Friday, October 28, 2016

The Dude Meets the Dirty Birds

Our neighbor Suzanne, in a completely unrelated context, recently said that nothing we do is random.  When I saw the photo of Aaron Rodgers wearing The Dude's sweater from The Big Lebowski, I thought the same thing.  Rodgers didn't just happen to pull that sweater out of his closet because it was a little chilly Thursday night.

Rodgers is a fan of the cult classic, The Big Lebowski, as disclosed in the radio show he used to have with Jason Wilde of ESPN.  So if this was no accident, what was he trying to tell us?  I interpret it as this year's version of "R-E-L-A-X."  Packer-focused media, even including obscure blogs like this one, have been obsessed with the question, "what is wrong with Aaron Rodgers?"  If The Dude abides, as the catch-phrase from the movie states, then Rodgers is telling us that he, too, abides, meaning he lives in his State of Dudeness, unbothered by all the slings and arrows hurled at him by his critics.

At any rate, despite a slow start in the first half, with the Packers moving the ball but not scoring enough points, Rodgers ended up completing 39 passes of 56 attempts, with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions, and the Packers beat the Bears 26-10.  And it could have been much worse for the Bears.  Rodgers could easily have had 5 touchdowns, since Cobb had a TD in his hands on the first drive until the ball was knocked out of his hands, and had another in his hands at the end of the half, but could not quite get the second foot inbounds.  And of course this was despite the absence of a single running back on the roster with any game experience with the Packers.

But still, all is not right with Rodgers and Thursday's game doesn't really change that.  As Heath Evans said on NFL Network, his pass placement is still bad at times.  And he is still missing more passes than he should.  Just take Rodgers' TDs to Davante Adams.  On the first one, the ball should have been placed outside, and instead it went inside.  Only Adams' extraordinary catch through the defensive back's arm saved the TD.  On the second TD, there was a defensive screw-up and nobody was within 5 yards of Adams.  But Rodgers threw a pass that required Adams to make a diving, rolling catch to make.  Despite this, Rodgers still looked sharper on Thursday night than he has all year, with the possible exception of the first half of the Lions game.  I realize that it was "only" against the Bears, and that the Bears are a pretty bad team right now.  Still, this is where the Packers are right now, and I can only hope that they continue to improve.

With the long home stand over, the Packers now head to Atlanta to meet the on-again, off-again Falcons.  Everybody knows that Atlanta was the site of what was probably Rodgers' best game ever, when he torched the no. 1 seed Falcons in the 2010 playoffs on the way to winning Super Bowl XLV.  The last time they met (in Green Bay in 2014), the Packers barely staved off a furious comeback by the Falcons to preserve the win.  The Packers led 31-7 at the half, but after a furious and record-setting onslaught by Julio Jones, they were lucky to end up winning, 43-37.  And anyone who saw it will never forget the final Packers game ever at Milwaukee County Stadium in 1994, when Favre ignored his coach's orders and decided to dive for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown, as depicted in the accompanying photo.
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Photo

With the Packers missing at least 3 defensive backs for this game (Sam Shields, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins), how in the world will they defend against Matt Ryan and especially Julio Jones?  Mere preparation may not be enough, and Micah Hyde says they will be praying for a way to stop Julio Jones.  I will be praying, too.  I'm not sure that will be enough.  Even though the Falcons have lost two close games in a row (to the Seahawks and Chargers), they obviously have a lot of firepower on offense.  They have scored 23 or more points in every game this year, and they scored over 40 points twice, something that the Packers have not done all year.

On the other hand, their defense is yielding plenty of points.  With one exception (the Broncos), the Falcons have given up at least 26 points in every game.  So this has the makings of a high-scoring game, assuming that the Packers can keep up their end of the bargain.  I suspect it will be the Packers mounting the furious comeback this time, and that, just like the Falcons last time, it will fall short at the end.

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