Some thoughts on what I saw in the Green Bay Packers 19-17 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. It’s always interesting to look at the stat sheet after the game, because you’ll sometimes end up surprised. For instance, “Wow, he threw for that many yards?” I know I did a double-take at a couple of numbers from yesterday afternoon’s game.
1. People are going to look at Torrey Smith‘s stat sheet and believe that he was totally shut down, but I think Smith played better than his one reception ballgame indicates. I thought he got open several times, and Joe Flacco simply held onto the ball for too long. Smith did an excellent job getting an extra step on Sam Shields with double-moves, and I have to think that was part of the scouting report that the Ravens had on Shields. While Shields has excellent ball skills, he can get beat on those kinds of plays. Remember that holding penalty in the end zone? It was a wise move by Shields, because it saved a touchdown when he was beat by a Smith double-move.
2. Joe Flacco’s numbers seem to be inflated. While he made some excellent throws in the fourth quarter, most of Flacco’s passing yards should be credited solely to the pass-catchers for generating significant yards after the catch. Tandon Doss and Marlon Brown are just two players who sprung plays due to their speed after the catch. ESPN TQBR has it right. While Flacco’s QB Rating was 112.6, his TQBR was just 29.7 (50 is average). He made some nice throws, but he held onto the ball too long. I do think, though, that we can take away at least some of the blame for holding onto the ball and instead praise the Green Bay Packers interior pass rush. Just like the Ravens did with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offensive line, the Packers always had a hand in Flacco’s face. Bottom line: Flacco played well, but he didn’t play nearly as well as his 110+ QB Rating seems to say.
3. Great quarterbacks overcome in-game adversity, and Aaron Rodgers showed just how great of a QB he is. This Packers team has historically relied so much on their top three wide receivers that the injuries to James Jones and Randall Cobb could have easily spelled disaster. But Rodgers didn’t just start playing into the defense’s hand by overly targeting a well-covered Jordy Nelson. No, Rodgers avoided his No. 1 target until late in the game when he was open and instead fed the ball to Jarrett Boykin. It was clear at the beginning that Boykin wasn’t on the same page, as he overran a couple of curl routes and had a drop, but he did spring a beautifully executed 43-yard screen.
4. Eddie Lacy gets my game ball for this one, because it isn’t easy to run the ball on the Baltimore Ravens. But Lacy is used to facing off against extremely physical front sevens as a recent SEC alumnus, and he ran for 120 yards on 23 carries. He iced the game with a first down run that showed incredible football IQ, because not many rookie running backs have the sense to fall onto the ground after making the first down. He looked explosive throughout the game, and he outclassed Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. Then again, the Packers run blocking wasn’t atrocious either.
5. You know that big touchdown to Jordy Nelson? I’m still wondering who to blame for that one. I highly doubt Lardarius Webb would allow himself to get burned like that on a post route from Jordy Nelson, because Webb is too good to just let a wide receiver get inside him like that. I think the blame goes to the safeties, who clearly aren’t at their best in deep coverage. What I do know about that throw is that it was beautiful on all counts. The way they sold the play-action was perfect, and some of that credit has to go to Eddie Lacy for making the Ravens defense constantly worry about the run. Rodgers’s back-shoulder throw was excellent, and Nelson caught it for a relatively easy touchdown. Coming into the game, we knew that Rodgers was statistically the best deep passer this season, and that Nelson had caught 7 of those 8 deep targets this year. The Ravens did an excellent job of limiting that big play connection to that point in the game, but one breakdown did them in.
6. A.J. Hawk was all over the place. Ten tackles, five tackles for a loss, and three sacks. But the lunch pail MVP goes to Micah Hyde for making some key tackles on defense and on special teams, as well as doing some of the dirty work.
7. It’s only natural for fans and analysts alike to only blame the kicker when they miss a field goal, but I don’t blame Mason Crosby for missing a 44-yarder. That kick was on the blocking team, because they allowed far too much pressure to come in from the left side. People will ask why Crosby aimed to the right when the field goal was on the right side of the field, and it’s simple; if he aimed it to the left, it would have been blocked. This is a case of it not being the kicker’s fault, but the fault of the blocker’s up front. You could see later on, Tim Masthay was waving the protection in order to get them to slide to the weaker spots. Crosby had an excellent game with four made field goals, and the one that he missed wasn’t his fault.
8. Masthay averaged nearly 55 yards per punt and looked as powerful as ever.
9. You will rarely ever see an elite guard as smart as Marshal Yanda commit two penalties like that in a game.
10. M&T Bank is one of the toughest stadiums to play in, and it’s no wonder why John Harbaugh’s teams were 10-0 against NFC opponents coming into the game. Baltimore Ravens fans are among the most raucous and best “home-field” fans in the game. They were certainly loud for this big contest, and I thought they actually did impact the game. Why? I think the Green Bay Packers clock mismanagement (it was pretty ridiculous the timeouts they had to burn) had to do with Packers players unable to hear Aaron Rodgers over the fans.
Topics: A.J. Hawk, Aaron Rodgers, Baltimore Ravens, Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers, James Jones, Jarrett Boykin, Joe Flacco, Jordy Nelson, Lardarius Webb, Marlon Brown, Marshal Yanda, Mason Crosby, Matt Elam, Micah Hyde, Randall Cobb, Sam Shields, Tandon Doss, Tim Masthay, Torrey Smith