Just once, I would like to see MM gather his special teamers or his defense before a critical play in the game and give them a talk or at the very least, remind them of the importance of what’s going on. Maybe he did that – I don’t know I wasn’t at the game – but I doubt it because I haven’t seen him address the defense as a whole or the offense as a whole or ST as a whole. He’s the coach – he needs to step in sometimes and help re-focus his players – especially the special teamers who by the end of the game, had clearly lost focus. Other coaches would have done that. Some might say that’s not MM’s style, but you know what…then he needs to adopt that style. As a coach you need to be very involved IN THE MOMENT. I have a post coming on this very topic. I don’t question MM’s dedication to the team etc or his will to win. He is a likable guy whom I know doesn’t sleep after losses like this. He cares, I know he does. But what I do question this year is his ability to be IN THE MOMENT with the team. His critical decision-making and sense for the game is not like it was last year – when I thought it was quite good. By the way, I have always questioned Lovie Smith’s ability to be IN THE MOMENT. That guy seems to have no clue and he never says anything to anyone on his headset. Sorry, but sometimes he looks high or something.
This is the 3rd or 4th game I remember seeing Mason Crosby kick that go nowhere kick. You know what I mean. The 38 yarder to win the game was low and plenty bad, yes. But his first miss was even worse – and we’ve seen him do that several times now in bad weather. Kicking a field goal in weather like that does take extra concentration and kicking field goals is not an easy thing to do in the first place. But for professional kickers who do it every day – kicking a 38 yarder when there is no precipitation or major wind, shouldn’t be that difficult even if it’s 0 degrees. Mason Crosby owns a lot of this loss because the team actually put him in a great position to win the game. I suppose the ST’s O-Line also owns some of it for allowing Alex Brown penetration – though the kick still should have been higher than it was at that point in trajectory.
When the Packers had the ball at the Bears’ 3 yard-line and we called 3 pass plays, I really wondered. Grant had begun to create some running room for himself just prior to that and the Bears D seemed to be a bit tired. Now, I can’t fault MM necessarily for calling 2 of the pass plays because we’d lost 5 yards on the first pass play. But my point is that down by the goal line, he seems to get it in his head that we either need to pass all 3 downs or run all 3 downs. Of course, neither answer is correct – a good play mix is what is needed.
I disagreed with the announcers when they kept saying “Rodgers and the offense are fine”, it’s just defense and special teams. While I agreed that over the season we’ve had an unreliable D and ST, I don’t think our offense is fine. I would love to see a stat on how many run plays we ran that gained us 2 yards or less. I would bet nearly 75% of our plays had that result. What I really don’t like is that we have “obvious run plays”. Sort of like Sherman’s U-71 package with Kevin Barry – everyone knew it was coming…of course the difference is that back then we had such a good o-line we’d still get yards on it. We start with the obvious run offensive set: there is always a FB, maybe a TE shifting around seemingly cluelessly in the backfield (last night anyway), 1 or 2 WRs and Grant. I think MM might say when he calls in the play. “Ok Aaron, we’re going to run an “obvious run play” to Clifton’s side”. I think what happens is that the defense simply sees the grouping on the field for the Pack, stacks the box, sees the line go one way, sees Rodgers hand-off obviously in one direction – all leading to another no-gainer. I can hear those who don’t like people criticizing play-calling saying: what would you propose? How about giving the ball to Grant on less obvious run plays – LIKE THE FREAKIN’ SCREEN PLAY FOR THE TD!!! I just don’t understand why they didn’t try a few more screens last night. Or calling running plays with a 3-4 WR set. The one screen they did run worked beautifully in part because they had either a 3 or 4 WR set (not sure), and it looked very much like the Pack was calling their “obvious pass play”. We fooled them badly – that was a great play call by MM. Or how about misdirection plays where everyone goes one way and Rodgers runs a naked bootleg keeper himself the other – or throws a screen to Grant running the opposite way of the blocking or just having Grant run opposite the blocking direction. Last year I thought MM was really good at that – at crossing defenses and making them have to guess re what’s coming next. This year, it seems so predictable. So in long, the offense too owns some of the responsibility for all of this.
