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It Had To Happen Sometime

by: John Linn

The Packers (9-5) lost a heartbreaking game to the Steelers (7-7) on Sunday afternoon on a last play TD from Ben Rothelisberger. A game that had Rodgers passing for almost 400 yards and Big Ben passing for over 500 ended as excitingly as possible. A last play catch by Mike Wallace leaning out of the corner of the end zone that was eerily similar to the catch made in the Super Bowl by Santonio Holmes ended it and ended the Packers 5 game win streak and the Steelers 5 game losing streak.

Game Review: Aaron Rodgers was on his game all night. Too bad his receivers weren’t. Pass after pass was dropped by the receiving core early on and they looked completely lost on many plays. An 83-yard catch and run by Jennings gave the Pack a tie game after the Steelers scored on their first play (a bomb to Mike Wallace), but the receivers again dropped passes. Even though there multiple drops, however, the receivers carried the bulk of the offensive load (including Rodgers) as the ground game was nearly non-existent except for Ryan Grant’s 24-yard TD scamper. Rodgers also looked strong in the pocket and stood in there. He took some punishing hits, but only one sack.

The defense harassed Big Ben to no end, especially Clay Matthews who broke the Packers rookie single season sack record. Matthews had 2 and so did Brad Jones. However, Rothelisberger showed his poise and ability to make things happen as he danced around a lot and ended up winning the game. The Steelers too went away from the run game as Rashard Mendenhall ended with only 38 yards. However, with Big Ben’s 503-yard passing game it was hardly necessary.

The final drive was really the death of the Packers (aside from the Mason Crosby missed field goal…again). The linebackers swarmed the pocket numerous times but the coverage failed, badly allowing receivers to break free underneath and get yards after the catch. The game looked to be over, but the secondary and cover linebackers (namely the poor game by Brandon Chillar) failed at the end. Josh Bell could not even really be faulted much for his coverage on the final touchdown. It is almost impossible to defend that pass.

What I Saw:
-If not for the drops early on Rodgers would have had almost as many yards as Rothelisberger. To start he went something like 2-8 but for somewhere over 90 yards.
-Going off that the Packers relied to heavily on the big play, such as the ones by Jennings and Driver.
-Finley had another huge game. The receivers have no one to blame but themselves for that either with those drops.
-McCarthy saw something in the passing game matchups that he liked because Grant and running game was barely used. Rodgers did however have a rushing TD.
-Woodson did not necessarily have a bad game, but was called for a few penalties early on that hurt
-Chillar did not look strong in the cover linebacker job at all
-The secondary faltered at the end, especially in the underneath routes followed by huge gains at the end.
-Nick Barnett had a slightly gruesome looking knee bend, but returned, it was frightening for a bit though
-The Packers are relying to heavily on the turnover, as they did not have one in this game and it cost them.
-This was the first game all season without a take away
-Crosby missed…again, this is becoming a bad theme and yet nothing has been done except for a change in holders
-The Steelers tried an onside kick late in the 4th that could have won the game, but it was a poor call and showed that Mike Tomlin had little faith in his defense, but the Packers got the ball anyway as the Steelers touched it to early

Ratings (out of 5):
QB: 4.5. Great game by Rodgers rushing and passing. He looked sharp all game long.

Receivers: 3. They should be rated lower but the provided much of the offense, namely with big plays from Jennings and Driver, and TDs also from Finley and Jones. Finley had an amazing game.

Running Backs: 3. Hard to grade someone who wasn’t used much, but Grant’s TD run was very good and he looked strong.

O-Line: 4.5. Rodgers appeared to have plenty of time to throw and they made sure he looked strong in the pocket. Clifton got a little banged up though.

D-Line: 4. Great game by the line by all means, they helped put pressure on Rothelisberger and hold the Steelers to minimal rushing yards.

Linebackers: 4. Clay Matthews and Brad Jones were phenomenal. However AJ Hawk had problems covering Heath Miller all game and Brandon Chillar got called more than once for holding or interfering.

Secondary: 2.5. Woodson was called a lot early on, though his physical style is always dangerous and could be called. Bush got beat over and over, like usual. Bigby got beat on a few as well. The secondary couldn’t keep their guys in front of them at the beginning and got way to far behind them at the end.

Special Teams: 2.5. There weren’t any huge returns or anything but Crosby missed again which brought down the whole special teams. Kapinos looked average on his punts. Nelson didn’t get much on returns. Also, on the onside kick if the ball had gone one more yard the Steelers would have recovered it and it wouldn’t have been a penalty, the Packers looked like they weren’t close to recovering it.

Coaching: 3. Nothing bad happened in terms of coaching, except for Crosby still failing. However, a change was made in using Kapinos as a holder, which is a change, so they are at least trying something.

Team as a whole: 4. The team actually played very well and what must be remembered is that team was essentially the same team that won the Super Bowl last year and the Packers played them close until the end.

MVP: Aaron Rodgers. Ben Rothelisberger gets the MVP for the game but Rodgers does for the Packers. He played outstanding, even with his receivers not playing to the best of their ability.

Final Thoughts: This was the game to lose. This isn’t an NFC opponent so it doesn’t hurt in that regard. Statistics say its better not to ride in a high streak. It’s also just better because you’ll be setting yourself up for a fall when you can’t lose. The Packers are still fully in the playoff picture so don’t worry sports fans.

Packers Mix blog featured writers John Linn, Zach Letter
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