Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Getting Ugly - Time for a Turnaround

"Sweetness" photo from
Before getting to the miserable Cowboys-Packers game, which the Packers lost 30-16, I will start off with a little Brett Favre joke, since this game was yet another Brett Favre tribute game, celebrating the receipt of his Pro Football Hall of Fame Ring, and the unveiling of his name on the stadium wall.  (As a semi-facetious aside, maybe it is time to stop having Favre tribute games, since the Packers look terrible whenever he is there for a game.)  The ceremony, which is worth a watch, can be found here.

Anyway, during the bye week, we spent a few nights in Arizona visiting family and friends, including a night at a beautiful resort in Scottsdale.  At breakfast, our waitress was a colorful woman from Wisconsin, who asked us as soon as she found out we were from Wisconsin if we were Packer fans. She proceeded to regale us with stories about how every team that stays at that hotel loses (the Patriots in the Super Bowl where the Giants ended their undefeated season, the Wisconsin Badgers, and the Packers in the playoffs vs. the Cardinals).  She then told us this joke, which she also told to Mike Holmgren when he stayed at the hotel.

Remember when Brett Favre retired, and then unretired and got traded to the Jets?  Then he got himself in trouble when he was caught sending pictures to that female reporter?  Well, did you hear what Deanna Favre said when she found out about it?  "Oh, those pictures were intended for me, but you know Brett, they were intercepted."

Which brings us back to the game.  No. 1 rushing offense meets no. 1 rushing defense.  Who comes out on top when the irresistible force meets the immovable object?  Sunday afternoon, it was not close.  The Cowboys' rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliott ran all over the Packers.  Let's face it, the Packers looked bad on both sides of the ball.  The defensive backs looked bad.  Sure, there were injuries that got worse during the game, but they did not play well Sunday.  The defensive line didn't make its presence known like it has done in other games.  The linebackers were relatively quiet, other than Julius Peppers knocking the ball out of Dak Prescott's hands early in the game.  Speaking of Dak Prescott, the game plan designed for him would have been a good plan for the Packers.  Lots of short, quick-release passes (you can call them dink and dunk if you want), punctuated by periodic shots down the field.  He missed some of those passes down the field, and he did give up his first interception of the year, but overall he thrived in this offense and looks as if he is the real deal, making things interesting when Tony Romo is healthy again.

But what is the deal with the Packers' offense?  The offensive line seems to be protecting Rodgers so well that sometimes I wondered if the broadcast feed had frozen, as everybody seemed to be standing still.  But in general, he was unable to do anything with the time they gave him.  Most of the pass plays seemed to be long-developing routes, which you would think would be fine given the time he was getting, but either the receivers weren't getting open, or Rodgers wasn't pulling the trigger.  And when he did pull the trigger, he was missing more often than not.  Given his sudden and unexpected loss of accuracy, this offense just isn't working.  They need to go with the dink and dunk, fast-release, screen pass, etc. game plan, then taking those periodic shots downfield.  Right now, opposing defenses don't seem to think they have to fear the long pass, they drop into a Cover-2 defense, and are prepared to concede the underneath passes, which the Packers seem to have no interest in taking.

The Packers' first drive, which ended in a field goal, was better than most of their other drives in the game, precisely because they combined the running game with the short passing game.  Later in the game, Rodgers was too frequently seen just standing around in the backfield looking for the big play, or trying to get the Cowboys to jump offside.  It is as if he just isn't content taking the available short passes to march down the field gradually.  Sure, he missed some of those short passes when he did try to take them, and receivers dropped catchable balls, but a strategy of marching down the field in small chunks would have been much more successful than what we saw out there.

On a short week, the Bears come to town for the first of their two annual meetings.  The Packers are incredibly banged up, with the following players either being out or at least questionable for tomorrow's game: Starks, Lacy, Adams, Cobb, Cook on offense, and Shields, Randall and Rollins on defense.  There are no gimme games in the NFL, particularly not when the team is not playing well, and with that many injuries.  And especially not in a rivalry game between storied rivals like the Bears and Packers.

Right now, neither team is playing well.  The Bears, at 1-5, have beaten only the Lions, and last week they let a win get away against the Jaguars.  Leading 13-0 at the start of the 4th quarter, the Bears were outscored 17-3 in that quarter and ending up losing, 17-16.  Can the Bears be just what the doctored ordered for the Packers, letting them end their homestand on a win and have a week and a half off to prepare for their next game?  Who knows, but I sure hope so.

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