Thursday, October 6, 2016

More Like It!

Davante Adams' Lambeau Leap. Photo by Dan Powers, USA Today
It  was great to see the Packers get off to a fast start against the Lions. Despite the fact that they were missing 5 starters on defense, the Packers raced to a 31-3 lead late in the first half. They are taking a lot of heat for almost letting the game get away from since the lead narrowed to 34-27 late in the 4th quarter, and needed a couple of first downs on offense to make sure the Lions did not get the chance to tie the game. They got them, and closed out the win.

My favorite play of the game was Ty Montgomery's kickoff play. Those Stanford players are smart! Ty Montgomery turned an obscure rule about when a ball is deemed to be out of bounds to his advantage, by being certain to touch a kickoff ball bouncing around near the pylon while his feet were out of bounds, thereby rendering the ball out of bounds and giving the Packers the ball at the 40 yard line. He explained that any kick returner would know that rule (and indeed, Randall Cobb did the same thing a few years ago), but he is being way too modest. I have seen NFL kick returners do really stupid things from lack of knowledge of the rules. The announcers were in the process of explaining all the mistakes Montgomery had made when the ref announced the penalty against the Lions. So the "professional" announcers had no idea what the rule is. Good for Montgomery and Cobb for knowing the rule, and good for the Packers' special teams staff for teaching it.

Another favorite play was Damarious Randall just stealing the ball right out of Eric Ebron's hands in the second quarter and returning it over 40 yards the other way. It reminded me of maybe the earliest Packers' play I can remember - Jesse Whittenton stealing the ball right out of a player's hands, and then returning it the other way. Although I don't remember the opponent, this was most likely his steal of the ball from Alex Webster of the Giants in 1961.

The great thing about this game in the first half was the stinginess of the Packers' defense (especially against the run), while the Packers' offense suddenly became deadly efficient, scoring on all 5 drives of the first half (not counting running out the clock at the end of the half). All of the things I wanted to see took place in that first half: quick release passes, more emphasis on the running game, much less dancing around in the pocket waiting for something to open up.

So what exactly happened in the second half? Was it more of the "kill the clock offense" and "prevent defense" that I have complained about in past years? In watching the game a second time, my answer is, "yes and no." On offense, they certainly ran the ball more than they usually do, but on the other hand, they were getting first downs that way, so it wasn't exactly the dreaded "run, run, pass, punt." On defense, they weren't playing the traditional, everybody deep sort of prevent defense, but there is no question that they switched more to a loose zone coverage defense in the second half, in an effort to prevent most long gains. You can certainly say that the overall strategy worked: they won the game. And the Lions never had the ball with the chance to tie the game, as the Packers were able to run out the final 3:34 after the Lions scored to make it 34-27. But is is frustrating watching a 28 point lead almost get away from the Packers. I would like to see a little more aggressiveness, on both sides of the ball, at least part of the way into the third quarter.

Well, the unusual 4 game home-stand now continues with the Giants coming to town on Sunday night. The Giants have done lots of damage to the Packers over the last 10 years, but I think this time will be different. The Giants were pretty well dismantled by the Vikings on Monday night. While that probably says more about the Vikings potentially being the real deal than it says about the Giants, the Giants certainly have their problems, especially on defense. And it is now clear that if you succeed in getting under Odell Beckham's skin, he will effectively take himself out of the game. I look forward to another Packers win Sunday night.  I certainly expect that the game will be more entertaining, and more enlightening, than the debate between two pathetic candidates that will be showing at the same time.

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