Stills: Mistakes are killing Packers

This might be hard for some of you to believe, but the game between the Packers and the Bengals should have been a blowout - in favor of Green Bay! The statistics between both teams were relatively equal, even after Brett Favre threw five interceptions. If you take away those turnovers the game could have easily been one-sided in Green Bay's favor.

Overall, the Packers played a solid football game. They ran and threw the ball effectively when done within the context of the offense. I did notice, however, some areas on an every-down basis in which the Packers must get better.

Linemen not getting to QB
Defensively, the Packers' base front is a 40 (four down lineman and three linebackers). They ran primarily a 40 front with what is called a 2-man coverage scheme. This coverage places two safeties deep in half-field coverage from the hash marks to the sidelines. Their responsibilities are to cover the deepest receiver in these zones. All the other defenders are in a man-to-man scheme with the offensive receivers and backs.

Green Bay was not able to put enough pressure on Carson Palmer with their four down lineman alone, thus giving Palmer plenty of time to throw the football to receivers working against one-on-one coverage. Cincinnati had success throwing the football as long as Green Bay stayed in this scheme. Eventually, Green Bay adjusted by playing more man free coverage (1 safety free) and straight man coverage, which allowed them to blitz and put more pressure on Palmer. When they did this, Cincinnati had a difficult time throwing the football.

Green Bay's front four must get better at applying pressure to the quarterback without the support of a blitz. It is too difficult for the secondary to stay in a man coverage scheme for an entire ball game.

Breaking down Favre's ‘picks'
The Packers had success moving the football within the context of the offensive scheme. Favre's interceptions were a result of his trying to make things happen, bad reads, and poor route running.

The first interception, off a tipped pass, was the result of a defensive lineman getting his hands on the ball.

The second interception was the result of a poor throw as Favre threw the ball flat and on a line when it should have been thrown with more air under the ball and to the receiver's outside shoulder. This would be the proper ball placement when throwing what is called a fade route. When thrown over the outside shoulder of the receiver, fading the receiver to the sidelines, it is very difficult for the defender to make a play on the ball. To Favre's benefit, there was a safety over the top and it could be that he was trying to throw the football on a line into what is called the window in coverage (behind the cornerback and under the safety). This would be a very difficult throw to make this close to the goal line as the receiver does not have much room to create the type of separation necessary to create this window.

The third interception was more the result of the receiver running a poor route. The route was a slant route and it was against man coverage. Based on what I saw in the film, the proper way for the receiver to run this route against man coverage would be for him to push the defender vertically up the field for at least three steps, forcing the defender into a back pedal, then breaking to the slant on a 45 degree angle. Driving the defender up field in this way creates much more separation between the receiver and the defender once he breaks to the slant. Since the receiver did not do this the defender was able to easily jump on his hip and undercut the ball, tipping it and creating an interception. Favre would have thrown this route knowing that the receiver has the advantage when running a slant route against man coverage.

The fourth interception was a ball that should not have been thrown as Favre tried to throw the ball deep, across his body while running to the left. It is extremely difficult, even with Brett Favre's arm strength, for a quarterback to get enough velocity on a ball to make this type of throw.

The fifth interception was a result of Favre not recognizing the coverage, a "Cover 3 Bail," which gives the cornerback a deep third zone responsibility. The coverage looks like a man press coverage as the cornerback lines up pressing the receiver but then turns and runs (bails) to his deep third coverage responsibility. Favre threw the fade route to the receiver thinking that he had man coverage when, in fact, the corner had deep third coverage. It was a simple interception for the defender as he was running to where Favre threw the ball.

Favre has to play within context of offense
The Packers are a better team than their record indicates. No team in the NFL can win consistently when it turns the ball over. In the NFL, the teams that win more football games than they lose typically have a positive take-away to turnover ratio. Additionally, a football game can not be won when one player tries to take the game upon his shoulders. Favre is a Hall of Fame quarterback who still possesses the skills to be among the top quarterbacks in the game. This year he is in great physical condition and his arm is still one of the strongest in the game. However, he needs to start relying more on the offensive weapons he has around him. Granted, there have been key players injured, but the Packers still have enough good players to pose a threat to any opponent. John Elway didn't win a Super Bowl until his last two years in the league but he did so by operating within the context of the offense. Statistically, he did not put up great numbers in those years but he did operate the offense efficiently and he utilized the skills of the players he had around him.

The West Coast offense is one that has multiple formations and operates with a principle of ball control. As long as the quarterback understands this principle it is a scheme that is very difficult to defend. Favre simply needs to get back to the basics relative to the principles of the offense as he has in the past, understanding ball control, and only taking the big play when it is given. As long as he does this, his Hall of Fame abilities will again become apparent to those who are now questioning his skills. Favre is the Green Bay Packers and he is human, just don't tell anyone!

This week's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field should be exciting. The Steelers are coming off a short week of practice, having played on Monday night, plus they have to travel to Green Bay. Combine that with their bang-up quarterback, and that's a good sign for Packer fans.

Defensively we must put pressure on their QB and force someone other than Ben Roethlisberger to beat us. The Steelers offense is ranked 23rd in the NFL while the Packers offense is 22nd. They do have the top-rated QB in the AFC in Roethlisberger. He doesn't throw a lot of passes, (only130 compared to Brett who has thrown 261), but when he does, he is very efficient. (11 TD'S/2 INTS).

Pittsburgh's running game has a potential Hall of Famer in Jerome Bettis. The Packers must rally to the football and cause some havoc.

The defense for the Steelers is awesome. They rank 9th in the league, and have only given up 95 points all season. The Packers must be proficient on offense. They have to play turnover-free and mistake-free football. If we do that, then we'll have a chance.

I believe in the team. Hey, eliminate the turnovers and play aggressive like they did last week and we will win this game.

Former safety Ken Stills played for the Green Bay Packers from 1985-89. He is currently an assistant coach with the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe.

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