Fundamentals Left Inside

The offensive line's problems were evident in the Packers converting only 4-of-14 third downs. Time and again, the Packers were confronting third-and-long situations, either because of sacks or having Ryan Grant dropped in the backfield. Amazingly, the Packers faced third-and-3 or less just twice the entire game.

James Campen has been in his linemen's shoes.

"One (that) is very vivid in my memory is against Michael Carter. The 49ers played here and I don't think I played one snap in the run game on their side of the ball," the Packers' offensive line coach recalled on Monday, the day after Green Bay beat Chicago 21-15 in spite of his troops' subpar performance.

"They just beat me to death. You go back and turn on the film and you say, ‘What the heck?' It wasn't like the guy shaded me, it wasn't like he was offset, it wasn't like he was jumping gaps. I just was fundamentally — my hands were outside of him. He was in my chest every play. And so, you go back and you look at it, it's very simple. Fundamentals killed me in that game. I literally did not play one snap on his side of the ball. I got killed and we lost the game."

Fortunately, the Packers didn't lose to the Bears, but what went wrong for Campen that day is precisely what went wrong on Sunday.

"You know, it would be easy to say, ‘First game, big game, national TV' and those kind of things. It's easy to sit there and make excuses for it," Campen said. "The bottom line is (the fundamentals) weren't done. The reasons they weren't done, those are film study, review things which we just got out of. Those things we'll keep in our private meeting room. But certainly, it wasn't a thing where it's a physical mismatch or an effort issue or those type of things. They're basic fundamentals that seem to be left, basically, in the locker room for that first half."

The Packers' No. 1 offense scored touchdowns on nine of 13 possessions in the preseason but failed to get a first down on five of 12 possession against the Bears.

The first half was miserable, with Aaron Rodgers absorbing three sacks and the offense gaining merely 104 yards on 34 plays. Rodgers was sacked once in the second half and the offense gained 122 yards on 20 plays.

"By no means at all was the second half the way we want to perform, either," Campen said.

For the night, Rodgers was sacked four times and hit nine times total, even with the Packers sometimes keeping in a tight end or chipping with one of the backs. It wasn't a good sign for a group that needs to play better than last year. The Packers finished 19th in sacks allowed last season while the Bears ranked 22nd in sacks.

"The quarterback is on the ground and getting hit that many times is totally unacceptable," Campen said.

The offensive line's problems were evident in the Packers converting only 4-of-14 third downs. Time and again, the Packers were confronting third-and-long situations, either because of sacks or having Ryan Grant dropped in the backfield. Amazingly, the Packers faced third-and-3 or less just twice the entire game. They converted both, including the game-winning 50-yard touchdown on third-and-1.

First series: Convert third-and-5; fail on third-and-8 (preceded by first- and second-down runs of 1 yard by Grant).

Second series: Convert third-and-4; fail on third-and-12 (preceded by second-and-17 created by sack allowed by Allen Barbre).

Third series: Fail on third-and-5.

Fourth series: Fail on third-and-17 (created by sack allowed by Barbre).

Fifth series: Convert third-and-3; fail on third-and-15 (preceded by second-and-22, created by holding on center Jason Spitz).

Sixth series: Fail on third-and-13 (safety on sack on safety blitz; preceded by a 3-yard loss by Grant).

Seven series: One-play, 1-yard touchdown.

Eighth series: Fail on third-and-5.

Ninth series: Fail on third-and-19 (because of first-down sack on safety blitz).

10th series: Fail on third-and-12 (because of false start by left tackle Chad Clifton).

11th series: Fail on third-and-13 (because of holding by right guard Josh Sitton).

12th series: Convert third-and-1 with winning touchdown.

13th series: Take a knee.

"Our protection unit did not play well, and that was a major cause for our frustration and our inability to move the football," McCarthy said. "The Bears' defensive line did a very good job getting after our front last night, and we did not handle it very well."

Because of those problems, the offense was hamstrung by having to keep a tight end or running back (or both) in to provide added protection for Rodgers. Even on the winning touchdown, only two receivers were in the pattern.

"Your quarterback is better when he can have three receivers off the line of scrimmage right now as opposed to two, or have four released right now as opposed to three," McCarthy said. "That's just the ability to stretch and attack the coverage element admittedly on the snap of the ball. It obviously gives you the opportunity for better production throwing the football."

Barbre, who was beaten for three sacks by Adewale Ogunleye in his first game as the starting right tackle, was the obvious victim but hardly the only culprit. After the game, Barbre called it a "relief to win" and chalked the night up to a learning experience caused by a breakdown in fundamentals. He'll get another chance, with McCarthy saying Barbre will start on Sunday against Cincinnati.

"Well, the second half he did a little better," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "It's fundamental stuff. I don't think it's a magical pressure or rush that they executed. Give 93 (Ogunleye) credit. He made some plays for their defense. You have to tip your hat to him. We've got to make the fundamental questions and hopefully he's get better and improve."

Campen expects his group to bounce back against the Bengals. Along with Monday's midday film session, Campen predicted the players would go over things again on their own later in the afternoon or evening.

"Let me just say this: That is an accountable group, that offensive line. They are accountable," Campen said. "They're not happy at all. They're accountable to this football team and they're accountable to one another, and they will bounce back. That is a resilient group, and they will bounce back. They understand that that is not the brand of football that we want to put on the field."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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