Sunday, December 8, 2013
Mrs. MMQB, upon being informed of the final result of the game (she quit watching at halftime) and the implications of the Detroit loss summed things up better than I ever could: “What a screwed up season!”
That’s right, Packer-backers, with the improbable victory recorded at frigid Lambeau Field and the failure of the Lions in the snow at Philly, Green Bay suddenly finds themselves only a half-game out of first place in the NFC North. Despite all the injuries, despite Aaron Rodgers being absent since October, despite the mid-season regression of the defense from top ten to bottom ten, your Green Bay Packers have a shot at the playoffs with only three games left in this season.
Do they deserve it? Are they a team that should really in contention for anything? Well, if you have paid any attention during the month of November, you’d have to say “no”. This is a severely dysfunctional football team with gaping deficiencies in just about every position except for maybe kicker and punter. And yet, here we are.
Truly, the only reason we are even mentioned in the post-season equation is due to the 5-2 record put up by Aaron Rodgers and that other Packer team, the one during the first half of the season that looked like it was going places. Fortunately, you can’t separate that team from the buffoons who took their places in week 7.
Full disclosure here: I was only able to watch the first half and small chunks of the second. I did get to watch the last three series and the eventual clinching interception (another one? Unheard of!) and the unusual sight of a Packer victory.
While watching the first half, I have to say I quickly lapsed into a “here we go again” mindset. Our team kept showing brief moments and flashes of their former selves but would quickly regress to that group that was handed their collective jock straps by Detroit on Thanksgiving. When Flynn was strip-sacked, it hurt. When that ricochet interception was returned for six, I became almost indifferent. How can a fan bring himself to care about a team that appears to have completely lost the will to win?
Make no mistake - the will of the players, their belief they can beat an opponent, is a major factor in football games. I’ve been watching the NFL since the 1960’s and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen inept, overmatched teams get the idea in their heads that they can win and darned if they don’t go ahead and do just that. Think back to the 2010 Super Bowl season. There was a point in that year, after they’d lost to the Patriots (with Rodgers on the bench after a concussion the week before) where this team had to question their worth. I think many Packer fans were doing the same. The team had been devastated by injuries all season long and their arrow was definitely pointing down. They had two games left and would need to win them both to have a shot. Something happened as they welcomed the Giants the following week: the Packers began to believe in themselves again. They destroyed New York and then went out and outplayed the Bears and the drive for the championship was on. They were able to overcome a crisis in confidence to win it all.
I don’t bring this up to tell you I think this team is going to win the Super Bowl. I don’t even believe this team will get to the post-season. I bring this up to illustrate why the Packers won this game today. There wasn’t any one single moment that did it. They just kept working, kept pounding and did just enough, just enough, to win the game. The Falcons certainly didn’t look like a team with only three wins (the Packers of late have had a way of making poor opponents feel much better about themselves) and should have easily put this game out of reach after going up 21-10 at the half. Somehow, some way, the Packer defense found some untapped reserve of resolve and held the Falcons scoreless over the final half. Somehow, some way, the Packer offense found a hidden pocket of desire, just deep enough to squeak out two field goals and a touchdown to Quarless with 12 minutes left in the game. And I think that’s the answer - the Packers had to want it more. I’m sure they wanted to win all those other games but for some reason, that little bit of desire was just enough to carry the day today.
Whatever happens the rest of the way, the Packers can point to this game and say, “yes, we were down, we were beaten. After our worst game in ten years, we came out and could have just laid down on the cold, snowy turf and let it happen again. But we didn’t. We rose up. We didn’t play all that great, but we played well enough. It might mean exactly zero, but today, it was enough. We proved we can win a game without Aaron Rodgers.”
So now, with three games to play and the possibility of Rodgers’ eventual return, Mike McCarthy has a lot to think about. The offensive line is still leaking like a sieve. Do you trust this makeshift group to protect your franchise quarterback? If Rodgers takes the kind of pounding Flynn took today, would he survive it? If the Packers had lost today, that answer becomes a simple one - you sit Rodgers. Now, with the win and the Lion’s loss, the equation gets much more complicated. If this week’s bone scan clears him, Rodgers is going to play. He might be a little rusty, but his presence on the field is so important to this team that you just can’t keep him on the bench while still playing meaningful games.
