16

February

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter announced this week that he will retire after the 2014 season. I’m not a Yankees fan and I usually root against the Bronx Bombers in the playoffs, but I always liked and respected Jeter.

Jeter was really good. He came across as a nice guy. He never got into legal trouble. He chased around beautiful women. And he projected an aura of coolness without coming across as overly arrogant. There really wasn’t anything to dislike about the guy.

As a Packers fan, what’s the closest comparison to Jeter in the NFL? What player caused the Packers a lot of grief over the years, but you still liked, respected, and even found yourself cheering for if he wasn’t playing the Packers?

Here are mine:

Barry Sanders
I don’t think you can call yourself a football fan if you didn’t enjoy watching Sanders. Yes, he had all the fancy footwork and juke and jive moves, but he would also put his head down and crash forward. An amazing spectacle on the field and a class act off of it.

Adrian Peterson
It’s absolutely terrorizing to watch Peterson manhandle the Packers defense. He’s a total mismatch for the light-hitting and reactionary Dom Capers D. But man, everything about Peterson just screams football. He’s the perfect package of grace, grit, explosiveness, elusiveness, resiliency and toughness.

Charles “Peanut” Tillman
It’s maddening to watch Tillman punch the ball out and force fumbles against the Packers. It’s a thing of beauty when he does it to other teams. Tillman has forced 40 fumbles in his 10-year career, including a mind-boggling 10 in 2012.

Larry Allen
This one is kind of obscure, but I always respected the Cowboys offensive line during their glory years and Allen was an absolute monster paving the way for Emmitt Smith. Allen could bench 705 pounds, squat 905 and became a hall-of-famer in 2013. He’s not the first player that comes to mind when thinking about players that gave the Packers trouble, but he deserves to be on the list.

Let me know who makes your list in the comments section.

Packers news, notes and links

22

November

Packers Periscope: Week 12 vs Minnesota Vikings

The Past: The Packers played their last game at the Mall of America Field at the Metrodome in week 8 and showed exactly how dangerous a balanced Packers offense could be.  In short, the offense was brutally efficient; even without Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley, quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 24 passes out of 29 for 285 yards and two touchdowns to Jordy Nelson while adding 31 yards on 6 scrambles.  However the running attack needed no help from Rodgers this time as Eddie Lacy ground the Vikings defense for 94 yards on 29 carries and a touchdown while James Starks provided the change of pace with 57 yards on only 7 carries (8.1 ypc) and a touchdown.

On defense, the loss of Clay Matthews and Nick Perry certainly didn’t help with the pass rush, but with Adrian Peterson’s body obviously starting to break down plus a “give up” call to put Christian Ponder back after perhaps the worst quarterback play in the history of the NFL by Josh Freeman the week against the Giants before left the Vikings offense in shambles; Peterson only managed 60 yards on a paltry 13 attempts while Ponder completed 50% of his passes for only 145 yards.

Perhaps the most interesting story of the night happened after the game where Greg Jennings purposefully pulled Aaron Rodgers aside and proceeded to awkwardly hug/presumable apologize for about 5 minutes to which Rodgers just nodded dutifully.  Neither Rodgers nor Jennings has fully disclosed what was said on the field, but as both players might be watching from the sidelines this game probably means that this will be a non-issue for either team (not that that will stop the media from covering it like it was).

The Present: The Vikings are perhaps as injury riddled in key positions as the Packers are, which is no small task.  Star running back Adrian Peterson has been hobbled by a groin injury and hasn’t been as explosive as he once was.  Leading wide receiver Greg Jennings was a surprise scratch from last weeks game against the Seattle Seahawks, much to the dismay of head coach Leslie Frasier. If Jennings does indeed miss his homecoming against the Packers, how much of it will because he simply doesn’t want to be on the field when he knows he can’t win back the fans?  The Vikings still also have questions at quarterback, Josh Freeman was expected to see the field at some point after recovering from his concussion due to his relatively large contract, but hasn’t seen the field as Matt Cassel played in relief of starter Christian Ponder when he dislocated his shoulder two weeks ago.  Aside from Christian Ponder’s shoulder injury, he will also be without his favorite target in tight end Kyle Rudolph, who is likely to be out with a broken foot.

27

October

Packers vs. Vikings: Keys To The Game

Christian Ponder

Ponder will step in for last week’s Vikings starting quarterback Josh Freeman. The Vikings have started three different quarterbacks so far this season.

The Green Bay Packers bring their three-game winning streak into Mall of America Field to face the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night football.  Maybe it’s just the old school in me that “Mall of America Field” doesn’t roll easily off the tongue.  It’s the Metrodome, the Humpty Dome, The Dome or in some instances, “Hell”, right?

