Sunday, January 1, 2012

MMQB: Matt Flynn leads the Green Bay Packers to a stirring victory over the Lions

This was a day that should have been all about playing it safe. With absolutely nothing to play for, Mike McCarthy chose to sit his two biggest playmakers on defense, two ailing offensive skill players and his MVP quarterback. Just to make sure he’d have all of them available in two weeks when the post-season really opens up at Lambeau Field. Putting back-up QB Matt Flynn in as your starter isn’t necessarily saying “we just want to get out of here without too much damage” and tank the game: he’s a pretty good quarterback, based on his performance last year against the Patriots. Little did we know that while MM was putting in his second and third stringers, he was not backing off of going for a victory one iota.
Flynn, after a slow start (one-for-three and a fumble) played most of the game in a passable imitation of Aaron Rodgers. He did have the one pick but he would end the day with the most yards and most TD’s in one game for any quarterback in Packer history. Yes, you read that right: Flynn went 31-44, 480 yards and threw for six TD’s. That’s with only three receivers dressed, a makeshift offensive line and a highly motivated and full-strength Lions team wanting nothing more than to lock up the 5th seed and get their first win in Wisconsin since 1991.
This game was basically an opportunity for Flynn to put a highlight reel together for potential teams next season: he is free-agent after this season ends and is likely to be highly sought-after by teams looking for a starting-caliber QB. Well, he got the best collection of clips to ever grace a coach’s film projector. 
You, me and everybody else look at Aaron Rodgers as the heart and soul of that offense and we would all be right. We also assumed that if anything happened to A-Rodg, our season would be over. How wrong we were! Little did we know that lurking just behind our on-field leader was a lieutenant who was more than capable of stepping in without a bit of fall-off in production. We are a lucky bunch of fans! If the unthinkable would happen somewhere along the way, we can rest assured that Flynn can handle it. Too bad he won’t be with the team next year but Flynn has earned his shot to be a starter somewhere today.
Unfortunately, the Packer defense had no such answers on their side of the ball. With Woodson and Matthews in street clothes, the Packer defenders, already the second-worst in terms of yardage in the entire NFL, set new standards for wretchedness. How bad was it? Well, we get to celebrate Flynn’s achievement along with Matthew Stafford’s: He set franchise records for completions, yardage and touchdowns. The Packer D gave up an obscene 571 yards in total offense including 244 by Calvin Johnson who they pretty much shut down on Thanksgiving. It probably didn’t help that we had special-teamers off the third string trying to cover guys. It also didn’t help that we saw defensive linemen and linebackers attempting to cover Johnson while guys like Tramon Williams sat back in coverage and whiffed on tackles like high-school freshmen in their first August practice. That is bad scheming and bad coaching. Yes, they did  have their usual allotment of turnovers and you have to be thankful for that. But this defense, even at full strength is going to get TORCHED by someone like Drew Brees. Remember, this defense gives up 400 yards to third-stringers and rookies. You can argue that the bend-but-don’t-break style has worked so far in terms of wins but look at the game today: Matt Flynn, our back-up QB, had to have the best day of any Packer QB ever to just barely win this game. You just cannot expect that is going to happen in the playoffs. The Packers were bent, creased, spindled and fully mutilated and they might just face this team again!
But enough about the defense as quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of watching them get smacked around. No, I want to mention Jordy Nelson (9 catches, 162 yards and 3 TD’s) who is rapidly becoming an even bigger weapon than Jennings. I want to give props to Ryan Grant (12 runs for only 48 yards but an 80 yard TD on a little bitty screen) who may not have the burst he once did but he’s proven his worth with Starks out. How about Donald Driver? He only had two catches for 52 yards but one was for a 35-yard TD. 
On the bad side, you have to point a finger at Pat Lee, pressed into kick return duty with Cobb on the bench. He mis-handles the opening kick and can only swat it out of the end zone. The next kick, he lets it bounce off his shin and then pulls it back into the endzone for a safety. He was instrumental in staking the Lions to a 9-point lead before Flynn could even get his jock strap on. Welcome to the waiver wire. And, Mr. Suh, I’m so darn glad you were able to get a sack and then do a mock-Rodgers celebration. Good for you for getting that done without pulling a knife or drowning a puppy. You’ve really grown up. Your defense still sucks.
I am a firm believer in playing each and every game to win. I was of the opinion that McCarthy should not have sat a single starter and gone right for the throat and for the win. Well, he sat his most valuable guys, let his injured rest and still went for the win. Nicely done. The Packer second and third teams took it to the Lion starters and, while it certainly wasn’t pretty in places, we still came away with a win and end the season 15-1. I can’t imagine a better outcome.
Now we all have a few weeks off to figure out how this team will fare in the post season. After watching them tonight, I think our offense can score on anybody and that includes the Niners. I think any opposing offense will have to put up crazy numbers to even get close. Hopefully, our defense can rise to the occasion.

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