The Packers are better than SF and they are playing that way. Our defense is awake and aggressive. The offense looks good and Grant and the run game are bringing nice balance. We’re the better team so we’re winning.
Archive for November, 2009
After a team wins a big game, the coach of the winning team (be it college, pro, whatever) goes into the handshake situation, obviously, feeling pretty good. Because they’ve just won, they have that 80’s movie feel-good feeling going on (probably complete with the weird 80’s movie feel-good music playing in their head) and they want to revel in it. Well I am often annoyed by how this winning coach goes about the handshake with the losing coach. (And for the record, this happens between winning/losing players too.) Consumed by his own state of victory-euphoria, he gets it in his head that the losing coach will be touched in that moment by his words of condolence and admiration for the “effort your team put forth” or some such attempted statement of deep, deep understanding. It is a situation where the winning coach wants to talk for hours about the game and how “hard fought” it was or how it is a great example of “how tough our division is” because he is in a great mood. But with what seems like a sudden infusion of engineer-like social skills, the winning coach doesn’t recognize that the last thing the losing coach wants to do is talk about the loss. He just wants to get the hell off the field, get home and crack open a beer…or depending on the magnitude of the loss, possibly a Schlitz Malt Liquor Ice. The losing coach can often be seen very obviously pulling away from the interaction while the winner would love to chat. I find the situation somewhat analogous to the person at the office who arrives late and hasn’t had a chance to grab his coffee running into the person who has already put away cup #2.
- Buff @ Jax (-8.5). Buff comes out hot inspired by the words of newly hired Perry Fewell. Then, they stop and say to themselves “Perry Fewell, who the hell is that?” and start playing like crap. MJD, Garrard, Mike Sims-Walker go nuts.
- SF @ GB (-6.5). SF is a good team and Mike Singletary may well be a good coach. But this game will go to the hotter team. The Pack will build off the momentum from last week and they will roll. Look for 1-2 defensive TDs by the Pack.
- NO @ TB (+11.5). I’m tempted to pick TB here as they have played well 2 weeks in a row. And, I think Josh Freeman has had a fairly explosive start to his young career. But I think NO realizes that people are starting to wonder re their 9-0 record – are they really THAT good. This will be one of those games where they show conclusively that they are THAT good. Running, passing, scoring TDs. New Orleans big here.
- Cleve @ Det (-3.5). I still don’t know how Eric Mangini starts Jamal Lewis after Lewis’ anti-Mangini comments to the media last week before the Balt game. Sure, he may have had some basis for saying what he said, but those were within-the-lockerroom type comments, not comments for the media. If Mangini wants to be the hardass he seems to want to be, why would he put up with this. But of course, the much bigger question is: why the al;sjdfasfjoawjefoajfjoajf would Mangini even play Jamal Lewis in the first place. HE IS HORRIBLE and he’s been horrible for the last few years. And, he’s announced he’s retiring at the end of the year so he has no investment in the future of the team. Just put Jerome Harrison in there and see what the young guy can do. Bad coaching. Anyway, I’m supposed to comment on this game. Um, no comment.
- Cincy @ Oak (9.5). It seems kind of obvious to me that Cedric Benson is not happy the Bengals signed LJ. There were some stories out this past week about how he was pissed they signed LJ and some stories saying that it genuinely didn’t bother him and that the talk that it did bother him was simply overreaction. It wasn’t. Benson is not happy about this. He’s grown petty in part because of how he feels things played out in Chicago. It will be interesting to see if a move like this may end up adversely affecting the Bengals’ sense of team – especially because this is a team that has been playing quite well as a whole team (special teams, offense, defense all help out when needed).
- Sea @ MN (-10.5). The temptation is there. I’m tired of the Vikes playing well. But this is the second half of the season now and historically, it’s time for a Minnesota meltdown. Taking Seattle here to cover is a questionable move. taking them to win outright, dumb. I’ll take Seattle to win by 4 because I’m dumb.
