Trivia question: when was the last time the Packers got off to a fast start in a game? Because they certainly didn't do it against the Bears last Sunday. The Packers misfired on their first offensive series, with Rodgers throwing the ball behind receivers several times, and took a couple of sacks on the first two series, before ending a scoreless first quarter. To make matters worse, they came close to giving up an interception on one tipped ball, and they almost had their first punt blocked. The Bears got on the board first, in the second quarter, with a TD pass to new public enemy no. 1, Brandon Marshall, before the Packers finally seemed to get started in the game.
At the end of the day, the Packers were able to win the game in what would have been a comfortable fashion, but for one of the worst coaching calls in recent memory - the 4th quarter Randall Cobb "throwback" trick play punt return - Cobb caught the punt, then threw the ball across the field. It looked like it could have been a good play with lots of potential in the right situation. The receiver could have done a better job of going to get the ball, but instead the ball was fumbled and recovered by the Bears. Close to your own goal line? Leading by 11 points and with 8 minutes left, when the Bears have had almost no offense all day long? I just don't see the risk-reward balance on this play as making it even close to being a sensible decision.
Mason Crosby missed another pair of field goals, from 43 and 42 yards. This has got to be a mental issue at this point - Crosby has talent, but is not executing the kicks. I question whether there is a better kicker out there bagging groceries and waiting for a call, so I am reluctantly in McCarthy's camp on this - Crosby is our kicker, period, so get over it and hope he gets through this soon. Meanwhile, for an amusing look at a kicker who apparently is available to replace Crosby on a moment's notice, take a look at this video, located by the Acme Packing Company website.
Trap Game Ahead? And now the Tennessee Titans come to Lambeau, for the last regular season home game of the year. The Titans are 5-9, and have given up 396 points this season. Only the Raiders and the Bills have given up more (402). But they also have Chris Johnson who, as the Jets found out Monday night, is capable of taking over a game. And the Packers have been known, from time to time, to give up big games to running backs. So this game could be one of those games that could jump up and bite the Packers. But I doubt it. As bad as the Jets are now, the Titans only beat them by 4 points, despite a 94 yard touchdown run by Chris Johnson. The Packers are just a better team, and the Titans are a little out of their element playing in Wisconsin in January. Still, there is no margin for error if the Packers hope to rise to the no. 2 seed, so it would be advisable for them to "remember the Titans."
Bye Week Possibilities. I really figured the 49ers would lose to the Patriots on Sunday night. And of course, if they had, the Packers would be sitting at the No. 2 NFC seed right now. I sort of gave up hope when the 49ers were ahead 31-3. But I kept watching, mostly for Fantasy Football reasons. Lo and behold, the Patriots tied it up at 31, before losing the game 41-34. So the question now becomes, assuming the Packers beat the Titans, can the Seahawks give the Packers a little help by beating the 49ers? It would be a welcome "payback" by the Seahawks to the Packers, after the "Fail Mary" game. It almost seems like completely different 49er and Seahawks teams will be playing Sunday night, as compared to their last meeting 10 weeks ago, when the 49ers won, 13-6. Both teams are scoring a lot more points now. The Seahawks scored 50 or more points the last two weeks, admittedly against bad teams. But the way they are playing now, the Seahawks certainly have a shot, and it would not even be a huge upset if they won.
Occasional ramblings by Tom Freeman, a life-long Green Bay Packers fan, season ticket holder, and shareholder, now living on the idyllic Central Coast of California. My articles were previously published on the South End Zone web site.