Sunday, October 28, 2012

Packers win the game in an ugly fashion: a better opponent would have blown them out!

The Green Bay Packers were picked by everybody and his brother to demolish the Jacksonville Jaguars today. I saw one writer give them a 30-point edge. Sure, the Packers were missing six starters, most notably Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and John Kuhn on offense, but the Jags were even more hobbled: Maurice Jones Drew, who accounts for a huge percentage of their offensive production was in a boot on the sidelines, their QB Gabbert had a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder and their best cornerback didn’t even make the trip. So I suppose you could forgive the pundits and oddsmakers in thinking that this would be a blowout at Lambeau. 

Whoa! Nobody could foresee what we all witnessed on Sunday!

Rodgers was definitely missing Jordy Nelson. In those key situations where you’re in third down and somehow, someway Nelson shows up open on the sideline? Not so much today. When the defense is crowding the line of scrimmage and Nelson slips behind them for massive yardage and a score? Gone. You would think with guys like Jones, Cobb and even Driver available to pick up the slack (don’t get me started on Finely) you would still expect a big day through the air, wouldn’t you. I have to give Bert Fav-rah some props here (please don’t tell anyone, OK?): #4 had the ability to make any receiver look good. For whatever reason, Rodgers could not elevate the level of play of his wideouts today. He was left looking for open guys on repeated occasions and was victimized by several key drops as well. 

The defense was certainly missing the services of Charles Woodson. I know, much has been said about Woodson’s age, his lost step, his lack of big plays this season. All are perfectly accurate but Wood’s worth is greater than how he plays in the secondary...he’s a disruptive influence on every play and his leadership with the younger members of the Packer defense is almost incalculable. Finding a replacement for that kind of contribution isn’t simply matter of plugging in the “next man up”. On occasion, the Packer coverage was almost laughable and the plethora of missed open-field tackles was very troubling.

I know I’m not alone is this assessment: if the Packers were playing a better team today, the result would have been much, much worse. The Jags made a game of it, no doubt, but their penchant for committing penalties in key situations and the dropped passes (when was the last time an opponent dropped more passes than the Pack?) showed me why they can’t seem to win any games. Here you have a Packer team on a roll, at home, with a win streak and they are playing like crap. No, I’m not going to sugarcoat this: I think the Packers were the lesser of the two teams on the field today. But the Jags have this really golden opportunity to pull off maybe the biggest (in terms of point spread) upset of the year and they simply didn’t have horses to pull it off.

Somebody please tell me what was going on with the Packer special teams today? Mason Crosby, pretty reliable over the last three season, has missed his third field goal in three games. And the fake punt where you had Masthay at QB, roll left and then throw what I can only imagine is a check-down all the way over to the right...well that was just ill-conceived and poorly executed. MM has rolled the dice on trick plays and been successful three times this year and that one butt-ugly play should just about put the end to it. 

It struck me several times during the game that Rodgers seemed to be just a bit out of synch. It’s probably totally due to his injured weapons on the sidelines but it’s not like he hasn’t had to count on the likes of Cobb, Jones, Finely and Driver in the past, so you can’t put it all there. I’m not sure why but Rodgers just didn’t look like he did over the last two victories. 

On very nice thing to see was Donald Driver catching that great , great TD pass in the fourth quarter. DD only had two catches for ten yards but that score was the key one, the one that put the game out of reach for the Jags. I’ve been very disappointed that Driver has not been a bigger part of the offense this year and, with our two best guys on the sidelines, I assumed he would be key today. And it turns out I was right. Note to MM and TT: you are paying Donald to to stand on the sidelines this year and, on days like today, your QB could use a pretty fair possession receiver out there in the pattern. This will be his last year in a Packer uniform, he’s got the skills and he’s certainly got the fans behind him. USE Donald Driver!

I’m going to be happy with the win and I think I am going to drink another beer and maybe a dram of Jameson right now and try to put this one out of my mind. We’ll all look back on this game and see the “W” next to it and say, “yeah, we won that, third in a row, on a roll” and we’ll all be right. We’ll forget how inept the running attack was and how predictable our play-calling was (a first down run for 1.5 yards! WOW!) and how our defense would have been torched if Cutler or Stafford or even Ponder had been across the line. We will not recall how Rodgers (22 for 35 for 186 yards) was out-dueled by the injured Gabbert (27 for 49 for 303 yards). We will be happy with the W and we will all hope (some of us secretly and some out loud) that what we saw today was not indicative of what we are going to be seeing until Woodson, Jennings and Nelson can get back on the field.

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