Sunday, August 29, 2010

Solid Packers Send Colts Seeking Greener Pastures Elsewhere

AP Photo / Jeffrey Phelps

Peyton Manning had a lot of answers for the referees who were messing up his mojo on Friday, but he had no answers for the Green Bay Packers. Neither did the Indianapolis Colts' defense.

In most every aspect of the game at Green Bay, the dominant Packers made Lambeau Field a No-Grazing Zone for Manning's powerhouse Colts.

Though each team had early mistakes which gave up easy points, the Packer defense flexed for the first time this year, and in a solid performance, kicked the Colts right in the teeth. Perhaps Packer defensive coordinator Dom Capers decided it was time to reach into his bag of tricks, finally, because this defensive performance bore no resemblance to the previous two anemic Packer pre-season outings.

Not only did the Packers stop Manning, the Colts running game, and might have even stoled the Colts Gatorade, but they physically beat them up in the process.

So shaken was Manning that he even showed up in the third quarter when all the Packers starters were on the sidelines to try to get something right. But the officials awarded Manning with yet another illegal snap penalty and an aggressive second-string Packers' linebacker Zombo obliged Manning by forcing him to fumble, sending him out to pasture in disgrace. Big kudos to the Green Bay Packers defense, who made skeptics into believers on Friday.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, Air Rodgers and his Wonderboys got more air time than Obama excuse-makers, putting on a performance that has to be making defensive coaches around the league begin to lose sleep. Driver, Finley, Jones, and a whole host of no-name stud Packer receivers, too many to remember, were getting more passes than Pam Anderson on the beach.

Rodgers' precision passes, courage in the pocket and ability to make plays with his legs make it hard to not compare him to Steve Young and that entire situation from the 49ers a decade ago. He is looking like a great young quarterback and might have the best receiver corp in the NFL. At the very least, they represent a formidable and dangerous Air Attack.

But another extremely pleasing aspect of the 2010-2011 Packers is their use and depth of the fullback. With almost as many fullbacks on the roster as Communists in the White House, Coach McCarthy is bringing the old smash-mouth position back into vogue in beautiful fashion. AND he is doing the same thing with his cadre of tight ends. And the fullback-tight end configuration brings immeasurable power potential that adds a unique and additional weapon in the Packers toolbox. For what defense can stop a Smash-Mouth attack AND Rodgers Air Force? This author is beginning to believe.

And that was all just in the first half.

The second half watched all kinds of Packers, on offense, defense and special teams look like world-beaters, even though many of them will be roster casualties in a few short weeks.

Matt Flynn looked like a veteran quarterback. Even the Packers third string quarterback, who doesn't even have a name, looked like a seasoned pro.

And it goes on and on. Players with no names and perhaps no future with the Packers were flying all over the field making more plays than Woody Allen.

This was one exciting game for the Green Bay Packers. It was a break-out game in an important test against the storied Colts. And the Green Bay Packers finally demonstrated what some believed, but many were waiting to see: they are one heck of a team this year and will be a team to beat in the NFC.

As for the Colts, they were rode hard, put up wet and left cold and hungry, for they didn't get even a nibble of Lambeau's greenest grass, except for the myriad of face-plants compliments of a hard-hitting Green Bay defense.

Player of the game: Every Packer in Uniform. Special recognition to Donald Driver for that Million-Dollar Smile!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Green Bay D: If it Looks Like a Duck...

(AP Photo/John Froschauer)

If it looks like a duck, and, of course quacks like a duck, can you really believe that it's a defense?

Granted, many of the Green Bay Packers 'varsity' defensive players watched the game from the sidelines in the game against the Seattle Seahawks, but the players unlucky enough to be on the field to try to stop the Seahawk offense certainly demonstrated themselves to be birds of a different feather than the Packers' high-flying offense, whose 'varsity' squad was a powerful force on the field on Saturday night.

Now perhaps it was just Green Bay's defensive coordinator, Dom Capers, playing his cards close to his vest. Or maybe it was just a talent-pool test to see who's heads will soon be on the chopping block. But with a sorry performance in last week's outing against the Cleveland Browns, one would think that the Packers would show up in Seattle with something to prove defensively.

