Did the Kansas City Chiefs come up with the perfect plan to slow down the Green Bay Packers' high-flying offense last week, or was that just an off game by the players on that side of the ball for the Packers?
After watching the tape, my conclusion is that it was a little of both.
The Green Bay line, which is plagued by injuries, didn't play well. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was off on some of this throws, but the biggest problem was the Packers not having injured receiver Greg Jennings.
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That led to the Chiefs playing a lot of man coverage -- which they could do with their corners -- and doubling tight end Jermichael Finley. The Green Bay outside receivers -- Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Donald Driver -- didn't win enough against man coverage, which is why the plan worked.
The Chiefs used a lot of looks where they had two down linemen, three linebackers and six defensive backs.
One of those extra backs was corner Travis Daniels. He spent the day on Finley in man coverage, with some safety or linebacker help on most plays. Putting a corner on Finley is a smart way to play him.
Daniels gave up a few catches to Finley, including one 41-yard play, but for the most part, putting him on Finley was the right move. Daniels gave up a long completion on the Packers' second scoring drive when he let Finley beat him across his face for a big play, but for the most part, he was solid.
The secret to slowing down the Packers looks to be borrowing a page out of the Packers' own defensive plan, which is to have one elite pass rusher and good cover corners. The Packers have Clay Matthews to rush, and Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams to cover. The Chiefs have Tamba Hali to rush, and Carr and Flowers to play man.
Here's a breakdown of several of the key plays from the Chiefs-Packers game to give you an idea of why the Chiefs had success and limited Rodgers to a passer rating of only 80.2.
• Third-and-3 from the Green Bay 33 -- Rodgers lines up in the shotgun with two receivers to his left and one to his right. Finley lines up next to the left tackle. The Chiefs are in man coverage across, with Daniels on Finley. They also have a safety to double him. Finley beats Daniels inside, and is open, but nobody else is. Rodgers' throw is just off target. With the safety bearing down on him, Finley can't pull it in for a catch. The way the Chiefs play the defense, the throw has to be perfect. It was not. The Packers punt.
• First-and-10 at the Green Bay 38 -- Rodgers has two receivers to his left, one back in the backfield, with Finley split wide to the right. Tight end Tom Crabtree lines up in-line on the left side. Finley is in man coverage this time with Flowers, and he has Finley blanketed. Rodgers looks there first, but with no room to throw, comes back to the middle. That's where Crabtree is open in the middle of the field, but before Rodgers can get the ball loaded to throw, Hali comes around Marshall Newhouse and hits Rodgers to force a fumble. It's man coverage and a pass rush that ruins that play.
• Third-and-4 at the Kansas City 48 -- This is the big play to Finley. And it took some use of a bunch formation to make it work. Driver and Nelson are lined up to the left with Finley, who starts in motion to the right before the snap, then settles back between the two receivers. The Chiefs are in man coverage. Nelson runs an out and is blanketed. Driver runs a crossing route and he, too, is covered. Daniels is on Finley, playing off, as Finley runs a go route. Daniels seems to think Finley is going to run a shorter route, and hesitates for a second. The problem is safety Sabby Piscitelli takes a false step inside before he realizes that Finley is going deep. McGraw can't get over in time, and Finley makes a great adjustment to catch Rodgers' pass over his shoulder for the 41-yard gain. This is one of the few times the Packers used a bunch formation to free up a receiver, something they should have done more of in this game against that man coverage.
After watching this tape, the Packers have to hope like heck Jennings will make it back for the playoffs. Without him, it's a lot easier to cover the Green Bay receivers. Nelson is good, but he isn't a No. 1 receiver who can beat top-level corners. Jennings is that guy.
Rodgers looked human on this day. Coverage and rush will do that -- even to the best of them.
Film Study: 10 things I saw on the tape
1. I loved watching how the Eagles schemed up different ways to get Jason Babin sacks last week against the Jets. Rather than merely lining him up at left end, they moved him around. On his first sack, he beat tackle Wayne Hunter off the left side. On his second sack, he stood up off the ball over the left guard. The Eagles had two down linemen, with Babin and Trent Cole standing three yards off the ball. Babin looped to the right behind Cole, who was attacking the other gap. Babin knifed through to sack Mark Sanchez. On his final sack of the day, he lined up inside of defensive end Cullen Jenkins, standing up off the ball. He then looped around Jenkins to the left and used his quickness to sack Sanchez. Credit Juan Castillo for being creative in getting Babin free to knock down the quarterback. Babin now leads the NFL with 18 sacks.
2. There have been a lot of people wondering what is wrong with Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman. The answers are simple: He has no speed to work with on offense and his line hasn't played as expected. Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood has been a major flop. But the others on the line have had their moments of struggling play, too. The Cowboys handled that offensive line last Saturday, pressuring Freeman much of the night. It doesn't help that Freeman's receivers didn't win in man coverage against a Dallas secondary that was burned the previous week for more than 400 yards by Eli Manning. Tampa Bay receiver Mike Williams is a good player, but he doesn't fly by anybody. Freeman is having a down year, but there are reasons for it. The Bucs need to bring in speed this spring. Running back LaGarrette Blount is also a plodder. Two players Tampa Bay should consider in free agency are Colts receiver Pierre Garcon and Bengals receiver Jerome Simpson. Both are young and fast.
