Thursday, November 26, 2009

Final: Packers 34 - Lions 12

The Packers added only one touchdown to their 3rd quarter score in the final 15 minutes of the game, and that came courtesy of a 38-yard interception return for a score by Charles Woodson late in the closing minutes to put the Pack ahead 34-12.

Oh, yeah, at the end of the 3rd quarter the Lions had 7. So...5 more points? Yes, 2 points via a safety on Ryan Grant after the Packers took over on downs at about their own 2-yard line (originally called a TD after a fumble by Grant in the endzone, but overturned on a challenge) and a late field goal to, at that time, put the Lions within 2 scores of the Packers.

The Packers got a final turnover on a pass catch and fumble recovery (via the second successful challenge of the day by coach Mike McCarthy) with just over 2 minutes remaining to give the Packers 5 turnovers on the day, including 4 interceptions of Matthew Stafford with 2 by Charles Woodson.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers finished 28 of 39 for 348 yards and 3 touchdowns before giving way in the last mop up series to backup Matt Flynn.

It was not a pretty game, especially in the first half, but the Packers got it done. Unless assisted by the opening kickoff fumble which set up the Lions' only TD of the day, and the safety late in the game, the Packers' defense only allowed a field goal.

A win. And very close to my pre-game score prediction of the Packers 34 - Lions 13. close.

But more importantly, the Packers go to 7-4 on the season, still in the wildcard playoff hunt, and now have a long rest before their next game on Monday night, December 7, at Lambeau Field versus the Baltimore Ravens.

Rest up for the home stretch, guys. And enjoy all the turkey with trimmings you can eat tonight. You deserve it. Your Lions brunch buffet was just the appetizer.

End of 3rd quarter: Packers 27 - Lions 7

Finally. Finally the Packers took charge in the 3rd quarter, scoring two touchdowns, one a 7-yard TD pass from Aaron Rodgers to Donald Driver to make the score 20-7, and the second near the end of the quarter on a 21-yard pass from Rodgers to James Jones to put the Packers ahead 27-7.

The half started off seemingly well, with Charles Woodson picking off a Matthew Stafford pass at the Lions' 39 to set the Packers up in good field position. But a false start penalty on Daryn Colledge made it 1st and 15. The Pack eventually found themselves going for it on 4th-and-2. Rodgers was blindsided and fumbled the ball but the Lions were unable to advance it on the recovery.

Chad Clifton left the game about midway through the quarter with a hamstring injury and was replaced by T. J. Lang.

Rodgers went over 300 yards passing for the game in the quarter. In all 4 of his professional starts to date versus the Lions he has thrown for at least 300 yards.

Barring a total collapse in the 4th quarter by the Packers, that seventh "W" of the season is starting to look pretty darn good.

Go Pack Go!!!

Halftime: Packers 13 - Lions 7

The Packers scored a touchdown on the first play of the 2nd quarter on a 7-yard TD pass from Aaron Rodgers to TE Donald Lee. Packers 7 - Lions 7.

The Packers then held the Lions but, courtesy of yet another special teams' penalty, started inside their own 5-yard line. They put together a nice drive, based largely on passes. But the Packers were also aided by 2 penalties on the Lions, both of which occurred against TE Jermichael Finley. The Pack had 1st-and-goal from the 8-yard line, and had to settle for a 20-yard field goal to go up 10-7. (Can someone please explain 3 consecutive passes, none of which are to the endzone?)

On the Lions' next possession, QB Matthew Stafford was flushed from the pocket and threw a pass to where he apparently thought a receiver would be. Result? Interception by Tramon Williams setting the Pack up at their own 46-yard line. The Pack took it down to have 1st-and-goal from the 9 and, for yet another time, could only muster 3 points.

So, to review, the Packers got within 5 yards of the redzone on their first possession of the game and came away without any points. A long drive in the second quarter got them a 1st-and-goal from the 8 and they could only manage 3 points. Another drive after an interception sets up the Pack with a 1st down inside the 10 and, again, they manage just 3 points. Three possessions, deep in Lions' territory, and a total of 6 points to show for that. OK, there was that 1st-and-goal from the 7 after the 68-yard toss to Donald Driver which got the Packers a TD. But really...4 possessions deep in Lions' territory, and all of 13 points to show for it. Not great. Missed opportunities. Where have we seen that before? It allows the other team to stay in the game with a chance to win long after that bus should have left town.

The Packers have dominated both sides of the ball in this half, yet the Lions could lead with just one play. This is what loses games to inferior teams. If the Packers don't turn it up a notch in the 2nd half and figure out a way to get in the endzone instead of settling for field goals, the Lions could pull out the upset.

End of 1st quarter: Packers 0 - Lions 7

Yes, this game has the early markings of an upset. A fumble by the Pack on the opening kickoff setting up the Lions for an easy score. Then the Packers march down the field on a double-digit play drive only to stall out at about the Lions' 25-yard line setting up a 43-yard field goal attempt by Mason Crosby...which he misses wide right.

As the announcers said, it appears the Lions are the 6-4 team rather than the Packers. The only redeeming features of the 1st quarter was a great sideline interception by Nick Collins at the Pack's 26-yard line as the Lions were moving the ball, and a 68-yard toss from Aaron Rodgers to Donald Driver to end the quarter and put the Packers at the Lions' 7-yard line.

As anticipated, the Lions have come out on fire. The Packers, not so much...which is usually what happens when a turkey-size egg is about to be laid.

Packers - Lions 1st play disaster

Just what you didn't want to see to start the game: the Packers fumbled the opening kickoff return to set up the Lions at the Packers' own 20-yard line. Jordy Nelson fumbled the ball without even taking a good hit; he just didn't have the ball secured well at all.

The Lions moved the ball down to the 6, where LB Clay Matthews got called for roughing the passer with a blow to the head, thus giving the Lions the ball at the 3-yard line.

Shortly thereafter, and not surprisingly, the Lions scored on a pass to Calvin Johnson to go up 7-0.

This is exactly the way the Packers can lose games they are supposed to win.

What do you think? Will Nelson be back to take kicks again today?

Packers - Lions Game #2 Preview Update

Just announced: Lions' rookie QB Matthew Stafford will start today's game against the Packers. He was shown in pre-game warm ups with his helmet on and throwing the ball. Also, Lions' WR Calvin Johnson will play today after being listed as questionable.

Yep, the Lions see this game as their Super Bowl. Willing to put their best players at further risk of injury. Perhaps this is why they are...the Lions.

Packers - Lions Game #2 Preview

As the Packers ready themselves on this Thanksgiving Day morning to meet the Lions in Detroit, two words should come to mind. No, not Macy's Parade.

How' bout: Tampa Bay.

Hate to bring that up, but at least I'm doing so before you gorged yourself on enough turkey and stuffing to feed a famine-starved country.

The Packers went into the Tampa game facing a team that had absolutely nothing going for it, and which hadn't won a game. We know how that worked out. The Pack laid an egg.

