Category Archives: 2010 – 2011 Season

8

November

Packers Periscope: Week 10 vs. Philadelphia Eagles

The Past

Last time these two teams met was in the NFC wildcard game in 2010.  However, the Packers got to experience the beast that they themselves had created; during the season opener Clay Matthews III knocked out starting quarterback Kevin Kolb with a concussion, which paved the way for the resurgence of Michael Vick, who had been just released from jail after pleading guilty to operating a dog fighting ring.  With the more dynamic Vick leading the way with vertical receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles boasted one of the most dangerous offenses that head coach Andy Reid had ever fielded.

However, during the playoffs the Eagles failed to get much going on offense while the Packers watched as rookie James Starks, who had been hobbled by injuries all season, burst onto the scene with 123 yards rushing, a Packers record for a rookie running back in the playoffs and saw a little glimpse of what was to come in their stunning 2011 season when an unknown undrafted rookie blocking tight end named Tom Crabtree made his first touchdown reception by sneaking past a linebacker.

On special teams, the Packers didn’t make many mistakes, which couldn’t be said for the Eagles as kicker David Akers left 6 points off the board with two missed field goals.  The Packers also enjoyed several big plays on defense, notably Clay Matthews completely destroying tackle Winston Justice and a last minute end zone interception by Tramon Williams that pushed the Packers into the divisional round against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Present

A lot has changed for the Eagles since the 2010 playoff game.  13 year incumbent Andy Reid was replaced by college football phenomenon Chip Kelly, who had lead the Oregon Ducks to a 46-7 record with 4 bowl appearances with his fast-paced, spread offense.  While Kelly and his super speed offense sent shockwaves throughout the NFL after their opening game against the Redskins after calling 53 plays in the first half, the rest of the NFL adjusted and the Eagles have been the epitome of “up and down” with some thrilling victories and some crushing defeats which explains the 5-3 record.

While Michael Vick still holds the starting quarterback position in name, Nick Foles has made a case to remain under center after a record breaking 7 touchdown, 158.3 QB rating touchdown performance last week against the Oakland Raiders.  On the other side of the ball, the Eagles defense has been largely ineffective, sorting out much like the Green Bay Packers in terms of defensive efficiency.

8

October

Raiders Release Matt Flynn: The Packers Should Bring Him Back

In a bit of shocking news that shouldn’t surprise anyone (as paradoxical as that sounds), the Oakland Raiders have released Matt Flynn after being demoted to 3rd string after a dismal showing against the Washington Redskins, who Packers fans are quite aware are currently fielding one of the worst defense this year.  The shocking bit is that the Raiders traded for Flynn with the Seahawks this offseason and brought over his $6.5 million guaranteed salary for 2014.  While this might not seem like much for a potential starting quarterback, keep in mind this is the Oakland Raiders, who have been so marred by the salary cap left behind by Al Davis that they literally needed to pinch every penny this year just to stay cap compliant.  So while Flynn’s performance certainly has justified his release, his contract (in context with the Raiders) make him prohibitively expense to let go.

Of course, Matt Flynn is still remembered by Packers fans as the guy with the lumberjack beard who managed to break all sorts of records against the Lions in 2011 and had a pretty good showing against a dominant New England Patriots defense in 2010.  Packers fans will also be quick to point out the disaster of an offseason where Graham Harrell never progressed, BJ Coleman got worse and Vince Young never figured it out.  In the end, the Packers settled on Seneca Wallace, who has experience but is essentially an unknown as he hasn’t appeared on the field.  I’m sure a lot of fans are hoping that the Packers sign back Flynn, bring back some known stability and maybe even resuscitate a career that’s been blown off course.  On the other hand, many fans will be quick to point out that Flynn was unable to beat either Wilson or Pyror despite coming into the season as the starter and in his brief showings with the Seahawks and Raiders looked out of place and unable to lead his team.

24

September

Packers Need a Signature Win to Get Back Over the Mountain

The Packers beating the Jets was a signature win in 2010.

It seems like forever ago when everyone pegged the Packers as the NFL’s next dynasty.

It was only natural for people – including many in the Packers organization – to talk about a dynasty after winning Super Bowl XLV. A young team with a budding superstar at quarterback had just won it all with a ton of players on injured reserve. Talk of a dynasty was justified.

All that dynasty talk disappeared after the Packers went 15-1 in 2011, only to suffer an embarrassing loss to the Giants in their first playoff game.

