Archive for the ‘Packers’ Category

Mid-week thoughts Packers/Seattle

January 14, 2015

As I read more about this game I am noticing that the story lines are mostly about Rodgers, the calf, the Packers passing game, Richard Sherman, the “vaunted” Seattle D, Seattle’s 12th man, Lynch knocking people over, Seattle being at the beginning of a dynasty, Seattle being unbeatable, Seattle essentially already being awarded the Lombardi Trophy. But I have a few thoughts about some other potential post-game story lines:

  • Carolina RB Jonathan Stewart averaged 5.4 yards per carry and ran for 70 yards against Seattle last Saturday night. Seattle’s unstoppable defense struggled to contain the guy. (Actually all 3 Carolina RBs averaged over 5 yards per carry.) Eddie Lacy is a better RB than Stewart – though Stewart has been very good the last 5-6 weeks. While it may seem like Lacy could struggle against a speedy/aggressive defensive style like Seattle’s because he’s not fast, I’m guessing MM and staff are putting quite a bit of time into making sure the O-Line is prepared to open holes and Lacy is ready to give Seattle a taste of its own medicine (won’t just be Lynch knocking guys over). This would be advisable both for time of possession reasons and to open up the passing game. I think there is a real chance Lacy has a career game Sunday. Also worth noting, his asthma shouldn’t be much of an issue. I have asthma too and can attest to how difficult it can be to run in cold weather – really does make it worse. But forecast is for 51 degrees and rain – he should be fine with that. Lacy had 100 yards rushing against Detroit, the NFL’s #1 run defense, in Week 17 – in a meaningful game. And Detroit was only giving up about 60 rushing yards per game at that point. Against Dallas, the #8 rush defense on the year, Lacy had 101 yards. Look for Lacy to assert himself and deliver a quality game. This will be a real test for the O-Line as Seattle has to know the Pack will try to run a fair amount. I’m guessing Chancellor will be playing a condensed field – which should eventually help Rodgers. But if the O-Line can win this battle, there is a good chance Lacy could be a bigger factor than people are talking about now.
  • Seattle gave up 377 yards to Carolina last weekend. Carolina is not an offensive powerhouse so at the least, this kind of defensive performance does not align well with the reputation of Seattle’s D. I watched the game and came away thinking that D is not as flawless as the media makes it out to be.
  • The Packers defense was not great last week. Dallas had their way for much of the game. Romo and company were solid, the playcalling was solid and the clock management was solid. But the defense woke up a bit in the second half. Peppers got in there with a few huge plays and the D seemed to step up some. Still, I would not rate the overall defensive performance very highly. Clay Matthews was just plain absent. Tramon Williams had a poor game (except for some decent man coverage on Dez at times…though Shields I think should get more credit for that). Morgan Burnett was also absent, barely contributed. Yet, this defense has shown over the course of the second half of the season that it can play at a high level. And many of these guys who were absent last week have had some monster games this year. Yes, I am worried Seattle’s quality O-Line will handle our D-Line like the Cowboys line did for a while. Yes, I am worried about Marshawn Lynch being a beast. And of course, I worry about Russell Wilson’s special ability to make the exact right decision on the football field nearly every time. These are scary things. But I think the Packers defense – much maligned for their poor playoff performances in recent years – may be ready to spring a surprise. Seattle’s offense is well-balanced and they play smart but there have been a few games in the last 6-7 weeks when Capers has drawn up exquisite game plans. I’m not going to guarantee anything here, but I think it’s actually quite possible that our defense, a quiet and often not-talked-about piece of this team, makes a statement and rises up to help the offense in a game when the offense will probably need a bit more help than usual. And importantly, there isn’t a whole lot of pressure on the Packers D right now as I think most expect a fairly pedestrian performance. If Peppers is himself, Matthews makes a difference and Tramon and Burnett play like they can play, there may be a few articles about the Packers defense come Monday morning.

Bears firing of Lovie Smith smart – he has that “un-it” factor

December 31, 2012

While I wish Lovie would have stayed on as coach for the Packers sake, canning him was the right move. There are certain coaches who will NEVER win the big game. Lovie is one of them. Why?

Lovie has that “un-it” factor. Some coaches have the “it” factor – and these coaches win big games. They embrace the big moments. The “it” coaches should be fairly obvious: Sean Payton, Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin, Tom Coughlin, Mike Holmgren, Mike McCarthy (at times at least) – along with aspiring it guys like Jim Harbaugh, John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll, Mike Smith and 2 of his NFC South counterparts Greg Schiano and Ron Rivera. (Yes, I think the NFC South will become the dominant division in the next year or two).  But many more coaches have the “un-it” factor. These are the people who stand on the sidelines at big moments in big games, like a deer in headlights. It is fairly easy to distinguish these guys simply by watching their faces on the sidelines. Who are the un-it coaches? Mike Sherman (classic), Bret Bielama (trust me on this…Arkansas will never with the big game), Jason Garrett, Marty Shottenhiemer, Norv Turner, Jim Schwartz, Lovie Smith, Brad Childress, Joe Vitt, Wade Phillips, Romeo Crennel. You know exactly what I’m talking about here. These guys are overwhelmed by the moment. Now, they are not necessarily stupid – in fact they may be really good at certain facets of their jobs – but they just aren’t going to lead well when it really counts and this lack of it-ness will directly rub off on the team. They will NEVER win the big game and as an organization, you are better off dumping them as soon as you realize this.

