After three days of ugly football, we were finally treated to some good games yesterday. It was a treat particularly because Jets fans have not been exposed to much quality football this season. While this is not a comprehensive breakdown of the games, I wanted to share some things I liked about these games.
Aaron Rodgers' control of the game
You always hear about how a great quarterback can lift a team. It's true, but you don't always hear people talk about concrete examples so I wanted to share a play that provides an example.
Here Randall Cobb is coming around to fake an end around.
Cobb is going to continue to eventually catch a pass in the flat, but he is given room to run because of the way Rodgers toys with the defense.
Rodgers keeps his eyes in the middle of the field to hold the defender in the zone away from the flat where Cobb will eventually be catching the ball.
Cobb ends up with a lot of daylight in front of him and picks up 8 yards.
So frequently discussion about quarterbacks treats them as a victim of circumstance. One guy is having success because his receivers are good. Another guy isn't because his surroundings stink. The quarterbacks at the top of the league are there because they make their teams better. They set their offense up to succeed. They create openings for their receivers. Nobody is doing that better than Rodgers right now.
Ty Montgomery's running
I'm not going to pretend Ty Montgomery is an elite back. I'm also not going to pretend the Packers are winning the game because of how they run it. I just told you above the quarterback position trumps all. With that said, it certainly helps to at least have the threat of a run game, and Montgomery helped provide that with 47 yards on 11 carries and a pair of touchdowns.
If you aren't familiar with Montgomery's story, he began the season as a wide receiver but ended up getting running back snaps because injuries so depleted the Packers at the position. It is kind of funny to see a running back wearing number 88.
Now it wouldn't be accurate to say Montgomery was a pure receiver. Even at college, he was utilized as a hybrid, doing some running back things.
In the NFL, traditional position labels matter less and less. Playmakers are lining up everywhere.
You see receiver types line up in the backfield and take handoff. What separates Montgomery from a lot of these guys is how he runs like a back. Guys like Percy Harvin and Montgomery's teammate Randall Cobb get carries as running backs, but they aren't physical runners. They are finesse receivers who don't run through arm tackles that well. Frequently they'll try to bounce things outside.
Montgomery has shown some ability to run with authority and grind out a few extra yards after contact.
Being able to punch it in near the goal line is critical.
This isn't the sexiest run you'll ever see, but grinding out 3.5 extra yards after contact keeps the offense on schedule and provides more options in the playbook.
Kansas City's creativity
It didn't really have an impact on the game, but I loved the creativity of this Wildcat call from the Chiefs in the second game.
So frequently in Wildcat situations the offense telegraphs that the Wildcat is coming, allowing the defense to load up the box with defenders. They see the running back is lined up in the shotgun, and the quarterback trots out to a receiver spot. On this play, the Chiefs lined up with Alex Smith at quarterback and Spencer Ware at tailback in their normal positions. Then they quickly flipped.
Because of this deception, the Steelers end up with seven defenders near the play against eight Chiefs who could either block or get the ball.
They have limited time to identify the Wildcat, determine whether Ware or Tyreek Hill is getting the ball, and make a play. There has been talk of the Jets potentially bringing in somebody from the Chiefs coaching staff as offensive coordinator. If they get somebody with this type of creativity, it would be a plus.
The Steelers Containing Tyreek Hill
Hill was probably the gamebreaking newcomer of the year in the NFL, but he was bottled up, not generating a play of more than 10 yards from scrimmage or a return longer than 21 yards.
It sometimes take a village to keep a playmaker like this in check.
Look on this play how 28 Sean Davis gets off a block to force Hill outside.
No, he doesn't make the tackle. Yes, Hill picks up 8 yards. Yes, it is a successful play for the Chiefs. No, it isn't a great block he had to beat.
Here's the bottom line. We saw with the Jets plenty of instances where a defensive back was lazy fighting off a fairly soft block attempt. Because Davis got off this block, Hill had to bounce the run outside. This caused him to slow down. The most dangerous thing is Hill going full speed ahead in a straight line. He usually is in the end zone before you catch him. This play might have been a loss for Pittsburgh giving up 8 yards, but it is the type of loss you can recover from. Hill going the distance isn't. To use an old expression, even when the Steelers couldn't stop Hill, they contained him.
Aaron Rodgers' heroics
Aaron Rodgers ➡️ Jared Cook— NFL UK (@NFLUK) January 16, 2017
Play of the season?
This is INCREDIBLE by the @packers!#GoPackGo#NFLPlayoffs https://t.co/f1ORYJWTyU
We started with Rodgers, but mentioning him once isn't enough. He is on a ridiculous roll right now. His 36 yard throw to Jared Cook to set up the game-winning field goal is one of the most incredible plays you will ever see. If it was the Super Bowl, that play would be up there in the pantheon next to David Tyree's helmet catch.
The play itself was superhuman, but it apparently was more incredible than we realized. This wasn't in the Green Bay playbook. Rodgers apparently drew it up in the dirt right before they ran it like he was in a schoolyard game.
Cobb said the final play was not an actual playcall. Rodgers just told each receiver what to do, like a kid drawing in the dirt. Seriously.— Robert Klemko (@RobertKlemko) January 16, 2017
When you're great, you're great. Calling Rodgers great right now might be an understatement.