4 Downs: Packers' opening drive again follows strong script
Every week I’ll share four observations the day after the Green Bay Packers' game. Here they are after the Packers’ 30-17 loss to Detroit on Monday night.
It’s too bad Mike McCarthy can’t script an entire game. In both of Brett Hundley’s starts, the Packers have had a good opening drive. Two weeks ago against New Orleans, Hundley took the offense 75 yards on six plays for a touchdown that put the Packers up 7-0. Then on Monday night against Detroit, McCarthy won the coin toss, took the ball and orchestrated play calls that helped Hundley methodically move the ball from the Packers’ 22 to the Lions’ 20 in 14 plays. By my count, McCarthy never used the same personnel groupings on back-to-back plays that entire drive and used at least seven different combinations of skill-position players. The drive was effective in chewing up clock and moving the ball, though it ended up producing nothing because it stalled at the Lions’ 20, and a terrible snap by new long snapper Derek Hart contributed to A’Shawn Robinson blocking Mason Crosby’s 38-yard field-goal attempt.
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PACKERS INSIDER:Thumbs down to the defense
Until Morgan Burnett left the game in the second half because of a groin injury, defensive coordinator Dom Capers used his “Sooner” defense more than he had in any game this season. The Sooner is essentially his base 3-4 personnel but with Burnett instead of Jake Ryan as the inside linebacker paired with Blake Martinez. Capers used it when Detroit went with two tight ends, so the Lions’ tendency must have been to run out of that set. The three true defensive linemen are in there to play the run. But with Burnett at linebacker instead of the 240-pound Ryan, Capers was hoping to match up better with Lions tight end Eric Ebron just in case they threw.
Give special-teams coordinator Ron Zook and his field-goal unit credit for coming through in a tough spot at the end of the first half Monday night. With no timeouts left, Hundley completed a short pass over the middle with just under 10 seconds remaining in the half. The ball was at the Lions’ 17, so the Packers were in position for a 35-yard field-goal attempt. But the field-goal team had to get on the field fast, get set for a full second, then snap and kick the ball. The group scurried into position, Hart got the snap off with a second or two left, put it on the money, and Crosby made the kick. Maybe they’ll face the same circumstances later this season with a game on the line.
Vince Biegel made his NFL debut Monday night and played a handful of snaps at outside linebacker as well as on special teams. Biegel just came off the PUP list after being out since May because of a broken foot, and after such a long layoff with a rookie, the Packers usually seem to bring him back super slowly. But it speaks volumes of the Packers’ search for help with their pass rush that they didn’t just break Biegel in with a few snaps on special teams. He rotated in occasionally at outside linebacker and ended up on the stat sheet with two tackles. Can’t say I noticed him as a pass rusher, though you have to think Capers will give him more playing time in the next few weeks to see if Biegel can add anything to the pass rush as he gets in better game shape.