Let's just hope the Packers take care of business today and not turn the Lions into pseudo-Buccaneers. The Lions have had more injury problems than the Packers all season on both sides of the ball. And while rookie QB Matthew Stafford (listed as doubtful on the injury report) returned to the game last week to rally his team to a victory after separating his left shoulder, will the Lions risk seriously injuring him and damaging his future by playing him today? I think that's where the "doubtful" comes in.

While the season-ending injuries to CB Al Harris and LB Aaron Kampman are definite blows to the Packers squad, the back ups are certainly adequate to the task at hand today. And, of course, there's nothing wrong with the Packers offense which seems to be firing on all cylinders.

The Lions always play their Thanksgiving Day game as if it is their Super Bowl. And coming off their victory on Sunday, expect them to be pumped up at the outset. But at some point -- assuming there is no reprise of the Tampa Bay game -- the Packers' talent will win out.

Yes, Detroit has the edge in this Turkey Day rivalry, 11-6-1, even keeping the Packers from achieving undefeated seasons once or twice as I recall. The last time Detroit won on Thanksgiving was in 2003 against -- you guessed it -- the Packers. The Pack should bring the overall record a bit closer to .500 for Thanksgiving with the Lions by the time this early game is done. The Packers are favored by 10-1/2 points (11 in some spreads). We're taking the Packers 34-13.

Go Pack Go!!!

By the way, if you want to read an excellent story about the Packers' Thanksgiving Day games -- have played 33 times on Thanksgiving including today -- check out this article on the 620wtmj radio website. Did you know, for example, that in 1932 the Packers played the Brooklyn Dodgers and won by a score of 7-0. Wait...weren't the Brooklyn Dodgers a baseball team??? Here's some great bar trivia for you, gang. Read it and earn!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Charlie Brown of the Packers?

There's a very good article in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel by sports writer Greg Bedard about one of the Packers who is going to be more heavily called upon to help fill the void left by the loss of CB Al Harris: Jarrett Bush.

Admittedly, my reaction to seeing Bush on the field anytime other than on special teams is "uh-oh." Apparently, according to the article, my perception of Bush is pretty much the same as that of most other fans. Bush is one of those players -- heck, he's at the top of the list -- that fans just seem to wish was somewhere other than with the Packers. It's not the same loathing that fans had for, say, Terrell Buckley or Ahmad Carroll. They had personalities which, in addition to their play, rubbed fans the wrong way. But from all accounts, as Bedard notes in his article, Bush is actually a fine, likable young man who is very active in the broader Green Bay community. Somebody you'd actually like to root for.

It's just that he's kind of like the Packers' version of Charlie Brown, says Bedard. Bad things just seem to happen to Bush, which Bedard enumerates in his article.

The thing is, Bush had no idea that fans generally regard him and his play with such disdain. He was actually surprised to hear it when Bedard told him. Ignorance is bliss, that's for sure. But he's now aware of how things are from the fans' perspective and says, "I definitely want to show those people that I can play. It's unfortunate that I need to prove that, but I've got to go out there and prove it to them. That's what I have to do."

Yes, Jarrett, you do.

Bush is a decent special teams player. The thing he hasn't shown yet as a defensive back is the ability to be aware of the ball when it's in the air, avoid penalties and play smart. All somewhat essential aspects of being a defensive back...or a football player of any variety, really.

Packer fans would like nothing more than for Bush to succeed and turn his game around, because to the extent he does that the greater the likelihood that the Packers will also succeed. Given that we'll probably be seeing a lot more of Bush in the remaining games of this season, let's hope he is finally able to rise to the occasion. We'll get our first glimpse tomorrow in the game versus the Lions. Bush is likely to be the nickel back.

You can read Bedard's article here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The biz side of the Harris and Kampman injuries

As bad as the season-ending injuries are to CB Al Harris and LB Aaron Kampman from their potential impact on the Packers' season, and the even more important aspect of their own personal health of course, there comes the inevitable business discussion. As in how these injuries will affect future roster moves.

One of the more immediate moves that was just made by the Packers was the signing of former Denver Broncos CB Josh Bell. The Packers worked him out yesterday and liked him enough to reportedly sign him to a two-year deal. He is expected to be part of the Packers walk-through practice today (without pads, given the short turnaround before Thursday's game in Detroit) and be on the active roster for the Lions game. You can read more about Bell here. Sounds like a good signing, given the circumstances, although Bell himself is coming off an injury and is the reason he wasn't kept on the Denver roster this season.

But there are obviously decisions that will need to be made regarding Harris and Kampman, as well. As an article yesterday pointed out, Harris, who turns 35 in December, will have two years remaining on his contract. He keeps himself in great physical condition and has been known to be a fast healer. But at this age and with this injury, he will need a spectacular recovery in order to pick up where he left off.

Of greater concern is Kampman. When the move was made from the 4-3 to the 3-4 defense this off-season, and it became somewhat apparent to all that Kampman was a bit out of place in the new scheme, some pundits felt that the Packers should have traded him. Coming off outstanding seasons in his down defensive end position, the Packers should have gotten a high value for him. But Kampman was also going into his "contract year," eligible for free agency at the end of the season. There was some speculation that perhaps the Packers would put a franchise tag on him and then do what they did with Corey Williams: trade him for a good value. Now, with this injury, the likelihood of Kampman being able to get big money from another team or the Packers being able to trade him and get something in return, is out the window.

According to the above-mentioned article, "The injury could sideline Kampman 10 months, which would put his return to the football field somewhere around the first or second week of the 2010 season." He may have to sign a one-year deal with the Packers to reestablish his value, and the Packers may have to do so if they wish to try to get something in trade for Kampman later on.

To paraphrase, football is what happens while you're busy making other plans.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Packers bad news update: Kampman joins Harris out for season

We initially heard reports after yesterday's game versus the 49ers that CB Al Harris would be lost for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. But Coach Mike McCarthy had indicated to reporters that he believed LB Aaron Kampman would be lost for at least 2 to 4 weeks with an as-then unspecified knee injury.

Turns out the "at least" part of that statement was more true than the 2 to 4 weeks part.

Word came later in the evening that Kampman would also be lost for the rest of the season with exactly the same injury as Harris, a torn ACL in the left knee.

Losing one of these defensive leaders would be bad. Losing both in the same game for the remainder of the year now deals a serious blow to the Packers playoff potential.

Rookie LB Brad Jones will now have to play each of the remaining games as well as he played against Dallas last week. And while it was initially thought that Brandon Underwood might be called upon to take over Harris' spot, reports out of Green Bay are that they will move nickel back Tramon Williams into that role, with Jarrett Bush (uh-oh) moving from the dime back to the nickel back slot and Underwood (uh-oh) going into the dime back slot. Last season, Williams did a good job filling in for Harris after the latter was lost with a lacerated spleen injury. He's not the physical shut-down type cornerback that Harris is, but he does have speed and has played enough to not make foolish mistakes.

Aside from the physical presence and ability both Harris and Kampman brought to the squad, what will also be missed will be their on and off-field leadership.

