Audibles Opening Night Special 2014
compiled by Andrew Potter
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
Today we have a special Audibles on the opening night game between the Packers and Seahawks.
Aaron Schatz: Are you ready for... a pop concert, followed by some football?
Rivers McCown: Well, it's already ahead of last year's prime time entertainment, "Ryan Seacrest desperately tries to fill time during a rainstorm."
Cian Fahey: This is the benefit of being a foreigner, my pregame is Die Hard 2.
Tom Gower: Die Hard 2, what's that? I only remember two Die Hard movies, the first one and With a Vengeance. There's a nasty rumor they made more movies after that one, but I'm sure no such thing ever really existed.
Cian Fahey: It's the one where Bruce Willis is a cop.
Scott Kacsmar: Is it Vine where the video can only be 10 seconds long? NBC can archive every Hines Ward analysis segment on Vine.
Aaron Schatz: Great play by Zach Miller to prevent an interception on a pass meant for him, but I think even better play by Sam Shields to jump in front of him and deflect it in the first place. Shields really read that one.
Scott Kacsmar: With the Vikings in 2012, Percy Harvin had 81.4 percent of his receiving yards come after the catch. That's unheard of for a wide receiver. I'm not saying he'll do it again, but the way Seattle's started this game with the screens and jet sweep looks very familiar to Minnesota. I've always said Harvin gets confused for a big-play threat because he's a great return man, but his catches usually aren't big gains. Still, very effective for the offense as long as he's in one piece.
Mike Kurtz: What an embarrassing start for the Packers' special teams. First a running into the punter to prolong an eventual scoring drive, followed by a burned timeout to avoid another drive-prolonging penalty when they had basically half the team on the field for the field goal.
Cian Fahey: Very pass-oriented first drive for Seattle, don't expect that to be an aberration this year.
Aaron Schatz: Right, especially because in our modern world, so many passes are really runs from a strategic point of view. Screen, screen, screen, la la la la la.
Andrew Potter: Very sloppy start for Green Bay on special teams. On the field four times so far: kick return from five yards deep in the end zone only gets to the 12, drive ends with a 29-yard punt, running into the punter to gift Seattle a longer drive, and now a timeout spent when defending the resultant field goal. Failure in four different aspects.
The more things change...
Aaron Schatz: Well, hey, both teams could be sloppy. Although I guess, "Earl Thomas doesn't feel like calling for a fair catch" isn't really *sloppy* per se.
Cian Fahey: Love pretty much everything Seattle do, but Earl Thomas returning punts is one of the dumbest moves from any team in the league. Don't care that he's supposedly the best option, he's too valuable to their defense.
Aaron Schatz: Seriously, what's the marginal value on Thomas returning punts compared to whoever is the second or third option? Twenty yards on the season? Thirty?
Cian Fahey: To make it even worse, they have Doug Baldwin, Harvin and Paul Richardson who should all be more than capable, probably better.
Rivers McCown: I dunno, I'm not prepared to backseat drive on special teams usage. How many years did Rob Gronkowski play on specials before he got hurt? You can't keep 20 special teams specialists. Maybe Pete Carroll thinks Thomas is worth much more than 30 yards over the course of the season.
Cian Fahey: I don't have an issue with him playing special teams, but I think it's slightly different when you're the returner because you're taking hits.
Aaron Schatz: It's a lot easier to get hurt fielding punts than playing on the edge on the field-goal blocking unit. And honestly, is Thomas really a better punt returner than Paul Richardson?
Rivers McCown: I'd assume Pete would know that better than I would. Of course, Harvin would probably be the best returner of all...
Pop pass, y'all. That's gonna be hard to stop.
Aaron Schatz: Fake read option, pull up and throw. So beautiful. Completely caught Sam Shields.
Tom Gower: How fitting that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would miss that tackle, though I believe he was on the other side of the field when Auburn got their touchdown off that play.
