- I’ve seen more and more expert-types starting to pick the Steelers in this one. For a lot of people picking this game, the question becomes: which streak is more likely to end today, Pitt’s 5 game losing streak or the Pack’s 5 game winning streak. COnsidering it’s in Pitt, I can see why a number of folks are taking Pitt – I’m not too pumped that they are on the schedule today. But they are a different team without Polamalu and their offense has really struggled to get in gear for weeks now.
- It will be key to get a turnover early in this one – rattle Big Ben in particular. A sack fumble I’d say is likely, but a pick may be out there too. They will be ready to play and no doubt play the inspired football they typically play, but one great way to diffuse that excitement is an early turnover converted into points.
- Rodgers needs a big game. He’s had his share of nice games this year, but it would be really nice if he just dissects this defense. If he can do this, that would be a good sign to Packer fans that he’s arrived – not because the Pitt D is their usual staunch D, but because he’ll then be able to say he had a part in besting the best defensive mind in football in Dick LeBeau.
- Even though our run D lately doesn’t give me much reason to be concerned re the Pitt run game, I feel I need to say stopping their run game is key here. They’ll want to establish the run and Mendenhall is a good back.
- Mason Crosy – interestingly, Mason Crosby is the only kicker in Heinz Field history to make a field goal of over 50 yards. The winds are notoriously tricky there and Crosby nailed this one in a preseason game. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Crosby ends up hitting a key 50+ yard FG during this game and becomes the only kicker to make one from over 50 during a regular season game.
- Just saw a rather hackish-seeming new punter-rating system that Sports Illustrated put together. It was really lame (Shane Lechler was like # 12 or something) and I don’t put a lot of stock in it. That said, by this rating system and really, just about any rating system, Jeremy Kapinos is toward the bottom. He did have a nice kick last week that helped the team and I hope that continues. But his punting may end up being key as Pitt wouldn’t mind at all keeping this game close by winning the field position game.
- I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jennings and Donald Lee both benefit directly from the added attention Finley will be getting. This may also be the kind of game where our FBs get some nice catches out of the backfield.
- I want a big hit by Bigby – particularly a big hit on Hines Ward. I no longer care for Hines Ward. He is super cocky and his constant smiling isn’t a cool “I’m just enjoying myself, let’s all have fun” smile. It’s a “I’ve become a jackass and am just waiting to nail you with a block when you’re not looking”. He needs to get hit hard and Bigby could use one of these.
- I actually think Packer players are going to be really up for this game because I think Mike McCarthy and staff have successfully won the team back over. I really think there was probably major dissention among the ranks after the TB loss – but the staff and players did a good job of reuniting and getting things turned around. McCarthy will have his entire extended family there and I think the players may play this one some for coach McCarthy because whether he says it or not, this game means a lot to him.
Archive for the ‘McCarthy’ Category
Tom Silverstein addresses the Jermichael Finley question today at jsonline – The subtitle of the article is “Focus on Finley puzzles receivers”. First of all, our WRs shouldn’t mind a bit if Finley is getting more targets because it’s indisputable that he does positive things with the ball when he is targeted – he helps our team. And my guess is that while all our WRs are eager to help/get the ball, they are the kinds of people who ultimately will be fine as long as we win.
But one thought I came away with after reading this article is this: right now, McCarthy and Philbin are doing their best to establish Jermichael Finley as the big-time threat they know he can be. In the last few games, they’ve done a very good job of doing this. When Mike McCarthy is coaching at his best (like in 2007), he can be a keen observer of mismatches. He and Philbin have clearly discovered that Finley is a nightmare match-up for opposing defenses – especially in light of the fact that defenses have to be very careful about shifting too much coverage to Finley as it may leave them thin against Jennings, Driver and Jones/Nelson (or even thin against the run if LBs are in coverage). I wouldn’t be surprised if over the next couple weeks, defenses do start to focus more on Finley as he’s likely to continue to cause damage if they don’t. But I’m pretty sure that when they start doing this, it will open up favorable match-ups for the WRs (perhaps more single coverage situations) AND, possibly even help the running game if opposing LBs are drawn into Finley duty. Getting into a situation like this is exactly what McCarthy (and really any coach) wants: making the defense hesitate even for a moment because it’s unsure who will be getting the ball. Eventually, ideally, the defense will be stuck with a decision between rolling over more help to cover Finley and leaving the WRs/RBs less covered or allowing Finley to continue going nuts.
This is a good situation, even if it leaves our WRs “puzzled”.
- Charles Woodson’s tackle on 1st and goal from the 1 against Willis McGahee for a 2 yard loss was the play of the game. Yes, the ensuing pick by Tramon was huge too, but it was Woodson’s unreal tackle that set up that pick because it made Balt mistakenly think they had to call a pass play (which was dumb – don’t know why they don’t just give it to Rice every time down there, he’ll get in eventually).