This situation will give some insight into the depth of the team. Certainly it will require defensive coordinator Dom Capers to adjust his defensive scheme. Just when it finally looked as if the 3-4 defense was starting to click, poof!

Can the replacements do the job they need to do and in the process help the Packers stay in the wildcard hunt? Stay tuned. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, you can read more about the current situation here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Harris out for season, Kampman out 2-4 weeks

According to the latest reports, Packers CB Al Harris -- on track for another Pro Bowl -- is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL suffered in today's game, and LB Aaron Kampman is projected to be out at least 2-4 weeks with an as-yet unspecified knee injury also sustained today.

A costly victory for the Packers, losing these two outstanding defensive starters.

Rookie LB Brad Jones performed well last week starting in place of Kampman and in relief today. Rookie CB Brandon Underwood, however, was a definite target after coming in for Harris today and, if he is the designated replacement for Harris, will have to step up his game considerably. Primarily a special teams player, he has been known to be out of position and is frequently called for penalties of various kinds. Nobody could play to Harris' level, but we will have to see whether or not Underwood has the stuff to even play in Harris' shadow or not.

Final: Packers 30 - 49ers 24

The second half was not as dominating as the first for the Packers, but the final score on the board means another "W" and that's all the dominance you need at the end of the day. The 49ers made a game of it after both the Packers offense and defense seemed to become more conservative. (Am I the only fan who wonders why, when you have it dialed up and are in complete control, you then dial it down???)

In the 3rd quarter, the Niners scored their first TD of the day on a 38-yard pass play from Alex Smith to Michael Crabtree over Al Harris, to make the score 23-10. The Packers got their only TD of the 2nd half with about 11 minutes to go in the 4th quarter, after a sequence that included: a punt by the Packers downed at the 2-yard line, followed by Smith throwing out of his end zone and getting picked off at about the 20 by Nick Collins who returned it to the 11, after which Rodgers connected on a 3rd down pass with Jermichael Finley for a 1st down inside the 1 yard line...Ryan Grant picked up a rushing TD and in the process went over 100 yards rushing for the game...whew!

That made the score 30-10 Packers.

But just when you thought it was safe, the Packers not-so-special teams once again let the opponent right back in the game by giving up a roughly 76-yard kickoff return. On the first play, Al Harris went down in the end zone, away from the play after apparently planting his foot and collapsing. He was in obvious pain and was taken off the field on a cart for X-rays; Aaron Kampan had earlier been carted off the field after also sustaining a knee injury. (In his post-game meeting with the media, head coach Mike McCarthy said both looked serious but until he gets further evaluation it's not possible to say how long either player might be out.) Two plays later, Smith connected on his second TD pass of the day to make the score 30-17. The Packers found themselves unable to sustain any drive and rather quickly returned the ball to the Niners. Fighting the clock, the Niners continued to both protect Alex Smith and allow him to connect with his receivers. On a 4th-and-5 from the Packers' 10-yard line, Smith hit RB Frank Gore on a short pass which he took into the end zone to make the score 30-24 Packers with just under 6 minutes remaining in the game.

The Packers, courtesy of a couple big and crucial runs by Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson were able to keep the ball and take the clock down to the 2 minute warning. With the 49ers out of timeouts (their final one lost on an ill-advised spot challenge by coach Mike Singletary), the Packers were able to go into the victory formation and take 3 kneel-downs by Aaron Rodgers to run out the clock.

This game was a tale of two halves. Something you'd prefer not to see. But the bottom line is the "W".

Rodgers finished with a career high 32 completions out of 45 attempts for 326 yards with 2 TDs. Ryan Grant finished with 129 yards rushing on 21 carries for a 6.1 yards-per-carry average.

The Packers are 6-4 going into the Turkey Day game at Detroit. If the Packers are able to do what they should be able to do (although we said that about Tampa, too, didn't we?) they can be 7-4 coming out of that game and going into an extended rest before the Monday night game against the Ravens at Lambeau on December 7.

You just pray the injuries to Kampan and Harris aren't season-ending, as that would be a major blow to the defense. No matter, they would still likely be held out of the the game with the Lions to give them plenty of time to heal.

In the meantime, say it with me...Go Pack Go!!!

Halftime: Packers 23 - 49ers 3

In a half dominated by both Packers offensive and defensive units, the Pack leads the 49ers 23-3. Despite the statistical dominance and score, the game was just 6-3 at the end of the first quarter.

The Packers moved the ball inside the Niners' redzone on their first two possessions but had to settle for field goals on both occasions. The Niners, courtesy of a 42-yard run by Frank Gore, were able to move into field goal range on their first possession and also converted a 3-pointer. But after that for the Niners, nada. The Packers defense dialed it up as they did in the Dallas game, sacking 49ers QB Alex Smith 3 times in the half and not allowing receivers to get open at all. In fact, it was well into the second quarter before Smith completed his first pass. The Packers had the Niners going 3-and-out about 4 or 5 consecutive times.

The Packers first touchdown of the game, with just under 9 minutes remaining in the half, came off a slant pass from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings. It was a quick hitter which Jennings turned into a 64-yard touchdown play.

The Packers second TD came on a roughly 80-yard drive, when Rodgers threw a quick line of scrimmage pass to Jordy Nelson, who then took it in from 10 yards out to put the Pack ahead 20-3.

The Packers defense then held the Niners to another 3-and-out and got the ball back inside the Niners' 50-yard line after a nice punt return by Tramon Williams. The Pack worked the clock and a nice series of passes by Rodgers. With 1-second left on the clock, following a scramble by Rodgers, Mason Crosby kicked his 3rd field goal of the half to put the Packers up 23-3 at half.

Rodgers threw for 274 yards in the half, completing 22 of 31 pass attempts with 2 TDs and no interceptions. RB Ryan Grant has had a nice rushing game so far, running for 70 yards on 10 carries. RB Brandon Jackson has been a very good 3rd down back, with 36 receiving yards on 3 catches, primarily screen passes. Seven different receivers have caught passes from Rodgers. does Rodgers, the #24 pick by the Pack after San Fran overlooked him, stack up against Smith, the guy who went #1 instead? Rodgers 274 yards, Smith -7 yards net. Yep. You read that right.

Thank you San Francisco.

Go Pack Go!!!

Packers - 49ers Preview

The 5-4 Packers meet the 4-5 49ers at Lambeau Field today. The weather is exceptionally good for a late November game: in the low 50s and sunny. So no advantage on that front today.

So, what can we we expect? That's the question, Bunky, that's the question. Will we see the Packers that played their most complete game of the season last week in their beat-down of Dallas? Or will we see the Packers that layed an egg in Tampa the week before? Given the up and down nature of the season so far, it's hard to know.

