Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Monday Morning Quarterback

I’m trying to find a few positive things to write about in the Packer’s deflating 22-30 loss versus the SF Forty-Niners this afternoon...

(sound of crickets chirping)

...but I can’t seem to locate one. 

Seriously, I was slightly impressed by the Packers making a game of it in the second half (ahh, the good old glory minutes) but I can’t even bring myself to revel in that since they were ultimately short-lived and unsuccessful. 

Before I get to dissecting the failures, a word about the replacement referees: BAD. There were so many missed calls, blown calls and just outright wrong calls, my head started to spin. At one point they missed three (3) false starts on one SF series. They totally blew the call on Cobb’s TD return play. They completely missed an egregious face-mask against Aaron Rodgers on the Packers final series. How many times were Packer receivers mugged and no flag thrown? The list goes on and on, for and against both teams in all three phases of the game. I was worried that the replacement refs might have an adverse affect on the game. My fears are correct. MMQB to Roger Goodell: Settle this labor dispute NOW! Why wait until they foul up so big the coaches and fans storm your office and force you to do it? Seriously: the regular zebras screw up quite enough, thank you. Send these guys back to the Podunk U campus ASAP!

Did the refs cost the Packers the game? Absolutely not. They played poorly enough to do that all on their own. Let me count the ways:

  • The addition of Cedric Benson was thought by many (including your humble scribe) to add an extra dimension to the Packer offense. Thanks to indifferent blocking, that was not the case. Benson ran 9 times for a total of 18 yards with a long rush of a whopping 4-yards.
  • Even with the poor quality of officiating, the Packers were flagged early and flagged often. They were flagged 10 times for 77 yards. 
  • The defense, more specifically the pass rush and the pass defense, were huge areas of emphasis for the Packers during the off season. How’d that go? Well, we did get four sacks and held to Smith to only 211 yards, so I guess that was a positive but the catches and the yards that were made were all in key situations. When Randy Moss (anybody remember him? No?) can walk unmolested into our end zone and catch a TD pass, something is seriously wrong with your scheme and your players.
  • The rush defense gave up almost 200 yards and allowed Gore to gash up the Tundra for over 100 and a key touchdown.
  • The passing attack with Rodgers and crew took WAY too long to make itself felt in this game. We could see it, in flashes and spurts but that consistent, juggernaut of the Packer offense from most of 2011 looked more like the offense we saw against the Chiefs and Giants. That is NOT a good sign!
  • Where was Nick Perry, the Packers new bookend for Clay Matthews? He had some tackles but no sacks and I didn’t really notice him in pressuring the passer.

I have to admit: the Niners are a really, really good team. Their defense is just as tough and aggressive as it was last year. Their rushing attack is truly a throwback, but it is a potent weapon nonetheless. Add in Smith who does just enough with his arm to be dangerous and you have a team that is tough to beat. And the Packers found out today that they are not tough enough (right now) to beat a team like San Francisco. One of the keys to this game was the difference in tackling. When the Packers made a play, there was an SF player right there to make the stop. When the Niners made a play, it took two or three Packers (the first two just showing up in the general vicinity) to bring them down. Didn’t I hear that tackling was a point of emphasis in training camp this year?

Some bright spots? Any? Well, the emergence of Randall Cobb as an offensive weapon is certainly cause for celebration. 9 catches for 77 yards doesn’t sound world-changing but the scheme to work him out of the backfield was extremely intriguing to me. Donald Driver was a total non-factor (I  think I saw him on the field twice when the Packers went five-wide) and his role as the possession guy has been completely taken over by Cobb. Finely had 7 catches for 47 yards and a TD and there were some big, big catches. But there were also some big drops, too. 

It’s only the first game of the season and it’s only one loss, no reason to panic. There were some very disquieting things going on in this match-up but we can all hope they are not indicative of the team in general. Even if they clean up just the penalties (the legitimate ones, anyway) we look a bit better. We probably don’t win this game, but it becomes a better contest. Unfortunately, there is no time for corrections: it’s a short week and it’s Bear week. Thursday will be telling. Chicago looked absolutely awful to start on Sunday but won going away. Obviously, the Colts are not a tough test, so it’s unclear just how good Chicago is. And I’m not so sure we know just how good the Packers are after the failure-fest today up in Lambeau. 

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