- AJ Hawk’s interception was definitely nice – anytime you pick it off it’s nice. But the announcers made too much of it (like they did often last night). Part of the reason Hawk could stay with Todd Heap last night is because Heap was coming off a recent injury and was already among the slower TEs in the league. Hey, I think Hawk has upped his level of play recently and I’m not writing this as knock on him – again a pick is always a good thing. I’m just trying to temper any unfounded excitement that Hawk may have turned a corner w/re to his coverage abilities.
- I’m still not sold on the job TT has done here, but last night he had to feel good as five of his big acquisitions/draft picks stood out: Woodson, Rodgers, Finley, Matthews and Raji.
- Mike Greenberg of Mike and Mike in the Morning (ESPN radio) made a similar comment to mine from last night re the officiating – he hated it. He argued that while there were some bad fouls that had to be called, the officials got way carried away. I agree. It’s a reputation thing now, unfortunately for the Packers. You know the NFL’s officiating office forewarned this crew beforehand that there SHOULD be lots of fouls, so they were more inclined to call it tight. I just wish officiating were more consistent from game to game.
- As a preface to what I’m about to say, I don’t dislike Jon Gruden and Jaws – and both drawn upon some quality football knowledge as commentators, and I don’t mind them trying to keep it light. But I tired quickly of the laudfest going on, as it were. A player couldn’t just make a nice play. Both Gruden and Jaws had to talk up every play like it was the stuff of miracles. There were some great plays definitely, but there were also some very average plays that were made out to be great. Chris Collinsworth has far more credibility up in the booth in my mind. It’s interesting, as I consider NBC’s Sunday Night games vs ESPN Monday Night games, the latter seems to be so much more of a choreographed production – the former is just watching a good football game with knowledgeable commentary. In fact, at one point last night I wondered if ESPN corporate had given a clear mandate this off-season to the broadcast group to try to be more positive or something – it was like watching a YMCA youth basketball game where everyone’s a winner.
- Our defense was very active last night. It was clear that Flacco was rattled and a bit unsure of what was coming next. That’s a credit to Capers. Outside of some pass interference calls, our secondary was solid last night. Collins and Bigby did a nice job holding the fort back there. And Collins’ read on the flea-flicker, the one play I thought Balt could pull off to really hurt us – was great, and that was an especially nice scoop catch for the pick too.
- Our defense also played very tight in coverage. It seemed that there were more than a few plays where Flacco rolled out or bought himself more time and still had nowhere to go. Both the LBs and the secondary were strong in coverage.
- BJ Raji has a presence on the line. I can’t remember seeing such a big person move so quickly and so easily get low to make plays. Barnett, Hawk, Jones and of course Matthews were very good last night – especially Matthews.
- Mason Crosby has reached a very interesting point, from a coaching perspective. He is obviously struggling big-time mentally (though the snap was bad on the miss). He just doesn’t look comfortable out there especially before his kicks. As a coach, it seems there are 3 ways to handle this: threaten to bring competition in, just bring competition in or cut him outright and sign another kicker. Crosby has now been marginal for 1.5+ seasons. If I were coach, I’d handle this like how Jim Mora handled Olindo Mare’s early season struggles this year – miss another critical one or easy ones, and you’re likely gone. After that threat (which I believe Mora made in a press conference), Mare made 17 in a row. (Matt Stover may be available soon if Indy reinstates Vinatieri who has been injured. John Carney may also be available as NO may release him.)
- I think Josh Sitton has a fair amount of nasty in him. It just seems like he has the QB’s back and really, the back of every Packer all the time. I think more and more national folks will be talking about him over the next couple years as a force on the Packers’ line.
- Aaron Rodgers is very very good. Even on the unlucky turnover plays (except the first pick), Rodgers put the ball on the money for his WRs last night. Just very quality play from him.
- Nicely coached game last night especially by Capers. McCarthy drew up some nice play calls at the right moments too. I do think we should have been able to score more against that defense – they just weren’t nearly as good as many think they are. And I continue to have concerns re our red zone offense (need to improve our TD percentage). I think our fortunate recent schedule has helped McCarthy almost build back his own confidence – he just seems far more tuned into games than earlier this year. I really like that he let Dietrich-Smith have it after that near-unnecessary roughness penalty. I wish the cameras would have shown more of that, but it was clear he wasn’t happy. It was a good coaching moment.
- Picking up Ahman Green when we did was smart. He is a savvy veteran who knows how to pick up the blitz, he still runs hard like he used too because he still plays hungry like he used to. Smart pick up. My guess is he’s also had a positive effect on more of a mentoring level on both Grant and Jackson.