Friday, November 29, 2013
I am thankful for many, many things in my life. I have great co-workers, tremendous friends, a wonderful family. I live in place and time overflowing with great beer, great places to ride my bike and great entertainment opportunities. However on Thanksgiving, I was most thankful for Mrs. MMQB. Aside from the fact that she’s a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother and all-around great partner in life, I’m thankful for the fact that she ignores what I say.
Ever since the Packers schedule came out and I knew we had a Thanksgiving game against the Lions, I told her (in every forceful manner possible) that our Turkey Day meal needed to occur after the end of the game. 3-3:30 or so, due to the 11:30 AM kick-off. Such a simple thing, right? Well, as she often does, she ignored my simple request and planned our (wonderful) fest smack dab in the middle of the game. Having been married for 33 years, I know when to relax and accept the inevitable - you learn to pick your battles and I knew this was one I wasn’t going to win. So why am I so thankful she did what she did? I got to miss almost the entire second half of one of the most embarrassing losses in Packer history. For that, Mrs. MMQB, my love, I will be eternally grateful.
As soon as the after-dinner conversation wound down and the clean up began, of course I had the TV turned on, just missing the end. Having watched or listened to the first half and a bit of the third quarter, I was under no illusions as to the outcome - there was no way in hell that team I had seen was going to win a football game that day. As the FOX studio commentators discussed the game, it slowly dawned on me that it wasn’t just another loss I had missed. Soon I saw the video evidence and was so despondent that I was unable to watch any more football the rest of the day, one of the true joys (for me) of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Being the sad and pathetic masochist I am, I just had to go online and check out all the stats and all the video, just to ensure that the gaping wound that was this game was open, raw and completely seasoned with salt. Not dinner table salt, I mean the big, rocky kind they spread on the roads when it snows. Yeah, that’s the ticket...GRIND it in there! You know which of the low-lights hurt the worst? The safety. Oh, that stung. Here you have a double-team on Suh, the Lions best (and worst) defensive lineman. He not only beats two supposedly professional offensive linemen, he swims through their feeble efforts like they’re not even there. He then swarms over Matt Flynn like he’s a grade-schooler and then, just as he is about to sling him forcefully to the turf, he lets up! Yes, that’s how bad the Detroit Lions beat our Packers on Thursday. It was so bad Ndamukong Suh, possibly the dirtiest player in the NFL, took pity on our quarterback.
In the first quarter, the Packers were able to put up their entire pitiful scoring output of the day in the form of a weak drive that ended in an XL field goal by Mason Crosby and a strip sack by Perry resulting in a fumble recovery for a TD. That’s right, Cheesehead Nation, the great and powerful Packer offense, facing an entirely forgettable Lion secondary, could not generate any points or even more than one penetration into enemy territory to justify trotting the FG team back out. That’s not just bad, it’s awful.
I guess we need to be thankful that the Lions were so bad at ball security (2 interceptions, 2 fumbles, 7 points given up) on Thursday. Thankful it kept the Pack in the game? Please. The Pack was NEVER in that game. No, I’m thankful the Lions kept giving us the ball because if they hadn’t, they would have put up 70 points. Or more. I’m not sure we Packer fans could have survived that.
I know we are going to hear the drumbeat, over and over again, during the next 12 days, for the immediate dismissal of Dom Capers, Green Bay’s defensive coordinator. His troops were so inept at every phase of the game, it became almost comical. Do you think any of the Packer defensive backs had ever seen a slant pattern? Sure didn’t look like it to me. Do you think any emphasis was put on covering Calvin Johnson? You know that big guy nicknamed after a giant Transformer character? Didn’t seem like they thought it wise to cover him at all. Do you think after the awful tackling performances over the last month something might have been mentioned about squaring up, wrapping up and taking running backs down? You know, like kids have been taught since their first practice as grade-schoolers? Didn’t seem like the defense was even aware that tackling was allowed in the NFL. So I think Dom Capers certainly has to shoulder his share of the blame for that awful, awful game. But to all of you “experts” who will call for his heard, I say “shut the hell up.” This wasn’t about scheme or technique or about calls. It was completely, 100% about lack of execution by every man, up and down that defense. Will firing Dom Capers heal the injured? Will it keep Hawk from getting caught up in the wash of blockers? Will it help Matthews beat a triple team? Will hit magically transport Shields or Williams into a position where they are actually covering the receiver instead of chasing him or locking down an empty patch of turf? I’m not giving Dom a pass here (it may well be time for new blood), I’m just saying it takes all eleven guys on the field completely screwing up to absorb an ass-kicking of this proportion.