Potential to production
Let’s rewind even further, back before the word dynasty was even in the vocabulary of Packers fans. In 2009, the Packers went on a nice run in the second half of the season to make the playoffs before losing a wild-card shootout with the Cardinals.

The 2010 season was supposed to be when the Packers took the next step. All that young talent was primed and ready to go from promising to great. Potential was to be replaced with production. Rebuilding with results. Playoff failure with playoff victory.

After six games, none of that happened. Midway through the 2010 season, Green Bay was 3-3, beat up, and spinning its wheels — stuck near the top of the mountain, unable to vault over it.

Then the Packers rattled off four straight wins, overcame a rough patch down the stretch, made the playoffs, and won the whole damn thing. The Packers not only made it over the mountain, they occupied the mountain, planted a green and gold flag on it, and claimed the mountain as their own.

They even chiseled the faces of Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy into the side of the mountain to create their own Packers Mt. Rushmore.

Falling off the mountain
Throughout the entire 2011 season, whenever another team tried to climb Packers Mountain, the Packers kicked them back down.

Then the Giants rolled into Lambeau Field for a divisional round playoff game, kicked the Packers off their own mountain, and sprayed graffiti all over the faces on Packers Mt. Rushmore.

Oh well. It was disappointing, but it happens. Mountains are high and often have difficult terrain. Every now and then, you’re going to slip and fall off.

5

September

Are the 49ers still Tougher than the Packers?

The 49ers still are tougher than the Packers…for now.

The San Francisco 49ers beat the hell out of the Green Bay Packers last season. Twice.

In week one, the 49ers ran for 186 yards and averaged almost six yards per carry. Alex Smith had only six incomplete passes and routinely hit wide open receivers hanging out in the middle of the field, unafraid of being laid out by Packers defenders.

In the divisional round of the playoffs, things got even uglier. Colin Kaepernick ran for 181 yards and threw for 263 more. When Kaepernick took off, he made Packers’ defenders look like lead-footed, lifeless zombies in a scene from The Walking Dead.

All of that damage was easy for even the average viewer to see while watching from his or her couch. If you broke down the film after the game and paid attention to what was happening in the trenches, things got even uglier for the Packers.

The 49ers offensive line operated like a machine — a modern, deadly, ruthless machine that was sent to Earth specifically to blow Packers defenders off the line of scrimmage, seal off the edges and create giant spaces for guys like Frank Gore and Kaepernick to gallop through.

When compared to the Packers offensive line, the 49ers wrecking crew was on a completely different level. The Packers allowed 20 quarterback hurries in the two games and never established the run. Green Bay’s front five always seemed to be flailing as yet another San Francisco defender broke through and set his sights on Aaron Rodgers.

The middle of the field — where both toughness and athleticism have a chance to shine — was also heavily tilted in the 49ers favor. Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis, the 49ers two middle linebackers, combined for 30 tackles, a key interception and a sack.

In the week 1 loss, Alex Smith consistently found open receivers in the middle of the field while Kapernick simply ran by, through and around whoever happened to be manning the middle for the Packers in the playoffs.

A.J. Hawk totaled 22 tackles, but were any of them impact plays?

The 49ers left little doubt last season that they were tougher than the Packers. With the two teams set to meet again this Sunday, have the tables turned at all?

27

June

Packers Playbook, Part 4: The Psycho Defense

Packers Playbook LogoIn our fourth part of this series, we are going to take a look at the Green Bay Packers’ variation on their nickel defense, the “Psycho.” Dom Capers first unveiled it against the Chicago Bears in 2009 to much success. As its name implies, the goal is to create mass confusion for the offensive linemen and the quarterback.

Explaining the Formation

The Psycho package is a nickel defense, and as we covered in the last part of this series, this means that there are five defensive backs on the field. Compared to the basic 2-4-5 nickel defense that the Packers like to use, this one adds an extra linebacker in place of a defensive lineman. Thus, you have a 1-5-5 formation that is significantly difference in nature.

While we all like to give Dom Capers credit for his “mad scientist” concoctions for the defense, it’s important to note that this is not a formation exclusive to him or the Packers. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been utilizing this type of package since before the Packers, and the NFL has also seen it with the New England Patriots defense and with Rob Ryan’s defenses (among others). I’m also sure many of you Madden NFL fans have come across it in the video game.

As previously stated, the goal of this formation is to create confusion. By that definition, it could be considered a natural extension of the 3-4 philosophy – creating flexibility and unpredictability. Replacing one of the linemen with a linebacker allows the defense to more effectively hide where the pressure is coming from and where it is going to.

