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Thoughts Cowboys-Packers

November 15, 2009

*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.


Scandrick

November 15, 2009

The Packers should throw on him all game.  He’s awful.  Rodgers should just see who’s lined up opposite #32 and throw to him every play.

Jeff Triplette

November 15, 2009

He sucks.  Really.  He’s absolutely awful.  His crew has missed several obvious calls on the Cowboys — a hold on Brad Jones blitz and a non-call on Mike Jenkins grabbing Greg Jennings — and called a couple ticky-tack penalties on both teams.

That Was Fast

November 13, 2009

Deadspin headline: “Please Don’t Mention Eggs to Mike McCarthy, Ever.”

 

How to Become a Punchline

November 13, 2009

According to this story by Don Walker, Mike McCarthy has fired a 22-year veteran of the Packers maintenance crew because, according to the team, the worker had the temerity to say “don’t lay an egg” to McCarthy before the Vikings game.  The worker, Mike Wood, denies saying this, claiming instead that he said “let’s get the boys ready to kick some butt this weekend.”

I don’t know who to believe.  On the one hand, does anyone ever use the phrase “kick some butt” anymore?  I can see “kick some ass” or something along those lines but I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say “kick some butt” since 1982.  On the other hand, there is no one in the story who confirms the Packers’ account.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume the guy said some version of what McCarthy thought he heard.  Maybe something like: “Don’t let the boys lay an egg this weekend, let’s get them ready to kick some ass.”

Is that really worth firing someone who has worked for the team for two decades?  That is crazy – and looks even worse since the Packers did, in fact, go out and lay and egg November 1.

The irony should be obvious to even the most casual observer.

On the one hand, McCarthy says publicly that special teams coach Shawn Slocum, whose unit has performed poorly all year and largely cost the Packers their last two games, “has done a good job.”  And Mike Wood, whose 22 years with the Packers suggest he probably really has done a good job, is fired for making (or not making) a wisecrack?

I don’t think this story ends well for Coach Mangini, er, McCarthy.

How disrespected are the Packers now?  I was listening to Sirius NFL Radio on my drive in the other day and squeezed in between their hours of discussion devoted to the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers they managed to preview the Cowboys-Packers game.

It was depressing.

The commentators — I think it was Bryan McGovern and Gil Brandt — wondered aloud whether this might be a “trap” game for the Cowboys.  That is, coming off a big victory against Philadelphia, the Cowboys might be so confident about a win this weekend in Green Bay that they would overlook the Packers and lose.

Two months ago, the Packers were being discussed seriously as a potential NFC champion.  Now, after two losses to the Vikings and last week’s defeat at Tampa, they are considered so weak that teams could look beyond them to future games.

Not good.

 

Veterans Day

November 11, 2009

A word of thanks to our Veterans today.  Please take five minutes to watch this video produced by the youngest Hayes brother, Dan.  He spent this past Saturday with World War II Veterans flown from Wisconsin to Washington, DC, where they visited the WWII Memorial and spend the day in the nation’s capital.   The terrific music in the video is our own Josh Christiansen (known to most of you  as frequent commenter “joshywoshybigfatposhy”).

Thanks to these men — and all Veterans — for their service.  And to Dan for sharing their stories.

 

Congrats to the Vikings

November 10, 2009

A hearty Wisconsin congratulations to our western neighbors on avoiding blackouts for three consecutive home games.  According to PFT, the Vikings have sold out upcoming games against the Lions, the Seahawks and the Bears.  I guess technically they’re not sellouts but, according to a Vikings representative, “virtual sellouts,” which, if you’re the Vikings, you’ll take in a heartbeat!  You’ll remember last year as the Vikings made their playoff push, the most suspenseful part of their short run was whether they would sellout and avoid a blackout.

If you’re wondering, the Packers have sold out every game at Lambeau since…1959.

 

 

McCarthy on Tampa

November 9, 2009

Mike McCarthy told reporters today that special teams coach Shawn Slocum “has done a good job” and that the problems on the offensive line are “correctable.”

He said a bunch of other things, too. But I’m not sure it’s worth discussing them.

Because Mike McCarthy told reporters today that special teams coach Shawn Slocum “has done a good job” and that the problems on the offensive line are “correctable.”

What more can I say?

UPDATE: PFT’s Gregg Rosenthal, far less prone to hysteria than PFT’s Mike Florio, mocks McCarthy in a post this afternoon.  “McCarthy is either delusional or not doing a good job fixing the correctable mistakes, which certainly include Rodgers’ penchant for holding the ball too long.”  It’s never a good sign when your analysis from your head coach becomes a punch line.

Adjusting Expectations, 2009 Edition

November 8, 2009

It’s a blog, so I can be self-referential, right? Good.

Last year, after the Packers lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I wrote a
post entitled “Adjusting Expectations.” Basically, I took a wide angle look at the Packers and concluded that they weren’t going to meet the high expectations many of us had for them before the season. I was scolded by other Packer bloggers for doing this. Our friend Aaron at Cheesehead.tv said I should know better. Even Brother Andy chastised me for “jumping ship.”

But I wasn’t jumping ship, I was just making some fairly obvious — if painful — observations.

And here we are again. The Packers lost to a Tampa team that earlier this year put up 86 yards on offense. They hadn’t won a game. They were ranked 28th on defense. They had 11 sacks. They were ranked 28th on offense. They were 28th in points scored — a total of 96 points.

Today, the Bucs had 38 points. They had 6 sacks. Their offense moved the ball easily. Their defense was stingy.

And the Packers flat-out sucked.

For the most part, I’ve been a defender of Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson. No longer. McCarthy’s playcalling sucks. Yes, the players have to execute. That’s the smart-guy way of defending bad playcalling. It’s not convincing.

Our offensive line is atrocious. It was atrocious last year. It’s on Ted Thompson that it still sucks.

The irony is that the conventional wisdom held that Thompson and McCarthy jeopardized their futures in Green Bay because they refused to put up with Brett Favre’s antics. And it turns out that their decision there looks good. Yes, Favre has played well. But Rodgers is a future star. Amazing to me that they wouldn’t come up with an offensive line to protect him.

But the Packers right now are a bad team that sometimes plays good defense. But they are a bad team.

It is the job of the head coach to prepare teams to play. McCarthy has failed in that task repeatedly. And he failed this week.

Jermichael Finley didn’t play against Tampa. But earlier this week he wrote this on “twitter.”

“Where my pack fans that are traveling with us to Tampa. We need this game not a big one but we need it.”

Not a big one?

Ask Mike McCarthy in January if this was a big game. It may be one of the major reasons he find himself among the ranks of the unemployed. Ted Thompson, too.

Embarrassing

November 8, 2009

The Packers may well win this game.  But four minutes into the second quarter they are tied with an entirely inferior opponent.  And our punt team just allowed three Bucs — three — to come through the line untouched.  Really, that’s just embarrassing.

The defense has looked almost nonchalant today — as if they think they’ll win just by flying to Tampa.    (Charles Woodson has been the notable exception.  Nick Collin — terrible so far.)


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