This was the game we had to have: beat the Lions and you still remain relevant in the NFL. So it was time for the Packers to step up and prove their mettle on a national stage, with every NFL fan in the world watching. Sadly, they played their worst game of the year, possibly their worst in the last decade. It proved they do not belong in the elite and will have to take a long, hard look in the collective mirror to figure out how to get back there.
One other thing we should all be thankful for: we should thank our lucky stars this truly bad Packer team is going to be sitting at home and watching games with the rest of us in January. Sure, the return of Aaron Rodgers will improve the offense a great deal and I suppose it could magically heal the defense (as his injury seemed to magically degrade it) and the Packers could, in theory, win out and end up 9-6-1. But 9 wins won’t be good enough for a wild card in the NFC - you’d have to win the North to get in. The Lions and/or Bears could go into an absolute tailspin and the unlikely could happen. But imagine if a so-so team like the Lions (and the Vikings, Giants, Eagles and Bears) can dominate and embarrass this team, what kind of beat-down one of the truly elite teams would administer. No, Rodgers can’t fix the offensive line, one of the absolute strengths of the team over the first half of the season and now one of the absolute weaknesses. Rodgers can’t help our terrible secondary cover opposing receivers and he can’t tackle for the defense either. If I were Mike McCarthy, I would seriously be considering putting Rodgers on the IR and calling it a year, taking whatever humiliation the last month of the season dishes out. It couldn’t possibly be any worse that what they got on Thanksgiving Day.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
The saying goes that a tie is like kissing your sister. If that is so, the tie managed by the Packers was like full-on tongue with your sister.
Don’t get me wrong - I think the fact that Green Bay and Minnesota ended their 4-hour long contest with the scoreboard knotted up is a fantastic result. After driving his team downfield in the first quarter, Scott Tolzien capped off the drive with a twisting scramble for six that will make every highlight reel in the nation. And then he lost his mojo. After what seemed like several days of excruciatingly poor play, he was pulled in favor of Matt Flynn. I like Scott Tolzien. I think he has what it takes to play in the NFL. I believed he would play well today but I cannot fault Mike McCarthy for giving him the hook. Tolzien was not the reason the Packers had lost three games in a row but against the Vikings, it was obvious he was not going to be the reason we won one.
Matt Flynn, lately an NFL vagabond since his record-setting outing against the Lions two years ago, was signed by the Packers after Rodgers and Seneca Wallace went down and the move looks like sheer genius right now, although most Packer fans are more of the “what took you so freakin’ long???” opinion. Flynn came in and led the Packers to 16 points in the fourth quarter to get things back to even and gave his once-and-current team a shot at victory. He didn’t set the world on fire (21-for-36, 218 yards and a TD) but he did provide the spark that started the comeback.
Speaking of sparks, you’ve got to love (LOVE!) the fire in the belly of Eddie Lacy. He ended the day on the sideline with what might have been a minor injury but he chipped in 110 yards on 25 attempts and 1 TD. More importantly, many of those runs were pounding, slamming, tumbling variety, runs that keep drives alive. If our early quarterback play had been up to snuff, Lacy’s running would have demoralized and destroyed the Queens defense, likely controlling the game all by himself.
As powerful as Lacy’s running was, he was out-shone by Adrian Peterson, who re-imposed his dominance over the Packer defense again. Peterson ran for 136 yards and a score (kind of a ho-hum day for him playing the Packers) but I’m thinking maybe it wasn’t so much about the running of Peterson as it was about the total domination by the Vikes O-line over the Packer defense. When AP needed a breather after gashing the Pack, Toby Gerhardt (8 rushes for an astounding 91 yards!) came in and made our front seven look foolish. Our inability to stop the run is directly tied to the fact that Johnny Jolly was out and it has become an all too familiar refrain during our Rodgers-less interlude.
In the passing game, our severely depleted secondary continued to underperform. Christian Ponder, one of the least capable quarterbacks in the NFL, passed for 233 yards and 1 TD. It’s often painful to watch him play but today he looked like he was much improved. Of course, with the Packers conceding just about any throw he wanted to make (love the see the Packers “passes defended” stats - probably all zeroes) it wasn’t too hard. It’s always puzzling to me while watching the Packer games how our receivers are always tightly covered and have to fight and make outstanding plays on every pass and somehow our opponents always seem to have at least one guy wide open on every pass.
