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.
Not much to add to that Andy! I particularly liked your comment on Ahmad Green’s blocking last night. He not only got in the way he attacked his rusher with a vengance. As far as his running, he should be getting more carries starting Sunday.
Crosby is either injured or in a mental funk. In the last four games and hopefully the playoffs, he will likely be called on to win a game. Right now, I don’t want want him to be in that position. In addition, his kickoffs are coming up short and putting even more pressure on an already weak coverage team. They need to get Slocum to fix it now or find someone who will. Once again last night the coverage team put the opponents in a position to come back. MM needs to get personally involved in the ST’s and get them on track.
[Ahman Green] should be getting more carries starting Sunday.
The Packers need to be careful how much they use Green. He’s had an injury problem the past few years. He’s got to be at least part of the reason sacks have dropped of since he’s been starting. I’d rather see him in there pass blocking than out with an injury before the playoffs.
I was among those who was starting to sour on McCarthy after 4-4, the team just simply was not playing well enough to NOT blame the coaching. But I have to give them credit for improving in almost every facet of the game since then. There were a number of times last night I half expected a guy to make a stupid late hit and when it didn’t happen I was pleasantly surprised. Also fewer holding calls on the O-line and kickoff returns are a positive indicator of an improving level of discipline and focus that has to be attributed to coaching.
As for TT, the biggest knock that remains is the fact that despite the number of O-linemen he has drafted that position is still a concern now and in the future. I count Sitton (totally agree that he is a beast, I have started to watch him since you pointed him out a few weeks back and now I think he is a future pro bowler), Spitz pre-injury and maybe T.J. Lang as starting NFL linemen that TT has drafted. Barbe was terrible and Colledge is still mostly terrible. Haven’t seen or heard much out of the rest of them. That said, when you look at the overall depth of the team you have to give credit to TT for Jennings, Finley, Matthews, Raji, Collins, Nelson, Jones, Brandon Jackson (late bloomer), Bigby . . . Not to mention Rodgers, Woodson, Hawk, Pickett. We have debated the philosophy of acquiring lots of young talent through the draft and only rarely supplementing that through FA, and I think it is starting to really pay off. I had become skeptical, but the proof is on the field.
Overall, the biggest factor in this team is the ability to dominate the line of scrimmage on defense and be very strong up the middle. Jolly, raji, Jenkins, Pickett have been outstanding in the trenches, the 3-4 seems to make the best use of the type of LBs we have and Collins and Bigby have quietly been very good.
because of the return of (75% strength?) Clifton and tauscher, the o-line has gone from a liability to a nuetral and that has allowed the overall depth at the skill positions to make the difference. Nelson, Jones, Finley, Jackson and Green are not household names, but I think they are so much better than their counterparts that the odds favor the Pack more and more on offense.
I was ready to throw these guys over a few weeks back, they were just so sloppy . . . amazing to see it gel over the past month or so. They really have a chance to make some people sweat in the NFC now and in the future.
I left my initial game thoughts in the previous thread late last night. I completely agree with you about how Jaws and Gruden were obnoxious last night in their over-the-top commentary about good plays last night. I did think that INT by Hawk was an excellent play. It was perfect coverage and he turned and caught the ball with perfect timing.
I also thought it was obnoxious how many commercials they ran last night. Do they really have to sandwich a kickoff between two commercial breaks? Combine it with the penalties and that game was brutal to watch. And, I also hate all the graphics, charts, players introducing themselves, player profiles, weird camera angles before the snap, and crap they run on MNF. You are right, it does seem like a choreographed show and I would rather just see the game. Is it too much to ask to see the formation before the snap?
Before the game you suggested it was a good idea to have Woodson cover Rice some of the time. I keyed on Rice on most Raven’s plays as he is the crux of that offense and to see how Capers dealt with him. I thought Nick Barnett was outstanding in covering Rice last night. He just had an excellent game covering Rice and playing the run. Taking Rice away caused “check-down Flacco” to make his typical mistakes.
Overall, the 3-4 defense is LB driven and I think the Packers have found a real good starting four. You have got to have the hogs up front but I am very impressed how Jones, Hawk, Barnett, and Matthews play together. Throw in Woodson and this defense just clicks right now.
The Packers currently have Biren Ealy on the 53 man roster. Replace him with kickoff specialist that can get some touch backs or at least some deep kicks and help our coverage units. That would add far more value to this team then Biren Ealy.
And speaking of Ahman Green and pass blocking, have you noticed sacks are way down?
Just 8 in the last 4 games, which is a huge improvement over 37 sacks in the first 8.
Only 2 sacks last night, one of which was nullified by penalty. Of course, there was 4 holding calls on the O-line, but holding is better than a sack, if for no other reason than the long-term health of A.Rodgers…
did anybody else catch the postgame on SportsCenter where the crowd that was leftover started chanting “Jerry Rice Fumbled” at Steve Young and then Matt Millen joined in? Quite possibly the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time!
[…] on 1st and goal from the 1 against Willis McGahee for a 2 yard loss was the play of the game," writes Hayes. "Yes, the ensuing pick by Tramon was huge too, but it was Woodson’s unreal tackle that set […]