Sunday, November 20, 2011

MMQB: Packers play perhaps their worst game of the season and still win by 9

If you were watching the Packers beat the Buccaneers this afternoon, you would not be in the minority thinking that this game should have been closer than the final score indicated. Was I the only one who felt like we were playing from behind all day? Looking at this game on paper, you would have come up with the same thing all the talking heads did: Packers win, somewhere around 35-17. And if you look at the final, you’d say “yeah, Pack gave up one more score than it should have but they still beat ‘em”. You wouldn’t be wrong, but you wouldn’t have seen the complete picture either.
If you watched the Packers beat up on the Vikings last week, you were probably just like this humble scribe in thinking that the Packer defense had finally turned a corner and had solved all those nagging problems (giving up 400+ yards a game) and found a way to stop offenses that were (literally) throwing caution to the wind and attempting to keep pace with the prolific Packer offense. But watching the mediocre Josh Freeman light up the Packer DB’s for 342 yards and 2 TD’s and the decidedly not mediocre Blount run over through and around the Packer tacklers for 107 yards and 1 TD, you have to question that defense again. Seriously: in the third quarter, a period that has been dominated by Green Bay all season long, the Bucs OWNED the game on both sides of the ball.
I have to ask: How did the Bucs take away both Greg Jennings (2 catches for six yards) and Jermichael Finley (1 catch for 30 yards) and STILL put all that pass rush on Aaron Rodgers? Sure, you had a career day by Jordy Nelson (6 for 123 and 2 TD’s) and a resurgence of Donald Driver (4 catches for 72 yards and two key first downs) but how does that happen? I can see every offensive coordinator in the NFL (especially the Detroit guy) pouring over that film, studying what went right for Tampa Bay. One big factor: Aaron Rodgers was not on his game today. Yes, yes, he still threw some great, great passes but he was off-target in many instances and the interception he threw in the fourth quarter was the only one so far that came off of a bad read and bad throw.
We got into the second half and the Packers were getting out-coached and out-played in all phases of the game. Very much uncharacteristic. The defense was embarrassed, seemingly in prevent but in actuality was just out of position. The offense sputtered and stalled. The special teams barely held on. 
But even with all that crap going on, the Packers were still leading the game! Think about that: they were totally messing up on both sides of the ball and yet they were still in control of their destiny. How weird was it?
  • On the Packers first drive, Masthay came on for a seeming three-and-out punt, fumbles twice but runs for a first down.
  • Aaron Rodgers was the second-leading rusher today, something that means the pass blocking is really bad.
  • BJ Raji, a defensive lineman, gets his first rushing TD and second TD overall of his career. Shades of “the Fridge”?? Heck no: he’s now “the Freezer”.
  • Tom Crabtree, the most handsome player in the NFL (Google a picture of him. I dare you) catches the first TD of his NFL career. 
Aaron Rodgers was not efficient. The Packer defense was soft and flaccid. Yet still they won. They made the needful plays in the right spots and found a way to win against an inferior opponent playing out of their heads.
So you have to ask yourself: how does this team beat the Lions on Turkey Day? You have a fine offensive team in Detroit (doesn’t bode well to the seemingly lax Packer defense) and a team that can be good on defense (against a Packer pass attack that suddenly looks mortal).  Can the opportunistic Packer D make up for their lack of backbone with picks? Can Aaron Rodgers and his receivers bounce back from a sub-par performance? The Lions ALWAYS play well on Thanksgiving Day and the Packers will have all they can handle. 10-0 is a remarkable record and a 15 game winning streak is unprecidented in Packer history. Is this the week it all comes crashing down? I don’t know. But I think they will have to play the best game of the season so far to get out of this week undefeated.

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