Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day-after game analysis: What the (fill in the blank)?

My pregame score prediction for last night's Packers-Saints game was 30-24 Packers. Well, I was close on the Pack, who wound up with 29. But the Saints? I was just a smidgen off on that one. But after reviewing my notes, I found that I had actually factored those 24 points as the first half score only for the Saints and forgot that I needed to double it for the final outcome.

OK...that's not true. Just trying to have a little fun. You know, gallows humor kind of thing.

But there was nothing funny about the way the Pack got sliced and diced last night in the Big Easy.

The Pack's season-long flaws were on display for all to see: no pass rush, average linebacking, horrible punter and sieve-like special teams coverage, vanilla defensive schemes. A new starting QB and defensive backfield -- the former actually in the top 5 in the league and the latter heretofore the best in the league -- were also not at their finest. The running game? Looked OK to start, but as the third quarter spiraled out of control, that had to be shelved entirely.

A couple observations, for what they're worth.

First, special teams coach Mike Stock should be sent packing, along with his chosen punter, Derrick Frost, after the season. His dumping of Jon Ryan for Frost has been a major personnel blunder. When a punter is shanking and short-kicking the ball in a dome, you know there's problems. Combine that side of things with horrible punt and kick coverage...think about it: seemingly every time the Packers have a score and get some momentum the kick coverage team gives up a big return and fritters that momentum away in a matter of seconds.

Second, defensive coordinator Bob Sanders should also be shown the door. Now, granted, injuries and GM Ted Thompson combined not to do him any favors in terms of the personnel on the defensive line. Other than Aaron Kampman, the Packers have no pass rush whatsoever. Combine this with the fact that the Packers rarely if ever blitz, and a quarterback like Drew Brees has easy pickin's, just like last night. Example: somewhere along the way the Saints had a 3rd and 15, if I recall. The Packers dropped 8 into coverage and "rushed" 3 -- I put rushed in quotes because it is really more a euphemism than an actual description of what happened. Brees had all the time in the world to find an open receiver and get the first down. Hey, coach Sanders...here's a new scheme for you: why don't you just drop everyone into coverage and not rush anyone at all...if would work just as well as what you're calling now.

Yes, injuries along the D-line are playing a role. But so is the fact that Thompson, with a boatload of salary cap money to spend in the offseason to bolster that line, essentially did nothing.

So, what next? Nothing to do but get ready on a short week for the 8-3 Carolina Panthers. At least it's home at Lambeau. But unless the Pack regains the attitude they had in demolishing Da Bearz -- and gets it back this weekend -- we might as well start thinking about draft picks for next season. We aren't there yet. But with what's broken on the Packers, there are no quick fixes. Chicago and Minnesota play each other this weekend in the HumpDome. The Pack needs to win to stay just one game behind in the Division, even with the win. If they drop the game to Carolina, they'll be 2 back with just 4 games left. Not impossible, especially with games against Da Bearz and the Lions among them. Winning out is what's needed. But is it likely? You need to make that call for yourself.

Which team is the real Packers? The one that smacked Da Bearz? Or the team that got whipped by the Saints? The Packers have been inconsistent all season long. That pattern, regrettably, seems to be the only thing that's been consistent about this team.