Saturday, August 27, 2011

Packers vs. Colts preseason recap

First things first. It was a lackluster performance. I'm referring to my golf game in the charity scramble I played in yesterday. Guess that's what happens when you don't swing a golf club for two months. Good shot, bad shot, good shot, bad shot. Yikes. But at least the kitties and dogs at the shelter benefited from my angst-filled participation. And really, that's the important thing, right?

I guess in some ways, though, we could say this scenario played out a bit for the Packers in Indy last night. Now, to be honest, I saw only the very end of the first half and the first few minutes of the second half. Listened to more of the second half on the radio. But...and here's the important part...I missed the ending. And never heard the final score. I went to bed last night thinking the Packers had lost 21-13.

Soooooooo...imagine my shock -- and awe (wait, where have I heard that expression before???) -- when I hit the 'net this morning to find that the Packers WON 24-21. Huh? Really? What the heck did I miss?

Apparently, a great ending. and for the rest of the Packer fans out there who also missed out, allow me to quote the great Packers reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Bob McGinn, who said in his article, "The Packers won it with their shock troops, scoring a touchdown on an 11-yard pass to tight end Ryan Taylor with 35 seconds left, a 2-point conversion on another pass to Taylor and a field goal from 50 yards by Mason Crosby as time expired."

I guess it didn't surprise me that the Packers scored a late TD and 2-point conversion. But when I read that Crosby hit a 50-yarder to win the game as time expired...? Especially after he missed a 41-yarder earlier? A 50-yarder at the end of the game to win? This has been the knock on Crosby. Strong leg. But like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, when it comes to Crosby with the game on the line you never know what you're going to get. To be honest, we still don't. But let's look at this kick as the proverbial glass-half-full type of thing: perhaps there is hope that Crosby can do this with the game on the line in the regular season. Coach Mike McCarthy never seems to hesitate to throw him out there for those 50+ yard kicks. So, fingers crossed on this front.

Other than QB Aaron Rodgers slicing and dicing the Colts from the no-huddle offense, and getting hit more times than you want to see because of the O-line (particularly Chad Clifton and Josh Sitton) having breakdowns, the other key observation that reports of the game make clear is that third-string QB Graham Harrell is showing that he may just have what it takes to be the backup to Rodgers when Matt Flynn is either traded or lost in free agency next season. While tossing an interception that led to the Colts going up 21-13, Harrell had the moxy (there's a word you don't hear every day, Edgar) to get his you-know-what together and engineer an 11-play, 73-yard TD drive that made the score 21-19 Colts. On both the TD pass and the ensuing 2-point conversion, Harrell connected with WR Ryan Taylor who, truth be told, is another one of those young receivers that is showing that he can play. If not in Green Bay, somewhere in the league.

And then, the Packers pulled off an onside kick. Cool. Well done.

Next up, Harrell gets the Packers close enough for Crosby to boot the game-winner as time experied. Even more cool.

But let's back up a second. Why, late in a preseason game, would Coach McCarthy go for a 2-pointer and an onside kick? Most coaches (e.g., Lovie Smith) would have mailed it in. Take the loss that doesn't count anyway and go home. Not McCarthy. He wants to set a tone with his players that winning matters. Always. Hmmm...sounds a great deal like another coach that walked the sidelines for the Packers once upon a time, doesn't it? That coach built a dynasty. And with the depth of personnel the Packers have now, especially at key skill positions, with the coaching staff, and with GM Ted Thompson working his magic, Coach McCarthy could also be creating a new Packers dynasty. Not as straightforward as it may have been in Lombardi's time; not that it was a piece of cake then, either. But it's still possible. And McCarthy's got the mindset, it seems, to draw the best from the players he has to work with.

Interesting stat: the Packers had 45 different players start last season. The Colts had 38. They were the two teams devastated by injuries more than any other last season. And yet, McCarthy and his staff got those players and guys off the street (in football terms anyway) ready to roll all the way to and through the Super Bowl.

That attitude has to permeate the entire organization and the players have to get it. Really get it. That starts in the preseason. And that's why Coach McCarthy played out the end of the game the way he did. And, apparently, to see the way the players reacted they definitely were taking this as not just another meaningless preseason game. They're getting it. To read a great article about McCarthy's choices at the end of the game, check out Rob Demovsky's piece at

One other good outcome, at least as far as we know, is that there were no major injuries. However, both Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley did get nicked up a bit before halftime. Nelson had a knee bruise and Finley sprained an ankle. Neither of them were going to play in the second half and both stayed in the locker room for treatment.

Next up: the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night at Lambeau Field in the preseason closer.

Go Pack Go!!!