Did everybody miss Clay Matthews? I know I did. In his third game back after breaking his thumb, Clay Matthews finally started to play like...well, Clay Matthews. He had two sacks, three tackles and one assist but he was the main reason his fellow defenders recorded four more. Without this pressure, I think the score might have gotten out of hand and completely out of reach. It was heartening to have him back and performing at such a high level and it gave me some hope that there is the slightest glimmer of hope for this defense. Sure, they can’t stop the run and can’t cover on the pass but if they can pressure QB’s into making mistakes, maybe they can make some big plays. And no, I don’t mean interceptions - our defense seems to be allergic to them and I wouldn’t want to provoke some sort of rash.
Now the big question of the week: who will be the Packer’s quarterback on Thanksgiving day?That’s a question that really hasn’t been relevant since 1992 but it’s one that is uppermost in Cheesehead Nation quite often of late. Will Aaron Rodgers be ready to play? Is Scott Tolzien still the starter? Will Mike McCarthy view the game film and decide Flynn is The Man? Personally, if Rodgers isn’t ready to go, he has to name Flynn the starter and do it quickly - it’s a short week and he’ll need every snap in practice to be ready.
The game in Detroit on Thursday suddenly becomes HUGE. The Packers could not take advantage of the losses by the Lions and Bears but the tie leaves them only a half-game behind both teams. Despite the absence of Aaron Rodgers and the painful three-game losing streak, the tie muddies the playoff waters and muddy water works to our advantage. Look at the standings and you have to conclude that the only way the Pack can get into the post-season is to win the North. Too many good teams surging right now so the Wild Card will not be an option. The Packers have already beaten the Lions once and won and tied over the Vikes. IF we can somehow pull out the win over the Lions on Turkey Day, our path to the playoffs will be in our own hands. If we cannot pull off the win, we won’t be mathematically eliminated but for all practical purposes, we’ll be done.
The Minnesota Vikings posses the worst (as in #32) defense in the NFL and one of the worst offenses and it was all the Packers could do to scratch out a tie. Something has to change.
So, if Dom Capers has an ounce of coaching smarts left in him, he needs to find a way to cover wide receivers with a bunch of third-teamers because Megatron is coming. He needs to figure out how to get his team to shed blockers and tackle because Reggie Bush is licking his chops. Mike McCarthy needs to figure out how to block pass rushers with Marshall “Turnstile” Newhouse anchoring his line. He also has to hope that Matt Flynn can catch lightning in a bottle for the second time against the Lions. Because this is a playoff game for the Packers, despite what the schedule says.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
There were the Packers, in the fourth quarter, on the road and facing the Giants. Their third QB of the year, Scott Tolzien, hasn’t played lights-out but well enough. Despite the all-too-familiar wretched play by the defensive secondary, things are shifting in their favor. They had just driven down and pounded Lacy into the end zone for their first touchdown of the game. Inspired by this, the defense rises up and sacks Eli Manning twice, forcing a punt. Only down by seven, the Green Bay Packers had the momentum, they had the Giants on their heels and they had a chance. Then Tolzien stepped back and threw the ball right into the very large paws of Jason Pierre Paul, who casually sauntered into the end zone for a pick six. There was still a lot of time left and there would be quite a lot of back-and-forth and even another interception but for all intents and purposes, the game was over. No need for the Giants to go on a 8+ minute drive to end the game. The Pack was done.
I have to say that aside from that brief period early in the 4th quarter, the Packers never looked like they had a chance in this game. They ran six rather anemic-looking plays in the first quarter. The defense, pretty stout for a few downs, would let NY wide receivers casually stroll around the field, allowing long catches at will. There really wasn’t any time where the Giants seemed threatened. With one of the worst offenses in the NFL through the fist six weeks, New York has been getting hot, playing against mediocre teams with sketchy QB situations. They ran their winning streak to four on Sunday, exposing the Packers as one of those marginal opponents.
This team regressed today to their 2011 and 2012 form - can’t rush the ball, can’t cover anybody and totally dependent on the pass. The difference was that Aaron Rodgers is standing on the sideline sporting a bad mustache and a clip board and not winning football games with his arm.
