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29 Sep 2017

Word of Muth: Packers Win Ugly

by Ben Muth

The Packers came from behind last Sunday to beat the Bengals in overtime. It was an ugly win by a heavily favored Green Bay team. The ugliest part of Green Bay's win was the pass blocking. They gave up six sacks and had another nullified because of a defensive holding in the secondary. It was not a dominant performance.

The biggest problem for Green Bay, and the problem that anyone with a set of eyes noticed, was the play of Kyle Murphy. Murphy was subbing for an injured David Bakhtiari at left tackle and played terribly. In fact, most of this column was going to be dedicated to all the different ways he got beat. But then I saw he was put on the IR this week and it seems unnecessary to beat him up too much. So we'll limit it to just a couple of miscues.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

This is really the best summary of Murphy's day. Carl Lawson (58) absolutely abused him in the passing game all day, and where Lawson won consistently was at the top of the rush. The top of the rush is when the defensive end feels like he has gotten far enough upfield and wants to bend it back inside to hit the quarterback. Here, Lawson wins with a massive club and just embarrasses Murphy (68).

Murphy's issue on this play -- well, the biggest issue -- is his feet. Look at how close his feet keep coming together. You can't play with any kind of balance if you're clicking your heels together. You have no base. In Murphy's defense, this was in the second half, and if I had had a first half like him, I might try clicking my heels together three times to see if I could go home too.

Murphy's play was troubling, but he was a backup lineman making his second start at left tackle. He gave up three sacks, but that still leaves another three to account for. If I were a Packers fan I wouldn't be that worried about what Murphy did (especially since he won't play again this year), I'd be worried about the other three sacks.

The good news is that two of the other sacks were coverage sacks where Aaron Rodgers ran out of bounds for a total loss of zero yards. The Packers offensive line could have been spared two sacks if Rodgers had decided to throw it out of bounds instead of stepping out; the yardage lost would've been the same. So it was really just four sacks.

So, despite the ugly looking six-sack total, the Green Bay offensive linemen who will play the rest of the year only gave up one sack.

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This is interesting play, because as a whole the offensive line gets their asses kicked, but no one really gets beaten like a drum individually. Murphy looks like he's going to get beat around the edge, so Rodgers steps up, but Murphy actually recovered OK and might have been fine if Rodgers wasn't justifiably nervous early in the play. At left guard, Justin McCray (64) whiffs terribly, but he can be aggressive because he knows he has help inside. Unfortunately, Corey Linsley (63) doesn't do a good job and gets shoved back into the pocket -- not a ton, but with Rodgers stepping up, Linsley ends up right in his lap. The right side of line -- Jahri Evans (73) and Bryan Bulaga (75) -- get beat on a twist, but if Rodgers could have faded back, he might have been able to avoid this pressure and escaped the pocket.

The end result is an absolute mess where Rodgers had no chance, but the individual parts were just a bunch of mediocre to pretty poor blocks. Nothing as bad as Murphy in the first GIF of this article, but it shows how five "C-" blocks can be just as bad if not worse than one "F" block.

One thing that seemed to hurt the Packers offense as a whole was some miscommunication up front. They have already been dealing with some injuries, and it looks like it's affecting them in both the passing and running game.

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This looks like another screwup by Murphy, but I'm not sure that's the case. It's some type of full slide protection, but because football is complicated, full slide doesn't mean that everyone always slides. My bet is that tight end Martellus Bennett (80) is supposed to slide with the line and leave the edge guy for running back Ty Montgomery (88). Murphy just tries to recover for his blown assignment late.

But I've also been on teams where we have slide protections where the tight end is manned with the end man on the line and the running back is responsible for any defensive back pressure off the edge. If that's the case, Murphy has to carry the slanting rusher across his face.

