Sunday, October 20, 2013

It was a sloppy, wet, mistake-filled performance but the Packers win!

I lost track of how many positive plays the Packers squandered on Sunday through dumb mistakes and penalties. I know for a fact that they gave away ten points through those miscues. It’s a little disconcerting to watch a great team that could be dominating a weaker opponent shoot themselves in the foot over and over again.

A sloppy win is still a win, though. The TD pass doldrums Aaron Rodgers had been in over the last two games (eight quarters, 2 TD’s) was broken up in his 3-score afternoon. He was not exactly playing his best game (again) but he was also without two of his most consistent weapons in Cobb and Jones. Of course, a quarterback the likes of Aaron Rodgers does not let a little something like lack of regular targets phase him. A-Rodg hit six different receivers for 260 yards. Not record-setting, for sure, but pretty amazing, considering. Jarrett Boykin, who had a fairly rough afternoon last week, caught an amazing eight balls for 103 yards and 1 touchdown. For all the flak he was subjected to, he came out and performed amazingly. With Cobb out until sometime in December, Boykin will be in the lineup for a long time and after seeing him improve over the course of one week, I think Packer fans should be happy he’s getting this game experience and performing so well.

Another big weapon Rodgers counted on today was Jermichael Finley - 5 catches, 72 yards and 1 TD. After a head-to-head collision, J-Mike was knocked out of the game. A few post-game tweets indicated that he was communicative and coherent on the field but could not move. Later, he regained full use of his extremities. This will lead to a pretty careful and thorough evaluation (or at least I would hope so) and since this is his second neurological injury this year, you have to assume he will be out for at least a week and maybe more. That’s another blow to the Packer offense but let’s all keep him in our thoughts today. A word, however, about the dimwitted commentator during Finley’s injury: the guys name escapes me but he prattled on and on about how Finely made a “football move” and how the defender “led with his shoulder”, all the while they are showing replays of the defender striking a blow with his helmet. Watch the game, dipshit. It was a penalty and it will be a fine. 

The Packer defense was crazy-effective for the first half, holding the Browns to a measly three points.  In the second half, while the Packer offense was sputtering, the defense suddenly relaxed and the Browns began to get in gear. It was still hard for them to score points but it was troublesome. Obviously, this Browns team is not the perennial punch line they’ve  been for the last decade but they certainly are not at the same level as the Packers. Penalties, poor kick coverage and mistakes kept a clearly inferior team in the game for far too long. 

But you have to marvel at the effectiveness of the linebacker corps. With only one first-teamer (Hawk) still in uniform and reserves that would be charitably called “painfully thin”, the Packer defense held the Browns McGahee to only 39 yards  rushing and Weeden to only 149 passing, while recording 3 sacks. That’s nothing short of astounding!

Does anybody know how fortunate we are to have a running game? One that can be used to gain real yards? The Packers, with Aaron Rodgers under center, are always going to be a passing team. We are going to gain the vast majority of our yards and the vast majority of our scores through the air. But to watch Eddie Lacy run the ball and to watch defenses load up to stop him is a thing of beauty. By the time Rodgers gets more of his passing weapons back, the Packers will have the (deserved) reputation as being a power running team. So which  will defenses choose to stop? Double the receivers and put the pressure on Rodgers or contain Lacy? I tell you: if the injury bleeding ever stops and Cobb, Jones, Nelson and Finley can ever get on the field together again, like in December and January, the Packers are going to be an awesome offensive powerhouse.

This week, Mike McCarthy, faced with a continual barrage of questions about injuries, shared his motivational philosophy with the media: Keep calm and carry on. This was taken from the British pre-war publicity campaign in the weeks before the outbreak of World War II. And a fine credo it was. The injuries and lost impact players this year have been just terrible but MM knows that wringing your hands and spending your days complaining are totally unproductive. You know you’ve got to play a football game every week, so you adjust to the players you have and you saddle up. This is the NFL, not gymnastics or diving - You get no points for degree of difficulty. 

At 4-2, the Packers have emerged from the toughest part of their schedule at the top of the NFC North. The schedule only gets easier with only two teams with winning records (Detroit and Chicago) left to play. Could the Packers run the table? That’s going to be very, very hard to do with the sheer number of stars walking the sidelines in street clothes. You know Minnesota, despite their struggles, will play their best game of the season next week. You know that Detroit will bring it hard on Thanksgiving. You’d better know that the Bears will never lay down and let the Packers bowl them over. Could we run the table? Sure. But it will not be easy.

Special birthday wishes go out to Mrs. MMQB on Sunday. She could have done anything at all (hey, it’s her day, OK?) but she chose to spend the day at home, with me, watching football. I’m a lucky man.

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