had those been wins we would have been looking at a 13 win season. I could sit here and discuss “what-ifs” forever but the fact is that the Packers couldn’t get it done this season. We’ll be seeing a lot of changes in Green Bay take place this season and it is sure to be an interesting and memorable offseason.
I would like to briefly say that even though this season didn’t end like we all hoped it would, I still had a blast writing these articles all season. I love breaking down film. My goal here is to try and make Packer fans the smartest fans in the NFL. I don’t have all the answers and I try to learn more each day, but things like film study can help us get to that point.
This offseason I plan on bringing you a close look at the Packers scheme on both sides of the ball. During the season, a lot of my stuff is player centered. While this will still continue in the offseason, I would like to dive more in to different concepts in football such as cover 2 defense, route combinations, run game concepts, quarters coverage, fire zone blitzes and so forth. Also during the spring we will be bringing you draft content which will be filled with player scouting reports and mock drafts as the Packers prepare for the draft.
There truly is no offseason in the game of football and that’s the way I like it.
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