Justin Britt's had some rough moments, but through 18 minutes of the game Corey Linsley seems to have been playing pretty darn well for Green Bay. They used that one timeout in the and-goal situation, but other than that things seem to have proceeded smoothly enough for a first game in a hostile environment, and he's blocked well.
Ben Muth: The first Seattle touchdown was a great play, but Max Unger was 4 or 5 yards downfield when it happened. Ineligible man downfield has to be a point of emphasis as packaged plays become more prevalent, otherwise the offense/defense balance will be thrown off.
Mike Kurtz: Seattle really isn't getting much pressure on Aaron Rodgers, which in turn is allowing the Packers to stretch the defense vertically and open up a lot of passes underneath. It was working pretty well up until Rogers, as one commenter put it, turned into Bad Jay Cutler.
Cian Fahey: At halftime, it appears that the Packers have played about as well as they possibly could have on offense. They simply lack the offensive line talent, similar to how the Broncos did in the Super Bowl, to expose the Seahawks' run defense. Eddie Lacy has played well, but not getting much support upfront.
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Scott Kacsmar: Is Richard Sherman really good enough to not challenge him once? I like the concept of putting your worst wideout on him as long as your offense has multiple weapons, but it's still limiting your offense's range. I just think of his metrics from our charting and the part that looked the best was the fact that he wasn't being tested much. When he was targeted, it's not like he didn't give up plays. With a quarterback like Rodgers who can fit the ball in windows as small as anyone, I'm going to be really surprised if he doesn't go there at all tonight. I think that's too much respect for Sherman.
Cian Fahey: In short: Yes, he is.
Ben Muth: I know it's halftime of Week 1, but I think these are two really good teams. Green Bay's offensive line looks improved (I've really liked David Bakhtiari, and it seems like the Ohio State kid is a legit NFL player) and Seattle looks like a team that won the Super Bowl last year.
Tom Gower: Through two quarters of play, I'm looking forward to learning this season just how much of the first half is J.R. Sweezy and James Carpenter are that much better, and how much of it is Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk.
Vince Verhei: I may be in the minority, but I am not a fan of the wideout screen overdose the Seahawks suffered in the first half. I think two of those in a half is plenty. Felt like Seattle ran four or five.
It's funny, but I like Harvin a lot more as a runner than I do as a receiver.
Mike Kurtz: I think everyone does, Vince, but he would last about four weeks taking all his snaps in the backfield.
Aaron Schatz: A guy like Sherman is going to have not-spectacular charting stats (adjusted yards per pass and adjusted success rate) because quarterbacks only throw in his direction when they are very confident their guy is open. The lack of targets thrown in his direction does matter. Especially since it isn't like his charting stats are bad, or even average. 29th in Adjusted Success Rate last year, 8th the year before. A little worse than that in adjusted yards per pass.
Cian Fahey: @hawkeyegamefilm made a great point on Twitter: "Why football is hard to quantify: that INT by Rodgers was result of an off target throw, but if it were a worse throw it's an incompletion."
Aaron Schatz: Going around the edge against the Seahawks is really not working for the Packers' running game.
Tom Gower: I don't understand these toss plays to Lacy any more than I understood why Seattle keeps throwing the ball in the second half. The goal-line series before they kicked the field goal to make it 20-10, in particular.
Ben Muth: I think most of the tosses to Eddie Lacy are designed to hit between the tackles (this is known as the LSU special), but I agree with everyone that I still hate them. Just hand the ball off if you want to run it. When you have Aaron Rodgers the longer the defense thinks he might throw it, the better chance you have at running it.
You know what I said about the Packers OL? That doesn't include Derek Sherrod, who has been a catastrophe since replacing Bulaga.
Mike Kurtz: Catastrophe is not a strong enough word.
Scott Kacsmar: "Sherrod Charades as Protector" works as a headline. Absurdly tough spot to come in off the bench though. Bulaga just hasn't been able to stay healthy.
