Who gets your game ball?
Posted September 15th, 2014 @ 01:09am
If they're all going to be like this, I'm going to need to stock up on Prilosic. Yes, the Packers dug themselves out of a 21-3 hole, but if not for a very fortuitous time out call, who knows how this crazy game might have ended.
Thank goodness for Marty Mornhinweg. After helping Brett Favre and the Pack capture Super Bowl XXXI, he continued to help the Pack during his disastrous two year stint as Lions coach. But never has he been more helpful than he was on this Sunday. When he frantically asked Rex Ryan to call timeout before the big fourth down play, the side judge blew his whistle, nullifying what would have been the game-tying play and giving the Packers defense a much needed, if undeserved mulligan.
So where do we start? On the Pack's first play, which Rodgers fumbled after not cleanly receiving the snap? On the defense's first quarter ineptitude where they couldn't get off the field on third down? On the Pack's inability to match the Jets with touchdowns early, settling for three field goals to answer the Jets three touchdowns?
Or should we pick things up on the last drive of the first half, when Rodgers and company executed a pitch perfect 97 yard drive that cut the lead to 21-16 at the half, providing momentum as they headed into the locker room?
At that point we started to believe the team was settling down from its disastrous start, which included an inexplicable challenge by McCarthy on a sideline catch by Eric Decker, which was completely, obviously a catch (and a great one, at that).
The Packers should ultimately be credited for getting their act together and keeping the team in the game. The run defense was vastly improved, holding the two headed team of Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory to 64 yards on 25 carries. And after allowing the Jets to convert five of its first six first downs, they stiffened in the second half, holding Geno Smith and company to just 2-8 on third downs the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, Jordy Nelson was brilliant and the team needed nearly every one of his career high 209 yards to secure the win. Randall Cobb's numbers were more ordinary, but he found paydirt twice. It was also nice to see rookie Davante Adams contribute with five catches--including a couple of key third down receptions. Rodgers is developing some trust with his young receiver. He has yet to develop that with his tight ends--Andrew Quarless caught one pass for eight yards. Let's hope Brandon Bostick is ready to go as the Pack heads into a key stretch with three straight division games.
It was too close for comfort and there was a lot not to like, but the Packers didn't panic, settled down on both sides of the ball and got a little lucky at the end. On a weekend when the rest of the division came up short, we'll take it. Safe to say, the Packers don't have to be concerned with peaking too early, at this point.
But they'll need to be a lot sharper as they head to Motown. Splitting the next two division road games would be acceptable. But they'll need to be a lot sharper from the start if they expect to make an early NFC North statement over the next couple of weeks.
Posted September 12th, 2014 @ 03:09pm
The only thing worse than witnessing countless missed tackles, some problematic injuries and a pathological fear of Richard Sherman is having to wait ten days to see what they do for an encore.
When the Packers finally take the field at 3:25 on Sunday for their only home game in the month of September, they'll have some serious 'splainin' to do. You look at the 2014 schedule and this is arguably the easiest game on the slate. The Jets are a non-playoff team looking in, a young team that has an 8-8 feel to it, with a young quarterback who has more weapons than he had a year ago and a defense that continues to be defined by a physical front seven.
The two teams couldn't have had more different opening week opponents. While the Packers were bashed by the champs, the Jets escaped at home against perhaps the league's worst team. That said, they pounded the rock, gashing Oakland for more than 200 yards on the ground. And after watching the Pack swinging and missing 18 times at Marshawn Lynch and company, if they don't wrap up Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson on Sunday, Rex Ryan will have that silly grin on his face as he watches Aaron Rodgers stewing on the sidelines.
Dom Capers' defense looked lost and confused last Thursday. They stayed in the nickel, even though they were playing a team that was killing them on the ground. The next two opponents, Detroit and Chicago, will force the Pack to live in the nickel, but against this opponent, the Pack should stay in base and continue to show us 4-3 looks, to force Geno Smith into second and third and long situations, which will allow Matthews, Peppers and company to do what they do best.