Incidentally, it is rare that an un-it person develops into an “it” person (because it’s almost an innate quality), though this can happen. I’m curious about Gary Kubiak – I’ve thought of him as an “un-it-er” for a long time but I’m wondering a bit if he’s coming around. Probably not. One interesting case study is Andy Reid, a guy who at one time seemed destined for full it-ness only to fall off badly to become fully un-it.

Incidentally II, there are also “it” and “un-it” players. Mark Sanchez comes to mind first when I think of un-it players. He is awful. Rex Ryan has tried to force it-ness on Sanchez when he just doesn’t have it. Awful. Aaron Rodgers, both Mannings, Brady all come to mind when I think of “it” QBs. RGIII, Luck And Russell Wilson are 3 rookies who have serious “it” potential. In fact, it was thoughts about the “it” factor that led me to post this spring that I wouldn’t be surprised if Russell Wilson ended up starting and being a good NFL QB.

 

Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Braun are class acts

October 25, 2012

We all know that both of these guys are either near the top or at the top of their respective sports – I think Rodgers is at the top, Braun is definitely top 5. And there have been a number of positive stories over the years that illustrate just how committed these guys are to the communities in which they play. But their most recent show of generosity takes the cake for me: apparently Braun and Rodgers are going to have a fundraiser at their 8-twelve restaurant in Brookfield, for the victims/families of the recent shooting at Brookfield’s Azana Spa. Both Braun and Rodgers pretty consistently demonstrate a level of social awareness that is…special. We are very lucky to have guys like this as leaders of our teams. (It’s not surprising that 3 Packers were listed recently in the top 10 most liked in the NFL – not only do we have top level talent on our teams, but quality human beings as well.)

Thanks you two – you’re both class acts.

Mike McCarthy – A Class Act

October 4, 2012

After the immaculate intertouchdownception in Seattle, I was all in with many of you who felt the Packers should NOT have come out for the extra point. The call was absurd. It cost us a very valuable conference game. And it was on the heels of 2 other calls that were so bad it seemed we were playing a team owned by the Corleone family. But our coach marched his players back out there, made them stand there for the excruciating 2 second extra point kick – and then he didn’t totally trash the officiating over the course of the next week.

Now make no mistake, it was visually evident McCarthy was angry and frustrated with the refereeing. And his disposition in the press conference after the game should have made it obvious to anyone watching that he was furious. But in the days that followed, Mike McCarthy took the high road – a road that I refused to acknowledge existed in the face of such injustice. McCarthy knew continued bellyaching wouldn’t do any good – even though he surely believes it was the least fortunate call he’s been a part of (he said as much). But today I read something I find incredible: apparently last week, Mike McCarthy called official Wayne Elliott to essentially check in and see how the guy was doing. WHAT? McCarthy did this at a time when the official was still stubbornly unwilling to admit wrongdoing. Suddenly I feel so small. Suddenly I feel like a 10 year old in tears after losing a poorly officiated soccer game, whining incessantly in the car ride home to my father who never once would allow it to be as much the ref’s fault as I insisted it was. As a fan, forgiveness for such a brutally awful call hadn’t even crossed my mind. Yet for McCarthy, within days of such a terrible gaffe, he was calling the official to see how he was doing. Incredible.

After reading about this I had one of those realizations that this is the kind of thing classy, big-hearted human beings do. And this is the kind of thing that probably shouldn’t be just another story in the “Latest News and Rumors” section over at Profootballtalk.com. It should be a major headline everywhere. At the risk of going overboard here, I think this is the kind of thing that should make fans stop and think for a minute about the unique organization we support. Many a pundit and many of you have said that the Packers have handled this whole situation with class. They have – and frankly, the organization almost always does. And we should be grateful for this.

Naked Gun Flashbacks?

September 25, 2012

Watch here for the fantastic Leslie Nielsen umpire scene in the Naked Gun. Anyone else experience flashbacks to this scene last night while watching the tentative ref with no vantage point slowly raise his arms in the air to signal touchdown? While he didn’t do the moonwalk after that, my guess is that deep down, he was pretty pumped hearing the crowd go nuts.