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Ben Muth: It's easy to bang on Sherrod and the Packers for not having a better third tackle than Sherrod, but there's like 60 guys who can play tackle at a competent level in the NFL. It's just hard to find them, so when you can get two of them you build your game plan around having two decent guys, then when one gets hurt, it's hard to adjust your pass pro schemes in the middle of the game and the new guy looks even worse than he is.
Aaron Schatz: I wonder if Sherrod was always this bad, or is the issue that the injuries sapped him of his talent... or perhaps that because he basically lost two years to injury, he never was really able to develop that talent past the potential the Packers saw when they took him in the first round.
Cian Fahey: By the sounds of it, Bulaga has a serious knee injury. That's probably the end of his career so Sherrod is going to get an extended look with Barclay also out for the year.
Scott Kacsmar: This is the complete opposite of what the NFL wants to hear, but it would have been better for Bulaga and the Packers if it was a concussion/head injury like Michaels originally suggested instead of another knee injury.
Tom Gower: Definitely a fair point by Ben. Seattle's plan tonight seems to have been to drop guys into coverage and never* blitz, so I understand why the Packers haven't and probably don't want to keep an extra guy in. Now, though, it seems like they have to, and they had enough trouble throwing the ball when they weren't down three scores in the fourth quarter.
Aaron Schatz: I dug out my PFW 2011 Draft Guide. They ranked Sherrod sixth among OT, behind Anthony Castonzo, Tyron Smith, Gabe Carimi (oops), Nate Solder, and pre-cancer diagnosis Marcus Cannon. Upside: "Excellent arm length... understands leverage and balance... fluid moving to the second level." Downsides: "underpowered lower body, will struggle with NFL power... struggles to cut off the wide rush... plays with a soft temperament and lacks the grit desired inside."
Rivers McCown: Feel like Eddie Lacy could run for 1000 yards behind a whole line of Sherrods.
Aaron Schatz: Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth keep mentioning the loss of B.J. Raji but A) he wasn't that great last year, and B) he wouldn't really help when the Seahawks run great plays that completely fool the Packers defense, like the fake jet sweep/screen to Marshawn Lynch or the play-action keeper bootleg by Wilson.
Cian Fahey: I'm trying to think how many players in the NFL can be used the way Harvin has been tonight. Aaron Hernandez would have been one, but for obvious reasons he doesn't count. Cordarrelle Patterson is another. I'm not sure there is a third.
Scott Kacsmar: Raji -- Hell, one of the interior lineman for Green Bay had excellent penetration on a play on this drive and the Seahawks still turned it into a positive gain. Raji's not making a difference tonight.
Tom Gower: After mentioning him at halftime, I feel obliged to note with the second half (or at least the first 26 minutes thereof) indicate that Brad Jones might really struggle that much this year.
Aaron Schatz: This game is going to be Darrell Bevell's audition reel when he interviews for head coaching jobs next year.
Vince Verhei: I understand why Harvin doesn't get more carries, but I like what they do with the fly sweeps and fakes more than the screen stuff.
I agree with Aaron about how great Bevell's game plan was. Between Bevell's design and Russell Wilson's decision making (which I don't think he gets enough credit for), it seemed like they had an answer for everything Green Bay tried.
RE: Sherman and charting stats: I think it's pretty clear that targets per snap played (or something similar) is the best way to measure cornerbacks statistically. You can give up 20 yards a play, if they only throw at you once a game, that's great.
As for Sherman (and Earl Thomas) here are two stats that tell you how well they played tonight:
- Playing against a top-level quarterback with a deep receiving corps, Sherman was targeted zero times in 36 passing plays.
- Five different Packers caught passes tonight. All of them averaged less than 10 yards per reception.
The best development for Seattle was how well James Carpenter and J.R. Sweezy played on the interior. It has been a long, long time since Seattle has gashed a defense with that kind of consistency on the ground.
The worst development for Seattle, of course, was the punt return unit. All that hype about competition at that position this summer, and we get THAT.