Thursday, December 15, 2016

Statement Made - Time to Keep it Going

Adams 66 Yard TD, Photo by Evan Siegle,
Not only is it Chicago Bears week, it is "tie up the Bears series all time" week.  After blowing the chance last year in the Thanksgiving debacle, the Packers again get a chance to tie up their all time record with the Bears on Sunday, which now stands at 94-93-6 in favor of the Bears.  If they manage to tie up the record, something I have been waiting to see for many years, it will the first time since 1933 that the records have been even.

Meanwhile, according to the current forecast, the HIGH for the day in Chicago on Sunday is expected to be 1 degree.  If that is the kickoff temperature, it would end up becoming the fifth coldest game in Packers history, edging out a Lions game in 1990 during the long-forgotten Blair Kiel era.

I can't think of a convincing case as to why the Packers should lose to the Bears.  The Bears do always play the Packers tough, and last Thanksgiving's Favreapalooza game is perfect evidence of that.  And while the Bears have only won 3 games, those 3 games were against the 49ers (so that one doesn't really count as much of a win) and against the Lions and the Vikings.  And they came very close to knocking off the Lions again last week.

On this morning's edition of Good Morning Football, Bears linebacker Sam Acho, the Bears' nominee for the Walter Payton award, was a guest.  In addition to reciting a soliloquy from Richard III on the show, he also mentioned that the Bears led the Packers in the fourth quarter of their first game.  Actually, it was the third quarter, but given his knowledge of The Bard, maybe we need to extend him some poetic license.  In that game, the Packers went on to put it away with 20 unanswered points.  But if you want to detect a pattern in the games the Bears have won and come close to winning, they seem to play very well against division rivals.  Earlier in the year, maybe the Bears would have a better chance.  But I don't see the Bears hanging with the newly resurgent Packers' offense, and I think the Packers will win, even if it ends up being closer than you might expect.

And now, let's reflect for a moment on one of the great "statement" games of the Mike McCarthy era.  The Seahawks have been the Packers' nemesis going back to the Fail Mary game in 2012.  And of course no loss can compare with the epic collapse of the Packers in the NFC Championship Game in January 2015.  Just taking those two games puts the Seahawks under Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll in a special category for the Packers.  Along with the traditional division rivals, the Seahawks are now a rival, just like the 49ers and Cowboys were back in the 1990's.

The Packers found themselves a rare home underdog going into the game on Sunday, and the Packers seemed to create some motivation for themselves out of that fact.  While I had expressed optimism that the Packers could win the game, I certainly never expected anything like what I saw (the Packers won, 38-10).  This was, without doubt, the Packers' best performance of the year, and probably of the past several years.  I may be forgetting some other equivalent statement game, but off the top of my head the one that comes to mind is the Packers' rout of the Falcons, on the road, in the 2010 playoffs.

On the Packers' side, there were three things evident in this game.  First, Rodgers' accuracy is definitely back now.  Just as he was missing receivers on both long and short passes earlier in the year, he is making those passes now.  The first touchdown, the 66 yard bomb to Adams, was so reminiscent of other Rodgers touchdown passes in other years, usually passes to Jordy Nelson.  But Rodgers just flicked that ball over 50 yards in the air, with nothing but his arm, as his feet were not set.  Second, if it was not already clear, Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael need to be the primary running backs going forward.  Both of them are much better at making things happen right now, as compared to James Starks.  With Starks in the concussion protocol because of a car accident, of all things, this may be a moot point.  But they need Montgomery and Michael out there at running back.  Finally, while the defense may not be as stifling as it looked for a few weeks at the beginning of the year, they have now played three games in a row in which they have not given up more than 13 points.  If they can keep that level of performance up, the Packers may run the table after all.

I don't watch all the Seahawks games, but I have not seen the Seahawks look this bad in quite a while.  Poor Russell Wilson.  He seems like a nice young man, and I like him.  But he looked like Jay Cutler out there on Sunday.  It goes without saying, when a quarterback throws 5 interceptions, that he is not having a very good day.  It is true that 3 of the interceptions came on balls that bounced off other players.  So that, in a sense, is bad luck.  But he was truly off, even if you ignore those unlucky bounces.  It was never more evident than on the first two drives, when he overthrew receivers on both drives.  Both plays looked like touchdown passes, as the receivers were wide open.  But instead they resulted in a total of 3 points.

The Seahawks were undoubtedly hurt by the loss of free safety Earl Thomas the week before.  And as mentioned, Wilson's bad day was exaggerated beyond belief by the bad luck of having balls bounce off people and into the hands of Green Bay defensive backs.  That's fine.  This is a team that is an excellent team, and it is well-coached (even though I can't stand Pete Carroll), as the Packers have found out multiple times in past games.  But in addition to all that, they seem to always get the benefit of every weird call or botched play against the Green Bay Packers.  So it was nice to see the lucky balls bounce the other way for a change.

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