Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

17 Nov 2011

Is There a Game Plan to Limit Rodgers, Packers?

Matt Bowen takes a brief look at the pros and cons of various coverage schemes against Aaron Rodgers and the enviable amount of quality receivers that Green Bay has.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 17 Nov 2011

26 comments, Last at 22 Nov 2011, 7:42pm by BaronFoobarstein


by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 12:56pm

Given that the Packers' abilities are dependent on cheese, I'd suggest using some mice.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 1:48pm

This is not complex. It's a matter of having the right folks to make it work. Like Chicago. The Bears go toe to toe with GB because of their d-line and Urlacher.

Have not seen enough of the 49ers to know if they can duplicate the Bears. But from what I understand the SF defense could be comparable.

Forcing Rodgers and McCarthy to be patient and run the ball is the way to go. GB CAN run the ball. Just that Mike does just enough to keep folks honest versus making it a focal point of the offense within a game.

by Passing Through (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 7:18pm

The niners were gashed by romo, vick, and manning. When the team has to take on the belt-holder, we're going down.

Basically we have one good cb (rodgers), one consistent safety (whitner), and a decent but inconsistent pass rush. If we can't get to the qb, our weaker corners will be picked on.

by Marko :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 2:11pm

I think we will see the Lions attempt another game plan on Thanksgiving: Knock out the QB. I think Suh, Fairley and Co. will go full-Charles Martin on Rodgers.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 4:11pm


I wonder how much the refs will allow?

by Will Allen :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 10:51am

The Lions should pray to get the same crew that allowed Sanchez to take helmet shots when the ball was 20 yards out of Sanchez' hands last night, without a flag thrown. I couldn't believe it. Why is it so damned hard for these guys to find the right balance between ridiculous overprotection, and allowing a ridiculous mugging?

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 11/22/2011 - 7:42pm

I think part of it is that crews differ on what they consider the "right balance" and some of it is reputation of the involved players.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 2:32pm

I'm expecting Tampa to deploy their "Get utterly destroyed early and wait for the backups to come in" game plan this weekend. Very innovative.

by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 4:10pm

If you read anything about McCarthy's philosophy for game planning it is all about finding the right matchup (man to man), not necessarily about the play working against a specific defense (eg. quick slant vs. zone, etc.). This is all predicated on Rodgers' ability to read what the matchup will be prior to or immediately after the snap. If you can disguise and fool Rodgers then get pressure I think the pack is in trouble. That is when they start giving up sacks and moving backwards on offense. A good 4-5 man rush and some disguised coverage packages can beat the Pack passing game. Should be interesting to see the Lions game on T-day, I think they have some of those qualities.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 4:13pm

Multiple folks have analyzed Rodgers against teams that rush more than four guys. He kills that approach. As in completions, longer pass plays, scoring you name the metric.

Teams that go after with more 4 guys fail the vast majorit of the time.

The Bears have the formula. It's whether you can execute it.

by QQ (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 4:35pm

Assuming you don't have an insanely good Defense that can Generate Pressure with 4 (2002 TB), I would be tempted to play a 2-1-8 or whatever ridiculous amount of DBs it would require for GB to literally to choose to run the ball every play. I am not convinced that GB would be patient enough to run a 16 Play Drive of nothing but 5 Yards Runs or if they could do so without ever generating a Holding Penalty

by tuluse :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 4:46pm

While this sounds interesting in theory, I think that most team's 7thand 8th DBs are probably actually worse in coverage then their 2nd and 3rd linebackers, and probably less effective at stopping the pass than their starting d-line.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 7:16pm

But if you drop enough of your LBs into coverage, you can probably smother Finley, and cover enough Holes in Zone to give your lesser DBs a chance.

by ppabich :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 12:07am

The Packers could run on a 2-1 front. That's just stupid for a defensive team to do. 3 men in the box? really. The packers offense is so good at exploiting match-ups that it's hard to believe the match up wouldn't be a lot of 44 right.

by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 4:46pm

Cover-2 is probably the best way just because it shortens the game, and is probably the best way of forcing FGs instead of TDs, which is probably the best way of beating GB. They can drive and drive, but if you limit the TDs and force them to get 3, your offense has a shot. Their offense is great, but any offense that is forced to take field goals has the potential to be handled.