This game is as important to the Packers as the game last week versus the Cowboys. And they had better play as such. Because the 49ers are going to be as formidable an opponent as they've played. Yes, the record might not show that. But 49ers head coach Mike Singletary will have his team well prepared to take on the Pack. They are a physical team on defense, in the mold of the old linebacker Singletary himself. And they have weapons on offense in the form of TE Vernon Davis, rookie WR Michael Crabtree and RB Frank Gore. They are finally starting their former #1 overall draft pick, Alex Smith, at quarterback...but in a head-to-head comparison, let's all be grateful that the Niners opted for him rather than our own Aaron Rodgers with that pick. (And to hear Rodgers talk about it, he's also glad the way that worked out too.)

Of course, the Packers have weapons of their own...on both sides of the ball. Edge goes to the Packers on that front.

The Packers are 6-1/2 point favorites. If the Packers play the way they played against Dallas, they should cover that spread. If they decide to go into cruise control ahead of the Turkey Day game in Detroit, they could land with a thump today and be back to .500.

I don't believe that will happen. I believe it will be a close, hard fought game. And I'm taking the Packers 24-20 over the Niners.

Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Brohm shuffles off to Buffalo

There goes another early round draft pick down the drain. QB Brian Brohm, who was highly touted coming out of Louisville, and was the Packers' 2nd round pick in 2008, has signed a deal with Buffalo. Brohm was beaten out last year by 7th round pick Matt Flynn as the primary backup to Aaron Rodgers. Brohm never seemed to progress and was actually cut by the Pack in their final roster moves prior to this season. He was then signed to the practice squad.

The Bills signed Brohm Wednesday evening to their active roster. It's not as if the Packers didn't make an effort to keep him. They actually made him the same two-year offer the Bills did in an attempt to retain him. But Brohm was seeking an opportunity to play. With Buffalo, he may get that. So, let's wish the young man well. Many of us felt at the time that the Packers were getting a real steal by grabbing Brohm in the second round. Too bad it didn't work out for either him or the Packers.

The Packers filled Brohm's slot on the practice squad by signing former Central Washington quarterback Mike Reilly. Reilly was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Pittsburgh Steelers and released at the end of their training camp.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The day after the day after, what does the former Packers CEO have to say?

As Packer fans, we're still basking in the glow of the win over the Cowboys on Sunday. Very few, Packer fans included, thought the Pack had much of a chance going into that game, especially coming off the debacle in Tampa. And, given what we've seen so far, we really aren't certain what to expect in the upcoming game against the 49ers either...which team will show up? More on that as we get closer to game time.

But it seems like a very good time to hear from the retired former CEO and President of the Packers, Bob Harlan. How is he seeing things these days?

Thanks to Bill "The Big Unit" Michaels at 620WTMJ radio in Milwaukee, we can get some of those answers. In an approximately 15-minute or so radio interview, Michaels chatted with Harlan about the current state of the Packers, Brett Favre, etc. It's as interesting for what Harlan said as what remained unspoken.

Have a listen for yourself here. Well worth it.

Vote for Clay Matthews as Rookie of the Week
You can vote for Packers LB Clay Matthews through 11 a.m. Central time Friday as the NFL Rookie of the Week for his outstanding play on Sunday. Matthews had one sack and recovered two fumbles, including one that set up the game-sealing TD. Here's one pick GM Ted Thompson got right. Just click here to vote.

Pro Bowl voting underway
You can also begin voting today for the Pro Bowl. Certainly the Packers have several players worthy of consideration: Aaron Rodgers, Charles Woodson, Donald know who deserves it, Packer fans. Vote early and, just like in Chicago politics, vote often. Click here to do so.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Final: Packers 17 - Cowboys 7

The game strategy recommended in the preview here earlier today was one that the Packers apparently wound up using: the "opposite George/Packers" scheme. That's the one where the team does the exact opposite of everything they've done before to finally achieve success. For the most part, that's what they did. The defense played out of their minds, the offense didn't turn the ball over or allow wholesale sacks, and the special teams were adequate, not giving up the big play.

I was not optimistic about the prospects for this game. My prediction was that it would be too close to call. And well into the second half, it was.

Ya know, when you have low expectations you are rarely disappointed.

This was a game the Packers had to have, and they got it. Great individual performances from Johnny Jolly, Cullen Jenkins, Clay Matthews (who had 2 fumble recoveries) and especially Charles Woodson who had 9 tackles, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles and a key interception at the goal line. The defense got 5 sacks on QB Tony Romo and held the Cowboys out of the endzone until there was less than a minute remaining in the game.

The offense played a controlled game, no big yardage plays and no turnovers, either. They went to a short drop formula a lot today and as a result QB Aaron Rodgers was only sacked once on the day. Rodgers had a 1-yard rushing TD to put the Pack up 10-0 and then threw a roughly 3-yard TD pass to Spencer Havner to put the Pack up 17-0 in the 4th quarter.

If the Packers had played with this intensity last week they'd be sitting at 6-3 instead of 5-4 right now. Philadelphia, the Giants and Atlanta are also 5-4 and the competition for the wild card at this point. Still a long way to go. But this was a good, solid win and shows what the team is capable of when they want it. They need to keep that attitude the rest of the season to have a chance at the playoffs.

The "Opposite Packers"...that's the winning strategy, kids. Better hope they keep that in mind as they prepare for next week's game against San Francisco.

More game details and analysis will come later. But for now, you just have to savor this win. It's a team we haven't seen much of yet this season. But it is the one most of us expected to see much sooner. Glad it finally showed up. Very glad.

Halftime: Packers 3 - Cowboys 0

Kudos to the Packers defense for keeping the Cowboys offense in check through the first half, particularly when the 'boys had good field position for most of the half.

The Pack got a couple gifts during the half: a missed 38-yard field goal on the Cowboys first possession, and a Packers' fumble recovery after the 'boys biggest pass play of the half late in the 2nd quarter. The Packers defense sacked QB Tony Romo 3 times in the half. They are playing at a high level. If they can keep up this intensity the next 30 minutes -- and perhaps get another turnover -- the Pack has a chance.

The same accolades cannot be given the Packers offense. Penalties -- 7 overall for the team in the half, including 3 false starts on the offense -- put the squad in long down and distance often. And the Pack dodged a bullet twice in the half when QB Aaron Rodgers was sacked and fumbled the ball, with a Packer luckily recovering each time.

So far, also, no major special teams breakdowns, with the exception of the ill-advised and missed 52-yard FG attempt early in the game; K Mason Crosby is now just 1 of 5 from beyond 50 yards.

There wasn't a single game in the league this season that was scoreless at the half. That was in jeopardy until the final 3 seconds when Crosby kicked a 48-yard field goal to put the Pack up 3-0 going into intermission.

Go Pack Go!!!

Packers - Cowboys Preview

To say this is a make-or-break game for the Packers is overstating the situation in the minds of some, and a clear understatement for others. But clearly, at the halfway point of the season, the Packers have underachieved based on expectations...which themselves, in retrospect, might very well have been overstated given the youth and lack of talent in key areas (e.g., offensive line) of the squad.

Still, there have been other seasons where the Pack sat exactly at this same point, 4-4, and wound up making the playoffs. So, should we fret? We'll know for sure later this afternoon.

