5

January

Another ho-hum Playoff Performance from Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Once again, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers could not lead the Packers to a playoff win.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers signed a $110 million contract extension before the 2012 season. In Sunday’s wild-card round playoff loss to the 49ers, Rodgers made a couple of $110 million plays, but didn’t have a $110 million game.

The performance was a microcosm of Rodgers’ postseason play since winning Super Bowl XLV.

Now before you get all bent out of shape, I’m not blaming Rodgers for the loss or demanding that the Packers try and find a new quarterback. Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league and he gives the Packers a legit shot at the Super Bowl every season.

And I do feel guilty for writing a post that is critical of Rodgers when there are all kinds of other reasons why the Packers season has ended early three years in a row.

But ever since going on a tear and winning the Super Bowl in 2010, Rodgers hasn’t had another standout postseason performance — the kind of game that cements legacies and delivers memorable playoff wins that are talked about for the next 30 years.

Rodgers’ quarterback rating on Sunday was 97.8. That’s very good. However, he only threw for 177 yards and when the Packers had a chance to take control of the game early, Rodgers and the offense went three-and-out on its first three possessions. Then when the Packers had a chance to take a lead late, Rodgers and offense sputtered in the red zone and only managed a game-tying field goal.

Rodgers hasn’t thrown for more than 300 yards in the postseason since Super Bowl XLV and has only six touchdowns in four games.

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has 1,025 passing yards and two fourth-quarter rallies in four playoff games (and 362 rushing yards). Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has 731 passing yards one fourth-quarter comeback win in only two playoff games. Rodgers has 972 passing yards and zero fourth-quarter comebacks in his last four postseason games.

Since hoisting the Lombardi Trophy three seasons ago, the Packers are 17-for-49 (35 percent) on third-down conversions in the postseason. During the Super Bowl run, Rodgers helped the Packers convert 24 of 49 (49 percent) third downs.

9

September

Packers Coach Mike McCarthy Made Right Decision to Accept Penalty

Don’t worry, coach McCarthy. I think you made the right decision to accept that second quarter penalty against the 49ers (I might be the only one to think that, though).

A lot of bad things happened after Mike McCarthy decided to accept a penalty and eschew a fourth-and-one situation near the goal line during the second quarter of the Packers’ loss to the 49ers on Sunday.

The decision gave the 49ers another crack at converting on third down — six yards away from the first down marker. Chaos ensued:

  • Colin Kapernick was forced out of bounds two yards short of the first-down
  • Clay Matthews launched himself at Kaepernick and drilled him after he stepped out of bounds, drawing a 15-yard penalty
  • Joe Staley went after Matthews, earning a 15-yard penalty himself
  • Matthews appeared to throw a punch at Staley and is lucky he didn’t get ejected
  • A bunch of other players got involved and had a mini Royal Rumble
  • The refs screwed up the offsetting penalty calls and wrongly replayed third down
  • The 49ers took advantage of the extra opportunity and scored a touchdown

Whew. Got all that? Life would have been so much easier if McCarthy just declined the original penalty and made Jim Harbaugh decide to go for it or kick a field goal on fourth-and-one, right?

In hindsight, probably. But we don’t judge on hindsight around here. I agreed with McCarthy’s decision to accept the penalty and push the 49ers back, even if it meant giving them another crack at converting on third down.

In all likelihood, Harbaugh probably would’ve went for it on fourth-and-one anyway. And in all likelihood, the 49ers probably would have converted. McCarthy knows this — he’d seen the 49ers offensive line bully his defenders and their passing attack baffle his defensive backs for nearly 10 quarters at that point. He also knew that Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman have a handful of playcalls that the Packers just aren’t ready for (see the third-and-four pass to Vernon Davis late in the fourth quarter for exhibit A).

McCarthy also knows the numbers the 49ers have put up against the Packers lately. Check this post for the rundown. It ain’t pretty. After looking at those numbers and considering everything else, would you feel confident about the Packers ability to stop the 49ers from gaining one yard? I wouldn’t. I also would have elected to push the 49ers back another five yards to make them convert a third-and-six instead.

