4 Downs With Dougherty: Too many big drops

Pete Dougherty
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Every week I’ll share four observations from the Packers' game the previous day. Here they are after the Packers’ 23-16 win over the Giants on Sunday night.

First down: The Packers moved the ball (406 yards total offense) but put up only 23 points in part because of some especially big dropped passes. Jordy Nelson had two — one in the red zone that caromed off his hand and was intercepted, taking points off the board; the other on a deep crossing route in the third quarter that would have been a nice gain. Randall Cobb had a drop on a third down that would have kept a drive alive by converting a third-and-long; Richard Rodgers dropped a tough but catchable ball while sliding in the end zone that cost the Packers four points; and James Starks dropped a screen pass that looked like it would have gone for a nice gain. This is not a quick-strike offense, so its receivers have to make the plays that are there.

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Second down: The Packers’ decision not to sign running back C.J. Spiller a couple weeks ago is looking more and more like a mistake. The team lacks speed on offense and doesn’t have a third-down back who offers any kind of dynamic quality. Spiller is 29 and doesn’t run in the 4.3s like he did coming out of college, but he would have been the fastest back on the roster. General manager Ted Thompson had Spiller in for a workout a couple weeks ago but didn’t sign him. Spiller now is unavailable because he soon thereafter signed with the Seattle Seahawks.

Third down: The Packers’ defense is showing it can play well even when hit by injuries. Coordinator Dom Capers’ crew gave up only 219 yards to the Giants despite playing without starting cornerbacks Sam Shields (concussion) and Damarious Randall (groin). Capers mixed and matched personnel to make it work. In the nickel, Micah Hyde played the slot, with Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter remaining as outside cornerbacks. Then in the dime, instead of using undrafted rookie cornerback Josh Hawkins as his fourth cornerback, Capers moved safety Morgan Burnett to the slot and replaced him at safety with undrafted rookie Kentrell Brice. It worked. The Packers held Eli Manning to 199 yards passing and a 78.2 rating. Also, though the Packers had a tough time with gifted receiver Odell Beckham early, he ended up with only five catches on 12 targets and an 11.2-yard average.

Fourth down: The Packers’ offense showed the same spotty tendencies it’s had for a year now, but it did come through with the game on the line. The Packers were up by a touchdown and needed a final first down with 2½ minutes to play to kill off the clock. Facing a third-and-10, Cobb beat cornerback Trevin Wade on an out route and picked up 13 yards on a pass from Aaron Rodgers to seal the game. For everyone who criticizes coach Mike McCarthy for being too conservative, he didn’t play it safe there. An incompletion would have given the Giants a free timeout and more than two minutes to try to tie the game.

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