Saturday, November 23, 2013

Make or Break Week Ahead

Photo by Brad Penner, USA Today
How disappointing it was to watch the Packers lose their third game in a row last week to the Giants, 27-13.  Maybe I was kidding myself (always a danger as a fan watching a game), but I really thought the Packers had a shot in the 4th quarter, until the devastating pick-6 interception by Jason Pierre-Paul.  The situation before that play was that the Packers trailed by 7 points, and they had just stopped the Giants with a 3 and out, including two sacks (by Brad Jones and Clay Matthews) to force a punt.  So the Packers had some momentum on their side.  One play later, the game was effectively over, as Jason Pierre-Paul  made a sensational interception for a touchdown against Scott Tolzien.  The ball just stuck in his outstretched hands, as if the ball was metal and his hands were a super-magnet.  From there, he strolled into the end zone to completely change the dynamic of the game.

In a post by blogger Jersey Al Bracco, who naturally attended the game himself, Jersey Al makes two great points on the problems with the Packers in the Giants game.  First, Coach McCarthy did the Packers no favors with his offensive play-calling.  Way too many times, he called runs on both first and second down to start possessions, almost all of which were unsuccessful, and many of which led to punts.  Re-watching the game with this comment in mind, it really was true.  Not coincidentally, the success the Packers offense had in the game (including all three scoring drives) came exclusively on possessions that varied from the run, run, pass model.

Jersey Al takes it a step farther, to make the point that the Packers' offense was so predictable that not only did the Giants seem to know what play was coming next, but so did Jersey Al himself, watching from the upper deck.  In fact, as he notes, Pierre-Paul told Press-Gazette reporter Wes Hodkiewicz after the game that he was able to read the formation of the Packers, and knew exactly what play was coming on his pick-6.  That makes it a lot easier, doesn't it?

Enough about the Giants.  The Packers' season may be made or broken in the next 5 days, as the Packers play the Vikings at home on Sunday, and then the Lions at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.  Aaron Rodgers is out against the Vikings, and reading between the lines of some of the comments, I don't think he will be starting on Thanksgiving, either.  If the Packers win both these games, they will be no worse off than tied for first place in the division.  If they lose both, time to start planning for next year's draft.  If they split the games, who knows?  They will still be alive but on shaky ground.

I saw enough from Scott Tolzien last week to think that the Packers should beat the Vikings.  A little more imaginative play-calling would help, but the Vikings just aren't good enough to beat the Packers at home, in the cold, even with our third-string quarterback.  Can they also beat the Lions on the road on Thanksgiving?  I am not at all sure about that, but we will know more when we figure out how the Packers look tomorrow, and whether Rodgers will be able to return for the Thanksgiving game.

Happy Thanksgiving!  And Happy Hanukkah!

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