- Atl @ NYG (-6.5). Neither team seems to be playing true to their identities. Or, maybe neither team is that good. I haven’t thought the Giants have been good for several years now (I was wrong about that obviously for at least a couple of those years). But I thought Atlanta would be decent this year because I think they have a great coach – and they added a great weapon in Tony Gonzalez. Matt Ryan needs to raise his level of play, and if he does that, this could end up being an Atlanta victory.
- NYJ @ NE (-10.5). I don’t think any amount of tears can inspire the Jets to take down an angry, angry NE team. While even I probably would have punted that ball away last Sunday vs the Colts, I don’t think Belichick’s decision was a terrible one. His defense had looked shaky in the last 2 Indy possessions and he probably knew that with 2 minutes left Manning could have driven that team down the field whether it was 35 yards or 65 yards. And, Belichick is one of few coaches who astutely gives his offense injections of confidence by going for it on 4th downs. And, he wins ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME, so he’s pretty much earned his crazy-decision-making immunity.
- Tenn @ Hou (-4.5). One offense I seriously don’t enjoy watching is one that runs the option. But imagine if Tenn went to that from time to time with Chris Johnson and Vince Young. Well, they may not need to think about different offensive plays a whole lot when what they’re doing presently is clearly working. Even though the 2008 draft has turned out some nice players (Ryan Clady, Jerrod Mayo, Flacco, Jonathan Stewart), there have to be a few teams kicking themselves for not taking Chris Johnson before the 24th pick.
- Indy @ Balt (-.5). Balt will win here. It will be a good game and Balt will win. Should be interesting for the Balt coaching staff/GM Ozzie Newsome to see Matt Stover back (kicking for the Colts). In one of those “we believe in youth” moves, Stover was jettisoned earlier this year in favor of younger kicker Steven H(don’t want to try to spell the last name). Steven sucks, missed a bunch of important kicks and was just cut last week. If I were Stover, I’d request that for one game, the name on the back of my jersey simply read “I told you so”.
- SD @ Den (+2.5). I was sure Denver would win this one until I learned Orton may not play. I’m not real confident in Chris Simms. So, it doesn’t make sense that I’m going with Den to win outright here. But I think their defense will rise to the occasion and Knowshon Moreno will go nuts – and I mean nuts. He’s been getting better with each game, but this will be a huge one against a so-so SD defense.
- Wash @ Dal (-11.5). These two teams usually play tight games if I’m not mistaken. This shouldn’t be a close game but I think it will be. Betts could have a big game here, but I think it will be the Dallas trio of RBs who will carry the day.
- AZ @ StL (+8.5). I’m tempted to take StL here. In fact I will, StL outright.
- Pitt @ KC (+9.5). With Polamalu out, that should give KC a chance it would seem. But Pitt will be too much and I think Big Ben redeems himself after last week’s poor showing with a huge game.
- Phil @ Chic (+3.5). This game is at the bottom because I had the least confidence of all the games picking it. Phil was beaten up by Oak earlier this year and before staging a comeback of sorts last week, got handled by SD. Then they beat up on the NYG and a few other quality teams. I think they often go as McNabb goes. McNabb was terrible the other night against the Cowboys in Philly and despite Chicago being his hometown, I wouldn’t be surprised if McNabb is bad in this one too. Both teams see this as a must win game, but it’s must-winnerer, as it were, for Chicago. I’ll take Chicago because they’re more desperate.
- Patrick Willis is really good. As the MLB, it’s difficult to run plays away from him. He’s all over the place but in a role-responsible way (unlike Junior Seau years ago for SD – who apparently had zero assignment-awareness but managed to go to the Pro Bowl constantly).
- Big match-up will be Vernon Davis vs the Pack’s safeties and LBs (and hopefully Charles Woodson). Davis and Alex Smith have developed a decent rapport already and Davis is a quality athlete who can make plays. I wouldn’t be surprised if Capers has Woodson mark Davis like Woodson did against Witten and Kellen Winslow. I believe Davis is their leading receiver so it would be smart to stick Woodson on him.
- I could be misguided here, but I’m not as worried re Frank Gore as others seem to be. He’s a good back and Singletary and company like to stick with the running game (due most likely to their suspect passing game). But in the games I’ve seen, Gore tends to start fast and have a good game or start slow and vanish quickly. For some reason, maybe due to Capers’ recent statements re gearing our defense weekly to stop the run, I believe Gore may start slow and fizzle.
