Gray: Adjustments pay off

Former Packers safety Johnnie Gray assesses how the changes on offense and defense helped the Green Bay Packers beat the San Francisco 49ers.

Doesn't it feel good to be on the winning side again? The Packers did almost what they had in mind, but eventually followed through with it. The word was that Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila would be replaced on running downs yet was out there when running back Frank Gore took off to his side for a 72-yard run. The defense made an immediate change with Cullen Jenkins and Corey Williams and that was the last we saw of the 49ers running game. It seemed that KGB had more energy when he played only in on passing downs, and hopefully it will make him more effective.

So just when rumors were starting to fly about defensive coordinator Bob Sanders possibly losing his job at seasons end, he comes up with a perfectly executed defensive game plan. The one phrase that intrigued me the most was how he was going to utilize players' abilities and give more players an opportunity over these last few games. In other words, he was going to put players in a position that would challenge their skills. It worked with the adjustment at the end position. In the Cover 2 defense with the safeties split, A.J. Hawk flew down the field with Vernon Davis, a first round pick, with great speed and had his first pick of the year. The only time you can run the Cover 2 successfully is when you have a linebacker that can run like the wind, or you're facing an offense that doesn't have a deep threat tight end. I hope that Sunday was not a tease of how well these guys can play the zone defenses, or maybe this is the start of what we have been waiting for.

Some of the other moves I liked were the one-back sets in kickoff returns. Only one person has to make the decision back there so there's no hesitation. Devon Hester of the Chicago Bears, Donte Stallworth of the Chiefs, or any successful return man knows that the seam will be closed with each second lost to hesitation. The three-back set on offense was somewhat cool, especially when you have guys that know how to block in space as compared to blocking within an arm's length, as tight ends do.

Look for more changes, as this is that time of the season where more players will be given more opportunities due to key injuries. These guys have double duty because they're also playing special teams, special offense, and defensive packages, so even they will get a little weary. The good news is that the Packers have played all three of their opponents already. The coaches and players are looking for adjustments they have made to counter since they last played.

With Mike "Air" Martz as the Detriot Lions offensive coordinator and star running back Kevin Jones out, look for the ball in the air on every play. Don't be surprised by a few four-, five- or even six-receiver sets as a base formation.

One down and three more to go for an 8-8 season, which is not bad for a team that was predicted to maybe win one or two games.


Johnnie Gray

Editor's note: Former safety Johnnie Gray played for the Packers from 1975-84. He was inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame in 1994. E-mail him at Gray24@tds.net.


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