Thoughts Cowboys-Packers

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*The story of the game, obviously, was the Packer defense. It was not only the best defensive performance of the year, but one of the best in a decade. Totally dominating. If this squad had played in Tampa last week we would have won by 50.

The tackling was good. The coverage was excellent. And the defense was opportunistic, as ever.

I think the key, though, was that the blitzes were both well-timed and well-executed. Tony Romo looked absolutely clueless all day. He had no idea who was coming and where they were coming from. And that, of course, is the entire point of the Pittsburgh style 3-4 defense. I didn’t see how well Brad Jones played, but I wonder if having him in coverage is an improvement over Aaron Kampman. (Still think the Packers should have moved him before the trade deadline.)

*Charles Woodson is unreal.  As we complain about Ted Thompson’s unwillingness to get free agents, let’s remember that his acquisition of Woodson has to go down and one of the best free agency moves in the past five years.  (Ryan Pickett was pretty darn good, too.)

*Ryan Grant seemed to run especially hard today. And while he doesn’t have the shiftiness that a lot of back do — or, say, even that Brother Andy does — he’s a strong straight-line guy and he can be tough to bring down.

*And while the offensive line had continued protection issues, they created some huge holes for Grant. He didn’t always make it through them, and sometimes he chose poorly, but there were running lanes for Grant today.

*Josh Sitton is very good. He’s not flashy — can guards be flashy? — but he’s solid and he seems very strong.

*Special teams was also good — or at least not awful. I must admit that after every Packer score I held my breath a bit assuming that the Cowboys would get a huge runback. That didn’t happen and it could have been the difference in the game.

Some other random observations:

*Horrible officiating — very lopsided officiating in the first quarter. On a screen to Marion Barber, Brad Jones was held badly by (68). Then, on an important third down, Greg Jennings was held badly by Mike Jenkins beyond five yards trying to get out of his break. (The hands to the face call on Jenkins could probably be called on about 50 percent of plays.) Later in the game, the refs called Al Harris for a very questionable face mask penalty — replays showed he got him on the helmet and didn’t actually grab the face mask. The previous third down play, Rodgers was sacked and was hit in the head by a stray hand. I don’t think refs should call that, but if they’re going to call Harris they need to call it on the cowboys, too. Terrible call in the early fourth quarter on Dallas. Illegal block in the back was clearly from the side. Cost them about 15 yards of field position. And then, of course, the refs blew the call on the Romo fumble when Felix Jones recovered.

*The Packers continue to play undisciplined. Spencer Havner’s late hit was inexcusable — Rodgers was five yards out of bounds when he threw his “block.” On Tramon Williams 18-yard punt return at the end of the half, Jarius Wynn hit a Cowboy well after the play was over. Could have easily been another 15-yarder. It’s almost pointless to even mention it. The Packers are going to be an undisciplined team as long as Mike McCarthy is the coach. Johnny Jolly could have had three roughing/unsportsmanlike penalties. He’s in an unbelievable moron.

*BJ Raji ought to do more than make one tackle before he starts soliciting applause.  Play hard and shut up until you do it more than once.

*Chad Clifton seems to be holding when he doesn’t need to be. On several plays he wrapped his arm around a rusher — often DeMarcus Ware — when a nudge to the outside would have kept him from Rodgers. The wrap-around is one of the easiest calls for the refs to make. I can understand not wanting to allow Rodgers to get drilled. Preventing those kind of hits is smart. But just grabbing for the sake of grabbing is hurting the Packers.

*Interesting how out of touch Troy Aikman seemed today. He kept talking about how often the Packers run slant passes and screens. But to anyone who has been paying close attention to the Packers, the point to make is how few slants and screens the Packers have been running lately. It’s been striking, given just how often the Packers have relied on these plays in the past.