It feels like the Pack is in a downward spiral right now that will not be stopped by the return of Aaron Rodgers. Yes, he will certainly score more points that Tolzien and he will pay much more attention to ball security but with this wretched defense weighing him down, Rodgers will be hard-pressed to out-score any team. Eli Manning, mired in one of the worst years of his career, could do no wrong. He made one bad mistake in throwing an interception to Tramon Williams (hey! We go a pick! Woo hoo!) but otherwise the Packers made him look like his old Super Bowl MVP self.
If you look at the upcoming schedule, you’d have to say the Packers should be posed to make a run straight into the playoffs. Well, maybe you’d think that about the Packer’s team that took the field against the Bears three weeks ago. Since then, they’ve lost two QB’s, their defensive mojo and three straight games. They’ve gone from leading the NFC North to a full game behind both the Bears and Lions. They’ve gone from a top ten NFL team to a plummeting mess, just trying to find a way to win a game. Any game.
Will things change when Aaron Rodgers gets back in the game? If you look at the last three games, you’d have to say “no”. Of course, his exit precipitated the nosedive, so maybe his return will pull the team out of it. The only problem is that the team will likely be 5-6 and riding a 4-game losing streak if he makes is back in time for the Thanksgiving tilt against the Lions. And after watching Matt Stafford make the Steelers look foolish for one quarter (seriously: Pittsburgh gave up 24 points in the 2nd quarter!) I foresee a passing day for him versus the Packer secondary of historic proportions. If Rodgers is still on the sidelines for that game, I would seriously suggest throwing in the towel and protecting his shoulder for 2014. Will Thanksgiving be too early to “wait until next year”? I’m not saying they couldn’t pull out some wins (some pretty awful teams yet to play) but the season will be lost by then.
The Packers have not dropped three in a row since 2008 (when their streak topped five). That’s five seasons under Aaron Rodgers when Packer fans could always count on their team bouncing back. Their next opponent is the truly awful Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau. Even with home field advantage, would anyone their right mind pick the Packers (5-5) over the Vikings (2-8)? Let’s see...Packers can no longer stop the run and they are going to be facing Adrian Peterson. Their secondary can’t cover anybody and have a total of 4 interceptions on the year. Their offensive line is no longer opening up any holes for Eddie Lacy and, oh, yeah, Scott Tolzien is playing quarterback instead of Aaron Rodgers.
This team needs to start playing like they have a practice squad QB under center. They need to understand they are on the verge of becoming entirely irrelevant. They need to stop this slide before they slip down that deep, ugly hole that is mediocrity. We’ll all be hoping that playing a terrible Vikings team at home will be just what the doctor ordered.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
After watching the Packers get smacked on Sunday, I have a question for your all: Has our great quarterback, super running game and powerful passing attack masked the fact that we have a mediocre defense?
As soon as Aaron Rodgers hit the turf and heard a sickening “crunch” against the Bears last week, the Packers defense has turned into a bunch of inconsistent, confused and mewling children. How can a team, that has been so stout against the run for the first seven weeks of the season, be so suddenly ineffective. How can a team that made a living with turnovers for the last half-decade suddenly find themselves dead last in takeaways? How can a desperate Green Bay Packer team allow their opponents to gobble up two thirds of the fourth quarter two weeks in a row?
We can all argue about the injuries and the QB situation and not getting the calls...the bottom line here is a simple one: if the Packer defense plays up to their potential, we win both of the last two games. You heard me, Packer fans - the biggest problem in Titletown is not the fact that Aaron Rodgers is on the sideline. It’s the Packer defense and their inability to play the run and their inability to defend the pass when it matters.
Let me be clear: we saw some really good defense from the Pack in the first half of the game. They kept the score close. You could see a path to victory if they could keep it up but they did not. Clay Matthews was a total non-factor in pass rush and in run stop. Tramon Williams leads the world in almost-picks, resulting in first downs. Our previously great defensive line forgets how to play the run late in games. Our Packers gave up nine plays of 20 yards or more, including two touchdown passes into double coverage that should have been picked or easily defended.
In a game that required our defense to step up and win the game, they failed. Miserably.
Dom Capers has been given a healthy helping of draft picks over the last two years. Injuries have played a part but you have to start to wonder (to channel Vince Lombardi) what the hell is going on out there. Is it the scheme? Is it the players? Is it the execution? What the hell is it? We have had a second string quarterback and a third string quarterback do almost enough to win two football games. Why haven’t we won? Our defense. How does that happen?
