Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rodgers, Packers Flattened by Fish

(Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

With most of Green Bay's big fish watching the game from the injury list, what is left of the team simply does not have enough left to keep them from playing like minnows.

Though recently concussed quarterback Aaron Rodgers was able to make some courageous key plays, he spent most of his day getting thrashed around by the Dolphins like a seal in the mouth of a great white, which killed most of the Packers drives and kept the ball in Miami's hands.

And, of course, Green Bay's defense, so vacant of starters that it literally is using offensive players, is not much more able to consistently stop an NFL offense than a beach can stop an psunami.

By then end of the game, linebacker AJ Hawk, who technically was not an original starter at the beginning of this year, was left playing along side only third or fourth string linebackers as he, Cullen Jenkins and Charles Woodson tried in vain to stop the hemorrhaging. And they almost pulled it off, taking a solid Dolphin team into overtime.

Although there are no excuses in the NFL, you just can't ignore that Green Bay is depleted to the point that they are no longer the lethal contender they might have been this year.

So there really is no point in trying to blame the 20-23 overtime loss on the coaches or the players; on the contrary, the veterans who remain on the field are playing with all their hearts and the new players are playing to the best of their abilities. Even the defensive penalties were not as damaging as they had been a week earlier in a similar overtime loss.

Should coach Mike McCarthy go back to the drawing board? Well, there probably is not enough chalk in the world to fix what is ailing his team this year; St. Vince Lombardi himself would likely not have been able to extricate the team from what the Grim Reaper of Injury has gleaned from the Packers this year.

From this point, though the Packers players will probably continue to give it their all, the expectations from the players who remain on the roster have to be different than the expectations one might have had for this team with a full roster.

And, yes, the Packers could win a lot of games this year, but that will only happen if some key players move back to the field, or there is dramatic improvement in the newbies, which is not the norm in the NFL.

Game ball: Grim Reaper of Injury

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Packers Dreams Trashed by Washington (Just Like the Rest of Ours)

Thud! Crosby's 'game-winning' kick hits goal post (Fox Sports)

It's hard to write about the Packers when one's finger nails are chewed down to the knuckle.

Just like its hard to win a game when most of your players are injured and the rest cannot catch a pass.

The only thing larger than the number of Packers who were lost to injury against the Washington Redskins was the number of passes Green Bay receivers dropped, and the number of branches Nancy Pelosi hit on her way down when she fell out of the Ugly Tree.

The Packers themselves seem to have taken a tumble out of that same Ugly Tree because even though they played pretty solid defense, their passing game dwindled to nothing and the defensive pass interference penalties climbed like unemployment statistics under Obama.

I mean, can Green Bay defenders NOT hit pass receivers early? They got away with fistfuls of no-calls until karma finally caught up with them in the fourth quarter and let Donovan McNabb's Redskins stay alive long enough to get an overtime field goal for a come-from-behind win.

But this game was not won on the cast-iron toughness of the veteran McNabb, whom one should never underestimate or discount; it was lost in the second quarter when guys like Donald Driver and other Green Bay receivers were dropping passes like Democrats are dropping lies in pre-election campaigns. And you cannot score points when you drop the balls which would have given you first downs deep into Redskin territory.

And what took Dom Capers so long to use the student-body rush on McNabb? He waited until overtime to rush everybody which was forcing McNabb to throw the ball before he wanted to.

Perhaps it was that he ran out of defensive players. I am quite sure that a few Cheeseheads in the crowd were signed, suited up and thrown in there to replace the Packers who were falling like Obama's popularity numbers. But sadly, the defensive pass interference calls nullified the strong pass pressure.

Granted, the Washington Redskins hit like trains. It taxes the memory to recall a game where there were as many punishing hits as Redskin defenders were putting on the guys with the yellow helmets. It was, if nothing else, a brutal game. They might not have a running game, but the Redskins are tough.

And though the Packers dodged a bullet mid way through the fourth quarter when a Washington field goal went wide right, much like will happen in the same town on election day, they failed to capitalize and the Redskins came back and kicked another which was good. But in a late attempt to counter, Packer kicker Mason Crosby bounced the game-winner off the left goal post which sent the game into overtime.

Though the Packers did not play well enough to win, neither did the Redskins. It was a defensive slug-fest the whole way, but it should not have been. The Packer running game was alive and well, despite many who think that running back Brandon Jackson is not a prime-time player; Jackson's outstanding play should silence his critics, though it probably won't. This author believes that Jackson is capable of being an NFL feature back and always has. Jackson proved worthy today and was one of the only continuously-bright spots on the offensive side of the ball.

He and special teams player/backup fullback Korey Hall played with reckless abandon today, making key plays without penalties or mistakes. And though the Packers defense also played strong, it was most certainly the early contact with Redskin receivers committed by nearly all of those covering passes which nullified a generally good defensive effort, considering the injuries the Packers are playing with.

Of course, none of this would have mattered if the Packers would have pulled away in the second quarter when they had the chance. The game should have been put away then because Green Bay was playing well enough to put several more touchdowns on the scoreboard. But they didn't because they let ball after ball drop to the turf.

Fortunately, the NFC North is such a competitive division this year that all of the other teams will both win and lose more games; so the Packers, now with two losses, are certainly not out of the playoff hunt yet. But neither are they the elite team that many were calling them early on in the season. They are not an elite team; they are a good team that has to find ways to win with many key play makers out with injuries.

Yes, the Packers can still beat any team in the NFL, but they can also lose to good contenders.