- McCarthy needs to be aggressive on offense. If there is a 4th and 2 or 4th and 5 even in SF territory early, McCarthy should go for it. We need to be aggressive in the early part of the game and not just settle for FGs.
- McCarthy needs to stick with running plays even if they’re not overly successful to keep the balance right. Aubrayo Franklin is a beast in the middle (with P Willis right behind him) so running Grant on the edges might be advisable in this game. But as tempting as it may be if it’s not working, McCarthy can’t abandon the run like he has before.
- Greg Jennings has to earn his new, huge paycheck and the Packers need to do a better job of putting him in positions to succeed. At this point in the season, McCarthy and staff have done a good job making it difficult for defenses to know which guy to key on: Driver or Jennings. Taking advantage of that, I think it’s time Jennings has a huge, breakout game where he reminds us all why we shelled out tons of cash for him.
- Capers needs to take his chances. Yes, there is the risk of picking the wrong time to blitz and getting burned by a smart call by SF to Gore (draw, screen, etc). But it’s worth taking the risk because blitzes will most likely yield a couple key turnovers.
- Alex Smith is no Aaron Rodgers. Make Smith pay for simply not being that good.
- Get the ball to Jermichael Finley early. Get him back in the mix and make SF remember that he’s yet another weapon they need to account for.
I had considered commenting on this news by writing a tongue-in-cheek post about how maybe Favre wasn’t trying to stick it to Ted, but in fact, he was looking out for the Packers all along by signing with the Vikes. I would have argued that Favre figured he could pull one over on the rival he used to hate so much by going there, playing out of his mind and putting the team in a great position at 8-1 or so. Then management would feel pressure to consider extending Childress (something the Packers having been hoping would happen, for their sake). Childress would sign the extension. Then Favre would do everything possible to orchestrate a mighty collapse down the stretch (actually this would be accomplished mostly by no longer disregarding Chilly’s ideas) – making Vikings’ management strongly regret the decision to extend Childress. Favre might gain back some of his Packer supporters – leaving MN with 4 more years of Brad Childress as coach.
I decided not to write that post though because the problem is, Brad Childress has the Vikings at 8-1 and in a surprising number of games this season, he appears to have out-coached his counterpart. Certainly he has out-coached Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy twice. Now, I’d prefer to attribute the Vikes’ success to the other coaches, Favre, Adrian Peterson, the defense, the fact that he has a team so loaded with talent it would be hard NOT to squeeze success out of them – anything or anyone but Childress. But the fact is, as much as I hate to say it, Brad Childress hasn’t done a terrible job so far this year.
Now that I’ve puked up that difficult confession, would I have extended him if I were management? Absolutely not. At least not at this point in the season. He has not been a good coach in the years leading up to this one and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the talented teams from previous years seriously underachieved. And importantly, despite the team’s success this year, Childress is still making coaching errors that hurt his team.
But it is the fat-new-contract-curse most players/coaches have to fend off that has me hopeful. If things play out according to the curse, Childress should start cranking out some shocking losses for the team really soon – perhaps starting this weekend with a loss to Seattle.
Read this article from Jay Sorgi at WTMJ’s website. Feel bad for these guys.
NFL.com is reporting this. I haven’t read any other info with more details.
Yesterday I went to the game and had a chance to see a few things I think TV viewers might not have been able to see. Let me just start by saying it was a very, very nice victory but I wasn’t shocked because I’m not sure the Cowboys are THAT good (as I said before, they almost lost to KC in KC).
- Not once, after all of those stupid penalties (especially the dumb Havner one), did a coach come over and let the player have it. Not once. A special teams’ coach approached Havner 2 plays later to communicate something about special teams. But for all the other penalties, these guys walk off the field to nothing. That is on Mike McCarthy. Other great coaches would make it their personal mission to come over and let the guy hear it.
- That said, Mike McCarthy was fired up yesterday. Granted it was usually about a poorly executed offensive plays (again, highlighting my concern that he’s so offensively focused, he’s not focused enough on the whole team). Still, I counted 5 times when McCarthy was visibly worked up on the sidelines yelling or carrying on. This is good and I hope it continues. I hope he coaches like his job is on the line going forward.
