It’s Packers at Cowboys to start Dallas’ playoff run, 3:40 Sunday at ATT Stadium. Here, 10 Tips from Green Bay’s 38-13 playoff win over the Giants:
1. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers helps his offensive line as much as his offensive line helps him. We saw that on a couple of key plays in the Giants game. Midway through the first quarter Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson on a pass while rolling out of the pocket. He danced around inside the pocket like a pinball, dodging at least three of his engaged offensive linemen before finding an opening. Fox timed it as Rodgers having eight seconds of protection. Then there was the touchdown pass to Davante Adams, which was similar. Rodgers bobbed and weaved through two waves of pass rushers before hitting Adams with a pass that threaded the needle in the corner of the end zone.
The Giants did a better job of getting to Rodgers than they did in their regular-season meeting (Rodgers wasn’t harassed on 45 dropbacks that day). But putting pressure on Rodgers will be just as important as containing Rodgers when the Cowboys face the Packers. And even that might not help.
2. The Packers will make it tough on Ezekiel Elliott next Sunday. Their ability to get penetration, in part, with just three down linemen is a credit to both the talent of their starters — Kenny Clark, Letroy Guion and Mike Daniels — and the scheme, as guided by their coordinator, Dom Capers. The Giants haven’t had much of a run game to begin with this season, but the Packers rendered the Giants’ tandem of Paul Perkins and Rashad Jennings relatively useless. Green Bay’s ability to crash the line and cut off rushing lanes inside the tackles may determine how effective Elliott is next week.
3. Ty Montgomery is a far bigger part of this Packers offense than Sunday’s game showed. He’s accepted that running back-wide receiver hybrid role and flourished this season. He’s an effective runner between the tackles, but where he is really a pain is when he’s able to put his receiving skills to use on screen passes. He burned the Giants on a couple of those on Sunday and he consistently gets two or three of those plays per game. He’s big, tough and hard to bring down and I can envision Anthony Hitchens and Sean Lee having some good battles with him next Sunday.
4. That said, Montgomery’s injury might make him a key loss on Sunday. He was bent practically backwards on a second-half carry and limped off the field with a leg injury. Even more important is the injury to Jordy Nelson, who had to leave the game in the first half after taking a kidney shot from Giants defensive back Leon Hall. Nelson has been one of the hottest receivers in the game the past two months and if he’s not able to play on Sunday against Dallas that’s a big loss for the Packers overall and to Rodgers, in particular.
5. You might think Randall Cobb is the receiver who stands to benefit the most if Nelson can’t go. I actually think it’s Davante Adams. Adams caught eight passes for 125 yards and a touchdown, while Cobb caught three touchdowns. If Nelson can’t play I think that slides Cobb out to the edge on a more regular basis and moves Adams more exclusively in the slot. Cobb will draw more attention and Adams will likely draw single coverage with either Orlando Scandrick or Anthony Brown. Adams can hold his own in either matchup.
6. Julius Peppers may be getting up there in years but he can still be effective. Peppers had a sack on Sunday and he’s been on a bit of a tear, notching five sacks in his last eight games. Peppers works the left side on a spot basis, so right tackle Doug Free better be ready on those long third downs when Peppers can just pin his ears back and go.
7. Something Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will need to watch for next Sunday are secondary pass rushers batting down his passes. That happened to Eli Manning a couple of times on Sunday. The Packers do it strategically and have such tall linemen that if the quarterback can’t find the proper passing lane the likelihood of a batted pass increases.
Worth noting, regarding Dak and Zeke? They have Rodgers’ respect.
“Dallas is a great football team,” he said. “Dak and Zeke have been playing great all season. They are tremendous players. They aren’t playing like rookies. They’re both in the MVP conversation. We can’t let them run behind that big offensive line, and we’ve got to start fast and make them as one-dimensional as possible.”
8. I’m honestly not too worried about Green Bay’s running game overall, despite what I wrote about Montgomery earlier. Between Christine Michael (a Cowboy for a sec who can be an effective downhill guy) and Aaron Ripkowski I feel like all the Cowboys’ run defense must do is contain the pair, along with Montgomery, and the run game won’t become a major factor next week.
9. Once the Packers get inside the opponent’s 35-yard line they’re a danger to get points thanks to Mason Crosby. He’s nearly as automatic as the Cowboys’ Dan Bailey. He extended his streak of made field goals in the playoffs to 21 against the Giants and he has plus-50 range. In the controlled environment of ATT Stadium he can make a real difference next week.
10. Finally, practice your Hail Mary defense. Rodgers got another one at the end of the first half against the Giants and it was because the Giants’ defense failed to play it right — they allowed Randal Cobb to get behind them in the back of the end zone.
I’ve seen one of Rodgers’ magic moments in person — the Hail Mary against the Lions last season. The Cowboys cannot allow a stroke of luck to beat them next week. …
As they seem to be aware.
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