This game was one that Green Bay should have won. Hopefully, with the incredible potential offensive talent they have at their disposal, they will learn to put teams away early. But the players need to live up to that potential.

Then guys like me who write about the Packers won't have to type with bloody knuckles.

Game ball: Brandon Jackson and Korey Hall.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Oh, Crap! Moss Back With Vikings?!

Just when you thought it was safe to play the Minnesota Vikings again, they pull one out of their...hat, and re-sign Randy Moss!

Which, of course means that not only will he be playing against our Green Bay Packers again, but he won't have Daunte Culpepper throwing to him, he will have Brett Favre slinging the hash.

Crap! Crap! Crap!

This terrible combination is a very real threat to every team in the NFL because with Moss' abilities, the game was never over, there was always the real chance that his team could strike deep and fast. And with Favre's abilities, the game was never over because there was always the real chance that his team could strike deep and fast.

This is double de-ja-vu, of the night-marish variety. Favre AND Moss? Oh Crap!

And certainly the one quietly smiling the most in this disaster is none other than Brett Favre, who vocalized his strong desire for the Packers to trade for Moss back before Moss was traded to the Patriots. Of course his ideas were shot down my Ted What's-his-name.

But once again, Favre seems to have prevailed. He has got everything he wants. He wanted to play for the Vikings. He got it. He wanted to throw to Randy Moss. He got it. Let's hope that the Vikings perennial choke-factor keeps him from getting another Super Bowl.

So this ups the stakes in the increasingly-competitive NFC North division, which is appearing to be the strongest division in the NFC, though who might be the single strongest team remains a complete could be any of them!

And with Moss now on the Vikings roster again, the only sure thing is that the plot thickens.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Packers Side-Step Charging Lions

If your name was John Kuhn, and you were in uniform at Lambeau Field on Sunday, you were a very big man. For not only did John Kuhn carry most of the Detriot Lions defense on his back, as they tried to prevent him from getting big yards and first downs very late in the fourth quarter, but he also carried the Green Bay Packers on his shoulders into the W column.

Though the Packers handed off the Monkey, er, Gorilla of Penalties to the Lions, they still struggled in the second half against an unfamiliar animal; namely a ferocious, uncharacteristic Lions offense and defense, and were fortunate to sidestep a loss.

The Detroit Lions are no joke this year. The have played well all season and will win some football games this year. Surprisingly, they are talented enough to compete, and even defeat any of the strong NFC North teams and will surely get some kills on weaker non-conference teams.

Had not Aaron Rodgers engineered three incredible scoring strikes in the first half, this one might have gone to the visitors, who dominated the game in yardage and possession time. Green Bay barely had the ball in the second half and often did not do much with the opportunities with Rodgers throwing some rare picks. And though Brandon Jackson and the running game was not bad, it was not dominant until coach McCarthy put Kuhn in to carry the load on the Packers final drive, which ended up running out the clock to survive a 28-26 nail-biter.

Kuhn repeatedly pushed his way through the defensive line, picked up some linebackers on his back, and dragged a few safeties and defensive backs with his legs as he pounded out big gains in a crucial time in true power-football fashion.

His final, super-human contribution, saw him busting through Lion after Lion, getting near the critical first down marker and hurling himself over it for a fresh set of downs as the clock ticked below a minute left. (See photo above, by AP's Mike Roemer.)

Had he not got that first down, a battered Green Bay defense would have had to try to stop the charging Lions offense, which it was having trouble doing in the second half due to the Lions ingenious use of tight-end screens and running back screens which seemed to counter the relentless Packer linebacker-heavy pass rush. It seems like vaunted Packer defensive coordinator, Dom Capers met his match with the screens and wide-open running room for Detroit's quarterback who was the Lions leading rusher.

Give credit to the Lions game plan, and to a rebuilding effort that seems to be having some results. They are not to be taken lightly because they have a powerful defense and a very good offense.

And when Rodgers is not connecting with his receivers in Green Bay's deadly passing threat, but throwing interceptions, it keeps points off the scoreboard and puts all the pressure on the defense, which the Lions were easily countering.

Yes, this was the most competitive Packers-Lions game since Brett Favre was a new Packer, and Capers will have to craft a few more tricks and slide them up up his sleeve for the next meeting between the two teams.

And though guys like Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley and James Jones, and Donald Lee too, were all sure-handed, effective receivers who made critical plays on fantastic passes from Rodgers, mostly in the first half, Rodgers missed a few passes in the second half which fell into Detroit Lions arms instead of the intended receivers. Perhaps Rodgers was simply out of rhythm from spending so much time watching from the sidelines as the Lions put together 13 + play drives the entire second half.

Had not Kuhn carried the teams on his shoulders late in the fourth quarter to seal the game, there are few who would have placed a lot of money against the Lions being able to get down the field to kick a game-winning field goal, and the Packers would have suffered a crushing loss.

But instead, Kuhn solidified that Packer power football is here and is for real, adding an additional and critical dynamic to the Packers deadly offensive arsenal. Kudos to coach McCarthy for recognizing what tool needed to be wielded, and kudos to the offensive line which responded when the game was on the line and gave Kuhn some holes to run through.

And though we don't often dwell on Packer mistakes when the team wins, kick-returner Jordy Nelson, by all rights, should probably be forced to carry a football around with him 24/7 this week to cure him from his extremely devastating case of fumble-itis which alone nearly lost the game for us.

And the special teams in general is on life-support and continues to need immediate improvement for this good, but not great football team to expect to contend or even make the playoffs.

No question, we dodged a bullet. But we won.

Game ball: John Kuhn