Friday, August 27, 2010

Most Points Since . . . When?

The Packers, in beating the Colts last night 59-24, scored the most points they have scored in a single game since they beat the Cedar Rapids Crush, 75-0, in the 1938 pre-season. (The guys on TV said it was the most points "in a league game" since the victory over the Crush, but I think that was a mistake since the Crush never made it to the NFL.)

I wasn't happy to see 3 fumbles in the game (by Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson, and Will Blackmon), and I wasn't happy to see Peyton Manning carve up the Packers' defense in the first few possessions. But this game answered a lot of questions for me.

Yes, the Packers are capable of putting some pressure on a quality NFL quarterback. Even though they were still not playing this as a regular season game, Dom Capers at least gave us some indication that he is willing to bring some pressure against a quality QB. The result was an interception and a strip of Peyton Manning.

Yes, the Packers offensive line looks like it is still capable of giving Rodgers the kind of protection he got toward the end of last year. Rodgers was never sacked, and this was without rookie Bryan Bulaga even dressing for the game.

Yes, the Packers continue to look very sharp on offense, even though Greg Jennings did not play last night. But Finley, Driver and James Jones picked up the slack and gained 195 yards in passing offense in the first half.

Yes, it looks like the Packers got some good players in the draft or as free agents. Although, again, Bryan Bulaga did not play, safety Morgan Burnett had a good showing. After struggling early on in the pre-season, he made some plays, most impressively including one interception he made and another that got away. Free agent linebacker Frank Zombo (why do I keep thinking of Frank Zappa?) made a bunch of tackles and stripped the ball out of Manning's hand. I would not want to be the person charged with cutting down the roster, as there are going to be some tough decisions here.

And yes, the special teams are capable of making some positive plays. While they gave up one kick return that was way too long, they also scored two touchdowns, one on a muffed punt recovered in the end zone, and another on a punt return. That is not a bad night's work, and it helps to relieve the sick feeling I have been getting whenever the special teams are on the field.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Week 2 Comments & Week 3 Preview

Time to write a quick few words about last week's game against Seattle, since the next game comes tomorrow night (Thursday) on ESPN against the Colts.
  • The Packers' first-string offense continues to look great. Rodgers is in fine form, and in the first two games, the Packers have marched up and down the field with their first team, interrupted only by Ryan Grant's fumble in the first game.
  • Jermichael Finley is going to be a monster for the Packers this year. His skill became more and more apparent as the year went on last year, but he seems unstoppable in the pre-season this year. A worthy pickup in any fantasy league that has separate roster spots for tight ends.
  • The first-string defense continues to look spotty, but since the Packers were missing at least 6 starters on defense, I would not want to hit the panic button just yet.
  • Special teams were again disappointing, but maybe not quite so disappointing as a week ago.
Traditionally, the first-string teams have their longest pre-season outings in the third game, so normally I would look forward to the Colts game with great anticipation. But it is not clear to me that the first-string offense has anything left to prove this pre-season, so I would not be surprised to see them take their seats early, maybe early in the second quarter.

I do hope to see more of the starters return on defense, and it would be nice to see a little more aggressive play-calling on defense. I don't fault Dom Capers for calling the first two games conservatively - it makes sense for him to do that early in the pre-season. (Besides, there will be plenty of time to criticize him for conservative play-calling during the regular season!)

But since there are going to be some changes on defense from last year when the season opens (Al Harris looks like he won't be ready, and of course Johnny Jolly and Aaron Kampman are gone), I am sure that Capers wants to see how some of his replacement starters perform in different pressure packages. I have no idea how long the Colts' starters on offense will play (heck, they don't always play even when the games count). But for however long they play, they will provide exactly the kind of test for the Packers' defense that I would think the coaches would want to see.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review of 1st Preseason Game

I had to wait a couple of days to watch Saturday night's game until it was shown on the NFL Network on Monday. It was pretty much exactly what I expected based on the box score and a couple of stories I had seen. The first string offense looked great, except for Ryan Grant's fumble on the first play and him getting knocked out of the game a couple of carries later. Thankfully, the injury does not seem to be serious, although it does bring into play the new tougher NFL rules on concussions. Since he only fumbled once in all of 2009 (in a loss to Cincinnati, leading to the go-ahead points), it would be nice to think that this gets his fumble of the year out of the way.

The first string defense was another story. It is unfortunately accurate to say that it picked up right where it left off last year, in such games as the playoff loss to Arizona, the loss to Pittsburgh, and the losses to Minnesota. And the special teams were pretty much a mess, giving up too many yards on returns, and not doing well on Green Bay returns.

You can't make too much out of a preseason game, especially the first one. We need to see how the team looks in the next couple of weeks before getting too worried, and maybe even then worry would be premature. Suffice it to say that I did not see any strong evidence that the Packers are Super Bowl contenders, during this first preseason game.

Oh, and in other NFL news, the "Cirque du Favre" continues. By the time you read this, the official announcement will probably have taken place, that the Packers will get another shot at beating Favre.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"They Warned Us"

"They warned us. Remember?

The embedded Packers fans amongst us warned us that Brett Favre would break our hearts, whether on the field of play or in the absurd theater of his mind. He would throw the killing interception when you least wanted or expected it, would turn our summers into melodramas that teased, then annoyed, then infuriated us.

Could they have been more right? Could they have asked for any more reason to say, 'I told you so?'"

So begins a not-to-be missed article from Tuesday in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune by Jim Souhan. I expressed some skepticism myself on Tuesday, but not nearly as much as was justified. It only took one day for Favre to walk away from Tuesday's stories, saying that he is in fact undecided, and that he will play if he is healthy.

Meanwhile, ticket brokers are biding time on the pricing of tickets for the Vikings' visit to Green Bay, and for everyone except Favre, training camp continues.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Favre Retires Again (!?)

It doesn't take long for word to spread, when the story out of Minnesota is that Favre is retiring again. This still has not been confirmed as of this writing, and I kind of line up with those who say that they will believe it on opening night at the Superdome (September 9). My wife heard the report on the radio early this morning, and it has been pretty much non-stop Favre coverage ever since (after taking a little time out for a business call shortly after the news came out).

I was pretty sure he was coming back. His off-season surgery only made sense if he was planning to come back. The Vikings must have thought they had a great opportunity to go to the Super Bowl if Favre returned, and Favre (no shrinking violet, he) must have thought the same thing. So if he is not coming back because of his ankle, as reported, it must be a pretty serious issue with the ankle. One can make the case that the Vikings will be better off without Favre (see here), but I don't find that convincing. At all. With Favre, the Vikings would be serious contenders this year. With Tarvares Jackson? Or Sage Rosenfels? Give me a break.

And yet, parts of this story don't add up. Why would he have talked to Ryan Longwell, today, without mentioning that he is retiring? (Unless Longwell is covering for him, I suppose.) Why would he send text messages to friends saying he is retiring, but not officially notify the head coach, who has to make plans for the upcoming season. (Upon further review, forget that question. It has been obvious for several years that he doesn't care about the dilemma facing his head coach as he dithers about whether to retire.)

The bottom line is that even if this is confirmed later today, we won't really know for sure until the regular season, or possibly even later. In the meantime, I agree with my daughter's reaction, which was that this is sort of sad, because we won't have the chance to get our revenge on Favre this year.