*I like Aikman as a color commentator. In fact, he would be a great third guy in the booth for Monday Night Football when Jon Gruden gets a job. (Or is fired — he’s incredibly annoying.) But why does he emphasize the GREEN in Green Bay? Hasn’t anyone ever told him that no one from Wisconsin says that? He’s em-PHA-sizing the wrong syl-LA-ble.

*At the beginning of the game, Rodgers did a good job of getting rid of the ball. As I watched on TV, it looked like he had internalized a sped-up rush clock. But by the middle of the second quarter, when he took a sack and fumbled, he was back to holding the ball way too long. That’s going to be a big problem for him until he corrects it. It may take an injury — I hope not.

*What kind of a play call was that at the end of the half? Short screen to Brandon Jackson? There are lots of times to run screens — that’s one one of them.

*One of Aaron Rodgers’ best plays came on a 2nd and 7, with just over 9 minutes to go in the third quarter. He calmly stepped up in the pocket, avoided the rush, and threw a ball at Greg Jennings’ feet. Incomplete. He was elusive and then quickly got rid of the ball. On the next play, he held the ball too long — must have been two whole seconds — and got sacked.

*When Mike Jenkins went down with an injury with about 5 minutes to go in the third quarter, the Packers should have gone after his replacement — Scandrick. Aikman said this. LeRoy Butler tweeted: “Whoever the new guy that comes in go deep on him next play.” Maybe the argument is that this is too obvious — after all two smart football guys and a fat blogger all had the same idea. But still seems like a good idea to me.

*Foolish challenge by McCarthy on the Jordy Nelson catch. Unless someone saw for certain that he was in before his knee was down — which wasn’t possible, since he wasn’t — he shouldn’t have challenged. The Packers had four downs to score from the 1. And losing not only cost him a time out but it was the Packers last challenge.

Overall, though, this was much better. Even though the Packers were undisciplined, it didn’t cost them. Some of that was luck. As I say, Johnny Jolly could have been flagged several more times. In other games, he will be — and it will hurt.  But if the defense plays this way the rest of the year, the Packers could make the playoffs even with the protection problems.


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17 Responses to “Thoughts Cowboys-Packers”

  1. Ax in Dallas Says:

    - Great play by the defense and especially Matthews and Woodson. Nice to see them play up to that level.

    – Penalties. Penalties. Penalties. Granted, the officiating was beyond poor, but the PF on Havner and the ever-so-lucky Jolly should be thanking those refs, since Thanksgiving came early for him today.

    – McCarthy really needs to CONFER with his guys in the booth before throwing the challenge. The Nelson challenge was poor and you’re at HOME, and can see the review multiple time. Also, you get one challenge per HALF, MM. Count to 1…then stop. You’re done.

    – Rodgers seemed to move very well this game. I really thought the line played well today, given the fact that everyone (me included) was counting them out.

    – Would like to see us stick to the run when it’s working in the Red Zone.

    – Dallas suffered more injuries today than any game this season COMBINED. Welcome to our world.

    …..can’t wait to hear sportstalk radio here tomorrow in Dallas. The “high-powered” Dallas offense didn’t put any points on the board until the last 38 seconds of the game. Anemic.

    I’ll take the win…but would still be happy to see TT and MM pack their bags.

    • DreamPipe Says:

      In MM’s defense on his attempt at a 3rd challenge: Our D needed a rest big time! Perhaps he knows there;s no punishment for throwing that 3rd red flag, and he did so to get a stoppage in play to give our guys a breather? But I agree with you on challenge no. 2… maybe you challenge the Nelson catch in the first half, but not in the second half AT HOME! C’mon, man!

      • 56Coop Says:

        Dreampipe-I’d love to agree with you about Mike throwing the 3rd challenge to give our guys a rest. I’d love to but I can’t. I just don’t think he’s that smart.

        And as everyone says that Nelson challenge was ridiculous. For goodness sake, you got 1st & goal on the 2, why bother. And I think he threw the challenge flag without conferring with anyone. It came out quick.

        Good ol’ McChuckles. Good win, I’ll take it but TT & MM still need to go.

