Rodgers Relaxes and Torches Bears

Posted September 29th, 2014 @ 03:09am

So here was my Packer game experience: I served as a pallbearer at a funeral of one of my dad's oldest friends on Sunday. The funeral started at two. I listened to the agonizing final play of the first half, while sitting in my car before the funeral started. No touchdown for the Bears, the half was over and the Pack led 21-17 in a half where no one could stop anyone.

I got back in my car at about 2:40 and turned on the radio, with my hand over the display.  Satellite radio subscribers know that the score of the game is displayed on the broadcast, so I slowly uncovered the screen, seeing the Packers score first: 38. Sweet...then I let go to see the Bears score: 17. What? 0 points in the second half? How on earth could that be?

When I got home and watched, I saw that while the defense was continuing to struggle, it was a pair of interceptions that turned the game in the Pack's favor. Thank you, Jay. Actually, neither was really his fault. Tramon Williams made a great read to knock the ball in the air, setting up Clay Matthews like a volleyball setter. Then Brandon Marshall ran the wrong route, allowing Sam Shields to swipe one and take it 40 yards the other way. Those two picks gave Aaron Rodgers a short field and on this day, he was not to be denied.

What more is there to say about Rodgers? He passed the 25,000 yards passing mark in his 98th game, the fourth quickest to do so (behind Marino, Manning and Warner). After putting his neck on line with his "five letters for everyone out there in Packerland: R-E-L-A-X," line, he backed it up with a near perfect game.

After sitting and stewing while the Bears moved slowly and methodically down the field with an 8 1/2 minute touchdown drive, Rodgers answered almost instantly, with an 80 yard drive, all through the air, until Lacy was handed the ball at the two for the score. How nice it was to see the Rodgers-Rodgers era arrive with two connections, including a huge 46 yarder.

Three series for the Pack in the first half and three touchdowns. The big plays were back, the rhythm was back, the no huddle was clicking and the Bears defense offered little to no resistance. The Packers attacked rookie Kyle Fuller, who was faked out of his jock by Randall Cobb on a big gainer in the fourth quarter. As for Cobb, he had a huge day, hopefully just the beginning for him this season. He and Nelson were unstoppable on this day.

It was clear Mike McCarthy was going to let Aaron Rodgers win this one, passing 17 times in the first half to just six rushes. At one point the Pack had scored 38 points and run just 44 plays. It doesn't get much more efficient than that.

The flip side wasn't so pretty. This was just the second game in NFL history with no punts. The Pack's defense, while opportunistic when it mattered, was abysmal against the run, allowing 235 yards on the ground. You knew the Bears would try to get Matt Forte untracked and the Pack seemed unprepared to deal with him. After looking better against the Jets and Lions, they took a serious step back on this day.

But this was a day to celebrate Aaron Rodgers and the belated arrival of the explosive Packers offense. It arrived on a day when the Packers joined the Bears as the only teams to reach 700 wins. And it happened at the Pack's home away from home, Soldier Field, where the Pack has now won five straight. And Jay Cutler still has the same number of wins against Green Bay in his career as Teddy Bridgewater has wins in his career: one.

Teddy and the Vikes are up next on Thursday night, as the team finally returns home. If Sunday was any indication, the three time division champs appear poised to reclaim their place in the North.

Aaron told us to relax. And then he responded. As usual.

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Relax, Rodgers Will R-E-S-P-O-N-D

Posted September 26th, 2014 @ 05:09pm

As the Packers take a nosedive down the NFL power rankings, they know that if they can take care of business at their home away from home, Soldier Field, they will finish the first quarter a respectable 2-2 with a favorable schedule staring them in the face.

Aaron Rodgers' ballyhooed "R-E-L-A-X" comments aimed at Packer fans should do nothing but make you feel like he's got this. After all, he always seems to respond, just as the Packers have after 1-2 starts the past two years. Now, no Packer team under Rodgers has started 1-3, so let's hope he knows what he's talking about.

Rodgers and the Pack have won their last four games at Soldier Field, most recently last year's season finale thriller that won the division. That puts the Pack at 9-2 in their last 11 games against the Bears--Jay Cutler seems to save his worst games for the green and gold.

