Category Archives: Al Harris
It’s finally here. The weekend many of us Packers bloggers and fans have been waiting for: Throwback Weekend! No clue what I am talking about? Look here for all the details from our friends at CheeseheadTV.
Lost amongst all the hype for the festivities is that there is an actual game to be played at Lambeau Field on Sunday! The 5-0 defending world champion Green Bay Packers take on the 0-4 St. Louis Rams. The Packers will be wearing their 1929 throwback jerseys that they wore against the 49ers last season, hence why it is called “Throwback Weekend.”
Last Week in Review
The Packers got off to sluggish start against the Atlanta Falcons on national television, trailing 14-6 at the half. After the break however, the defense came alive and Aaron Rodgers kept doing his thing as the Packers shut out Atlanta in the second half and won 25-14. Rodgers completed 26 of 39 for 396 yards and two touchdowns while throwing to 12 (12!) different receivers.
The Rams mercifully had their bye week.
Rams players to watch
QB Sam Bradford
With the arrival in the offseason of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, it was expected that he would take Bradford’s game to the next level after his stellar rookie season a year ago.
We’re still waiting.
Bradford has all the tools. He’s smart, he’s accurate, and he’s poised. Of course, no quarterback can put up big numbers while on their back.
In four 2011, Bradford has completed 49.7% of his passes for three TDs and one INT. The glaring statistic is that he has been sacked 18 times (that’s more than four times a game).
With an aggressive Packers pass rush, Bradford’s life won’t be getting better any time soon.
RB Steven Jackson
Jackson does not run around you. He runs over you.
One of the most bruising backs in the league, Jackson has gone over the 100 yard mark each of the last two times he has faced the Packers. With a passing game that is struggling badly, Jackson will need to carry the load if he hopes to lead his team to victory.
Tracking the free agent status of Packers released this offseason, with the exception of Al Harris, who was released during the 2010 season.
UPDATE: Martin and the New York Giants agreed to a one-year contract on Monday, August 15.
The Packers released Martin on March 3.
Despite being an important special teams contributor, the Packers let go of Martin early in the offseason. Injuries likely played into the decision, as Martin suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Washington Redskins.
Little has surfaced about team’s potential interest in Martin, but I’d be shocked if he didn’t find a team for 2011.
The Packers released Poppinga on July 29.
UPDATE: Poppinga has reportedly agreed to a deal with the St. Louis Rams and was observing Rams practice on Tuesday night. He should get a chance to start at outside linebacker for St. Louis.
Much like Tauscher, Poppinga had similar factors working against him.
At 32 years old and coming off an ACL injury, Poppinga was due $2.34 million in 2011. For a guy that was going to be a backup and play primarily on special teams, that price tag was way too rich for the Packers liking.
He was also miscast in the Packers 3-4 defense, and he’ll likely look to team that runs the 4-3 as his next destination. Poppinga visited the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, but there was no word if a contract had been put in place.
The Packers released Barnett on July 29, saving $5.9 million in cap room. Barnett then signed a three-year, $12 million deal with Buffalo Bills on July 31.
The Bills got a serious upgrade at linebacker, as Barnett averaged almost 110 tackles in his first seven seasons with the Packers. He’ll bring a veteran presence to a team that needs leaders on defense.
Barnett was expendable to the Packers after Desmond Bishop had a breakout season in his absence. Green Bay signed Bishop to a four-year, $19 million contract in January, putting the writing on the wall for Barnett’s eventual release.
The Packers released Lee on March 3. On July 29, Lee signed a one-year, $850,000 contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Since we took a look at the Packers offense and Steelers defense the other day, let’s “do the Favre” and flip flop.
In part two, we’ll be looking at the matchup between Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers offense against Clay Matthews and the Green Bay Packers defense. While to some it may not be intriguing as the opposite matchup, this battle still obviously play a big role into which team walks away with the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night.
Pittsburgh Steelers offense
Much like the Packers, most of the attention on the offensive side of the ball for the Steelers is focused on their quarterback.
Roethlisberger, who missed the first four games of the season due to a suspension for his alleged role in a potential sexual assault case, plays a game very similar to the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers.
Oh, and with a couple notable differences: Big Ben is a bigger player and more powerful. Where Rodgers will burn you with pure finesse, Roethlisberger will beat you sheer power and brawn. In a situation where Rodgers will slide, Roethlisberger will barrel over a cornerback to get those precious few extra yards.
When you throw in the fact that he is a relative accurate quarterback, you find that Roethlisberger is one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. He has won two Super Bowls already and will be trying for his third in seven years against the Packers on Sunday. I also don’t have to remind Packer fans that Big Ben is also the toughest in the clutch. If the Steelers have the ball down by less than a touchdown with only two minutes or so to play in the game, Packer Nation ought to be sweating bullets.
Aside from the Roethlisberger, the Steelers normally feature a very solid and powerful rushing attack. Rashard Mendenhall is a solid back, but isn’t nearly as explosive as former Steelers back Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker. He faces a stiff challenge against the Packers rush defense on Sunday.
Another similarity between the Steelers and Packers offenses is that of the wide receiver position. Mike Wallace provides Roethlisberger’s deep threat while the physical Hines Ward is at his best in the middle of the field. Sounds a lot like Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, no?
