10

January

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Playoff Edition–Packers 21, Eagles 16

The Green Bay Packers defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 21-16 in a nail-biting NFC Wild Card game Sunday afternoon. The Packers now move on to face the Atlanta Falcons Saturday night in the divisional round for the right to play in the NFC championship game.

After jumping out to a 14-0 lead, the Packers let the explosive Michael Vick and the Eagles offense back into the game, but the defense made enough plays at crucial moments to extend the Packers’ season another week.

There were plenty of highlights and even some lowlights to look at, so let’s jump right into Game Balls and Lame Calls: Playoff Edition.

Game Ball

QB Aaron Rodgers

While he didn’t eat up the Eagles defense for big chunks of yardage, Rodgers did throw three touchdown passes and had pinpoint accuracy throughout the game.

He spread the ball around to multiple receivers and served notice to the rest of the playoff field that the Packers have multiple weapons and you cannot shut them all down. Throw in Rodgers’ scrambling ability and you have an incredibly dangerous quarterback and offense.
More importantly and more significantly, he became the first Packers quarterback not named Brett Favre to win a playoff game since Lynn Dickey on January 8, 1983. That’s eight months almost to the day before I was born folks. That would be a long time.

Oh yeah, and he did something Favre couldn’t: he won a tight playoff game in Philadelphia.

Congrats to Rodgers on his first playoff win. Hopefully, it’s the first of certainly many more to come.

RB James Starks

The hype over this kid has gone to beyond a level of even a Tim Tebow amongst Packers fans, but in the biggest game of the year Starks came up. BIG.

Running for 123 yards (it was easy as 1-2-3!) behind an offensive line that was the Packers’ biggest Achilles heel a season ago, Starks showed how dangerous the Packers can be with a strong rushing attack. It’s been assumed that since Ryan Grant went down with a season-ending injury that Rodgers would have to carry the team on his arm and for 95% of the season he has.

Now, with the Packers’ rushing attack and in particular Starks’ emergence, the Packers have achieved a balance offense and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

Looking ahead to 2011, the Packers could have quite a two-pronged rushing attack with Starks and Grant. Combine that with Rodgers and a healthy Jermichael Finley and 2011 could be huge.

That said, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The 2010 season is still rolling and Starks was a huge reason way.

CB Tramon Williams

Big time players step up in playoff games.

Today, even though he made the Pro Bowl, Williams became a 100% genuine big time player after intercepting Vick with under a minute to go in the end zone, making an incredible leaping grab to seal the win for the Packers.

With Charles Woodson experiencing an “off year,” (I use that term VERY loosely FYI) many would have expected the Packers secondary to have been in deep trouble but with Williams’ emergence the unit hasn’t missed a step. In fact, he made fan favorite Al Harris expendable, so the Packers released the healing cornerback halfway through the season.

Williams was undrafted and is further proof that Packers general manager Ted Thompson’s system of drafting and developing players instead of making many big splashes in free agency works brilliantly and works at a price friendly to player and franchise.

Lame Calls

Head Coach Mike McCarthy

Two weeks in a row for the Packers’ fearless leader?
Yes, and no this is not Jersey Al ghostwriting. To steal a line from Cheesehead Radio, McCarthy did some things that really “moved my cheese curds.”

First was the atrocious play calling at the end of the first half. The Packers offense had plenty of momentum and instead it seemed like McCarthy just twisted in the wind as the clock continued to wind down. With the Packers up 14-3, another touchdown or even a field goal going into halftime could have buried the Eagles especially with the Packers receiving the second half kickoff.

Once again, McCarthy seemed content with a good lead at the half instead of HUGE lead. I suppose he has confidence in his defense to protect the lead, as he has every right to, but the memory of the sudden offensive explosion sin the last half of the Cardinals playoff game last year should have been fresh in his head.

My only theory on the matter is that the dumb drop by James Jones on that deep ball threw the offense through a big loop. McCarthy and Rodgers obviously had something they liked there, figured the play was absolute money, and trusted Jones enough to make the catch.

Oopsie daisy.

The second issue I had with McCarthy was the overly conservative play calling as the Packers were trying to keep the clock running late in the fourth quarter. Yes, you normally want to run the ball there but with your quarterback dialed in, the Packers could easily have had Rodgers either dump a pass to Starks in the flat or a short pass in the middle of the field.
I understand he trusts he defense but with a weapon like Vick on the opposing sideline, however hobbled, anything could happen.

WR James Jones

Since when did Jones replace Bart Simpson as chief spokesman for Butterfinger?

In what has become a bad habit, Jones dropped another perfectly thrown deep ball by Rodgers that would have been an easy six and would have put the Eagles on the ropes instead of feeling like they still had a shot. The Packers went for the kill and Jones whiffed.

Plays like that can’t happen in the playoffs. Period. After that play, Jones was seen on the sideline and the coaching staff obviously was worried about repeat offense. I would not be surprised in the least if Jordy Nelson and Jones swapped places on the depth chart for the remainder of the postseason and maybe even next season.