When you see the Psycho package on the field, you will notice the linebackers all mingling in front of the line of the scrimmage. They don’t line up in a specific point and will continue to roam until the ball is snapped. Even the lone defensive linemen will take a two-point stance rather than putting his hand in the dirt. This creates problems for the quarterback and offensive line when setting their protections, and if they are unprepared, it will cause them a lot of heartache.

18

June

Is Aaron Rodgers Getting Too Old For the Green Bay Packers?

Football is a young man’s sport and even more so with the Green Bay Packers.  Since the introduction of Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy as the Packers general manager and head coach respectively, the Packers has consistently fielded one of the youngest rosters in the league.  In particular, Ted Thompson’s acumen for finding talented college players coupled with his penchant for ignoring free agency usually means there are a lot of players with little or no previous experience in the NFL.  The Packers have also been ruthless with aging veterans, where seemingly no player is safe; Charles Woodson, Cullen Jenkins, Chad Clifton, Marco Rivera, Mike Wahle, Darren Sharper were big name players all dumped to the curbside in favor of younger, cheaper options.

There is one exception of course and that’s the quarterback; while Ted Thompson probably believes he can replace just about every player on his roster with someone younger who can be equally talented (and overall he’s been right), even Ted Thompson realizes that quarterbacks are a different breed and the best are diamonds in the rough.  Aaron Rodgers is one of those quarterbacks and Ted Thompson made is clear that he’s not going to be replaced anytime soon by making him the highest paid player in the history of the NFL.

However, while Rodgers is here to stay for the long haul, the same can’t be said for the rest of the roster.  And as Rodgers continues to get older while the rest of the team gets younger, it’s naturally going to cause some issues.  One famous example was with Brett Favre and Randy Moss.  As told by Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post, in 2007 both the Packers and Patriots were interested in trading for Randy Moss, who had languished for 2 years with the Oakland Raiders.  At the end of the day, New England made the better deal and Moss was a Patriot.  Brett Favre was “livid” not only because he had long admired Moss while he was a Vikings but also because the Packers philosophy of building for the future did not work for Favre; Brandt mentions he told Favre he felt Greg Jennings would be a star in a couple years (which ultimately turned out to be true), but Favre countered that he didn’t have a couple years to wait (which also turned out to be ultimately be true).  In the end, Favre knew he only had a couple good years of football left and felt like the Packers were shortchanging him when instead they should have been giving him more ammo for one last push for a Super Bowl.  Obviously in retrospect, Ted Thompson was right to build the future (Aaron Rodgers), but had Rodgers not panned out, Favre would have been correct where sacrificing some of the future for the present would have been the better option.

20

May

Packers Jarrett Bush has Managed to Stick Around

Jarrett Bush

Packers CB Jarrett Bush has stuck with the team since 2006.

The pitchforks were out and the torches were lit after the 2009 season. Packers fans wanted cornerback Jarrett Bush off the team.

I admit that I was one of those Packers fans holding a torch high in one hand and a pitchfork in the other. I was sick of seeing Bush stumbling three yards behind a receiver after a double move left him in the dust and led to another touchdown against the Packers.

Ted Thompson has never paid much attention to the pitchfork- and torch-wielding sector of the Packers’ fanbase, and he held true to that philosophy with Bush. Now the undrafted free agent out of Utah St. and claimed by the Packers off waivers from Carolina is one of the longest-tenured Packers, a good special teams player and, dare I say it, somewhat beloved by fans.

I say “somewhat” because if Bush ever ends up playing significantly as a defensive back again, it will probably get ugly and fans will turn on him again. But as long as he remains the blue-collar, hard-working leader of the special teams unit, the love for Bush will only get stronger.

Admit it: When Bush picked off Ben Roethlisberger in the Super Bowl, you slapped yourself and wondered aloud if you just watched Jarrett Bush intercept a pass in the Super Bowl. For the Green Bay Packers. In January of 2011.

That play sticks in my mind to this day. Bush, a player who didn’t even get love from the fanbase of the team he played for, kept plugging away and made an impact when called upon to do so on the biggest stage.

If you were paying attention throughout the 2010 season, you would have noticed Bush making an impact on special teams. On Packers teams not known for their physicality and tackling, Bush goes as hard as anyone on special teams and is never afraid to stick his nose in the middle of the action and attempt to make a tackle.

Ever since Bush has been able to focus on special teams (albeit for one start in the 2012 season opener that didn’t go well), he’s found a place in Green Bay as a veteran and emotional leader.