The players had their "come to Jesus" meeting, as reported here and elsewhere early in the week. They basically understand the situation they and the coaches have put themselves in. Last week was the game they needed to right themselves after the ViQueens game. Didn't do it. Laid a big egg instead against one of the worst teams in the league.

Dallas is favored by 3, even with the game at Lambeau. The 'boys have a hot QB in Burlington, WI native and favorite son, Tony Romo. They have a three-headed running attack, any piece of which could exploit problems in the Packers defense. They have a receiver that was unheard of last year, Miles Austin, and who lit up the Packers big time in his coming out party. Their offensive line is huge and could easily dominate the Packers 3-4 scheme. The Cowboys defense can and likely will generate major pressure on Aaron Rodgers and add to the team's already league-leading sack total.

So, against a hot team like Dallas, who has the edge in 5 out of 9 team areas according to some analysts, what are the prospects? Not great, unless the Packers change their modus operandi in one fell swoop. It's kind of like the "opposite George" episode from Seinfeld. You know, the one where George Costanza finally realizes that if he just does the exact opposite of what he usually does he'll finally achieve success.

In the case of the Packers, doing the opposite consists of: running the ball consistently, using a short 3-step drop passing attack so the offensive line is less susceptible to exposing their sieve-like tendencies, and on defense blitzing at least once in a while...oh, and having special teams if not actually being special at least being adequate and not allowing huge punt and kick returns by the opponent.

By being the "opposite George/Packers" the Pack has a chance today. Their season is on the line.

The prediction? Frankly, I'm not optimistic. I think if the past is prelude, the Packers will lose by 10 or more.

But still, I'd like to put this game in the category of TCTC (too close to call...or TC2 for those who favor scientific notation in their acronyms).

No matter, the cheer must still be raised: Go Pack Go!!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Another example of Coach McCarthy feeling the pressure?

No, this one is not Packers CEO Mark Murphy putting some subtle verbal screws to the coaching staff, as happened earlier this week. And it's certainly not GM Ted Thompson saying anything...when was the last time that happened? But as noted in an earlier post here this week, McCarthy is clearly feeling the heat by emphasizing that they are taking this upcoming game against the Cowboys as seriously as a heart attack (paraphrasing).

But perhaps some warning signs about the mounting pressure started to show a bit earlier.

There's a fascinatingly sad article in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about a part-time maintenance worker at Lambeau Field, who had worked there for more than 20 years, getting canned because of a comment he said never made to the coach.

On the Thursday before the game versus the ViQueens, the worker was sitting in a maintenance cart inside a stadium tunnel. According to the report, he says he yelled at McCarthy, "Hey coach, let's get the boys ready to kick some butt this weekend." That was it. The following day, it was work as usual. When the fellow showed up on Sunday, however, to begin his pre-game set up routine, it wasn't long before he was escorted out of Lambeau Field and was out of a job. McCarthy claimed that the worker said something along the lines of "don't lay an egg" in the game.

If he didn't say the latter, apparently even now shouting words of encouragement at the coach is seen as insubordination. Getting wound just a bit tight, eh, coach? Does the name Captain Queeg ring a bell?

The best cure is a win. I hate to quote Al Davis but, just win, baby, win!

For more of the sad story about the loyal part-time worker booted for daring to speak to the coach, click here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Do the Packers players get it now?

With the youngest squad in the NFL for the fourth consecutive year, some analysts have wondered whether or not the youngsters understand the need to win now...that you can be playing today and out of the game tomorrow...that there is only today in the NFL. Old timers such as Charles Woodson, Donald Driver, Mark Tauscher, Ahman Green and Chad Clifton get it. The kids? Maybe not so much.

But perhaps that's about to change. Apparently after watching film of the Tampa Bay debacle on Monday, the offensive players had, as guard Daryn Colledge put it, "a come-to-Jesus meeting." According to at least one report, "With the coaches still in the room, the veteran leaders on offense, one by one, took turns addressing the rest of the unit...According to players who were in the room, Rodgers, tackle Mark Tauscher and receiver Donald Driver were the most powerful speakers."

While generally positive in tone, emphasizing what the squad is doing well -- they are ranked as the #7 offense, after all -- some blunt words were also spoken, so much so that word travelled quickly to the defensive unit and was received as a positive sign.

You can read more of the details via the link above.

Now, whether words alone can correct the plethora of mistakes that have plagued the Pack so far this season remains to be seen. But the Packers are apparently focused on this game versus the Cowboys in a way perhaps they haven't been yet this season for any other game...maybe not even the ViQueens games. In his news briefing with the media yesterday, Head Coach Mike McCarthy said, "Our message is very clear. The head coach has to coach better, the coaches have to coach better, the players have to play better, and we have to win games. That's our focus. We're going to apply all of our energy into this Dallas game plan. ... That's about as far down the road as we're looking. We're going to pour everything that we have into winning at home against the Cowboys. That's our focus." If you were to see footage of this statement you'd know this is about as serious as you'd ever see Mike McCarthy. Clearly, he is feeling the heat and knows that if things don't turn around and fast he could be on his way out.

Unfortunately, the injury bug seems to be biting the Packers at an inopportune time. RT Mark Tauscher is still questionable for Sunday and Allen Barbre also now has an injury which required rookie T. J. Lang to shift over from the left side to the right for the first time in practice. On the defensive side of things, not only is Aaron Kampman still questionable with his concussion, but Brady Popinga, who had replaced Kampman, is also injured. That means either rookie Brad Jones or second-year player Jeremy Thompson might get the start at outside linebacker.

So, another offensive line shuffle against a very good defense, and perhaps some new starters in key positions on the defense. Going against a team on a 4-game win streak. Yikes.

The team hasn't done anything to this point in the season to give fans confidence they can beat a good team. And after the game Sunday, we don't even have confidence about beating a horrible team. Depending upon what spread source you are looking at the game is either a toss up (really???) or the Cowboys are favored by 3 as of the time of this posting.

We'll just have to wait to see if the players got religion this week and saved their season or if the descent into the Inferno of football mediocrity continues.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

As if we didn't already know: sacks are not good

Stating what football fans -- and especially, Packer fans these days -- know all too well, sportswriter Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel today has a bit of an overview on what happens when a team's quarterback gets sacked too often. You get three guesses. And the first two don't count. Ding-ding-ding! You're correct, oh wise one! A lot of sacks on the QB translates to a lot of losses for the team. I know: who'da thunk it, right?

The article is worth checking out for the stats, as well as for the comments about the issue from Packers' coaches. For example, Head Coach Mike McCarthy insisting things are correctable. Hmmm...where have we heard that before? Gonna get things "cleaned up," eh, coach? As someone apparently responded on another blog (overheard it repeated on radio, just for attribution purposes), if Coach McCarthy was in charge of "cleaning up" the Lambeau Field bathrooms after games the place would be condemned.

So, with a league-high 37 sacks through 8 games the Packers are on track to come close to beating the record of 76 sacks set by the Houston Texans and David Carr in 2002. And with the Cowboys and LB DeMarcus Ware coming to town Sunday, and yet more shuffling on the offensive line because of injury if not performance, things don't look set for a turnaround anytime soon.