Either way, this is the last time that the Packers will face the Vikings in that building.  The plan, after this season, is for Minnesota to play their home games at TCF Stadium for two years while their new stadium is expected to be built in the same spot that the Dome currently sits.

The Vikings have to be hoping that a change in venue might lead to some improvement in their play.  They currently sit at a disappointing 1-5 and just handed the previously-winless New York Giants their first win of the season this past Monday night.

While this has the makings of an easier game for the Packers, divisional matchups always carry an added element of competitiveness and especially on the road.  Let’s look at the keys for Green Bay to leave Minnesota with the win that many are expecting for them.

Fast Start, Dictate the Tempo

The Vikings have struggled in nearly every area so far this season.  They have trotted out three different starting quarterbacks and have not been able to establish any type of offensive rhythm at all.  Defensively, they have not been much better and they are now without safety Harrison Smith, who is dealing with a toe injury.  If there is one area of deficiency that can most disastrous against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, it’s the secondary.

While the Packers will continue to showcase their more physical side and establish the run, Rodgers should be looking for the deep ball early on.  Rodgers is one of the league leaders in completed passes over 25 yards from scrimmage.  While Green Bay isn’t likely to find their 2011 stroke, they have had more success in pushing the ball downfield over their past three games.  A quick, early strike and a quick score can set the tone and put the Vikings on their heels right away.

8

January

Packers Stock Report: We Got a Bye Week After All Edition (with Podcast)

DuJuan Harris

Packers RB DuJuan Harris scores in the first quarter of Saturday night’s playoff games against the Vikings.

I was at Lambeau for the Packers  bye week   NFC wild-card round victory over the Vikings on Saturday night. I have a couple of questions:

1. Should we be excited about the defensive performance? Or chalk it up to playing against Joe Webb?

2. How awesome is Aaron Rodgers?

3. Will the Packers turn in one of their “we’re nobody’s underdogs” performances against the 49ers?

4. What should we do with people (and I was kind of one of them) who thought the Packers defense was better without Woodson?

5. Since when did the Packers replace the Lambeau PA announcer with a guy from the NBA? Too much screaming, too much nonsense. Packers fans are capable of getting loud without gimmicks.

Now I will attempt to answer my own questions:

1. Somewhat excited.

2. Very.

3. Yes.

4. Ban them from blogging.

5. I already kind of answered this one. On to the stock report:

Rising

Aaron Rodgers
How many other quarterbacks can make the throw where Rodgers rolled right and hit Jordy Nelson inside the 5-yard line? Very few, if any. Rodgers has been excellent the last two weeks. If he keeps it going against the 49ers, I like the Packers’ chances.

Clay Matthews
Every week, the size of Matthews’ new contract gets bigger and bigger. Matthews kept himself under control on Saturday and rarely got out of position while rushing Webb or trying to corral Adrian Peterson.  You know a player is on a roll when he gets blocked to the ground, but manages to get a sack anyway because the quarterback trips over his prone body.

DuJuan Harris
I thought Harris might have lost his hot-hand status after he dropped a third-down pass on the Packers’ first possession. But McCarthy stuck with the car salesman turned starting running back in the NFL playoffs and it paid off. Harris runs to daylight and doesn’t make it easy for the other team to prevent him from getting to that daylight. He’s an ideal back to run behind a more powerful line with Don Barclay and Evan Dietrich-Smith (although Dietrich-Smith graded out poorly according to Pro Football Focus).

Steady

6

January

Packers 24, Vikings 10: Wild Card Game Balls and Lame Calls

Clay Matthews

Clay Matthews and the defense stepped up big and the Packers are on their way to San Francisco.

“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” or so the saying goes, and the Green Bay Packers got their revenge against the Minnesota Vikings by winning their NFC Wild Card game 24-10 a week after the Vikings beat the Packers 37-34 which cost Green Bay a first round bye.

The Packers spotted the Vikings an early field goal as the Vikings marched down the field. Some fans began to experience a sense of déjà vu as the Packers went three and out on the following drive.  Thankfully that malaise didn’t last long as the Packers got into the end zone on the next drive and went up 7-3.

Green Bay never looked back as they got to Vikings quarterback Joe Webb and raced out to a 24-3 lead that held throughout most of the second half and gave up a touchdown pretty much in garbage time as the score settled to 24-10 as time expired.

Here are the good and the bad for the Packers in the victory that eliminated the Vikings.