The Jets passing game remains pedestrian and a work in progress. Though Smith's numbers last week are impressive, 23-28 for 221 yards with a TD and a pick, the Raiders are a mess defensively. The Packers' secondary should be able to handle Eric Decker and company, even with the safeties cheating up to handle the run much of the time.
Offensively, the Packers should be able to move the ball through the air with little resistance. Rodgers excels in bounce back situations and he gets a Jets secondary that is in transition. They may be as weak at cornerback than any team in the league and with their best guy, Dee Milliner doubtful to play with a high ankle strain, expect a 300+ yard day from Rodgers, with multiple touchdowns. Needless to say, if the Packers can jump out to a two-score lead, the Jets' dreams of running the ball all day will be dashed.
Looks like Eddie Lacy will return; expect the Pack to rotate all three guys against the Jets. All three can be three down guys and handle the up tempo, no huddle attack the Packers will undoubtedly roll with most of the first half, if not most of the game.
With three straight division games looming, this one is an absolute must. Not to mention, it's the home opener, where Rodgers is undefeated in home openers against teams not called the 49ers. Let's see if Mike Pennel gets a shot at anchoring the nose and providing some beef against the run. Let's see if Jamari Lattimore steps in for the ailing Brad Jones and never gives the job back. Let's see if the Packers get to business, improve to 1-1 and prepare for the Lions and Bears and Vikings, oh my.
Packers 34 Jets 20
Much more to come on this matchup this Sunday, 7am-8am CST on "Packer Preview" on KFAN, kfan.com and iHeart radio. Or podcast it when you wake up at "Fan on Demand" at kfan.com or at iTunes. Tweet me your questions, comments @TCHeadCheese and I'll read them on the air.
Posted September 5th, 2014 @ 03:09am
Well, this one had it all. Lousy tackling, untimely penalties and a potentially devastating injury on the offensive line. The NFL is back!
So much for making a statement. So much for setting the tone and serving notice to the rest of the NFC. Look, the Seahawks proved last year they were the best team in football. No team in a decade has repeated, but Seattle served notice on Thursday night that they remain the cream of the NFL crop and will continue to be nearly unbeatable at home.
To beat them you have to play nearly perfect football and the Packers were as close to perfect as Kroll's is to fine dining. Beginning with Mike Daniels' running into the punter penalty that extended a drive and led to the 'Hawks' first three points, to Brad Jones' two holding penalties that extended drives, the defense was on its heels all night.
207 yards. The Pack's run defense failed its first test, surrendering more than 200 yards to Beast Mode and company. Clearly, the Pack misses BJ Rahi. Letroy Guion was not up to the challenge and faded visibly as the game progressed. Flip side, the Seahawks run defense was much stouter than I expected, holding the Pack to 91 yards. Eddie Lacy stormed out of the gates with 21 yards on his first two carries, but Seattle put the clamps on from there, holding him to just 13 yards on his next 10 carries. He left the game with might be a concussion.
Of course, the most disheartening thing about the game is the left knee injury to Bryan Bulaga. We'll all expect the worst, since it's the same knee that cost him last season with an ACL. If he's done the Pack will be down two of its top three tackles and there's no one on the roster ready to step in. Derek Sherrod won't have to face the Seahawks again, but I'm not sure he could hold his own against the Indiana Hoosiers.
The Packers spent a good chunk of the offseason preparing for this matchup, but Dom Capers had no answers for the unpredictable Russell Wilson, Percy Harvin and company. A healthy Harvin makes this offense devastating; whether Harvin is a target or a decoy. Throw in the hard running of Lynch and they will keep most defenses off balance this season.
They certainly confused Julius Peppers, who had a few moments but struggled overall. Brad Jones continues to be a liability on the inside and Ha Ha Clinton Dix played like a rookie. Only Clay Matthews really stood out for the Pack on that side of the ball.
Ten days to lick their wounds, regroup and prepare for the Jets, their only home game during the first quarter of the season. Since this is the NFL, many will over-react to what we saw and bury the Packers. It's one game and the champs showed that they were ready to defend their title. The Pack has plenty of time to get things figured out. But we know this: if the run defense doesn't improve and if Bulaga is done, the NFC North race could be a lot more interesting than we bargained for.