Post-game analysis, which was really more like mid-season review, brought out such points as the fact that various retired players (including a few QBs) have said that a review of all the Packers sacks shows that perhaps about half of them are due to Aaron Rodgers hanging on to the ball too long. That's another one of those obvious, "Ya think?!", statements. But part of that may also be due, as some of these same analysts suggest, because the Packers seem to be focused on a passing scheme that is all downfield, requiring deep drops by the QB and solid protection by the line for the play to develop. If the Packers worked more of a 3-step drop scheme, working slants and quick out pass plays, the line wouldn't have to protect as long and Rodgers wouldn't be holding the ball so long, i.e., less sacks overall. But as long as the scheme is what is, expect more of the same. And isn't that the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

If the Packers are to resurrect their season -- and it is not too late...yet -- they have to work with what they have. They have a very good young quarterback, they have a great receiving corps, and a serviceable running game. What they also have is a sub-par offensive line that gives sieves a bad name. That means they need to shorten up the passing game and go to more quick-hit plays, the ol' dink 'n' dunk that somebody by the name of Brett Favre learned and executed so well and built a Hall of Fame career upon.

The question is, will McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin go that route? We'll see if they are smart enough to make that adjustment...or continue doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Not only the Packers season but their jobs depend on the answer.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Packer woes

Just what the Packers needed: playing the Cowboys without Aaron Kampman. Turns out he got smacked in the jaw early in the Tampa Bay game and wound up with a small concussion. He played a good portion of the game, but as of yesterday was still feeling the effects. Kampman told reporters that he was just taking it day by day. Whether he's available for the game this Sunday against the Cowboys or not remains to be seen.

In addition to Kampman's questionable status, RT Mark Tauscher might also be out for the Cowboy's game. Tauscher, playing in his first game in almost a year, twisted the same knee that had been surgically repaired. Looks as if he may be sitting out this weekend. And that means yet another reshuffling across what is arguably one of the worst offensive lines in football at the moment. Get ready for yet more sacks on QB Aaron Rodgers.

There's a good recap article of the current state of affairs on the player and coaching front in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. You can check it out here.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Packer fans united...and disgusted

The post-game call-in shows are brutal, the sports columns are dripping venom, and the blogs are ripping new you-know-whats all over the place.

In brief, Packer fans are united in disgust at where the Packers are halfway through this NFL season. And the tipping point for fan outrage was yesterday's loss to Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay! Great Ceasar's Ghost!

In what has to rank as one of the worst coaching performances in Packers' history, Head Coach Mike McCarthy and staff snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Showing a total inability to inspire a team to victory and correct mistakes that now go back a year-and-a-half, McCarthy at least had the honesty to tell reporters that the loss was on him. Well, at least you got that call correct, coach.

Some fans are beginning to make comparisons between the increasingly apparent coaching ineptitude of Coach McCarthy with that of the Bart Starr era (who, let's also say, was one of the great quarterbacks to ever play the game...just wasn't able to carry that over to coaching). That era began a long slide into the football netherworld for the franchise. The fear of many fans at this point is this: are we once again on the edge of a football abyss? The Ted Thompson haters in the crowd have been saying "yes" for some time because of personnel moves. Now, many fans are pointing the finger (which one, we won't say) at the coaching staff and saying "yes" as well.

The coaching staff's failures to address ongoing problems and witness them repeated week after mind-numbing week, is one element of this dissatisfaction. Failure to apparently make players accountable for their mistakes is another. Failure to put players in a position to succeed -- ala Aaron Kampman being taken totally out of his capabilities -- is yet one more. And special teams? Coach Shawn Slocum should be shown the door.

At least one of the Wisconsin sports pundits said that after yesterday's loss McCarthy is "on the clock." Fans shouldn't expect McCarthy to be booted during the season. But if the Packers don't make the playoffs -- which was a clear expectation going into the season -- and finish .500 or below (which looks like a distinct possibility at this point), McCarthy could be -- should be -- out.

Would Packers CEO Mark Murphy pull the trigger and also boot GM Ted Thompson at season's end? That's a bigger question. But it will also have to be addressed. Thompson's theory of building a team through the draft is one thing. Having the youngest team in the NFL four years in a row is another. Being fiscally responsible and having money available to sign free agents is one thing. Not using any of the nearly $20 million in cap room to sign free agents that could help improve a team is another.

There are no more loyal fans in football than Packer fans. That's because we know the game. And that's why the outcry about the current state of affairs is getting louder and louder. We expect more from players, coaches and the GM than we are getting.

Ahman Green gets the rushing record
Lost in yesterday's debacle was the fact that RB Ahman Green surpassed the great Jim Taylor's franchise rushing record of 8,207 yards which had lasted since 1966. Congrats to Ahman.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A new low: Pack loses to Tampa Bay

The Packers hit a season low today, losing to the heretofore winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38-28. The Bucs were 0-7 coming into this game, but had actually lost 11 in a row going back to last season.

In other games against bad teams, the Packers were able to overcome their own mistakes; not so this game. Six sacks, three interceptions, blocked punt for a TD, untimely penalties, special teams breakdowns, blown opportunities...the same ol' same ol'.

I'm sure coach Mike McCarthy will say something like, we'll take a look at the film and get it corrected. Coach, you've said that after every loss. And it's still not corrected. What is the problem? If a team continues to make the same mistakes over and over it's the coaching, not the players...although the problems with the offensive line are clearly obvious and have been for a long time.

Clearly, special teams has not improved. And how and why defensive coordinator Dom Capers wasn't able to bring enough pressure on a rookie QB to keep him from winning a game, is anyone's guess. But the ultimate responsibility lies with the head coach. And it seems as if that's the job that's not getting done.

The details of this loss will be recapped later. It's all too much to regurgitate, although that's about all that a fan feels like doing at this moment...yes, I want to hurl. The Packers got outcoached and outplayed. The Raymond James Stadium jinx hit again: the Pack has now lost 7 of 8 there.

The only good news of the day is that Da Bearz also lost, at home, against the Cardinals. Mediocrity is .500. And that's where both the Packers and Da Bearz sit at 4-4. And if you can't beat 0-7 Tampa, what chance is there of beating the Cowboys next Sunday? Not much. Especially being coached like this.

Halftime: Packers 21 - Buccaneers 17

Goofy half.

That's about the only thing you can say. And frustrating. And numbingly typical this season. Big plays for the Packers. Big plays for the opponents. Blown opportunities.

The Packers started strong, albeit after the now ubiquitous penalty on punt/kick returns (is there any fan left who doesn't automatically look for a penalty flag on returns?); this penalty took about 30 yards off a nice Tramon Williams' punt return. But on the second play from scrimmage, Aaron Rodgers hit James Jones for a 74-yard touchdown pass, the longest of Rodgers' career. Packers go up 7-0.

