Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday Morning Game Day Thoughts

Photo by USATSI
The photo above depicts the key defensive moment in last week's 26-21 victory over the New England Patriots.  The Packers were playing one of the best teams in the league, with the league's best record at 9-2, and the Patriots were on a 7 game winning streak, with one of the best quarterbacks in the league at the helm.  The Packers had never trailed in the game, but it had been a close game since the second quarter, with the Packers never leading by more than 9 points in that span.  On offense, the Packers' main problem all day had been in the red zone, where they ended up having to settle for four field goals and one missed field goal.

So when the Packers' drive in the fourth quarter stalled, and Mason Crosby kicked his fourth field goal of the day to bring the score to 26-21 with 8:45 left in the game, Packer fans could be forgiven for contemplating the possibility of a long, clock-eating drive, ending in a go-ahead touchdown by the Patriots.  While the Packers' defense had kept Brady under control all game, they had never sacked him, until it was 3rd and 9 from the Packers' 20, after the Patriots' drive had consumed over 5 minutes of the clock and 52 yards.  It was at that moment that Mike Daniels and Mike Neal came up with the only Packers sack of the game, putting the Patriots too far out to try a fourth-down play, and forcing them to try to kick a field goal, which they missed.  Two Lacy runs, one clutch pass to Cobb, and 3 kneel-downs later, the game was over.  While this game was obviously not a Super Bowl, the Daniels-Neal sack immediately reminded me of Reggie White's two, back to back sacks of Drew Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI, to effectively finish out the game.

Back when the Packers were 1-2, none of us really contemplated the Packers being in a position to win 7 out of 8 games, or to knock off two division-leading teams like the Eagles and the Patriots within a three week span.  But they have done exactly that.  Keeping more of their players healthy has been a big factor, obviously, but so has the continuing development of young players like Eddie Lacy and David Bakhtiari and Corey Linsley and Davante Adams (other than his big drop of what would have been a touchdown pass) on offense, and like Datone Jones, and Micah Hyde, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on defense.  And finally, the coaching staff deserves a lot of credit.  Over the years, many of us have been critical of Mike McCarthy and his staff, for poor clock and game management, unimaginative play calling, being slow to adjust within games, etc.  But I have to admit that the Packers, for most of this year, have been doing a better job of changing things up to keep the opposing teams off balance.  On defense, the creative use of Clay Matthews in the last four weeks has made a huge difference in the overall performance of the defense, and on offense, last Sunday's game showed how the creative use of Randall Cobb in many different alignments can create massive problems for the opposing team's defense.  Where was all this creativity hiding for the last few years?  Hard to tell, but let's enjoy it while it lasts.

Much has been made this week of Bill Belichick seeking out both McCarthy and Rodgers after the game to have a few words with them.  Neither McCarthy nor Rodgers would disclose what was said, but it is fair to assume that Belichick was acknowledging the excellent play-calling and performance of the Packers in the game.

The Packers have four winnable games left in the regular season.  Atlanta at home, Buffalo and Tampa Bay on the road, and then the huge rematch with the Lions.  The Falcons, despite their 5-7 record, should not be taken lightly.  They still have Julio Jones and Roddy White on offense, and if Matt Ryan gets hot, they can score a lot of points.  They have also won 3 of their last 4 games, including a win over Arizona, so they are getting their season back on track after a really poor start.  Plus, at 5-7 they are like the old joke about the two men being chased by a bear.  Since they currently actually lead the NFC South, they don't need to win enough games to have a good record; they just need to finish in front of the Saints and Panthers.  If they do, they will win the division and host a home playoff game.

We all remember that it was just four short years ago that the Falcons had the best record in the NFC, and the Packers knocked them off on the way to Super Bowl XLV.  They have lost a lot of players since then, but they still have plenty of talent.  And this is, for the reasons noted, a big game for the Falcons.  But I don't see them pulling off a massive upset of the Packers at Lambeau Field.  I think the Packers will win this one by at least 10 points.  Go Pack!


