Free Head Exam: Green Bay Packers

After the Green Bay Packers' 30-23 victory Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. As they debated whether the Packers could go undefeated this season in the video below, our friends at ESPN's First Take obviously didn't know that Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins had been lost for the season because of a neck injury. On the surface, it's a huge blow. Collins is one of the NFL's best players at his position. It's unlikely that replacement Charlie Peprah can navigate the same kind of seamless transition he did last season after taking over for rookie Morgan Burnett. But I feel the same way about Collins' injury as I did about the loss of tailback Ryan Grant after Week 1 last season. The injury comes at a position where change, even a downgrade, is manageable. With no disrespect to Collins, I could confidently name five other Packers positions where the loss of a starter would be more impactful than free safety.

  2. With or without Collins, the Packers exit Week 2 knowing they need to take a good look at their pass defense to ensure no fundamental flaws have been exposed. The numbers, at least, are ugly. Both opposing starters have exceeded 400 passing yards. The Packers defense has given up an NFL-high 800 net passing yards in two games and opponents are converting 56 percent of their third-down opportunities. But they have survived to this point by totaling seven sacks and three interceptions, each tied for fourth-highest in the league.

  3. Coach Mike McCarthy bristled Monday at questions about his pass-run ratio, noting the topic seems to arise every season. The facts: Packers running backs have 39 carries this season. Rodgers has scrambled nine times, thrown 65 passes and been sacked on three occasions. That translates into a rough 70-30 ratio. I don't have too many complaints about the breakdown when you consider where the NFL has moved in recent years. The big number to track is how many total plays the Packers have. To this point, they've averaged a relatively low 58 plays per game. (Last year, they averaged about 63 plays per game.) Sunday, the Packers had only three plays in the first quarter and soon trailed 13-0. If the Packers put themselves into position to run more plays, I hope their ratio would even out a bit.

And here is one issue I still don't get:

I've expressed this sentiment before. Some of you might not be surprised. But I continue to be amazed at how often opponents fall for the Packers' well-executed but relatively hollow play-action passes. A team that is throwing on seven out of every 10 plays shouldn't be able to get so many big plays on play-action. Sunday, the Panthers bit on play fakes prior to Greg Jennings' 49-yard touchdown pass as well as Jordy Nelson's 84-yard score. More power to the Packers, I guess.