The defense proceeds to get the ball back, but Rodgers got greedy on throw to Donald Driver and got picked off; Rodgers himself wound up making the tackle at the Packers' 8-yard line. A few plays later, the rookie QB, Josh Freeman, tossed his first career TD pass. 7-7.

The Packers then put a nice drive together, combining passes and runs. They capped it off with a 2-yard TD run by Ryan Grant. Packers 14-7.

The next time the Packers got the ball back, they wound up punting. Only problem was, nobody apparently informed some of the blockers that their job was, in fact, to block. There was a big rush, someone came through untouched and blocked the punt. Ronde Barber picked up the ball and took it in for a TD. 14-14.

The Packers responded with a nice drive, scoring their third TD of the day on a 32-yard pass from Rodgers to Driver, to make the score 21-14.

In the last 6 or 7 minutes of the 3rd quarter, the Packers started their possession twice inside the Buccaneers' 50-yard line, once off a poor punt and the next time on an interception by Nick Collins. The only problem was the Pack went 3 and out on both possessions. The last time around, the Buccaneers drove the ball from deep in their own end of the field down to make a field goal as time ran out in the half. Packers 21 - Buccaneers 17.

So, the Raymond James goofy factor seems to be emerging. This game is far closer that it needs to be, than it should be. Oh, and Tampa Bay missed its first field goal attempt from 45 yards, with their new kicker or it would be closer still.

With a team that is near the bottom in rushing defense, the Packers' play calling has been split 16-15 rush to pass. The Packers have 77 yards rushing. Rodgers is just 7 for 15.

It seems as easily as the switch seems to come on for big plays it can just as easily vanish. For the 8th game of the season, the inconsistency of this team is maddening. The defense, which played well throughout the half, not really responsible for either of the 2 Tampa touchdowns, basically allowed a rookie QB to march down the field in the last 2 minutes of the half to get 3 points.

The Packers better get it together in the second half. The Buccaneers may be 0-7 but the Packers are letting them stay in the game as if they are 7-0. Not good.

Packers -Buccaneers Preview

If it's one thing we know about the Packers over the last two years it is that they will beat inferior teams. The problem arises, as we also know, against teams with winning records; the Packers have only beaten teams with winning records twice in the last two years.

So, given that Tampa Bay has yet to win a game this season, is there any reason to fear a loss? Well, anything can happen, of course. But the oddsmakers have the Packers as 9-1/2 point favorites. That is on the light side in the opinion of this observer.

If the Pack ever is able to get a running game going, today should be the day. The Buccaneers are giving up over 162 yards per game, 30th in the league. Granted, the Packers offensive line hasn't exactly been able to do great things in the rushing game this season...or the pass protection game, either, for that matter. But, LT Chad Clifton will be starting once again, and RT Mark Tauscher will also be making a start today, his first in roughly a year after coming off serious knee injury and rehab time. Let's see what the old boys can do, both to help get Ryan Grant and maybe even Ahman Green going a bit. And, especially, to help keep QB Aaron Rodgers vertical today. Rodgers was held out of practice until Friday so his foot and toe sprains could heal a bit...although I'm sure the rest of his body also appreciated a few days of rest given the beating it's taken through the first seven games.

Tampa Bay will be starting a new quarterback today, rookie Josh Freeman. This is something like the Buccaneers' 15th starting QB in the last seven years. Yikes. But if this doesn't set up as a perfect opportunity for the defense to generate turnovers today I don't know what will.

Now, there is the jinx that seems to descend on the Packers when they visit Raymond James Stadium. Weird things happen. And if memory serves (don't count on it), the Packers have only won once there. Guys get hurt, strange plays occur. Now, throw in the fact that the Buccaneers will be in their throwback creamsicle/dreamsicle uniforms from their early days of -- what -- the late 70s? Those uniforms were associated with losing teams that set standards for other losing teams to aspire to (I know, the grammar of that sentence leaves much to be desired, sorry, but you get the point...which is the point, right?)

Anyway, with about an hour or so to kickoff, we're putting this one in the "W" column for the Pack.

We're calling it 34-10 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Jason Spitz out for season
After dealing with an unspecified lower back problem since mid-October, the Packers decided to place starting center Jason Spitz on injured reserve, thus ending what started as a promising season for Spitz. Spitz had beaten out incumbent Scott Wells for the starting spot. He was not responding to treatment and after getting a second opinion that confirmed that of the Packers team doctor, the decision was made to put Spitz on season-ending IR.

Spitz's spot on the roster is now being taken by WR Biren Ealy who got promoted from the practice squad. Ealy has only had two weeks of practice with the Packers. According to reports, the decision to move Ealy up to the regular roster came because WR Donald Driver is still feeling effects of a neck injury and WR Jake Allen, who was promoted after WR Jordy Nelson was knocked to the sidelines for a few weeks with his knee injury, is questionable with a thigh injury.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Clifton & Tauscher to start?

Does working as the main offensive tackles during practice mean those same players will start the upcoming game? Why not, especially if they are veterans Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher. Clifton replaced rookie T. J. Lang and Tauscher replaced Allen Barbre for most of the snaps Wednesday with the #1 offense.

With the state of the O-line being similar to a sieve so far this season, let's hope that these veterans -- both coming off injuries, including one major knee rehab in the case of Tauscher -- are able to help keep QB Aaron Rodgers upright. Rodgers, BTW, did not practice yesterday as he is still gimping around with a sprained foot and a sprained toe on the other foot. With the pounding he's taken in the form of 31 sacks it's a wonder that's all that's injured.

Clearly, if Rodgers doesn't get better protection from here on out he won't last the season. Clifton and Tauscher can hopefully give him a fighting long as they stay healthy, that is. And, longer term, Ted Thompson must address the offensive line situation which has been a problem basically since Thompson's been in the GM seat. But that's a story for another day.

The score that never happened before
According to, as reported by 620WTMJ radio (got that reporting lineage?), the 38-26 final score of Sunday's game has never occurred before in the history of the NFL. In this case, not the kind of first a team really wants to be part of, is it?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Offseason comparison of Pack - Vikes

Let's move from the gutwrenching emotional loss to the guys in funky purple "uniforms" to a more rational comparison of the Packers and ViQueens. Thankfully, one of the very good sportswriters at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Tom Silverstein, has done it so you are spared my ramblings.

Silverstein begins by stating the obvious: right now, the 'Queens are a better team that the Packers. And then he goes on to point out some other disturbing stats. For example, "...only two of the Packers' 10 victories since 2008 have been against teams that had a winning record at the time (Indianapolis and Chicago in '08)...". Yeah, that's not good.

And here's another fact that will make the heads of the Ted Thompson haters explode: "The Vikings have added at least one big-time player each of the last four years and are to the point now where they may have as many as 11 players selected to the Pro Bowl this year." Bottom line, as Silverstein writes, is that "It doesn't take a football genius to figure out who has been doing the better job acquiring talent."

Dang, ya just hate to go quite that far. That's the kind of statement that makes your stomach start to churn. Or, at least, if not those of Packers' fans then those of Mark Murphy, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy.