FOX Sports Producers

As you MIGHT just be aware , the Packers lost a playoff game in Philadelphia in 2004 after the defense gave up that famous fourth and 26 play that ended up getting then-defensive coordinator Ed Donatell fired and perhaps marked the jumping of the shark moment of the Mike Sherman regime.

If you weren’t aware of it, you for sure are today as the producers at FOX felt it necessary to remind a national TV audience of that play seemingly every five minutes. It wasn’t quite Bill Buckner in 1986, but that play still makes Packer fans sick. Next to the NFC Championship Game against the Giants, this perhaps was the most heartbreaking loss in recent Packers history.

Apparently FOX wanted to push every Packer fan’s sanity to edge and remind them of that team’s ineptitude. Most of the players on the current Packer team weren’t present for the debacle so they didn’t see any ghosts from their own past out there.

Still some demons were exorcised for the fans and FOX felt it necessary to tell Packer fans this game could blow up in their faces at any given moment.

So the 2010-11 season edition of Game Balls and Lame Calls has to wait and I couldn’t be more pleased.

It’s on to Atlanta.

What are your Game Balls and Lame Calls for this glorious win?

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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36 Responses to “Game Balls and Lame Calls: Playoff Edition–Packers 21, Eagles 16”

  1. Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

    Didn’t realize we were so close in age, Kris. I was born 45 days after 1983 playoff game.

    “My only theory on the matter is that the dumb drop by James Jones on that deep ball threw the offense through a big loop.”

    I was wondering the exact same thing. A bit of a “we took our shot and it didn’t work” deal. Though I think they could have gotten in range for a field goal.

    And my last comment: Starks makes me a happy fan. Good to see him step up in a big way today.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Kris Burke Kris Burke says:

      I can’t knock McCarthy for trusting his player. That’s what a coach should do. That said, a field goal would have been nice too. Any points are.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Chazman says:

    Very excited about the win. Game balls to Rodgers, Starks and the defense. My lame call is for McCarthy and since we won it’s a little nit picky but something that absolutely drives me nuts – I understand running the ball late, I really do, but would it kill him to throw in a play-action pass on second down instead of running Starks into an expectant defense? Maybe its because he’s not used to having a running game but the play-action late in a game when we are killing time would be lethal for our offense. Especially when McCarthy goes into time killing mode in a one-score game. Now if we were up by two scores I can see it.
    Still, we won and I’m a happy camper.
    GO PACK GO!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

    • Kris Burke Kris Burke says:

      At least we found one coach worse at time management than McCarthy: Andy Reid

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by packernation and others. packernation said: Game Balls and Lame Calls: Playoff Edition–Packers 21, Eagles 16 http://bit.ly/eQWg0z [...]

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  4. Ron LC says:

    I sincerely hope that they DVR’d the Fox coveage of the Jones drop. Seeing that from 52 different angles and repeated 63 times was kinda pushing the envelope. However, I think I have a use for it. Take that part of the recording and lock Jones in a small hot room. Then force him to watch it over and over and over. Maybe then he will begin to watch the ball into his hands.

    Let’s not forgive the others. Jennings two ball control drops and Driver one.

    Do somehting about the 3 or four man rush with Deep Zone coverage. Ryan and Turner will eat that up.

    Finally, there are 4 quarters in an NFL football game. MM are you listening?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      So, you want to go Clockwork Orange on Jones – I like it!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    • Kris Burke Kris Burke says:

      The WRs as a whole have had drop issues this year, as has been stated all over the Packers blogosphere. Jones, however,has had the problem for years and hasn’t improved. He needs to sit the rest of the playoffs.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

    My Game Balls:

    James ‘Neo” Starks
    Tramon Williams
    David Akers

    Lame calls:

    Mike McCarthy’s stopwatch
    James “greasy hands” Jones

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • A_Lerxst_in_Packerland says:

      Al – Akers on the Game Ball list – brilliant! That cracks me up.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Kris Burke Kris Burke says:

      Apparently Eagles fans were all over Reid after the game, but Akers really shoulders most of the blame. It was windy, though.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. Pete Kliman says:

    The bloggers and writers on this site that blame McCarthy are the lame calls and McCarthy gets the game ball. If the Pack threw the ball in those situations and a disaster occured ,which I have seen many times,you would be screaming.Watch the other playoff games where coaches have made McCarthy look great.Case in point Carrol,he ran almost the identical play 3 times with no success in a crucial pt. in his game.Fourteen players on IR,we advance against a formidable opponent, in a very hostile setting and you guys are criticizing the head coach.The defense played a big part in allowing the Eagles to come back with poor tackling.Now that I got that out of the way I can go and enjoy this victory with the POSITIVE & HAPPY Packer fans. BYE