Again, someone screwed up here and I couldn't tell you who. I've been in meetings where a coach (who knows the play call) is cursing out a guy for screwing up the assignment, then gets told what a line call on the field was, and has to curse at a different guy because he was the one who really screwed up. So we won't ever know who specifically is to blame for this particular play, but I do know there was too much of this for Green Bay this past Sunday, and no matter who is playing tackle moving forward, they have to get this part fixed.

It really was an ugly game for Green Bay up front. We've focused on the passing game, but Montgomery carried 12 times for 35 yards, so the running game wasn't much better. But Green Bay did get a win, so it wasn't all bad. So let's end on a good play.

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I know a play where the Bengals get a free rusher doesn't seem like the best example of great blocking, but it is here. The Packers are going with a scat protection, which means that only the five offensive linemen are blocking. They see the inside linebackers -- Kevin Minter (51) and Shawn Williams (36, a safety who lined up at linebacker on this play) walking up late to blitz and squeeze the protection. Everyone steps inside and takes the most dangerous rushers.

That leaves the two edge rushers unblocked. Carlos Dunlap (96) peels off in man coverage, so that just leaves Nick Vigil (59) for Rodgers to beat. Rodgers just runs away from him. This is what happens when a quarterback and his offensive line are on the same page. Unblocked rushers aren't a big deal. The defense could literally have one on every single play. As long as the quarterback knows who is and is not accounted for, he can beat free blitzers all day with movement or getting the ball out quickly. If your quarterback knows what he's doing, he's actually hoping for these zero blitzes, because they lead to big plays and touchdowns.

Posted by: Ben Muth on 29 Sep 2017

6 comments, Last at 02 Oct 2017, 8:35am by big10freak


by SFC B :: Fri, 09/29/2017 - 2:33pm

The "Click heels three times" would make this column a win regardless. But, as usual, Mr. Muth is just a joy to read.

by Guest789 :: Fri, 09/29/2017 - 2:37pm

Aw, I was hoping Ben would have time to take a quick look at last night's game too - Lane Taylor in particular seemed to play great at LT for someone who had played literally one snap at tackle in his life. But I get that this column was probably in the pipe yesterday. Hopefully you can get another look when Bahktiari and Bulaga are back.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 09/29/2017 - 4:39pm

The precision with which Pro Football Focus pretends to score offensive linemen is really ridiculous, and they would garner more tespect if they would acknowledge some of the issues outlined by Ben, and go to a different grading system.

by justanothersteve :: Fri, 09/29/2017 - 7:02pm

Thanks for this and pointing out that Rodgers sack numbers aren't quite as bad as they seem. Murphy was a sixth round pick and I don't think the Packers ever planned for him to be anything more than a utility rotational lineman. Last night, they literally played four guards and a center for their OL as both starters are hurt and now all three backups (Barclay and Spriggs being the other two) are on IR. Last night's RT, Justin McCray, wasn't even on a taxi squad roster last year. LG Lane Taylor played his first game ever at LT last night.

James Campen does a great job coaching these guys and deserves a ton of the credit. Tackles David Bakhtiari and Chad Clifton, Guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang, and Center Scott Wells have all made the Pro Bowl under his tutelage. (I won't touch the Jeff Saturday embarrassment.) Several other OL including Allen Barbre, JC Tretter, Marshall Newhouse, and Daryn Colledge have had decent careers after starting in Green Bay. Campen deserves a lot of credit for keeping Rodgers healthy despite his tendency to extend the play.

by ammek :: Sat, 09/30/2017 - 1:26pm

Especially as McCarthy's playbook rarely allows for extra blockers, and (accordingly) the Packers have stopped expecting much of their RBs and TEs in pass protection.

I don't know if it's the same for other teams but, as well as Campen's starters have played, the swing tackle has been a liability for years and years. I guess reps must be extra important on this unit, for some reason.

by big10freak :: Mon, 10/02/2017 - 8:35am

I am sure it was a matter of timing but reviewing how GB's completely patched together line of guards and a center against a decent Bears defense would have been (for me at least) much more interesting.