    • nick Says:

      You get two challenges per game, not one per half.

  2. DreamPipe Says:

    Way too many penalties…

    Also, Rodgers is not throwing to guys when they come open, it’s like he waits until they come open a SECOND time before he throws it… GET THE BALL OUT RODG!

    Don’t know if you hayes boys and resident packgeeks noticed, but Dom Capers called a HECK of a game tonight. He had Woodson in the box basically the whole game, and look at his line (8 tackles, sack, pick, 2 forced fumbles), also Dom did this without Chillar and Kampman! I’m wondering if having Kampman out adds to the flexibility of the 3-4 scheme? Despite his talent, is Kampman somewhat of a liability in the 3-4? I love Kampman, but I was campaigning for us to trade him by the deadline earlier in Oct. before he becomes a FA. What do you think Andy?

  3. campbell Says:

    These past few weeks I’ve been dismissive, negative, recusant and downright snarky about these players.

    Tonight, I’d like to salute them on a magnificent team win. The offense was impressive, but the defense was even better.

    Let’s hope they continue this bold, inspired, play against their remaining opponents.

    Bravo!

  4. nick Says:

    Steve,

    Spot on with the Kampman/Brad Jones comment. You mentioned you didnt see him in coverage enough to pass judgement; but thats the point. With Kampman, you see and hear of him because he is a liability in coverage. When Witten and their backs are kept in check and Jones is not mentioned unless hes making a tackle, thats a good game for an OLB.

    Woodson was awesome. 8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 2 forced fumbles. You deserve to be in a pro bowl for just that stat line.

    O-Line had way too many penalties. Thats, once again, on the coaching. Hate to pile on MM after a great game, but he needs to go. Those penalties held the Packers to a close game when it could have been a blowout.

    -Nick

  5. Trav Says:

    DP – Agree with you on the challenge to get the D a rest. With the crappy game that Triplett and his crew were calling, he knew it would take them some time to sort it out.

    The one time I remember Jones in coverage was the play right before Woodson had the pick on the 1 in front of Witten. Previous play, the RB came out of the backfield and Jones was out of position and was lucky that Romo threw a bad pass. Regardless, he was no further out of position than Kampman would have been.

    Penalties – too frustrating. It does seem to be something we will have to live with as part of the 09 season (unfortunately).

    An observation about our running game: It seems that our running plays take a loooonnnng time to develop. Rodgers gets the snap, begins his drop with his hand out with the ball, but seems to have to take 3-4 steps to meet the back. The back is starting about 7 yards back so it takes time for him to actually get the ball. Given our line, it seems that when/if there is a hole, they are having to hold it open a very, very long time. Grant hits the hole, then gets tripped up or it collapses as he starts to hit it. In viewing other games today, the running plays seem to develop much faster. Granted, this could all be part of the zone scheme, but it just seems to be really slow.

    Overall, very pleased with the performance and I was greedy in wanting the shut out to break that 94 game streak for the Cowboys. It solidified that the Cowboys were a very, very soft 6-2 team coming into the game.

    • Cindy V Says:

      I agree with you about how long it takes to develop the run play. I was watching the Colts-Patriots game and I saw how much closer the running back stands to Manning. It looks like Grant is at least 7 years behind Rodgers. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

  6. sfhayes Says:

    Nick,
    Right on everything. Eager for a postgame look at Jones, but think he couldn’t have done much worse than Kampman in coverage. And that’s from a Kampman fan.
    sfh

  7. My thoughts are images which I have made | Real Doctor Jay's Blog Says:

    […] Thoughts Cowboys-Packers « packergeeks […]

  8. Joe Says:

    Jones played well enough to get one more start. Not the job but another shot at it. Kampman is a great football player and human being, but he is a horrible outside linebacker. Just aweful. They really should have moved him before the trade dealine. He is free agent and he will leave (and he should) but the team won’t get anything for him. Just think of all the draft picks TT could have gotten.