- Overall, I was pleased with the game. I got nervous there in the 3rd quarter, but Rodgers/McCarthy pulled us through by getting us a big TD to go back up by 10 (24-14). The Packers seem to be about 1 quarter shy of being an upper tier team. If they would have held Balt to 3 or 7 points last night and not bled like they did in the 3rd quarter, I would be feeling extra good. For now, I still feel good about this team, especially with the hope that we’re improving w/each game.
- I want to make special mention of the fact that Dom Capers and Mike McCarthy took a lot of criticism when the team dropped to 4-4. I was critical myself because they deserved it. But they have responded. Sure, the schedule hasn’t been too tough – but the fact is, the coaching staff responded, made some changes, and most importantly, got key results. This was a huge win last night and my hope is that the confidence will carry over to the next few games. We are hot at the right time here.
Now PFT has weighed in on this story from jsonline this morning by Don Walker. Read here.
I share Steve’s concerns re this situation and I don’t think Mike Florio’s too far off here either. I’m just not sure myself what Mike Wood could have possibly said to just get canned like this – especially after 22 years. Outside of threatening someone, I just can’t imagine. And this from a guy who works with termination/employment issues daily. Even if he said something about laying an egg – that’s not can-worthy, as it were.
But what strikes me most about this incident is that Mike McCarthy has no problem “holding Mike Wood accountable” for some comments that weren’t offensive and yet he doesn’t just bench Colledge, Clifton, Lang, Barbre when they’re seemingly trying to get Rodgers sacked. Or he doesn’t say a word to Johnny Jolly after Jolly’s bonehead penalty seriously affected the Vikings’ game. Or he doesn’t say a word to AJ Hawk after Hawk’s defensive holding penalty kept a critical Bucs’ drive alive. Or, he doesn’t say a word to the officials when phantom calls at critical times derail our momentum. Or, he doesn’t call out (or simply fire) Shawn Slocum and James Campen for directing respectively, the worst special teams and offensive line units in the NFL. Or he doesn’t take enough ownership of his own errors and how they contribute to our losses.
My one hope right now is because this week has been an emotional one, some of this emotion can carry over to the game on Sunday. This team is fractured. Over time, McCarthy has taken an increasingly compartmentalized approach, due in part to his hyper focus on all things offense. This team needs a central figure to rally around. It needs a head coach who takes an active role in all the big TEAM decisions – not just the offensive ones. Hopefully, the emotion of these last two losses (you know it’s emotional when Driver’s calling people out) coupled with the heightened sense of urgency the players have developed can bring these guys together for the common goal of winning. While my never-ending Packer optimism cringes as I write this – I’d say quite simply, this game is the season.
I agree with reader Bucky – this loss can be pinned largely on McCarthy. I was a McCarthy supporter after 2007 because the team played well, but he also seemed to be creative and had a nice command. Since that time, his sense of game flow has sucked and his players continue to make more mistakes than just about any group of players in the league. And even if the personnel on the o-line continues to be weak (which they are), we’re not getting anything out of these guys in pass protection. Not sure how James Campen stays employed. It’s not just the sacks, it’s the number of times Rodgers is flushed out of the pocket too. To be fair, I think Rodgers was also quite bad today – his pocket awareness is not good. While the line continues to suck, Rodgers owns some of this too. But the special teams was also very bad today – and so was the defense. Shockingly bad defense. Dom Capers isn’t earning his paycheck and the defensive players simply aren’t playing well. And don’t just look at the stats from this game – the defense was just non-existent when we most needed them.
I’m trying not to overreact, but it’s really hard. This team isn’t good and we are only .500 because we’ve played a super easy schedule. McCarthy better turn this around fast or he may not be here next year.
I have wondered if there is at least a small connection between Mike McCarthy’s sideline sheepishness and the Packers being one of the most penalized teams in football during his time here? Sometimes the player is at fault 100%, sometimes the coaches haven’t prepared the players adequately leading to an increased likelihood that penalties will happen – but sometimes, coaches who don’t put any pressure on the officials to make the right calls get weak penalties called against them. In an ideal world, no coach should have to talk to (or yell at) the officials at all during the game because there would be no blown calls. But in reality, there are blown calls and importantly, some officiating crews even go into games looking to call penalties on certain players.
In his 4 years as the Packers’ head coach, Mike McCarthy’s teams have ranked #5 (2009), #2 (2008), #4 (2007) and #9 (2006) in penalties against. That is not good. I can’t help but wonder if at least some of these penalties would not have been called if McCarthy had been more willing to get in an official’s face to dispute a call (think the Al Harris’ phantom pass interference call in Week 1 against Chicago). In fact, it’s interesting to look at the coaches of the teams in the top 10 for penalties in the NFL this year: Dick Jauron, John Harbaugh, Steve Spagnuolo, Rex Ryan, Mike McCarthy, Jim Scwartz, Todd Haley, Ken Whisenhunt, Marvin Lewis, Tom Cable, Wade Phillips. Of these coaches, I think only John Harbaugh, Rex Ryan and Tom Cable (maybe Todd Haley) are likely to lose it on the sidelines over a bad call. The rest are more reticent and seem less willing to do so. (And, it’s also noteworthy that of the top 13 teams in penalties against, only 4 have winning records.)
