18

November

Mike McCarthy Did the Packers No Favors Against the Giants

Mike McCarthy disapoints on and off the field

Mike McCarthy disapoints on and off the field

The Packers entered the game yesterday with a desperate need for a win against the Giants . I expected Mike McCarthy to dial up an aggressive game plan, one that would attack the weaknesses of the Giants defense. Instead, they went at the Giant’s strength.

The first two possessions of the game saw runs on first and second down for little gain, as the Giants did what they’ve done to other running attacks, despite their poor record. Both possessions resulted in punts – so much for getting the Packers off to that rousing start I had hoped for.

Just after the start of the second quarter, there was another set of first and second down runs, this time to James Starks, again with little gain and again, resulting in a punt.

I don’t know how it looked on TV, but watching the game from inside the stadium, in my nosebleed third tier seats, I felt an early listlessness in the Packers’ offense. As if there was a resignation that giving even their best effort would still not be enough without Aaron Rodgers. While that may be true, you don’t go out and concede right out of the gate, do you?

Luckily, the defense was playing better than they have the last few games (though still giving up some big plays), and kept the Packers within four points at halftime. I was pretty happy about that, especially with the Packers having the ball to start the second half. Surely, they would come out with a more balanced attack and march down the field to take the lead. Um… not.

First and second down runs again, for a total of 3 yards gained.  I’m not saying that shouldn’t have been running, but I am saying a little more creativity was needed.  And there other ways to get the ball in the hands of your running back if the defense is packing the line of scrimmage against runs. Packers did it only twice, for a 10.5yd average gain. With that kind of success, should we have seen it more often? One was actually a screen pass – a play McCarthy has seemingly moved to the back of his playbook.

Can you say “Predictable?”

And that brings me to my second point. The Packers are fooling NO ONE (or at least they sure weren’t fooling the Giants).

17

November

Packers 13 vs. Giants 27: Game Day First Impressions Unfiltered

Game Notes: What sort of team will the Packers be under Scott Tolzein?  Fans got flashes of potential against the Eagles but also a lot of mental mistakes.  With a week to prepare as a starter, backup quarterbacks typically do about 9% better as the starter, will this be enough to overcome a lost Giants squad that’s finally righted the ship?

Inactives (via Packers.com):

Green Bay PackersGreen Bay Packers
12 QB Aaron Rodgers
13 WR Chris Harper
29 CB Casey Hayward
37 CB Sam Shields
53 LB Nick Perry
55 LB Andy Mulumba
67 T/G Don Barclay

16 QB Scott Tolzien will start for Rodgers; 31 CB Davon House will start for Shields; 96 LB Mike Neal will start for Perry; 74 T Marshall Newhouse will start for Barclay.

New York Giants
9 QB Ryan Nassib
23 CB Corey Webster
44 RB Peyton Hillis
59 LB Allen Bradford
61 C Dallas Reynolds
78 DT Markus Kuhn
81 TE Adrien Robinson

38 CB Trumaine McBride will start for Webster.

1st Quarter

  • Packers kick off, defense gets the first shot.
  • Packers defense looks pretty much the same, a couple good stops followed by a huge gain.
  • The Packers look lost or depressed, two 12-man on the field penalties basically shows they’re not into it right now.
  • Rueben Randle runs a nice mini pick route where the cornerback have to swap responsibilities and scores the touchdown.  You’d like to see tighter coverage by Micah Hyde but overall better offensive play and poor defensive play.
  • Good stop by MD Jennings leads to a 40 yard field goal for the Giants, I think this is the way that the Capers’ defense is supposed to work, give up some yards, but make the stop and force them to take 3 instead of 6.
  • Score: Giants 7, Packers 0

2nd Quarter

  • Out of nowhere, 70 yards of passing on two plays, 25 yards to Jordy Nelson aand 45 yards to James Jones; hopefully this opens up the box for Lacy and Starks.
  • I bet McCarthy is itching to give up on the run, but he knows he has to feed Lacy the ball.
  • Tramon Williams shows why he got that big contract in 2010, what an acrobatic interception.
  • Oh Marshall Newhouse, I thought you were supposed to be good against speed rushers…
24

March

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Forgive me, Packers fans, I’m about to stick up for the Chicago Bears.

(*The author pauses for a moment to put on his bullet-proof vest, change the locks on his home, and take a deep breath*)

I have no problem with the Bears one year, $2 million contract offer to Brian Urlacher. I’m actually insulted that Urlacher called the offer “insulting.”

Football is a business. Good teams make roster decisions not to reward once-great players or keep local heroes around to appease the fanbase. Football has been trying to teach us this lesson over and over again, but most people will never learn it, or simply refuse to even try to learn it.

Urlacher was a free agent for the first time in 13 seasons. He’ll be 35 years old in May and he missed the last month of the 2012 season with a hamstring injury.

In the 12 games that Urlacher did play, Pro Football Focus graded him out positively in only three of them. He finished with an overall season grade of -11.3. Pro Football Focus is not the be-all, end-all of player evaluation, but from what I saw of Urlacher in 2012, a -11.3 seemed generous. I thought he was slow and a shadow of his former self.

Does a $2 million contract offer for a once-great, but now aging player coming off an injury and likely on the downswing of his career really sound that insulting to you?

It doesn’t to me.

To be fair, there are two counter-arguments to this: 1) Urlacher’s leadership means a lot and is worth more than $2 million, and 2) the Bears have next to nothing at middle linebacker now that Urlacher is gone.

I don’t know how much “leadership” is worth, especially for a player who is declining on the field. To me, not very much, but I’m not in an NFL locker room, so who knows?

Yes, it’s true that the Bears now have next to nothing at middle linebacker, but that’s still not a good enough reason to overpay for an aging player. Draft a rookie to develop. Find a younger player who could do what Urlacher did for a fraction of the price. Sign Brad Jones.