The Packers enter the playoffs as the number six seed, but in a conference that features a 7-9 division champion, any team could come out of the NFC and head to Super Bowl XLV.
The first stop for the Packers on the road to Dallas is in Philadelphia for an encore match against the Eagles. In the first game of the regular season, the Packers beat the Eagles 27-20 after knocking then-starting quarterback for the Eagles Kevin Kolb out of the game and giving Michael Vick the opportunity to write one of the great comeback stories in NFL history.
Looking back at that game, the Packers had the Eagles well under control until Vick came into the game. He nearly led the Eagles back, but a couple well-timed sacks stopped the comeback just short and the Packers held on the victory.
With an entire week to game plan for Vick, will the Packers fare better against the elusive Eagles quarterback?
Breaking down the Eagles
Vick carried the Eagles this season. You can’t argue any other way.
In a season where coach Andy Reid was under the microscope after dealing Donovan McNabb away within the division, Vick played brilliantly and leads an incredibly explosive offense. With Vick’s dual running and passing threat, the Packers will have their hands full with No. 7.
Now, Vick is reported to be a little less than fully healthy for this game with him as of early this week saying he was only at 75% but will be ready to go Sunday.
Should the Packers be able to somehow contain Vick to the pocket, they will have to take in account speedy receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Vick also can use tight end Brent Celek as a medium distance threat. Running back LeSean McCoy also is very underrated and will provide another option for Vick in the screen game. Of course, this all depends on if the iffy Eagles offensive line can hold up.
Bottom line: Do not underestimate the Eagles offense. They are one of the few units in the NFL than can keep up on the scoreboard against the Packers’ offense.
Green Bay Packers 31, Minnesota Vikings 3. AT the Metrodome. Brett Favre considering early retirement (even if it was in a joking manner). Brad Childress pushed to the brink of unemployment. Vikings fighting amongst themselves and totally humiliated. For Packers fans, does it get any sweeter than this?
Well, let’s find out.
Submitted for your approval (or disapproval), here are my picks for the top five most satisfying Packers victories of the last decade:
5. Packers 42, Seahawks 20, January 12, 2008 NFC Divisional Playoffs
Ah, the “Snow Globe Game.” Also Favre’s final victory as a Packer.
The game started off poorly with two fumbles by Ryan Grant and the Seahawks, led by former Packers coach Mike Holmgren and former Packers backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, jumping out to an early 14-0 lead. It looked like the postseason struggles of the Mike Sherman regime had spilled over to successor Mike McCarthy. Or maybe not.
Favre played his last truly great cold weather game and Packers offense exploded to lead the team to a 42-20 victory. Grant more than made up for his early mistakes and carried the ball very well in a heavy snowstorm.
Unfortunately, we all know how that season ended.
4. Packers 34, Raiders 7, December 22, 2003
No matter how much you may despise Favre right now this game still likely will bring a tear to your eye.
A day after losing his father to a heart attack, No. 4 played the game of his life under the most adverse of circumstances. With the Packers needing a win to keep their division title hopes alive and playing on national television, Favre had a masterful performance throwing for 399 yards and four touchdowns.
Favre’s emotional address to the team as well as postgame interview showed how much the game meant to him. Already a legend in Green Bay, this single performance doubled the size of his legacy. Packers fans knew then that he had their back and they had his. It was a match made in heaven. Little did we know at the time an even sweeter victory was two weeks away.
3. Packers 33, Seahawks 27, January 4, 2004 NFC Wild Card Playoffs
“We want the ball, and we’re gonna score!”
I just finished arguing with my dad about Brad Childress. My dad blames all of the Vikings’ problems on Childress. I am not a Childress defender, but I contend that blaming Childress for all of the Vikings’ problems is a convenient way for the players, many of whom are considered among the best at their respective positions, to not take responsibility for their ineptitude.
My dad says that it is up to the coach to get the most out of his players, and that if the players underperform, it is the coach’s fault and he should be fired. I think that’s letting multi-millionaire players off the hook a little too easy, but both of us are technically right. Of course, the whole argument got me thinking about the Packers and Mike McCarthy.
I’ve taken my shots at McCarthy for his playcalling this season. I was also critical of his decision to go for the touchdown on 4thand goal from the 1-yard line against the Redskins. It is common for people to criticize the coach for his playcalling or in-game decisions. It happens all the time and it comes with the territory for any coach.
Sometimes criticisms are made using rational arguments backed up by research and a deep knowledge of the game of football. Sometimes they are made by rubeshaving emotional overreactions. Second-guessing playcalls and in-game decisions is easy (and fun!). The whole world sees what happens on the field, either in real-time or after the fact, and offers an opinion on whether it was a good or bad decision.
But what about the things a coach does that we don’t get to see with our own eyes every Sunday? A good coach deserves credit for whatever it is he does behind the scenes, even though it is nearly impossible for those of us on the outside to quantify.
The Packers have been through a lot with McCarthy: the Favre divorce, breaking in a new quarterback, a bad start last season and a rash of injuries this season. McCarthy also has always had one of the youngest rosters in the league.
Through it all, the Packers have performed well. Even though we might not be able to pinpoint exactly what McCarthy does behind the scenes to keep the team together and moving forward, he deserves credit for it. After observing McCarthy over the years, I feel he excels in three “unquantifiable areas” that I can say with relative certainty make the Packers better.