Odd thing was it seemed to me that he only signaled TD because he thought the ref with the much better vantage point was going to signal touchdown (instead of touchback, which was the right call). In a frenzied atmosphere, I think from a fundamental psychological perspective, the guy had to be thinking “disappoint 70,000 rabid Seahawks fans and possibly get injured by flying projectiles leaving the field, or just give them the TD and listen to the crowd roar…for me”. Easy call.

Actually I think I’m giving the guy too much credit here – I honestly think he thought the other guy was just going to signal a TD, so he did too. That they didn’t seem to discuss this critical call at length after that was ridiculous – especially considering how important it was in that situation to get the on-field call right before heading to the replay booth.

Silverstein’s right about 2 deep safeties

September 24, 2012

For those of you who haven’t read Tom Silverstein’s piece on defenses adapting to the Packers’ offense, I recommend it. Read it here. The gist of the article is that more and more defenses may be figuring out our offensive system. His sample size for “defenses” he admits is very small (Bears, 49ers). But I would expand that sample to include the Giants last year as well as the Chiefs. All 4 teams mixed up their defenses, gave Rodgers different looks – and dropped the safeties deep, all while keeping plenty of pressure up front.

But the timing of the article is a bit curious. This isn’t new info at all. In fact, I’m a bit surprised more teams haven’t simply adopted the Bears cover 2 system when playing the Packers considering how well it’s generally worked against Rodgers. The Bears have been doing this to us for the last few years – often making life difficult for Rodgers. Rodgers has had some OK games against the Bears (mostly just because he’s fantastic) but I’m guessing his stats against Chicago are worse than they are against just about anyone else. I’m guessing too that if asked (perhaps after a few beers), Rodgers would say he dislikes playing against the Bears D more than any other. (Without a few beers, he might say something like “I like playing them because it’s a good challenge…”).

Of course the key to being able to drop 2 safeties deep is having fast, talented LBs and CBs who can cover lots of space as well as having a strong pass rush. The 49ers and the Bears have that (though San Fran is better than Chicago in this regard). And as Silverstein points out, the success of this defensive model is also greatly affected by the quality of the opponent’s running game. I actually put 9 of 16 points in a confidence pool on the Vikes to win outright over San Fran this past Sunday because I just didn’t like the way their defense matched up with AP. And sure enough, he did enough to open the door for some easy passes for Ponder to make (with some help from a high quality O-Line performance too).

So like Silverstein, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Seattle keep their safeties deep until we can get either Cobb or Benson going to keep them honest. This may also force McCarthy to tap into some of the apparently many unused plays in his playbook. Creativity may be the other cure here.

Packers sign Cedric Benson

August 13, 2012

Read here. Interesting signing. Benson is a guy who can get the tough yards between the tackles. He’s a decent player for sure and I’m a bit surprised he was just floating out there unattached to a team. I’m also surprised we got him for the 1 year veteran minimum ($850,000) and no signing bonus of any kind. I generally like the signing as I think he could add some nice depth/experience. Though I must say, I continue to wonder about why TT and company refuse to look at shiftier/quicker/faster backs. For a long time I wondered if it was because of suspected durability issues – but our bigger backs seem to have frequent injury issues so I don’t think so. I’d just like someone who could either make people miss or blow by people for long runs/TDs. Benson’s 6 carries for over 20 yards in the last 2 years are a concern – though maybe he might do a bit better working in an offense with an electric passing game. Again though, I’d love to see us work in a fast guy who brings more excitement.

Bishop likely done for the season

August 12, 2012

Thanks to Mike for pointing this out this morning. Just brutal news. Desmond Bishop is an absolutely critical part of this defense – a defense that was already horrendous last year with him. The defense is not in a good place now. And on a personal level, Bishop had worked his tail off to get to the point where he was the entrenched starter, so this has to be seriously disappointing for him. While I’m also on record as being a big fan of likely replacement DJ Smith, this loss hurts big time. I heard Dan Needles speculate the other night on Channel 12 news that AJ Hawk’s status not only as a starter was in question, but that he could be on the bubble to make the team. (Which is how it should be.) I had hoped that they’d work DJ Smith into Hawk’s role so that we’d have Smith and Bishop manning the middle. Hawk isn’t going anywhere now. This news hurts.

That said, one bright spot I still cling to on the defensive side of things is Jerel Worthy. I thought he was “worthy” of a first round pick so I was super excited when we got him in the 2nd round. I understand and think it’s fair when people question his motivation (taking plays off etc), but there is something that tells me come real game time, he will be a big-time performer. In college, he was just plain disruptive. Whether it was stopping the run, pursuing the QB or even a few times when I watched, surprising QBs by dropping into coverage. He is a talented dude who could help make this defense better.

 

 

Surprising move – Pack cuts Peprah

July 25, 2012

Read here. This is surprising. Thought he’d stick around for depth if nothing else. Interesting.

Catching up with Craig Newsome

July 16, 2012

Click here for an interesting read from jsonline.com. I’ve always wondered what happened to him. He was really, really good in his prime.


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