Sunday, October 9, 2011

THE MMQB: Green Bay gets behind early but then rallies for 25 unanswered points and the win

So me and Mrs. MMQB were sitting watching the Packer game on Sunday night, both of us a little subdued. Me because I put 40 miles on the bike in the morning and her because she’s working hard to put the gardens to bed while the weather is nice. Oddly enough, we had no guests over to watch with us, so that contributed to the quiet evening as well. Our torpor seemed to be matched by the team we were watching: Our Packer defense might as well have stayed on the sidelines for all the good they were doing trying to slow down Matt Ryan and the Falcons. Likewise, the Packer offense sputtered and stalled. Before I could say, “I need another beer,” the score was 14-0 in favor of Atlanta and it looked like the beginnings of a rout.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the first Packer loss of the year: The Falcons lost some of their drive and some of their execution and they let the Packers right back in. Notice I intentionally did not credit the Packer D because early on, the only thing stopping the Falcons were the Falcons. The Packer offense looked only a little better but couldn’t close the deal, despite Rodgers getting on track, and had to settle for three field goals. I’m not knocking the points, but on all three of those drives, there were opportunities to make plays and those plays didn’t get made.
Once the Packers offense started to get warmed up, the defense began to rise to the occasion. There was consistent pressure and hits put on Ryan, (he was only sacked once, though, and that was late in the game), and that messed up his timing with his receivers. That pressure directly caused the two interceptions the Packers came away with.
So we went from a 14-0 spanking, to a 14-9 contest and then Aaron Rodgers woke up and turned on the jets. He ended the day going 26 for 39, 396 yards and two TD’s but it was his overall mastery of the game that won it for Green Bay. He hit twelve different receivers, most notably James Jones for 140 yards, including a 70-yard TD. Most NFL teams don’t have 12 guys catch a ball in an entire season! The two scoring throws both came in the second half and pushed the Packers out in front to stay. Mason Crosby tacked on his fourth FG of the night for insurance and it was official: Down by 14, the Packers scored 25 unanswered points to come away with a HUGE win!
Chris Collinsworth said something in the fourth quarter that resonated with me and I will paraphrase him here: Champions find ways to win. A lesser team would have folded up their tents started thinking about the flight home after appearing so inept and getting down by two TD’s. Not the Packers. They kept pecking away and pecking away until they got it close and then EXPLODED to win going away. When you have a team like the Falcons and they are clicking, it’s hard to do anything to slow them down. Everything they did on offense on those first two drives worked almost to perfection. The run wasn’t happening but why do you need to run the ball when everything you throw up is being caught, due in no small part to the fact that the Packer defenders were not covering ANYBODY? But somehow, this team found the will to hang in the game, trusting that Aaron Rodgers and the offense would find ways to put up points and the defense would find ways to disrupt the Falcons.
When Chad Clifton went down, I had a sinking feeling and that feeling was nurtured when a newly-aggressive Falcon defense began treating Rodgers like a chew toy. And it was the interior linemen who were messing up the worst! I shuddered as Sherrod came in and Newhouse shifted over but I must say as the game wore on, the acquitted themselves well. It will be interesting to see if they both end up playing the majority of the snaps in coming weeks and how they develop. And I hope that is “interesting” in a good way. 
By the time Rodgers gathered his team in victory formation and knelt down, Mrs. MMQB had long before gone to bed but my team’s performance had opened my eyes and made me sit up, wide awake. Nothing like a come-from-behind win to get the blood flowing!

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