This week the entire Packer Nation was focused on Seneca Wallace. Would he be able to hold things together long enough for Aaron Rodgers to get back? When Wallace went down, the collective reflexive gasp had the same concern about Scott Tolzien. I’m here to tell you, friends, you are barking up the wrong damn tree. The key to the Packers Rodgers-less fortunes will not be found in who is under center. It will be found in Dom Capers, Clay Matthews and Tramon Williams. Based on what I’ve seen in the month of November, I’m not optimistic.
It’s not all on the Packers: I have to give props to the Eagles here. They very adroitly found the soft spots in the Packer defense and exploited them. In that game-winning, soul-crushing drive in the fourth quarter, the Eagles wanted to run the ball to chew clock. The Packers knew exactly what was going to happen yet Philly out-executed the Packers over and over again. Kudos to them.
Many Cheeseheads are going to complain about Scott Tolzien today. I can see the bloviating no-nothings and their on-line commentary already. Thompson and McCarthy must be fired because all they had left was Tolzien. To all of those people, I say “please shut the hell up. You know nothing.” I watched Tolzien lead the Wisconsin Badgers and I found him to be a pretty good quarterback. To be elevated from the practice squad and be charged with running the Packer offense in the span of five days, I would have to grade him A+. Yes, he threw that pick in the end zone. That was a tight, tight play and he might have put that ball a bit higher but it was still a great throw. Let me throw this out there: if that pass doesn’t come up slightly short, if the refs confirm that TD Jordy makes and if the referees understood exactly how to identify pass interference, Scott Tolzien pulls out this win. Yes, as awful as the defense played in the second half, only a few plays on offense meant the difference between an awful defeat and an inspiring victory.
I have to talk about the injuries. The most obvious one was to Wallace and that hurt but you know what? I think that was a positive. If we count the pre-season QB’s, Tolzien was the SIXTH STRING quarterback (Rodgers, Wallace, Young, Harrell, Coleman ahead of him) and I contend he acquitted himself well. No, I think the other injuries were much, much worse. Aside from Wallace, you had Evan Dietrich Smith go out, which shifted the offensive line around and allowed human sieve Marshall Newhouse into the lineup. You had Johnny Jolly go down which limited the D-line rotation. You had Perry get dinged which allowed Matthews to get double-teamed. You had Barclay get hurt and then we had an offensive line in complete chaos. You had the recently-returned Hayward limp off and now your secondary isn’t supporting the run anymore. We’ll have to await the official injury report but you just can’t continue to lose players until “next man up” becomes “who the hell do we have left? At the end of the game, by the count of Brother Russ (official statistician here at The MMQB), the only starters on offense left from the first day of camp were Jones, Nelson, Lang and Sitton. Hard to win with that kind of devastation.
We’ll see what the injury report looks like (I half expected the Packers to ask for volunteers from the fans at Lambeau to finish the game) to see what next week will look like. In this war of attrition, Green Bay is losing. Tolzien will be the starter next week and rightly so. Who will be filling the other 21 starting spots is up in the air. If the Packers could squeak out a few victories while their QB healed, we had a shot. It’s no longer about Rodgers - it’s about the defense and the third- and fourth-string players now taking the field.
Monday, November 4, 2013
The Green Bay Packers are a third-rate team without Aaron Rodgers on the field. There, I said it. We may not want to believe such a thing, but the truth of it was proven tonight against the Chicago Bears. Once Rodgers went down on the first Packer series, the game was effectively over. Josh McCwon played like the veteran he is, managing the game, making all the throws, standing in the pocket. One might argue that McCown might be a better QB than the emotional and erratic Jay Cutler. If his performance tonight is indicative, they should be looking long and hard at sitting Jay Baby.
Aaron Rodgers’ back-up, Seneca Wallace, was not as good. Or at least I don’t think he was as good. It’s kind of hard to tell when Mike McCarthy and the Packer staff refused to turn him lose, calling rush after rush and only short, short passes. On his few opportunities to show his arm, Wallace was found lacking, getting two passes tipped, one being picked off. Maybe he’s better in practice or maybe he just needs more reps. The Packers ejected all their pre-season back-up QB’s in favor of Wallace and former Badger Scott Tolzien. They must know something we don’t. One thing we do know for sure: you will only go as far as your back-ups will take you.