When I really got to thinking about the above point, it made me realize one thing: Aaron Rodgers has had a hell of season. Not just a good season/good for him kind of thing. He’s had a hell of a season. To operate as he has in what has been a fairly predictable offense with a weakish run game and a shoddy O-Line, is a credit to his accuracy and his quick thinking that leads him to take whatever he’s given by the defense. The only thing I’d have him work on is the hand-off. Just making a bit more subtle and less obvious – again, of all people to consider for an example, Seneca Wallace is quite good at disguising the direction of the play because of his hand-off style.
Did anyone hear Poppinga’s name all night? Why is he on the field? I’ll tell you why. He is very popular in the locker room and in Green Bay. He’s funny, very bright and people really like the guy. I even like the guy. But that won’t interfere with my ability to see that he does nothing. It’s really weird that nobody in the organization has the sense to fairly rate him on his play and not on whether they like him or not. He is so absent on the field it is absolutely unreal. Bishop was on the field for some ST plays and in his 45 seconds of total play, he managed to make a phenomenal tackle on Hester – preventing a big gainer (while being held by someone no less). There is a stubbornness among coaches/staff that is really starting to concern me and remind me of Mike Sherman.
Hawk is really…slow.
Chillar may not be too bad. He made a few mistakes last night, but I am getting more of the sense that if he were playing next to competent LBs, he might be pretty good.
Our defense last night did play with some abandon. The D-Line woke up (and again switching Kampman around made a big difference). Montgomery, Pickett, Jolly, Kampman – all of those guys played quite well. Our secondary was mostly solid (though we probably could have had 3-4 more picks) and the LB play while weak, wasn’t killing us.
One interesting thing about Aaron Rouse is that coming into the NFL, the knock on him was that he tended to be inconsistent w/re to being the physical presence many think he should be (at 6’4″ and a good number of pounds). Last night, he looked physical and played pretty well – but he’s had other games this year where he’s been tentative and and not as involved as I think he should have been. Maybe with time, he can perform more like he did last night (outside of the boneheaded ST play he made that essentially gift-wrapped the game for the Bears).
We should have won that game. We totally outplayed the Bears and it didn’t help that they were gifted that TD by being arbitrarily given that first down (and we didn’t challenge it of course either). The Bears last night proved to me to be a really bad team. How the Bears are 9-6 I’ll never understand – they looked more like a 4-11 team than a 9-6 team.
Nice post. I have been sharing many of these opinions about MM with my wife all year, and she does think I have a man-crush on Bishop. All I need to add is another thing about Hawk that I noticed last night as he went up for the coin flip. He is really small. Especially seeing him next to Urlacher. He just doesn’t seem to be what we hoped he’d be. And we should have grabbed Greg Olsen in Round 1.
I would love to see Rodgers take the whole offseason and study Matt Ryan’s stye of handing off the ball and just ball handling after his centers snap in general. The kid is a genious. He actually flips the ball to from hand to the other and simultaneously uses the hand he just flipped the ball from to fake a handoff. Absolutely amazing. Farve could get by with his obvious style of hand off because he could just turn right around and hit one down the field. Rodgers needs to work on his long ball. Countless times this year he’s had Jennings, Driver, Lee or any of our receivers streaking down the field one or two steps ahead of the defenders and Aaron overthrew them. Overall though, I’m comfortable with Aaron as our QB provided he doesn;t get that ‘I just can’t win the close games” syndrome in his head.
Of course all of this will not mean a thing if we don;t get some real players on both lines and improvement from our LB’s. Also, some new ST & D coaches.
BTW, I’m scared to death Detroit wins next week. That would be the ultimate cap to a disastrous season.