  1. I forgot to mention that this is Rodgers' 100th start tonight. He apparently will finish his 100th start having the best record for TDs to Interceptions in NFL history. In fact, he would have to have 0 TDs and 49 INTs tonight to NOT finish with the all-time record.

  2. Also, my crazy buddy "Dick from Grafton" came up with a very elaborate but insane conspiracy theory about the fact that Brett Favre was in Green Bay earlier today. Here is is:

    "This is how I see this playing out.

    Fuzzy Thurston is in hospice at an assisted living center in Green Bay. Bart Starr (Sr.) wanted to see Fuzzy one last time. He is on the plane with Favre and Bart Jr.

    Upon landing they all are going to a fundraiser for Rawhide Boys Ranch at the Brett Favre Steakhouse. After that event, Bart Sr. and Jr. are going to see Fuzzy.

    Over the weekend Favre filed papers with the NFL come out fo retirement. Favre is going to Lambeau to sign a one day contract with Ted Thompson. The leauge has already agreed that this one day deal does not restart the five year waiting period for the NFL HOF; he has a waiver. He will suit up, go through the warmups, and be on the sidelines in pads and uniform. At half time Favre, Starr, and Rodgers will appear on the field to the cheers and adultation they all deserve.

    Favre's jersey will be retired TONIGHT on national TV with Bart and Aaron standing there along with three or four other Packer NFL HOF inductees. Jerry Kramer will be in the house, but not on the field.

    With about a minute left and the Packers up by 16 or more points the Packers will have a first and 10 at the Falcons 20. Rodgers will come out of the game, Favre is going in.

    First first down: Handoff to Eddie Lacey who takes the ball to the 12, still in bounds. Clock winds down.

    Second and a long two: Favre drops back, throws to Jordy Nelson in the end zone but the pass is too high. Nelson looks towards McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers on the sidelilne. Clock stops.

    Third and a long three: Favre hands ball off to John Kuhn who grinds to the nine. First down. Packers take a time out. Favre does not return to the sidelines ... McCarthy and Rodgers have to walk out to the 20 to talk to Favre. McCarthy looks winded as he trotts back to the sidelines.

    First and goal at the nine: Favre in the shotgun, five receivers. Favre drops back and looks, looks, looks, and finally throws hitting a Falcon player in the helmet, incomplete. Clock stops.

    Second and goal at the three: Favre in the shotgun, five receivers, Favre is sacked at the eight yard line. Packer take their final time out.

    Third and goal at eight: Favre in the shotgun, five receivers again. Favre drops back, excellent protection this time, Falcon's defensive line lying on the ground. Nelson and Cobb are both open in the end zone, but Favre can't see them, finally throws to Adams in the end zone but the pass is intercepted by the Falcons and run out to the Atlanta 45 yard line where Nelson and Cobb combine to drag the Falcons player to the ground as time expires.

    Brett Favre retires as a Green Bay Packer and ends his final one day tenture with the team as he ended his original career with the Packers, Jets, and Vikings ... his signature interception.

    Packers win and solidify their position in the playoffs

    Favre has not retired from professional football as a member of the Green Bay Packers.

    After the game ... Bart Starr, Sr. is too exhausted to return to Alabama and is put up in a suite the casino hotel.

    Favre meets up with Mark Chumura and Paul Hornung and they go out on the town.

    On Thursday its announced that Favre is having surgery on his shoulder which was actually broken when it was sacked. He did not seek medical treatment until returning to Mississippi in spite of the Altanta player who sacked Favre telling the Atlanta medical staff that he heard something "snap" when Favre hit the ground during the sack. A full recovery is expected."

    A little far-fetched, no?

  3. Also, my other buddy Dr. Marc tried several times, without success, to post this comment:

    "As one of those you cite as being chronically critical of Mike McCarthy's game and weight management skills, I must express appreciation of your football perspicacity. Your insightful blog displays one of the keenest football minds in America buried beneath the blather of legal trivia.
    Thank you for bringing resounding clarity to these important discussions."