The most puzzling thing about this game was the completely lax way the Packer defense reacted to the loss of Rodgers. Yes, they certainly made some plays and put some pressure on the back-up QB but that pressure was always a few ticks late. When the Packers would blitz, McCown would hang in and inevitably find some great big receiver wide open. When the Packers would drop into coverage, Forte would slam into the line, eventually softening up the line and gashing the Pack for critical yardage. The most puzzling part? How does the loss of Aaron Rodgers turn the Packer defense into a collection of clueless dolts? How does the loss of Aaron Rodgers turn Dom Capers into a confused and forgetful coach?
You want to see some of the worse defense ever seen at Lambeau? Watch the Bear’s final drive. Almost NINE MINUTES LONG! Nursing a four point lead, the Bears consumed two thirds of the fourth quarter and came away with three points to seal the win. Where was our defense? Where was our defensive coach? Does Aaron Rodgers play D? What the heck?
Injuries, aside from the obvious loss of Rodgers, doomed the Pack. Once Lang went out with a concussion, the offensive line was
shuffled (Barclay moving to guard and Newhouse coming in at tackle) and they went into an ugly spiral that culminated in back-to-back sacks to put a merciful end to Wallace’s evening. On the rare moments Wallace was allowed to drop back, the Bear pass rush made him uncomfortable and running scared.
There was a point where things could have gone differently: In the second quarter, Wallace had finally gotten the Packers moving. Facing a critical third down, he completed a pass to James Jones who appeared to bobble the ball going out of bounds. However, the replay showed Jones regained control before touching the chalk. Mike McCarthy, unfathomably, did not issue a challenge. Come on, Mike! Your QB is done for the night, your back-up is struggling and you are barely hanging on by your fingernails. What did you have to lose? Sure, there are no guarantees that the Packers would have scored. We do know that after the ensuing punt, the Bears would drive 99 yards and score a field goal. THAT, Mike is what you get paid to do and you blew that one big time.
Such a rush of negative feelings after this game but there were a few positives to take away. First, the Packers came out after halftime and, through the strength of crazy good rushing and a surprise onside kick, scored ten straight points and actually took a 3-point lead. At that point, the offense was doing just enough to survive and the defense was playing with a recognizable physical swagger. That swagger would soon be replaced by weeping puppy eyes and a whimper, but for that shining moment, it almost looked like the Packers might pull this out.
Another great takeaway was the power of the Packer rushing attack. Eddie Lacy continued his ascendency with 150 yards and a TD and James Starks chipped in 40 and a TD of his own. The absence of Rodgers forced the Packers into a run-first mode and the Bears countered with 8 and 9 men in the box and the Packers still were effective on the ground. I don’t know what the future holds at the QB position (hey, didn’t Matt Flynn get cut by the Bills on Monday? Paging Ted Thompson, Mr. Thompson, call on line one) but the running game seems to be secure.
The strengths of this Packer team were transformed into weaknesses in the blink of an eye tonight. Our All-World QB who can do just about anything with the football was replaced by a washed-up journeyman that the coaches don’t trust to throw the ball. Our steady and effective offensive line was knocked down into a leaky sieve. Our gritty and physical defense morphed into human pinball machines, unable to do anything well or consistently.
The future of this season will be determined in a doctors office on Tuesday when they diagnose the prospects for Rodgers’ return. If he is out for more than a week or two, our season in done. We cannot win with Wallace as the QB. That much is clear. Ted Thompson has been lights-out in player management and development but his one glaring failure (not having a second-string QB worthy of the name ready to play) was exposed on national TV tonight.
shuffled (Barclay moving to guard and Newhouse coming in at tackle) and they went into an ugly spiral that culminated in back-to-back sacks to put a merciful end to Wallace’s evening. On the rare moments Wallace was allowed to drop back, the Bear pass rush made him uncomfortable and running scared.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Just so you know, I have nothing but admiration for the state of Minnesota. I have many good friends that call MN their home and all are excellent folk. Brother Russ (an even bigger Packer fan than I) and his lovely wife call the state their home. Great state, great people. Heck, I travel there once every year just to bike and raise money for MS and I’m more than happy to do it. My only problem with Minnesota? It’s entirely infested with Vikings fans.