Game Balls

LB Erik Walden

It was not even a week ago that the Packers allowed Adrian Peterson to run all over them, but the Packers put forth a much better effort Saturday and Walden was a big part of it.

Walden was credited with one sack and two tackles for a loss but he was constantly in Webb’s face and had one of his best games in a long time. Walden can be inconsistent but if he can warm up for this playoff run, then the Packers will have yet another weapon to go alongside Clay Matthews at the linebacker position.

He’ll have a tougher time against the 49ers but the game against the Vikings should be a big confidence booster for Walden.

RB DuJuan Harris

Harris’ emergence late this season has all but guaranteed him a roster spot going into training camp this summer, but Harris is now making a case to be the Packers starting running back and there’s really no reason he couldn’t be.

4

January

Keys to the Game: Vikings at Packers Wild Card Playoff Edition

Matthews tackling Peterson

Matthews & Co. have to find a way to corral Peterson on Saturday or it could be another early exit from the postseason for Green Bay

Well here we are.  The playoffs.  I have been waiting for this game since I watched a hapless Green Bay Packers team get trounced at home in the Divisional round by the Giants last January.  It was a presumptuous wish, as many teams don’t appear in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons but somehow I knew an Aaron Rodgers-led team would.  As far as the Minnesota Vikings as their opponent, I wouldn’t have hand-picked that matchup.

While Green Bay has had the upper hand lately in this series, the Vikings have shown signs of life in 2012 and played the Packers tough both times.  Last week, they earned their first win against Green Bay since 2009 and snapped the Packers’ 12 game winning streak against NFC North opponents.  Anytime a team faces a divisional opponent, all bets are off and anything goes.  In the postseason, that theory is even stronger.

After the Vikings strong performance last Sunday, many believe they have a better chance than most would assume as they head to Green Bay for this Saturday night’s game.  Running back Adrian Peterson posted his second highlight-reel game in a row against the Packers and quarterback Christian Ponder proved he can take care of the football against the Packers’ ball-hawking secondary.

As we look to this week’s Keys to the game, some remain the same but with the Packers getting some new personnel in this matchup, a few wrinkles may emerge.  This is going to be a long one so break out your snacks and get comfortable!

Adrian Peterson

You knew this is where this entire thread would start.  If you didn’t, maybe you missed last week’s game?  Or perhaps this entire season?  Peterson has only defied many odds time and time again.  At the risk of entering “broken record” territory, a quick recap:  2,097 total rushing yards, 12 touchdowns and just four fumbles in 348 attempts this season.  Only six other running backs have hit the 2,000 yard mark.  I am not certain but I’ll bet not many of them did it coming straight off of an ACL tear.

2

January

Packers Stock Report: Playoff Time Edition

Greg Jennings

Packers WR Greg Jennings is rising after Sunday’s game.

For the last three years, I’ve always been confident whenever the Packers play because they had the best player on the field.

No matter who the Packers were playing, what the score was, or how slow the Packers started, I always felt good because I knew that Aaron Rodgers played for Green Bay and would probably find a way to win the game. He was the best player on the field and the best player on the field typically comes through and leads his team to a win. Not always, but usually.

When the Packers play the Vikings in the playoffs on Saturday, Rodgers will not be the best player on the field. That title will belong to Adrian Peterson, and it scares me.

The Packers are better than the Vikings in almost every facet of the game. But as long as Peterson is carrying the ball, the Vikings will have a shot. I shouldn’t be nervous about Saturday, but I am. And it’s all because of Peterson.

Hopefully, for at least one night, Rodgers regains his best-player-on-the-field championship belt. Rodgers can then worry about getting the Packers to another Super Bowl and defending his best-player-on-the-field title next season.

On to the stock report:

Rising

Adrian Peterson
I don’t think I’ve ever put a non-Packers player in the rising category. Usually I put players from the other team in the falling category so I can mock and ridicule them. But as a football fan, I have to show respect to Peterson. He lead his team to the postseason and left several Packers defenders limping off the field. It was agonizing to watch as a Packers fan, but fascinating as a football fan.

B.J. Raji
The finger-wags got a little annoying. Don’t wag your finger, B.J., when the other running back is going for 200 yards on your defense again. Other than that, Raji was a beast. Peterson got a lot of his yards when he bounced outside. He often had to bounce out because Raji plugged the middle. If Peterson wasn’t able to bounce out, it was because Raji grabbed him and wrestled him to the ground.

Greg Jennings
It was nice to be reminded just how silky smooth Jennings is in both his route running and running after the catch. He’s an artist (pronounced ar-teest). He also made himself a boatload of cash.