The Bears come off a big Monday night road win, but they're banged up, particularly in the secondary and on the offensive line. Charles Tillman's season ending injury has opened the door for impressive rookie Kyle Fuller, but it has zapped their depth chart. Both safeties were injured in the Jets win, though it looks like both will try to give it a shot.

For the Packers to re-establish some sense of their place in the division, it begins with the run game. The Bears do not defend the run well and there should be big opportunities for Eddie Lacy to finally get untracked. If he does, Rodgers will look like a new man, with play action back in his arsenal. Look for the Bears to begin the game in the same two high look that the Lions displayed, with coverage tilted towards Jordy Nelson. The Packers can exploit it in the middle of the defense--it wouldn't be a bad time for Brandon Bostick to make his first regular season appearance.

The defense should have Clay Matthews, who's listed as probable after practicing all week (in a limited fashion) with his strained groin. Couple that with Julius Peppers' obvious motivation and the Pack should make life difficult for Jay Cutler, who's beaten the Packer a grand total of one time. The defense was impressive against the Lions, with Jamari Lattimore settling in at inside linebacker and Datone Jones appearing much more comfortable every time he plays.

The Bears will try to establish their own running game, as Matt Forte has been grumbling about a lack of opportunities. Couple that with their banged up receiver corps and you can bet their recipe for a win is a more balanced offense that controls the clock and keeps the hungry Rodgers off the field.

It might surprise some to see that the Packers are one point favorites in this one, considering their slow start and the Bears' two consecutive wins on the road. But Chicago is coming off a short week and the Packers are the more desperate team, they're healthier and they have a lot of recent success at Soldier Field, which should make them a relatively confident bunch.

Rodgers delivers and Packer fans relax.

Packers 27  Bears 23

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Oh Where, Oh Where Did the Offense Go?

Posted September 22nd, 2014 @ 02:09am

So, about those 34 points I thought the Packers were going to score...

Three games into the season, the Packers offense is an abject mess. That's not a sentence I've written or spoken too many times over the past 20 seasons. It starts with the running game. On one hand, the Pack has faced three staunch run defenses. On the other hand, Mike McCarthy inexplicably continued to stick with it against a Lions defense that was auditioning corners off the street all week and signed two of them. Yet the ordinary Joes who were out there did enough to keep the passing game in check all afternoon.

If Eddie Lacy and company can't get untracked against the Bears (and their lousy run defense) next weekend, we'll know we've got serious issues. It was a lousy dal all around. His fumble put the Pack in an instant hole and the safety following Davon House's pick was the turning point in the game (equal blame falls on McCarthy for the play call).

I mean, if you would have told me the Pack would get three turnovers and hold Megatron under 90 yards and the Lions offense to 10 points, I would have said the Pack would breeze to an easy victory. But for the first time in 11 games against the Lions, Rodgers was ordinary. His receivers couldn't get open and Cobb and Boykin dropped key third down passes. James and Jermichael, where are you?

The sky is falling alarmists will be out in full force and I think it's a bit early for that. There are legit concerns about where this team stands right now, but there are signs of encouragement. The defense played well; Julius Peppers was excellent and Davon House looks like his offseason training with Darrelle Revis paid off. Ha Ha Clinton Dix got his first pick and is off to a very good start. The unit tired near the end, after spending over 38 minutes on the field, and Reggie Bush made them pay with the game sealing touchdown and then gaining enough yards to run out the clock.

The only real negative from the defense came with some key penalties on third down that extend Lions' drives.

For now it's the offense that needs fixing and that's supposed to be McCarthy's forte. The line must block better and open holes. The receivers need to get on the same page as their quarterback. And the running game has to get untracked.

We knew the opening quarter of the season would be tough with three road tests against quality teams. 2-2 seemed like an acceptable start. To get there they'll need to beat the Bears at Soldier Field. It will be a stiff road test: they're gonna need to pull a few all nighters between now and Sunday.

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Power Rankings

The Baker's Dozen Why 13 and not 10? To celebrate the Pack’s 13 NFL titles, of course. 9/23/14

  1. Seattle (1)
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  3. Denver (2)
  4. San Diego (-)
  5. Arizona (-)
  6. New England (5)
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  8. San Francisco (3)
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  11. Chicago (-)
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