ReFo: Cardinals @ Packers, Week 9
On paper, this looked easy. A team struggling to generate any offense that’d just been embarrassed by a division foe at home on Monday night, going into Lambeau field to face, arguably, the hottest quarterback on the planet. Not before a fair share of injuries, a significant benching, and four more Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes did we get the result that we expected.
So let’s find out who made their mark on this game, good and bad.
Arizona – Three Performances of Note
Batiste Finally Benched
Here at PFF, left tackle D’Anthony Batiste has graded out as the worst offensive tackle so far this season, distantly followed by teammate Bobby Massie in those rankings. After 19 snaps and credited for allowing a hurry, Batiste was pulled in favor of seventh-round rookie, Nate Potter. Imagine playing one snap in the NFL and being asked to go contain Clay Matthews — that was the situation Potter was put into on Sunday. Matthews ended up not playing much of the second half, due to a hamstring pull, but Potter (-3.1) struggled to gain his footing in this one. In allowing one hit and five hurries, Potter showed ability to limit sacks and hits on his quarterback, but not hurries. With the Cardinals going into the bye, Potter will likely get a lot of work in practice before getting a chance to hold down the left tackle position. He has to be an improvement over Batiste.
Another Rookie Seeing Snaps
Early in the game, it was the same three wide receiver sets for the Cardinals, as Early Doucet (-3.0) would come into the slot, an indication that rookie Michael Floyd was still running as the fourth wide receiver. However, Doucet quickly changed Ken Whisenhunt’s mind, dropping balls on three out of his four targets, including at least two that would have picked up first downs, extended drives, and kept Rodgers off the field. Doucet saw very little time in the second half, and Floyd (+1.5) made the most of his opportunities. Working on primarily Davon House, Floyd caught four of five targets he saw against the Packers’ third cornerback, including an impressive 37-yarder when the Cardinals were in comeback mode. Floyd’s opportunities over the rest of the season will come at the expense of Doucet, with Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts locked in as the top two wide receivers, but the needle for the talented rookie is finally pointing in the right direction.
Is ‘Hyphen’ Legit?
At 5’7”, LaRod Stephen-Howling has Ray Rice-Doug Martin height, but at 180 pounds, he is vastly undersized. His rushing numbers from this game are slightly misleading as the only lineman who had a positive run blocking grade was the aforementioned D’Anthony Batiste, who left the game early. Stephen-Howling (+2.1) ran incredibly hard, working to get in the small spaces between the linemen and driving the pile forward. Out of his 51 yards gained on the ground, 39 came after contact, an indication that while he is by no means a bruising back, he doesn’t go down easily and has shown some ability to run between the tackles. Still, the Cardinals ran nine rushing plays to ‘Hyphen’ either around the left end or right end. With the Cardinals’ coaching staff showing no faith in William Powell (three snaps), it will be interesting to see the diminutive backs’ role with Beanie Wells eligible to return in Week 12.
Green Bay – Three Performances of Note
Season High in Rushing Yards
When right tackle Bryan Bulaga was forced from the game in the second quarter with a hip ailment, Evan Dietrich-Smith came into the game at left guard, and kicked T.J. Lang out to right tackle. Behind right guard Josh Sitton (+3.9) and Lang (+4.6), a committee attack of James Starks and Alex Green, sprinkled in with some Randall Cobb, gashed the Arizona run defense. Starks gained just 5 of 61 yards running anywhere other than to the right; Green didn’t run to the right as often as Starks, but still had success running that way. Additionally, Cobb took a toss right for a first down, and picked up another first down on a run right behind Sitton. Along with their pass protection, the Packers’ ground game has been their Achilles heals so far this season. If the solid play of the line continues, opposing defenses will be stuck in an unfortunate position of deciding which part of the Packers’ offense to try take away.
Brad Jones Stepping in at ILB
The Packers have been ravaged by injuries on the defensive side of the ball this season. At linebacker, they have lost Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith for the season, with Nick Perry and most recently Clay Matthews being nicked up. Enter Brad Jones (+2.5), who has played every defensive snap for the Packers over the past three games. Jones won’t have been on many fans’ radar as an inside linebacker at the start of training camp. The combination of Bishop, Smith, and A.J. Hawk would surely see them through the season. With the Cardinals offensive line unable to get to the second level and stop Jones, he was free to take on fullback Anthony Sherman in blocks, or stack up Stephens-Howling. He finished with three defensive stops, tops for any Packer, as well as performing well when he dropped into coverage. Although he allowed a 22-yard pass play to Rob Housler, Hawk bears a good deal of responsibility for the play.
Jordy Nelson, fresh off of missing a week with a hamstring injury, had to exit the game early after turning his ankle on the second drive. Like the previous week, Cobb joined James Jones in two wide receiver sets, but with Greg Jennings still out, three wide receiver sets were shared by Jarrett Boykin (24 snaps) and Donald Driver (27 snaps). Both only saw two targets and had very little impact on the game, besides Driver’s excellent blocking on Cobb’s wide-receiver screen that resulted in a touchdown. The effectiveness of the run game, the lack of Nelson to spread the field, as well as the five drops by Packer receivers resulted in a less efficient than we’re used to seeing with Rodgers, but he still remained deadly when he needed to be.
– John Skelton was a shocking 15 for 34, with 176 yards, an interception, and two sacks on plays where he wasn’t blitzed
– To go with his two touchdowns and three drops on offense, Cobb also added a +2.3 combined grade for his returning this week.
– Jermichael Finley had his fifth consecutive negatively graded game
PFF Game Ball
Cobb produced 202 all purpose yards and two touchdowns on 12 touches, giving the Packers great field position all day, but the run blocking duo of T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton took advantage of a Cardinals front that was expecting the pass all day.