Sunday, November 4, 2012

Packers come out with a big win on the field but suffer more losses to injury

If I told you that Alex Green ran for 53 yards on Sunday, you’d say, “nice afternoon running the ball”. If I told you that James Starks rushed for 61, you’d say “Wow, great job!” If I told you that those things BOTH happened in one game and that Cobb chipped in 29 and Rodgers added 33, you’d probably say, “we’re talkin’ about the Packers, right?” For those of you playing along at home, that’s 176 yards on the ground! In one game!

No doubt about it the Green Bay Packers came to Lambeau Field this afternoon, determined to run the football. And, for once, they were actually effective at it. The return of James Starks to his 2010 form was welcome as Green has been ineffective the last two contests. The Cards, in an attempt to duplicate some of the successful defensive schemes teams have used against the Packers this year and last, followed the Jacksonville example and concentrated on coverage and dared the Packers to run. Unlike last week, this strategy was not effective. Aaron Rodgers did have a rather pedestrian outing (14 for 30 and only 218 yards) but when he connected, it was for scores, racking up four TD strikes (two to Cobb and one each to Jones and Crabtree). 

The injury bug, responsible I think for much of the Packers inconsistent play, continued to hammer away at the roster. It seemed like just about every series the Pack lost another starter. Jordy Nelson, attempting to come back from a hamstring injury, seems to have messed up his ankle. Brain Bulaga got carted off. Randall Cobb spent some time having his shoulder examined. Probably the most impactful injury occurred when Clay Matthews hobbled into the locker room in the third quarter. At that point the Packer pass rush attack went into deep hibernation and the secondary looked like it needed a nap and took one. Sure enough, the Cards walked down the field and scored their second TD of the day. They would come back a bit later on but the damage was done. We’ll have to see the extent of Matthews’ injury because when he is out of the lineup, our defense is pretty pathetic. 

For almost that entire third quarter, the Green Bay Packers looked like they were already thinking about a nice post-game shower, maybe get some dinner and cocktails and then early to bed. This seems to be a pattern with this team: no pop coming out of the locker room with a lead, conservative play calling and lax defense. The Pack never punted once in the first half and then called on Masthay three times in just the third quarter. That period might have been a total loss if Crabtree hadn’t been able to split the defense and race 72 yards for a score on the last play of the quarter. It would be the final points of the day on either side.

I can’t say enough about the impact of Randall Cobb: whether he’s catching TD’s, running the ball or returning kicks and punts, the guy is a tremendous asset. With Jennings out and Nelson newly injured again, this season would be complete free fall if it hadn’t been for the contributions of #18. He had over 200 all-purpose yards today! I’m not running down James Jones here (he had 4 catches for 61 yards and a score) but you can’t even compare him with the Cobbster. 

Finley has needed to step up and step up big the last few weeks since Jennings and then Nelson have been on the sidelines. I cannot report that he has been up to the task. He had one catch for six yards this afternoon. I did see him throw some nice blocks out there, which is expected of a tight end. But a man of his size and talent should be dominating games, not being regulated to a footnote. You have the best QB in the NFL under center and, for large stretches in game, he had absolutely nowhere to throw the football. A security blanket in the form of big #88 would be a nice thing to have. But it is not happening out there. Tom Crabtree is a better blocker and he does have pretty good hands (that TD catch and run was tough) and I thin Mike McCarthy has done more than enough to motivate J-Mike. If I were the coaching staff, I’d be starting Crabtree and trying to provide some alternate motivation. 

A few words about the Packer special teams: Jarrett Bush made a great muff recovery to seal the fate of Cards late. Tim Masthay continues to provide extremely effective punting in all situations. The return game seems to have at least one great effort per game. The coverage teams have been simply outstanding. I can heap praise on just about every special team player except one: Mason Crosby. He had another miss after the Packers’ first series today. It’s got to be in his head. He can be spot-on perfect on one play and then shank badly on the next. The guy has three jobs to do: kick-offs, extra points and field goals. Those first two, I’ve got zero complaints. That last one though...well, it’s always an adventure. He’s had kicks come off his foot and take right angle turns. He is maddeningly inconsistent, much like his team at times.

If any team needed a bye, it’s the Packers. The injury report grows longer and more ugly every day. Losing Bulaga, Nelson and Matthews in one game is going to be devastating. We won’t know the severity of those injuries for a while but having an extra week off to treat and rehab those wounds can be nothing but good. This team looked fairly shaky against the Jags last week and could have lost things in the third quarter today. Two weeks from today, they will be facing a Lions team that will be attempting to recover something of the successes from last year. After that, it’ll be the Giants, a team that humbled the Pack at home in the playoffs last year, rendering their exceptional 15-1 season pointless. By all accounts, New York is even better than they were a year ago. Only a Packers team at full strength and with their best effort will emerge victorious from those contests. The countdown to the second half of the season started as soon as Rodgers knelt down for the last time  this afternoon and Mike McCarthy might have his work cut out for him.

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