I haven't watched many of their games, but I'll be interested to see what he does against a 3-4 team. The Saints are the only team but they played a lot of 3-3-5 or 4-2-5 in the opener. The Chargers are the other one, but I don't think their defense is any good. They actually only have one other game against a 3-4 (The Chiefs), so I'll be interested to see what happens if they get to play the 49ers.

by Schrute Farmer (not verified) :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 4:47pm

The Bears have the formula. And they also have Urlacher, who has the last two interceptions off of Rodgers that weren't passes tipped by his own receivers. Rodgers has thrown the ball, both times, RIGHT to Urlacher, having not seen him at all.

The Bears don't have the personnel to lock Rodgers down, but they're closest to doing so.

by ppabich :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 6:13pm

When opposing teams speak about the Packers offense after the game, they describe the Packers execution. D.J. Williams described the Packers as not better than the past Pats and Colts team in terms of talent or scheme, but that the Packers were better at execution.

That leads me to the Bears. They don't do anything more funky than sugaring the A gaps with their linebackers. The Tampa 2 is about execution, and there is no better execution defensive team than the Bears.

Teams that like to dial up blitzes tend to be foiled by how good Rodgers is at snap faking. Rodgers gets so many defenses to show their hand by the snap fake, then he changes the play or protection and gets the ball out. Overaggressiveness can be a major problem for a defense.

You cannot use too many DBs because the Packers can run. They are not exceptional, but they just don't do it much. The right side of the line can run block fairly effectively.

The Bears based on their discipline and familiarity with the Packers, have the best shot. The 49ers are also fairly basic, while being extremely talented, so they have a chance. But the Bears are definitely where you start.

by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 11/17/2011 - 7:43pm

If you limit it to the NFC I think the Bears have the best shot, or the Giants if their d-line has a Super Bowl XLII type performance.

I think teh Ravens have a good shot if they make it to the Super Bowl to slow down the Packers offense. I just don't know if their own offense is good enough to put up enough to win a 27-24 type game.

by ppabich :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 12:10am

I haven't seen enough of the Ravens to say for sure. I know they run a lot of 4-3 with Suggs' hand on the ground, and they generate pressure from 4. However do they have the horses in the back to stop 5 wide, i'm not sure you can expect Ray Lewis to cover like Urlacher still can.

by andrew :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 6:56pm

In Madden I audible to "Punt block" and rush 11.

by Jim Z. (not verified) :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 1:31pm

To everyone who is talking about the Bears being the team to slow down Rodgers:

Did you actually watch the game they played IN Soldier Field already this year? Rodgers wasn't fazed by the Bears defense at all.

by dmstorm22 :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 3:22pm

It was his lowerst y/a and lowest passer rating of the year.

by jim Z. (not verified) :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 4:38pm

Bragging about holding Rodgers to "only" 3 TDs is like bragging about being the smartest guy at the Special Olympics.

The fact of the matter is that the Bears had an opportunity to stop Rodgers and were nothing more than a speed bump. I don't see how anyone can think that hte Bears' defense can stand a chance in a playoff rematch, especially now that we know that the Bears will not have any home games in the playoffs.

by tuluse :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 10:20pm

It seems odd to me to visit a forum dedicated to discussion about football and assume the opinion that one holds is the only opinion in the universe that makes any sense for another person to have.

by Andrew Potter :: Sun, 11/20/2011 - 2:33pm

Odd, but alas not atypical.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Sun, 11/20/2011 - 9:49pm

Well, apparently if you manage to put the Packers in a situation where they don't feel like any of their 40 receivers or (I dunno, 6?) running backs are the correct option, they'll just have BJ Raji score the touchdown. Seriously, this is getting silly. What is that, 12 different players who have gotten into the end zone this season, just on the offensive side of the ball?