Hope they read Silverstein's article. But if they don't you can do so here. Well worth it.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Rodgers showing effects of sacks

After taking another 6 sacks yesterday -- and a league-leading 31 after just 7 games -- it's no wonder that Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is not feeling particularly good at this point of the season.

Rodgers was noticeably limping before the end of yesterday's game vs. the ViQueens. Turns out the nagging sprain he's had in one foot got aggravated, and now is joined by a sprained toe on the other foot. Still, Rodgers is expected to be under center when the Packers play at Tampa Bay on Sunday. Although to be honest, this is a game one would think the back up QB could win. Would be nice to have Rodgers get some needed rest from the physical abuse he's taking via the sieve-like nature of the O-line and his own penchant for taking a sack over getting rid of the ball.

One of the other big injuries that came out of the game yesterday was a broken hand on LB Brandon Chillar. He had surgery on it today and is expected to be out at least 2 weeks before returning to play with a cast.

On another matter, this second loss to the 'Queens has for the second time prompted a player on defense to question schemes and how players are being used. First time around it was Charles Woodson; this time, it's Cullen Jenkins. And if it hasn't already happened, you can be sure that Jenkins, like Woodson, will have a little one-on-one time with one of the coaches to remind him about not airing things like this in public. Oh, sure, we like hearing about these things...but the coaching staff doesn't.

If you want to catch up on some of these things in more detail, check here for a good summary article in Yahoo Sports.

And, yes, it's OK to still be very bummed out about the result of yesterday's game.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Packers lose to ViQueens, 38-26

In a game of ups and downs -- mainly on the Packers side of things -- the Pack once again came up short against the ViQueens and Ol' #4. The game looked like it would be a blow out after halftime, but the Packers rallied and made a game of it almost till the end. But making a game of it and winning the game are not the same thing.

Once again, the Packers slipped back into a mode of play similar to several weeks ago: penalties, special teams breakdowns, missed field goal, missed turnover opportunities, no sacks on Brett Favre and sacks allowed on Aaron Rodgers. And those errors, as in the first game, cost the Packers. They didn't against lesser opponents; they did against the 'Queens.

The result is that Favre swept the Pack, and the 'Queens are 3 games up in the North Division at roughly half-way through the schedule. Unless Minnesota does one of their typical fold-a-roonies (been known to happen), the Packers will likely be battling for a wild card spot in the playoffs. Anything can still happen. But this is the reality of where things stand now, with the Packers at 4-3 going into their game next week at Tampa Bay.

There will no doubt be much more to say upon further reflection. But for's over...and we're out.

Packers - ViQueens Game 2 Preview

Perhaps this post should be subtitled, "The Day the Earth Stood Still: Brett Favre Returns to Lambeau Field." Others have taken to calling this day Favre-a-Palooza and Favreaggedon. OK, headbanging...yes, the ultimate end-times, no. Sure, the game will likely be another ratings winner for Fox Sports. They are supposedly going to even new lengths to hype this game via a "Favre cam," a camera dedicated to following Favre all over the field, including the sidelines.

The question which has dominated Wisconsin sports media all week, both print and broadcast, has been how the fans will react -- should react -- when Ol' #4 enters the playing field. The growing consensus seems to be that, as there will be no individual introductions of ViQueens players, fans should -- as they usually do -- boo vociferously the entire 'Queens team, including Favre, when they enter onto the Frozen Tundra. Yes. Definitely. And, just as vociferously, cheer the Pack -- and especially, Aaron Rodgers -- when the players are introduced.

On ESPN, the pundits discussed how Favre will handle the game. Favre admits to being nervous. Not surprising. Tom Jackson said Favre's comments about his current team being the best he's ever played on -- and thus disrespecting the Reggie White-led Super Bowl teams -- really left fans with a bad taste in their mouths (paraphrasing) if there wasn't a bad taste there before.

Former Packers LeRoy Butler and Gilbert Brown spoke to the Favre situation and comments recently as well. Butler said "If you're not in Green 'n' Gold then I don't root for you." Brown, speaking to Favre's "best team" comment on ESPN radio earlier this week, said Jared Allen "couldn't hold Reggie White's jockstrap." Gilbert always did have a way with words. When asked if he would look forward to sacking Favre if he had the chance, he said he would definitely do so. "I wouldn't do the 'Grave Digger' on him (Brown's post-sack celebration move) but I would fart on him." Thank you, Gilbert. May we have another?

Anyway, lots of verbal banter on both sides of things. But to the Packers' players credit, they just seem focused on the task at hand. And well they should. If they beat the 'Queens today they go to 5-2 on the season and travel to Tampa Bay for what is expected to be another win next weekend, taking them to 6-2. The 'Queens, on the other hand, with a loss today will be 6-2 with their bye week coming up. Thus, the Packers and ViQueens could essentially be all tied up 2 weeks from now. That's if the Pack wins today.

The bottom line today
The spread is the Pack by 3, the old home field advantage line. The teams are a little different than when playing a few weeks ago. The Packers are arguably a bit deeper, especially on the offensive line and defensive backfield. The ViQueens are arguably a bit weaker, particularly in the defensive backfield and at receiver. The Packers need to reprise the great defensive job they did on 'Queens RB Adrian Peterson.

But they need to find a way to get pressure on Favre. Interesting stat: the Packers blitzed on just 16.7% of passes in the first meeting in Minnesota and the results, as we know, were not good; you can't give Favre time to throw. Last Sunday in their game at Pittsburgh, the Steelers blitzed Minnesota an estimated 60% of the time. Result? Steelers got to Favre and got a win. It's a definite balancing act for Packers defensive coordinator, Dom Capers. S Atari Bigby was out for the Pack last time around and there were major communication breakdowns in the defensive backfield. It's been bandied about that that was one of the main reasons Capers didn't blitz more in that game: he just didn't trust the backup safety, Derrick Martin, to be in proper cover positions. But Bigby's back. LB Aaron Kampman has begun playing some down pass rush positions and getting to the QB like the good ol' days. Rookie LB Clay Matthews shows he knows how to create some problems. If ever there was a time when the defense can show that the last couple games against mediocre opponents weren't just flukes, this is it.

I think the offensive line will help Ryan Grant -- and maybe even Ahman Green -- to get some runs going; that will help the passing game. I believe that they will do a better job protecting Aaron Rodgers. And I believe the Packers defense will do enough to keep Peterson and Favre in check.

Favre is wearing that funky purple. As Michael Corleone in The Godfather II told his brother Fredo after a betrayal, and we can say to Favre (until the time he returns in his retirement glory to Green Bay, of course): "You're dead to me. You're nothing to me now; you're not a brother, you're not a friend; I don't want to know you or what you do." Boo every time Favre touches the ball. Let him hear the wrath of Lambeau and Lombardi!

It will be a close one, as most of these games are. The home field advantage will count for a lot today. In fact, it might just be the difference.

We're drinking the Green 'n' Gold kool-aid again, Packers fans. We can do no less. Packers 20 - ViQueens 17.

Go Pack Go!!!