Monday, November 14, 2011

MMQB: Packers finally put together a complete game in demolishing the Vikings

When I sit down to write after the Packers have finished playing, I am usually looking for the faults and flaws, no matter what the outcome is. To me, the failures tell you far more about a football team than the successes. Tonight, facing the hated Vikings on a large, nationally-televised stage, the Green Bay Packers made my job here almost impossible! How can I fill up my allotted space with pithy rants and snarky comments if they play like they did? Come on, guys! Have a heart, will ya?
All kidding aside, it’s hard to find anything to pick about and I’m pretty sure you all know where I’m going to find the only blemish on an otherwise complete game: the Cobb fumble. Yeah, the rookie stunned the Vikings by putting up his second return for six after they went three-and-out to start the game. But his muffed punt and subsequent recovery by the Vikings would lead to their only points two plays later. Sound familiar? He did exactly the same thing in the first meeting this year between the Packers and Vikings and it allowed the Queens to climb back into that contest and make it a game. Not so much this time: Cobb redeemed himself by returning the ensuing kick-off to the 50 yard line. Five plays later Rodgers tossed his third TD of the night to Kuhn. I think all is forgiven, Randall. 

I’ve got one more: allowing Jarred Allen to rudely school Marshall Newhouse over and over again was a pointless blunder by the Packers. The guy completely dominated the line of scrimmage and disrupted our passing game, tossing Rodgers about on multiple occasions. When the Packers chipped him or double-teamed him he was much less effective. When they left Newhouse to his own devices, well, Allen had one sack, six tackles and I lost count of the hits and pressures. 
But aside from those two quibbles, I think this is the very first complete game the Packers have put together all season. Offense scored early and often. Defense almost pitched a shut-out. Special teams covered kicks, punted well and Crosby probably will have to spend time in the whirlpool from all the extra points he had to make tonight.
The biggest surprise was the defense, though I’m not sure what adjustments Dom Capers installed this week. Maybe it wasn’t anything new and it was just better, more aggressive play all around. Maybe it was the fact that Ponder isn’t that great, the Vikings wide outs are mediocre and Peterson becomes a non-factor when playing from a large deficit. But you have to be impressed by the play of Charles Woodson all night long. You have to notice that not only did Clay Matthews continue his stellar play at OLB, he also brought the hammer down twice on Ponder. I was wondering if we’d ever get to see that Predator move again but there it was! And the front seven holding AP to only 51 yards, well, that’s just unheard of!

It’s hard to figure out what to write about Rodgers and his receivers that hasn’t already been said a dozen times over. Repeat all the great stats? Call out one or two dynamite plays? Bow respectfully? How about this: On the Packers first offensive possession, they faced a third and one from the Vikings 27. Obvious spot for a run or a QB sneak, since you’re already in field goal range, right? Well the Vikings had such respect for Rodgers’ arm that they had their corners playing off the Packer receivers and the safeties were 20 yards off the line of scrimmage. Rodgers went up the middle for three and the first down, tossing his first TD strike of the game to Jennings across the middle three plays later. That’s just nuts. 
Packers vs. Vikings used to produce an almost visceral reaction for me: I couldn’t wait for the game to start yet I was so apprehensive about it that I couldn’t sit still. It started during all those years when Randy Moss was racking up dozens of touchdowns on us and it came to an ugly head three years ago when the Favre-led Vikings made my Packers look foolish. Since  that day, however, all my anxiety has been pointless as the Packers have owned the Queens. Tonight I could feel the tension in texts from Brother Russ and I’ll admit to some trepidation in the first half and one moment of doubt right before the second half but I never felt like Minnesota was ever going to make anything happen past a few meaningless opportunities. It’s ALWAYS a good feeling, though, when you beat the Vikings. It’s a MUCH BETTER feeling when you humiliate them in front of a prime time TV audience. Yeah, do your little “hog-tie” move, Jarred Allen. Get your kicks, guy. I much prefer a Lambeau Leap and a John Kuhn TD. And then you get to see the absolute best sight there can be: Matt Flynn in victory formation to end the game. Love it!

So, we sit at 9-0 and just played our best game of the year. This is the first of three games in 11 days and it couldn’t have turned out any better. But the challenges abound: a short turn and then Tampa on Sunday, followed by an even shorter turn and Detroit on Turkey Day. Oh, and once you get past that mess, you get to go to New York to play the Giants. If the Packers have indeed started to peak, they picked a perfect time for it.

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