Instead, they just layed an egg and made Seahawk quarterback Matt Hasselbeck look like a Hall of Famer, which he isn't. Not only did the defense polish Hasselbeck's dome nice and shiny for him, they allowed Seahawk running backs to soar like eagles too.

But the sky didn't really start falling until Green Bay's special teams flocked on to the field. If the defense played like quacks, Packers special teams were outright honkers as they fouled up almost every opportunity of the evening, giving up monumental field position. Seahawk return men looked like they were working for Donald Trump, gobbling up huge chucks of real estate on almost every return. One half-expected there to be a twenty-story luxury multiplex planted on half of the field by the end of the game. Certainly the special teams mess needs to be addressed and the Packers need to find some real answers very soon, with Mason Crosby and the field goal unit being the exception; they play well and were just showing off on Saturday.

It was a good thing Coach McCarthy threw in running back Brandon Jackson toward the end of the game to pound out a touchdown and make a statement for the win, or the Packers would have surely pulled a defeat out of the jaws of victory.

Now, it was a bit shameless that the Seahawks kept their starters in the game for the whole first half, while Air Rodgers and the Packers starting offense only played a few downs. But that situation did give Green Bay's sophomore quarterback Matt Flynn a lot of very valuable playing time against a busy Seattle defense which put hard pressure on him. All in all, Flynn seemed to manage the field quite well and you could almost see him developing right before your eyes. And despite his two turnovers, he did move the Packers down the field and looks like he would be able to lead the team should Rodgers fall to injury.

Also nice to see were some of the unknown Packer receivers getting some solid reps in against Seattle's starting defense. They made some nice catches, missed a few, but showed effort and heart. And with the likes of Driver, Jennings and Jones on the roster, these second-tier receivers are not likely to see a whole lot of action in the future.

The Seattle Seahawks are not that good of a team and would have suffered greatly had the Packers potent offense not left the field so early. 27-24 is not a realistic score, therefore, for a regular-season matchup between these two teams. Had this game been played in October, the score would have been 48-30, at least, and the Seahawks would be the ones with egg on their faces.

Player of the game: Packers starting offense.

Friday, August 20, 2010

PackSmack is Back, But Are the Packers?

After quite a haitus from football, also known as off-season complete hibernation, PackSmack has popped his head out of the den to peer in to the current state of the Green Bay Packers and the NFL.

The first surprise I discovered was that former Denver coach Mike Shanahan is now the coach of the Washington Redskins! Then I learned that Terrell Owens is teamed up with Chad Whats-his-name with the Bengals! The third stunner was when I learned that the Philadelphia Eagles have dealt quarterback Donavon McNab to some other team, though it is not clear to me yet which team he plays for.

If it is not obvious yet, PackSmack does not pay much attention to sports until football season actually begins; and, of course, pre-season is football season.

So this brings us to this year's edition of our Green Bay Packers, who made their pre-season debut against the Cleveland Browns last weekend.

Now a lot of people say pre-season does not matter, but I believe that pre-season games are very telling.

And what we learned from the game against Cleveland is this: 1.) Our first team defense is weak, 2.) There is nothing special about our special teams, and 3.) Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Air Force will be nearly unstoppable.

With all our veteran receivers returning, and all looking at least as good as they were last year, the Packers will be racking up 35-45 points per game. But the question becomes, will that be enough points to win, when our special teams will be granting opposing teams generous field position, and our defense will not be able to stop the run?

We will be able to beat sub-par teams, but will split with fellow contending teams. A 10-6 record will be optimistic unless we learn how to stop the run and can fix the special team mess.

But regardless of whether this can happen or not, watching the Green Bay Packer offense this year will be one thrilling ride.

As a final note, PackSmack also just learned that Charles Woodson was named the NFL Defensive Player of the year last year, which indicates that someone must have been reading PackSmack, because we were saying he should be named that since early last season. Let's hope Charles Woodson brings as much excitement again this year as he did in his unforgettable performances last season.

Welcome back, Pack! We're behind you through thick and thin!