Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Redemption! Now Get Your Act Together!

Redemption!  Photo by Dan Powers, USA Today
For most of the evening, watching the Packers-49ers game with my wife, her mother, and her cousins, it seemed like this game was going to be just another lost opportunity.  We would have been complaining about it for the next two weeks, and wondering how (if at all) the Packers could salvage their season.  I never gave up on the game, but I really expected to see the Packers looking up at both the Bears and the Vikings by the final gun.  And then the Packers managed another miracle comeback, scoring 10 points in the final two minutes, on two all but flawless Aaron Rodgers drives, to win it, 33-30.

So where are the Packers, really, as they head into their bye week and get a chance to nurse some of their key players like Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, and Jaire Alexander back to health?  I don't think we know.  They obviously have the talent to pull these miracles out of their hats (or out of their heads, as Jason Witten said on the broadcast), but why are comebacks necessary with this kind of talent? 

We started to see some good things in this game.  Remember how we fans are always watching other games and saying, "why don't we ever run innovative plays like that?"  Well, the Packers scored their first TD of the night on an innovative diamond formation play.  The back receiver, Ty Montgomery, just waited for the lateral pass from Rodgers, and had three blockers in front of him.  Nothing to it.  That was also the first opening drive TD for the Packers all year long.  And Jimmy Graham came ever closer to the massive breakout game we have been expecting all year. 

But for most of the night, the Packers defense looked like it couldn't stop anything the 49ers threw at them.  As my friend Al said by text, "the first team to play defense wins."  It took the Packers to the point of desperation in the fourth quarter before the defense finally stiffened, ending the 49ers last three drives with two punts and an interception.  The penultimate drive was snuffed out by a huge Clay Matthews sack, just when it was needed most, and the last drive was ended on Kevin King's great interception, allowing just enough time on the clock for Rodgers to engineer the winning drive for a field goal.

Mason Crosby, who looked like he could not hit the broad side of a barn last week against the Lions, was nothing but clutch Monday night.  He nailed 4 field goals and 3 extra points.  All of them were needed in order for the game to be tied, and the last one was needed to win the game.  Was last week's game just the most massive blip ever in an otherwise productive career?  It looks like it as of now.

I just had to laugh when they showed the pictures of Rodgers as a kid, first with his 49er gear, and then with his Packers sweatshirt at age 13.  First, doing the math, this would have been from the year of Super Bowl XXXI, so I am guessing that he was a Brett Favre fan at the time.  But on a personal note, I have that same sweatshirt, and I bought it within a few days before or after that Super Bowl.  Unfortunately, mine seems to have shrunk, or at any rate it doesn't fit me anymore, but I just can't part with it. 

Anyway, the Packers are in pretty good shape going into the bye week, just trailing the Bears by a statistical smidgen.  But let's be honest, they can't keep doing this stuff.  They have to start strong every game on offense, never let up, and play better on defense.  The return of Cobb and Allison on offense can only make the offense more explosive, and it already looked pretty good last night.  The return of Jaire Alexander will make a difference on some of those long pass plays that the Packers give up all too frequently.  The way I look at it, they have two weeks to get their act together, because the next two games are against the Rams and Patriots, and it doesn't get much easier after that. 

Coaches, you are on the clock!

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