My point is this: Mike McCarthy could stand to show a bit more fire on the sidelines when there are questionable calls that could affect his team negatively. His tendency instead, is to take ownership for all of the calls, blame the team or his staff or himself, and then to tell us all that he has to watch the game film essentially before rendering any opinions on anything. When he responds with these answers, it sometimes ends up sounding like a coach who may not have full faith in what he sees. Same goes for not arguing calls. Watch Mike Tomlin, watch Sean Payton, watch Tom Coughlin – these guys will make it known to all that they’ve seen a bad call because they trust what they’ve seen live on the field during the game. And maybe, just maybe, voicing their displeasure will make the officials at least think twice the next time they want to throw another flag. I’m not asking McCarthy to become Bobby Knight here- that would be obnoxious. But I do think he could occasionally let the officials know that it’s not OK for the team to be called for penalties constantly.
Well, I’ve been waiting for the explanation as to why the team cut Aaron Rouse. Here is what Greg Bedard has for us so far:
- On Rouse: His ability to be consistent and his development were the factors, but there were a lot of them;
- On choosing Rouse over Anthony Smith: There’s a number of different factors go into it. Timing was an issue. It’s not accurate (that they chose Rouse over Smith);
- “It’s a real challenge for our assistant coaches, no doubt,” McCarthy said of the situation at safety;
- On Rouse: “These decisions are made with a lot of information.”
I’m not opposed to signing Matt Giordano and yes, I understand they’re saying Collins should be fine for this weekend. I also can’t pretend to know exactly what “information” McCarthy is referring to here. Still, I find the timing of this strange and foolish. It makes me wonder a bit if Darren Perry (DB coach) is hot-headed and decided he just didn’t like Rouse on the team anymore (maybe he did the same thing with Anthony Smith?).
Just reading today again that Brandon Jackson is expected to miss this week as well. Right now, we have 2 healthy halfbacks. Halfback is a position that sees plenty of injuries. I know the team thinks John Kuhn is able to switch in and play halfback because he did it in college – I don’t. That would be ugly. If Sutton were here now, he could be getting some playing time and doing some damage on the field because the guy can flat out play. Even though Jackson still has potential and I don’t think he’s bad, he has some trouble staying healthy. I know McCarthy/Thompson always have their reasons for cutting guys, but I still think cutting Sutton was a mistake. The fact that he was picked up instantly and put on a roster of a team that already had 3 quality RBs (Carolina) and not put on a practice squad, offers support for the argument that this was a mistake.
Couple the Sutton situation with the Desmond Bishop situation (plus a few others over the years), and it leads me to a small worry that sometimes MM/TT overlook obvious, obvious talent. Generally, they evaluate talent reasonably well, but there are times when I can’t possibly imagine how they arrive at their decisions. Cutting Tyrell Sutton is one of those decisions.
Read below for a quick summary of McCarthy’s press conference today from the Insiders Blog at the GBPG:
On linebackers: Played Matthews more than expected. Thought Barnett was up around 40 plays, and that’s what they were looking for. Great asset to have so many playmakers. Have to find way to get Bishop involved, too. He got special-teams game ball.
Perhaps McCarthy saw Poppinga doing nothing…again. Just glad that there was specific mention of need to get Bishop involved. Please let this be an indication that he will be playing more – please.
Here is a question: what role did Aaron Rodgers’ high football IQ play in the Brett Favre divorce process? At one point I believe in 2007, McCarthy said that the offense under Favre had only learned 1/4 of his total playbook. McCarthy didn’t say this as a crack on Favre – more as a matter of fact. Was Favre reluctant to learn the other 3/4 of the playbook? It’s well documented that Favre has a narrowed preference for all things West Coast and that learning new plays especially later in his career was not something he was much interested in. Did MM ever feel like the true potential of his offensive ideas could only be realized with a potentially more cerebral (or at least more willing-to-learn) QB like Rodgers? Again, I’m not saying Favre is dumb, I don’t think he is, and I know there were lots of other factors in the divorce – but I wonder if this was even a small part of the discussion.
This year, my guess is that we’ll see Rodgers run a huge variety of plays – leaving defenses often guessing and fans once again praising McCarthy’s creativity. While there were times last year when the playcalling was poor/predictable, that seemed to me to be toward the beginning of the year when I think MM was trying to make it easy for Rodgers. But starting with the last 4-5 games of last year through this preseason especially, it seems Rodgers has grown more comfortable calling a greater variety of plays. Perhaps he’s now tapped into the other 3/4 of MM’s ideas.