- While I won’t say the offense played great (lots of dumb penalties and sacks again and some specific/untimely bad playcalls), I was encouraged that there were several clock-eating drives. That 3rd quarter drive that ate up so much clock time and ended in a TD was textbook. Using Grant to set up the pass and using short passes as essentially another form of protection for Rodgers was smart.
- Dom Capers was money yesterday. He had Romo very edgy and confused. I spent quite a bit of time watching Romo’s feet – they were all over the place (just like what happens to Rodgers when he gets panicky). That was because Capers (and the defense) executed their plays. Sometimes in a game, it seems like a defense is constantly adapting to what and offense is doing – and the defense is usually losing that battle. In the game yesterday, Romo and the offense were spending lots of energy wondering what was coming next from our defense. And clearly, they weren’t adapting quickly enough.
- Barnett and Hawk were active again last night. That play where both are called to blitz worked beautifully (it actually is the exact same blitz call that worked magically in preseason for Desmond Bishop and Lansanah).
- Nick Barnett has come back from a major injury and injected some fire into this defense. He has been playing particularly well the last 3-4 games.
- Not sure how it looked on TV, but BJ Raji had one of the more amazing tackles (I believe on T Choice) in the second half. He closed like a LB showing quickness that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen from someone so big. Several people around me thought it was Hawk (they saw the zero on the uniform) until he stood up. We were all shocked to realize it was Raji who just swallowed up an elusive Choice like that.
- Brad Jones looked OK. He’s a big dude (not sure re his exact size, but he has a tall/big physical presence out there). He had 2 great chances for sacks, one was thwarted by a juke from Romo and the other from a weakish chip block. But he wasn’t bad. I’m a little surprised Dal didn’t game plan to go at him more esp w/their RBs on runs/screens.
- There were several moments in the game when the whole Packer sideline was waving towels and arms in an effort to get the crowd even more worked up. There were several coaches doing this as well (couldn’t figure out which ones, though I believe Kevin Greene may have been one of them). There was far more passion in our ranks than either of the last 2 home games I’ve seen (MN and Det). Our team was ready and fired up – and to that end, I think we need to tip our hats to Mike McCarthy.
- I love Dom Capers’ genius idea of putting Charles Woodson on opposing TEs. I told my dad prior to the game that Woodson guarded Kellen Winslow quite a bit in TB (though not on his productive catches or his TD). It just works. Put our best player on the opposing teams’ best receiver and in the case of last week, yesterday and next week, the best receiver was/is/will be a TE (Vernon Davis next week). Witten looked really frustrated after a while out there, uncharacteristically so.
- Dallas’ decision to throw for a TD with 1st and goal at the 1 yard line with 6 minutes left in the game was unbelievably stupid. I was watching the bench and there seemed to be open wonderment re why Marion Barber wasn’t called into the game (T Choice was there). Marion Barber is one of the best RBs in the NFL in terms of getting into the endzone because he runs so hard. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I had Barber on my fantasy team… – but still, it didn’t make any sense to throw that one to Witten when he’d been frustrated all game by tight Packer coverage – and when the guy who would obviously be assigned to him had already had a game for the ages. Really dumb.
- I’m not sure what the replay on TV showed, but after Woodson sacked/FF on Romo and Clay Matthews eventually recovered, it sure looked to me like Felix Jones had possession of the ball while on his back before being stripped by a Packer. Is that what happened?
- Wade Phillips pulled a Mike McCarthy by dropping the run in the second half. That is the strength of the Cowboys and he just plain abandoned the run. That decision helped keep our defense fresh. Bad coaching.
- While I certainly have my questions re Mike McCarthy, I am really glad Wade Phillips isn’t our coach (and he very well could have been if he hadn’t already been with the Cowboys – one of TT’s closest friends is Bum Phillips and he’s also good friends with Wade). Phillips has more of a vacant, deer-in-the-headlights look than Mike Sherman, who patented that look. He was unemotional and clueless on that sideline yesterday. Inspiring nobody.
*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.