  9. PackerBelle Says:

    Can I say I am shocked? I was traveling for work yesterday and was pretty happy I’d likely not be able to see any of the game. When I called to let relatives know I’d gotten to the hotel safely and was told the Pack was winning I was flabbergasted.

    From what I’ve read it seems like the team still has a lot of things to improve on but it seems like they really did step it up. The question then becomes can they they continue this level of play or will they revert next week? Rodgers seems to have done better with his timing and hopefully will continue to improve. Sometimes it is easy to forget that he’s only been starting for a season and a half he looks so polished otherwise. This is something he needs to work on and it hopefully it is starting to click.

    I’m not going to start saying that the Pack have turned the corner, but last night at least gave some hope for the rest of the season.

  10. RayMidge Says:

    Any season in which you beat Dallas is not a total failure. Still, the Pack continues to lead the league in self-inflicted wounds of every sort. There is talent here, but talent is not enough. If there is a wildly optimitistic precedent for this team, it might be the 2007 Giants. They were a slop-fest early that season, giving games away (seemingly quitting against the Packers in week 2) and generally disappointing the fan base with their under-achieving ways, but somewhere in December it clicked in for them, the D started playing at a very high level and the developing QB discovered how to do just enough to win and they got on a roll . . . this team has the talent to the same, and there is still lots of room for improvement.

  11. 56Coop Says:

    Packerbelle, welcome back. I’ve been worried about you.

    The Pack put together a pretty solid game last night and it was about time. I would certainly give Woodson the MVP award and hopefully he’s considered for NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

    I still say MM’s no head coach & TT’s no GM (gotta give him kudos for Woodson though).

    We can also thank Tony “DeNiro” Romo for that win. He missed several throws that could have been huge gains or TD’s.

    That game had to rank among the top 3 or 4 worst officiated games of all time. At least they didn;t play favorites. Horrible calls against both teams.

    I’m thinking Matthews is going to be a good draft pick. Raji, I’m not so sure about.

    • PackerBelle Says:

      Sorry about worrying you! Just have had a couple of big projects for work that gave me no time for slacking at work and no desire to look at a computer when I got home.

  12. DaveK Says:

    I was traveling also and about fell over when I caught a score in the 4th quarter. Watched the recorded version last night and I was absolutely amazed by our defense. They actually looked like a fluid 3-4 defense. Where the hell was that against Tampa? Blitzes were disguised and timed correctly. Run defense was outstanding. Romo seemed confused all night and the Cowboy offense never got into any kind of rhythm. I can’t say enough about Woodson. He had an amazing INT and caused two more fumbles. His ability to stick his nose and help the running game is also a huge plus. Amazing game by him yesterday. The front three also were very good yesterday. Jenkins continues to be a very effective 3-4 end and I thought Jolly was disruptive and very effective most oh his snaps. Barnett and Matthews both played fast and finished sacks and tackles.

    The offense really had two drives that were succesful. The drive at the end of the first quarter for a field goal and the TD drive in the 2nd half which essentially broke the game open. Rodgers played well and his two 3rd and long passes on that TD drive were just outstanding. Both times the players were covered and Rodgers stuck that ball in there perfectly. They ran the ball effectively in the 2nd half and I was happy to see some of the short passing game reappear this week.

    But, this offense is never going to be consistent with this offensive line. Sacks are penalties are always to kill drives and I don’t how this line gets much better. I keyed on Clifton and I think he was the worst offensive lineman on the field yesterday. I understand he had his hands full with Ware a lot of the time but he did very little well yesterday. Two screen plays were blown up because he couldn’t block the one guy in a position to make a tackle. I counted 3 or 4 run plays where his guy basically threw him down and made the tackle. Throw in his penalties and there were at least 7-8 plays where his poor play caused the play to fail.

    Looking forward I think this game may be the blueprint to get some more wins. The offense will continue to struggle but hopefully do enough to allow our defense to play downhill like they did today.

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