15

January

Packers Stock Report: Season’s Over Edition

Sam Shields was one of the bright spots for the Packers against the 49ers.

The Packers season is over. They got smoked by the 49ers in the NFL playoffs on Saturday night.

I’m sick of writing about it. I’m sick of talking about it. I’m sick of thinking about it.

On to the stock report:

Rising

Sam Shields
The combination of Shields getting healthy and realizing he’s a restricted free agent really got him going. Shields will likely get a first-round tender and I expect the Packers to open their checkbooks and lock him up for the next few years. Let’s hope he stays motivated, keeps improving, and plays like he did down the stretch.

James Jones
With Greg Jennings likely gone and Jermichael Finley possibly following him out the door, Jones can establish himself as an upper-echelon receiver next season. Jones came to play on Saturday night. It was nice to see Jones use his size a bit this season. I always thought he played smaller than he was, but he went up and got a few balls in traffic this season and played angrier.

Marshall Newhouse
How often did we hear about Newhouse down the stretch? Hardly at all. And that’s a good thing. Jared Allen and Aldon Smith didn’t do much against Newhouse in the last three games. I was thinking about the offensive line today. Would T.J. Lang have any trade value? He’s young, decent enough, and has a favorable contract. Perhaps the Packers could move him for an extra pick and the line in 2013 could be Newhouse at LT, Barclay at LG, Dietrich-Smith or a rookie at C, Sitton at RG, Bulaga at RT, Sherrod as the backup T and Dietrich-Smith or a rookie at backup G. Who knows. This is just me daydreaming and pretending I’m Ted Thompson.

Steady

DuJuan Harris
Another solid game for Mr. Car Salesman. I have no idea why McCarthy ignored Harris in the second half against the 49ers. Look for Harris to be in the mix for the starting running back job next season.

Clay Matthews
Matthews probably belongs in the rising category. He closed the season strong and I’m looking forward to getting Nick Perry on the other side once again for next season.

Falling

14

January

Are the Green Bay Packers Still Elite?


Packers
Are the Packers still elite?

Remember when the Green Bay Packers were legitimately thought of as elite and the next NFL dynasty? All the ingredients were there: A great quarterback. Talented receivers. Young defenders on the rise. A Super Bowl win. Playoff chops. A smart coaching staff and front office.

Then the Giants and 49ers manhandled the Packers in playoff losses and all that dynasty talk seems like so long ago.

Forget dynasty. Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press Gazette says the Packers are no longer even an elite team.

Vandermause gets a little carried away early in the column when he says that Colin Kapernick is now a more feared player than Aaron Rodgers (ridiculous). But for the most part, I see where Vandermause is going. He thinks the 49ers have a lot more talent than the Packers. After watching these two teams play each other twice this season, it’s hard to argue with him.

Can a team fall from potential dynasty to less-than-elite in about one year? Sure, these last two playoff losses sting, but do they really mean the Packers are no longer elite? I can see both sides of the argument:

Packers are no longer elite

  • Did you watch the game on Saturday? There is no way to use the words “elite” and “Packers” in the same sentence after that ass whooping.
  • That’s two straight playoff losses where the Packers were dominated by a bigger, stronger and more physical team. Elite teams don’t get pushed around like that.
  • The Packers struggled against other good to great teams this season. The 49ers, Seahawks, Giants, Vikings and Colts all beat Green Bay. Houston, and maybe one of the Chicago games, were their only signature types of wins.
  • The Packers lack toughness and are not able to match other team’s physically. Teams with offensive lines that are big and mean and feature defenders that are able to tackle the Packers’ receivers can contain Rodgers and push the Packers’ defense around.
  • The scoreboard and the standings don’t lie. A team that fails to reach its conference championship game two straight seasons cannot be considered elite.

The Packers are still elite

  • Aaron Rodgers is the Packers quarterback. Enough said.