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.
20

December

Breaking Down Packers Playoff Scenarios

With two more regular season games to go, here is an update on the Packers’ playoff situation:

  • The Packers have already clinched the NFC North. They will be in the playoffs, guaranteed at least one home game and no worse than the fourth overall seed.
  • If the season ended today, the Packers would be the third seed and host the sixth-seeded Vikings on wild-card weekend. That’s likely not going to hold up since the Packers play the Vikings in week 17. The Vikings also could win their next two games and still miss the playoffs.
  • The Packers can move up to the second seed if they win out and the 49ers lose once. The 49ers are at Seattle this week and host Arizona in week 17.
  • Whether the Packers move up to the second seed, or stay at No. 3, a second-round matchup with the 49ers looks likely. If the Packers are the third seed and win their first-round game, they would travel to San Francisco. If the Packers are the second seed and the 49ers win their first-round game as the No. 3 seed, San Francisco would visit Green Bay.
  • The Packers can get the first seed if they win out and the Falcons lose their last two games.
  • If the Packers stay the third seed, it’s very likely that their first-round game will be against a wild-card team from the NFC East or the Bears.
  • Let’s assume the Packers stay the third seed, who would you want to play in the first round: Chicago, New York, Washington or Dallas? I’d pick Washington. They can’t guard the slot and I trust Dom Capers to not to get thrown off by RG3 and the Redskins’ funky formations.
  • Chicago seems like the obvious choice, but beating the Bears three times in the same season seems like we’d be asking too much of the football gods.
  • Check out ESPN’s NFL Playoff Machine if you want to try and figure out potential playoff pairings yourself.
——————

Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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30

November

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 11 at New York Giants

So in an effort to forget about the Packers dismal showing against the Giants, I instead decided to analyze something completely different, namely the first and only pass that one Graham Harrell has thrown in the National Football League.  Some of you might know but Harrell was the only backup quarterback in the NFL who had never thrown a pass in a game (though it has to be said that Saint’s backup quarterback Chase Daniel had one pass under his name).  Also throw in Harrell’s disastrous first outing where he fumbled a handoff to running back Cedric Benson in the red zone that resulted in a touchdown for ironically the Saints as well.

The situation: The Packers aren’t doing too well, down 38 to 10 with only a couple minutes left in the game.  Head coach Mike McCarthy has already thrown in the towel by pulling out starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers and has inserted his back up Graham Harrell.  After a slew of running plays, McCarthy finally gives Harrell the green light to chuck the ball.

The formation: The Packers are in a 2-1-2 personel (2WR-1TE-2RB) in a classic I-formation with WR James Jones (89) split out wide to the left, WR Jordy Nelson (87)  split out to the right and TE Tom Crabtree (83) inline with the right tackle.  In the backfield, FB John Kuhn (30) is lined 5 yards directly behind the ball with RB James Starks (44) directly behind FB Kuhn.  Under center is QB Graham Harrell (6), while the offensive line is composed of LT Marshall Newhouse (74), LG Evan Dietrich-Smith (62), C Jeff Saturday (63), RG Josh Sitton (71) and RT TJ Lang (70).

The Snap: QB Harrell play fakes the handoff to Starks while FB Kuhn initially goes behind the right tackle.  After the fake, Starks shifts to his left to help out the LT while FB Kuhn goes to help out the right tackle and TE Crabtree, who has stayed behind to block.  Both WR Jones and WR Nelson both run fade routes.

First read: QB Harrell’s first read immediately after the play fake is to WR Jones to his left.

Second read: QB Harrell decides against throwing to WR Jones resets, and shifts over to his right, looking at WR Nelson.

29

November

Packers Stock Report: Let’s Pretend That Never Happened Edition

Randall Cobb

Not even Randall Cobb could rescue the Packers against the Giants.

I’ve been doing the Packers Stock Report weekly for over two years now. Most of you know how it works.

But just in case, it’s important to know this while you’re reading and agreeing/disagreeing with my selections:

I don’t base the rising/falling/steady selections solely on the most recent game. The most recent game receives the most weight, but I typically factor in the last three games, sometimes more.

For example, if Donald Driver would have caught six passes for 100 yards and a touchdown on Sunday (we can dream, right?), I still probably wouldn’t have put him in the rising category. One good game out of 11 does not necessarily mean you’re rising. It means you had one good game.

I’m trying to identify more long-term patterns or trends that might play out over the next couple of weeks. While it seems like the rising category should be empty this week, remember that I’m factoring in more than the debacle against the Giants.

NOTE: For expanded coverage, listen to the Packers Stock Report Podcast (links below)…

Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on to this weeks report:

 

Rising

Dezman Moses
He’s done enough to enter the rising category. By no means have we forgotten about Clay Matthews, but it’s nice to see Moses making a few plays with the opportunities he’s had the last few weeks. I’m looking forward to seeing Moses and Matthews on the field together. Fewer snaps for Walden will probably keep him fresher, too.

Clay Matthews
He hasn’t played the last 10 quarters and he’s rising. If the Packers want to beat physical offenses with good quarterbacks, they need Matthews. Eli Manning stood in the pocket and had his way with the Packers secondary on Sunday. I don’t think that happens if Matthews is out there. Matthews also brings toughness and a sense of urgency to the run defense, something that was lacking against the Giants. Yeah, I know the Packers managed five sacks without Matthews against the Lions, but the Giants offense is much more complete than Detroit’s. The Packers defense needs Matthews. Period.

Randall Cobb
There are not many options for another rising player if you just factor in the Giants’ game, but Cobb was decent again (4 catches for 39 yards, 1 carry for 12 yards). He at least did enough to stay in the rising category based on his last month of strong play.