3. What's wrong with the Jets defense? One play from last week's loss to the Eagles can show you all you need to know. With the Eagles facing a first-and-10 at their own 26, the Jets rushed five guys when Mike Vick dropped to pass. Nobody got near him. Vick calmly stood in the pocket and waited as tight end Brent Celek worked a double move against the Eagles zone. He faked an out that got linebacker David Harris to take a step that way. Celek then turned up to the middle of the field, where safety Eric Smith -- a huge liability in coverage -- had vacated. Vick saw Celek and hit him with a pass for an easy completion that turned into a 73-yard gain. This has been going on all season: They don't rush the passer well enough and their safeties lack coverage skills, especially Smith. Keep an eye on that this week against Eli Manning.
4. One of the things that stood out from watching Reggie Bush rush for 203 yards last week against Buffalo was the play of center Mike Pouncey. He might be playing as well as any center in the league. Pouncey is athletic and the Dolphins love to pull him. On one of Bush's runs around left end, Pouncey was 15 yards down the field blocking a defensive back out of bounds. On Bush's 76-yard run for a touchdown, Pouncey sealed Marcell Dareus to open up the hole. Pouncey is strong and athletic, which makes him one of the most versatile centers in the league. Bush had a good game, but it wouldn't have happened without Pouncey.
5. What's wrong with
6. The San Diego Chargers came into last week's game with the Ravens ranked 23rd in yards per pass play. Yet the Ravens took only a few shots down the field. In re-watching that game, San Diego's corners did a nice job covering Baltimore's receivers, but after a few shots early, the Ravens didn't even attempt to challenge down the field. With Torrey Smith in the lineup, that can't happen. Joe Flacco reverted to his checkdown ways that have led to his being criticized in the past. Flacco had 23 completions for 226 yards, and that includes one for 36 late to Smith when the game was out of hand and one for 33 yards to Anquan Boldin. Take those away, and it's 21 completions for 157. The Ravens have to be more aggressive down the field if they are to be a Super team.
7. I was a big believer that Chargers safety Eric Weddle should have been in the Pro Bowl last season. He certainly should be there this year. Weddle was all over the field against the Ravens, making him the best safety on the field in that game, not Baltimore's Ed Reed. Weddle is a smart, rangy safety -- perfect for the modern game -- and he doesn't get enough credit for being a good tackler. When Joe Flacco dumped off a pass to Ricky Williams in the second quarter, Weddle read the play and dumped Williams for no gain. Weddle had four tackles and one knockdown of a long pass. Reed had three tackles. Weddle should be in the Pro Bowl this season.
8. Early in the season, Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer was playing as good as any left tackle in the league. But he tailed off some, especially getting beat up by Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. But Veldheer was back to his impressive ways against the Lions last week. He owned Lions right end Kyle Vanden Bosch. He kept him off the quarterback, many times in one-on-one blocking schemes. Vanden Bosh did get a sack, but it came when he knifed inside of tight end Kevin Boss. Veldheer was outstanding. The guy deserves Pro Bowl consideration.
9. London Fletcher might be 36, but he also might be playing as well as he has in his career. Fletcher was dominant against the Giants last week, getting 12 tackles, one for a loss, one forced fumble and one pass defense. On one play, he ran with back Danny Ware deep down the field in man coverage and had an Eli Manning pass bounce of his helmet into the arms of safety O.J. Atogwe. The book on Fletcher is he has struggled with pass coverage at times in his career, but he's been much better at it this season. Another impressive play came when the Giants tried to run a screen pass to Ahmad Bradshaw. Fletcher chased down the screen and dumped Bradshaw for a 2-yard loss. Fletcher is truly impressive for a player his age, especially since he's playing on a linebacker corps that includes two rookie starters. Fletcher leads the NFL in tackles. Watching him against the Giants, I know why.
10. I know Matt Hasselbeck had a calf injury, but that wasn't the reason he played poorly against the Colts. He just seemed to be off-target and some of his decisions were questionable. He looked so confident in the Tennessee offense earlier in the year, but that hasn't been the case lately. I will give him a bit of a pass on the pick-six by Colts corner Jacob Lacey. That's because Chris Johnson, who was lined up wide right, stopped his route, giving Lacey a chance to jump it. It wasn't a great decision by Hasselbeck, but Johnson didn't help him either. I just don't see great rhythm to what he's doing. The Titans should be playing rookie Jake Locker, who did show well when he came in against the Colts.
1. Colts linebacker Pat Angerer -- He had 12 tackles, two for loss, and an interception in the Colts' upset of the Titans.
2. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers -- He has been a different quarterback the past three weeks. Having his receivers back helps.
3. Eagles tackle Jason Peters -- He was dominant against the Jets and has played like a Pro Bowl player the past six weeks.
4. Falcons receiver Roddy White -- He had 10 catches for 135 yards and two scores against the Jaguars. He's back to being the focal point of the offense.
5. Lacey -- He had a pick for a touchdown, but he also tackled well in the run game against the Titans.
2. Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks -- He dropped a sure touchdown pass early in the game and then dropped a couple more passes.
3. Jets right tackle Wayne Hunter -- He was beat for one sack, but really struggled to block Babin. He has had a rough season.
4. Bills cornerback Drayton Florence -- He had a rough go of it against the Dolphins.
Three and outs
Three free-agent contracts that might be giving their teams buyer's remorse
1. Bucs outside linebacker Quincy Black -- He signed a five-year, $29 million deal to return to the Bucs, but sure hasn't played close to that money.
2. Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis -- He signed a five-year, $35 million deal and he has been a major disappointment. Even his blocking, once a strong point, hasn't been as good.
3. Eagles corner Nmandi Asomugha -- He has three interceptions and hasn't been a great fit in the Eagles defense after landing a five-year, $60 million contract last summer.
Three eye-opening stats
1. Tony Romo leads all quarterbacks with 13 touchdown passes on third down.
Tweets at Me
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