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      Ironically Pete, Kris is usually McCarthy’s biggest supporter (after you, of course). Remember that nobody does a perfect job, so it’s OK question some things. I for one, am not that upset about the final drive. Yes, McCarthy got conservative as he always does with a lead, but with the Packers defense, it’s probably the right thing to do. I thought McCarthy called an excellent game overall. Hell, we even saw a planned flare pass to a running back. When was the last time? I’m good with McCarthy today – except for the clock management before the half – don’t get me started on that.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Dave D says:

      Most of Packers losses this season are on MM. The Packers dominated Chicago and lost, Washington and lost, Atlanta and lost, New England and lost. Not having the killer instinct keeps teams in the game when they should be blown out. When New England dominates a team they blow them away on the scoreboard. Yesterday, we dominated the Eagles and if the last play is an interference call or a lucky grab they lose!

      MM is great in preparation but game day needs a lot of work!

      Not criticizing just saying…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

      • Pete Kliman says:

        Chi.-Jones fumble at crucial time ,Wash.-Matthews gets injured after dominating.Atl.-after last min. TD def. can’t hold on for less than a min.New ENG.-Flyn over throws an open rec. at end of game.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      • all of our wins are on MM ALSO,i know this guy dave d personally,WE GREW UP TOGETHER IN NJ and although a great guy, he is clueless when it comes to MM. MM is growing into his position with a chip on his shoulder. we need to get the men in the white coats and go after anyone who wants MM fired……ps GET THE NETTTTTTTT

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

        • o yea dave, were in the playoffs and we beat ur eagles,dave also likes the eagles because of his late father who was the best and his nutty brother who is a crazy eagles fan…last team to beat eagles twice in philly was the giants in the early 80s

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. FireMMNow says:

    I disagree with you Kris about MM. I think this was one of his better games. His playcalling was great in my opinion. The end of the first half was not really MM’s fault. He took his shot, Jones dropped it and then we get a delay of game. I think he felt the offense had lost its focus and just wanted to get to the locker room without making a mistake. If Jones makes that catch we are talking how great MM was.

    I love how he started the game. Previously when we had switched tackles we ran behind bulaga. this game we ran a boot for an easy completion. He got Rodgers in a rhythm early. Stuck with the run.

    He did take his foot off the gas, but that is nothing new with McCarthy. I thought this was his least predictable gameplan, and as the Fox announcers noted McDermott was having trouble keeping up with MMs personnel groupings.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      This is weird. FireMMNow praising McCarthy and Kris criticizing. Bizzaro world is here.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      • Pete Kliman says:

        I feel like the old man in the movie Moonstruck when he said,”I’m confused”.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      • Kris Burke Kris Burke says:

        Anything can happen in the playoffs. Any given Sunday. Whatever.

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    • Pete Kliman says:

      Very insightful explanation of what happened at the end of the half.It’s amazing how a playoff win can make even me and you agree.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Kris Burke Kris Burke says:

      The multiple packages were neat to see. My issue is the clock management.

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  8. Corky DeYulio of the Geneva, NY Packer Backers says:

    I agree about the over-exposure regarding the 4th-and-26 play. That play resulted in the Eagles driving for a score that TIED the game and put it into overtime. The Packers were still in a position to win the game. That play didnt LOSE the game. Diva Favre’s STUPID interception he threw up for grabs in OT lost that game.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Kris Burke Kris Burke says:

      Of course, the national folks made this about Rodgers coming out of Favre’s shadow. Little did they know Packer fans were over that last year.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. David Beyer says:

    Only a blind person didn’t see that eagle player pushing our player into that ball. He was looking down at it as he moved the player toward the ball. Thank God their kicker had a bad day. We would be home watching and still have that monkee.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Russell says:

    Now the rest of the country knows why the Bears didn’t want the Packers in the playoffs!
    ….running the ball now? …Scary!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Rob Domaine says:

    Solid win over the weekend Al. Thanks for knocking out the hated Eagles lol. Keep this thing rolling and get the ring!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. ken hermann says:

    Lame: 2 point attempt at end of game—-officials said 10 yard penalty for stepping back in bounds but put ball at 7 yard line.

    Then on last punt by GB, the Eagles were called for holding at 32 yard line—-ball after penalty was placed at around 40 yard line—i.e. 10 yard from where LeShaun was tackled—-penalities are suppose to be from where hold was. Ball should have been at 22 yard line and not 40 yard line.

    Lame: 4th and goal—-ball did not break the line, as camera showed from up above—the ball was on his hip.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Ken Hermann says:

      Lame: 4th and goal GB stopped them—-note the officials did not signal touchdown—-they ran up there to the players—waited and looked and then raised their hand–only 1 official—as they succumed to the boos of the people—to be cheers.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      I thought the ball broke the plane.

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  13. Joshua Emmanuel Isaacson says:

    I feel i clearly saw his elbow w/ the ball clear the plane. I felt the same way initially but i reviewed it a few times on the DVR and it looked clear

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  14. no doubt a td hawk was half second late to hole

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