Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Packers vs. Vikings Post-Game Wrapup

Post-game Packers vs. Vikings thoughts:

-Through four games, the Packers have five sacks. They were held without one tonight. They have two from Cullen Jenkins (defensive end) and one each from linebackers Aaron Kampman, Clay Matthews and Brandon Chillar. What happened to the pressure? Favre was allowed to sit there for four, five and even a ridiculous 7.34 seconds and throw the ball untouched. Any QB in the league can complete passes with that kind of time, not that he needed it to beat the gaping holes in our zone coverage. Maybe it’s time to start having Al Harris press more, because he was getting beaten all day by Bernard Berrian. Derrick Martin appeared to be at fault on the touchdown to Berrian.

-Eight sacks is a travesty in so many ways. All I can say is that Rodgers held the ball too long. Against another defense or with better linemen, ‘too long’ might be 4-5 seconds. Against this defense and with these tackles, it was three seconds. He has to realize that and go to whatever open man he sees first. I remember at least two sacks where he pumped once and got hit as he was reloading. There’s no time for that shit. Rodgers was running headlong into linebackers instead of scrambling. Even on his one scramble for 12 yards, he waited near the line of scrimmage for someone to get open before finally tucking and running. That speaks of him feeling the pressure and needing to throw.

-Welcome to the NFL, Jermichael Finley. Finley’s 62-yard catch and run for a score and his later 37-yard completion were masterful. Finley took a step closer to taking the No. 1 tight end position. He made a good catch on the ball at the goal line but was wrapped up by a LB before he could get to the end zone. There was a point where Finley was beating whatever safety he was matched up on. It’s nice to see that one of the pieces from the preseason has fallen into place.

-What has happened to Greg Jennings? In the past three games, he has a total of just six catches. Yes, the two against the Rams combined for 103 yards, but you have to wonder why Rodgers isn’t getting the ball to his No. 1 wideout more. Is he not open enough, or what’s going on? Last year Jennings dominated teams through the first six weeks of the season. He has done nothing of the kind this year.

-Another week, another good game from Ryan Grant. Grant has flown somewhat under the radar this season and has yet to reach 100 yards in a game, limited as he is by McCarthy’s playcalls that heavily favor the pass (only five runs in the first half this time around). Still, Grant ran hard for 51 yards on 11 carries and, for the first time in a long time, showed some pop as a receiver. He caught three screens that went for first downs, and on one of the final desperation drives made a great catch over the middle and picked up 15 yards, the first down and got out of bounds to stop the clock. That was as good of a play as I’ve seen him make this year.

-The officials certainly didn’t help the Packers this time around, flagging them for 7 penalties for 57 yards. While that’s a marked improvement (sadly), that still cannot be tolerated. Six of them came in the first half and all were costly. Woodson’s phantom PI call in the end zone that nullified his interception was pure horseshit, but it would have been wiped out anyway by an offsides call on the same play. There were a lot of blatant holds by the Vikings that went completely uncalled.

-Our secondary was just not there. Everyone was getting beat, but to be fair, the best of the best pros at CB and S will break down in coverage with zero pass rush. And when I say zero, I mean zero. Favre was hit once by Kampman. That was it. Literally, that was the only knockdown. It’s not as if Favre was stepping out of the way of pressure either, it’s that the pressure simply was not there. How hard can it be to sack a department store mannequin in the pocket?

-Having said that, holding Adrian Peterson to something like 25 carries, 56 yards is a huge step for the run defense. For the most part, the Packers swarmed to the football, didn’t let Peterson run outside the tackles and stacked him up at the line of scrimmage. Clay Matthews made an amazing play to rob Peterson of the ball on his fumble return for a TD; that seemed to take the mojo right out of Peterson. I believe that was the last carry on which he just would not go down; after that, he went to the turf more quietly and didn’t finish his runs like he did in much of the first half. For a runner who had historically torn through the Packers’ various defenses like a human tornado-only being stopped in the second game of 2007 by a knee injury-this was a pleasure to watch.

-Where’s Nick Collins gone off to? His clavicle injury will surely benefit from the bye week, but the Packers haven’t called his name since the first game of the year. He doesn’t appear to be playing aggressively and isn’t around the ball as much (just one tackle tonight). Getting him back up to form will be a major plus for this defense.

-The 2009 Packers have to be the best fourth-quarter team I have ever seen. I’m sure the stats would bear me out, but the Internet is down as I write this so I’ll have to improvise: Against the Bears, they score a dramatic game-winning TD. Against the Bengals, they rediscover offensive life near the end and are poised to win the game but run out of time. Against the Rams, they shut them out and score two TDs in the fourth quarter. And tonight against the Vikings: The defense erases Adrian Peterson from the map, finds the testicles it had been missing all night and prevents Favre from doing anything whatsoever. The offense goes into superfuck mode, mounting two long scoring drives. If we could just channel that fourth quarter excellence and make it last entire games, we would be doing to teams what we did to the Arizona Cardinals in the first half this preseason. (Obviously the internet is back now but it's late and I'm lazy.)

-Speaking of which, it is officially time for us to start living in the now (as it were) and forget completely about the 2009 preseason. Those Packers were invincible along the O-line, completed whatever passes they chose to complete, stifled opposing quarterbacks and forced enough turnovers to open their own Applebees’. These Packers are and can do none of the above, with the exception of forcing turnovers. These Packers are on pace to allow 80 sacks this season, and I can say with certainty that if we continue like this, Aaron Rodgers will not make it all the way through the year. And then we will REALLY be fucked.

-That series on the goal line pretty much summed up the night on offense. The Packers were moving the ball with impunity until they got to the five yard line of the Vikings. On first down, Grant ran for 4. On second down, a handoff to John Kuhn went nowhere as Kuhn went flying through the air to land just shy of the goal line. On third down, Rodgers’ quick (forced) pass to Finley went nowhere as the LB covering him made an exquisite tackle. On fourth down, Donald Lee dropped the TD. I very much support McCarthy’s decision to go for it there, but goddamn, that TD could have helped us out immeasurably.

-Finally, while this sucks like hell, it is not the end of the world. The Packers have a bye week to get healthy (and pray that Colledge, Jenkins and Blackmon don’t have serious injuries) at the end of which they should get Chad Clifton and Atari Bigby back. After that, we can pick our asses up and maybe make some noise in the NFC.

WHAT WE HAVE, HAVE, HAVE TO DO OVER THE BYE WEEK:

-Settle Rodgers down. Make it clear beyond a doubt to him that in games like that, it’s OK-hell, it’s great-to throw to your first open man. You don’t have to make a huge play every time. There were far too many moments in tonight’s game where Rodgers looked, saw something and looked again for something bigger and wound up getting sacked. That can’t happen again like it did tonight.

-Dom Capers, reshuffle your blitzes. We didn’t blitz hardly at all tonight. The one time we did that was effective, I remember, Charles Woodson got in Favre’s face and deflected the pass (although Taylor still caught the thing). Otherwise there was no pressure. This defense has produced turnovers but not sacks; let’s get some sacks.

-Sign a left tackle. I don’t care how, I don’t care whom (I think the ex-Bengal Levi Jones is the best on the market right now) but sign a goddamn left tackle over the bye week and give him some time to get acclimated. Call it shutting the barn door after the horse has fucking flown away, call it whatever you like, but do it. If Clifton goes down again and all we have to throw out against the NFL’s elite right ends is Daryn Colledge and T.J. Lang, we’re going to see the same thing over and over again as we saw with Antuan Odom and Jared Allen. God, ESPN showed every one of his sack dances, and every single one made me physically sick.

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