17

January

Green Bay Packers: Near Perfect Performance on Offense Leaves Lasting Memories

All season, Packers fans have been asking Aaron Rodgers to utilize short and intermediate routes. We’ve also been asking Mike McCarthy to run the ball more and the entire offense to score touchdowns on long drives. Finally, we’ve been asking James Jones to just catch the damn ball.

The Green Bay Packers’ offense did all of this on Saturday, and the result was a playoff victory over the Atlanta Falcons that will probably stay on my DVR forever.

If you asked me to describe the perfect Packers performance on offense, I still don’t think I could have described something as beautiful as what happened on Saturday. Consider this:

  • As Gary D’Amato points out (http://www.jsonline.com/sports/packers/113834124.html), the numbers only begin to tell the story of Rodgers’ dominance. Yes, he completed 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards and 136.8 rating, but it was his rhythm that kept the offense humming. Rarely did Rodgers hold the ball too long and rarely did he wait for something to open downfield at the expense of an uncovered underneath receiver.
  • To top it off, Rodgers’ attitude throughout the postseason is something we can all be proud of. Like any top quarterback, Rodgers has a quiet confidence about him (it’s probably fair to call it arrogance if you want), but his refusal to get caught up in the “postseason monkey off the back” story really stands out. When Rodgers speaks, you can tell he is proud of how he is playing, but is far from satisfied. He knows he has taken a giant step forward, but is not yet where he wants to be.
  • The Packers were far from dominant in the run game yesterday, but Mike McCarthy committed to it enough to make sure the Packers did not become one-dimensional. As much as we want the Packers to pound the ball and push around other teams, that’s not who they are. If the Packers are going to score points, it’s going to happen because Rodgers and the receivers are carving up defenses. James Starks gives the Packers the threat of a tough inside runner and Brandon Jackson even ripped off a nice run early on Saturday. McCarthy used each back as best he could: He did not run the ball just to satisfy some silly football cliché about establishing the run. But he did give his backs an opportunity to contribute, keep the defense off balance, and kill some clock in the second half.
16

January

Packers 48 Falcons 21 : Packers Destroy the Falcons in Their Nest

In triumphant fashion, the Green Bay Packers did the Dirty Bird revenge dance all over the broken-winged Atlanta Falcons today. Yes, there are 52 angry birds in Atlanta tonight.

Tramon Williams started the dance with two interceptions late in the first half, the second being a game changing pick six on an ill-advised play by the Falcons.

Things just got worse for the Falcons in the second half, as the Packers took the opening kickoff and drove down the field for another touchdown.

After that, it was just piling on for more points by the Green Bay offense, which was downright unstoppable today. the Falcons had no answer for the Packers’ passing attack, other than to try to blitz Aaron Rodgers.

That backfired big time, when Aaron Rodgers showed off some ballet-like spin moves to avoid quite a few potential sacks and complete passes on the run for first downs. Dagger after dagger. I think it frustrated the Falcon defense and broke their spirit. The rest is history.

My game day impressions:

PREGAME:

Falcons Fact: On 4th down and less than 3 yds in opponents’ territory: Falcons have gone for the 1st down 13 times and made it 11 times.

Was shocked to not see more down field attempts against the Falcons last game. Speed of the safeties and zero running game were the major reasons. If the Packers can make the safeties have to play the run, watch out.

My feeling is that the Packers are the better team and will win the game. Unless they kill themselves with mistakes.

MY KEY TO THE GAME: If I had to pick JUST ONE thing, it would be this: Tackle. Plain and simple. The Packers let the Falcons gain extra yards on many occasions in their first meeting, especially on some 3rd and long plays that kept their two scoring drives alive.

My 1A key to the game: Last week my 1A key was “unleash James Starks.” This week I’ll just say; Use the running game again. They probably won’t have the same success as they did against the Eagles’ undersized defense, but if it helps sell the Falcons safeties on play action, that will be plenty.

Inactive for Green Bay on Sunday:

Green Bay inactives: Harrell (3rd QB), Bigby, Nance, Hall, Gordy, Zombo, Dietrich-Smith, McDonald.

15

January

Packers – Falcons Key Match Up: The No Huddle vs. the Defensive Line

The Atlanta Falcons could be described as the antithesis of the Packer’s last opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles are often described as “explosive”; they have perhaps the greatest mobile quarterback ever in Micheal Vick and maybe the greatest “home run” threat in the league at the moment with wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Running back LeSean McCoy boasts a 5+ yards per carry and the rest of the Eagle’s skill position players are filled with speedsters.

To this end, this year’s Eagles ranked as one of the best at big plays of over 20 yards and Vick’s ability to buy time in the pocket and scramble often lead to more opportunities down the field.

On the other side of the spectrum are the Atlanta Falcons, lead by quarterback Matt Ryan who is about as pure of a pocket passer as there is.

At his disposable, running back Micheal Turner is known as a bowling ball and not as a speed demon and wide receiver Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez, aren’t speedsters either but manage very good production with crisp route running and steady hands.

While the Eagles are a high-risk/high reward team, the Falcons are unspectacular, but they are efficient and error adverse and that plays into perhaps their greatest advantage for Saturday’s game: the no huddle offense.

The premise is pretty simple, by not huddling up you give the opponent’s defense less time to substitute players and get setup which hopefully leads to a lapse in personnel which will lead to either a mismatch or a blown coverage. The caveat to the no huddle offense is that it requires a smart quarterback who can call plays and read defenses and a team which is fundamentally sound. The Falcons have both.

And it will be a tough challenge particularly for the Packers defense. The Capers’ 3-4 defense is predicated on its complexity; blitzes can come from everywhere and from anyone, coverages can be rolled the moment before the snap.

But complexity has its disadvantages, one being that it takes a lot of time to set up. The other big factor is that communication is very important. One prime example of this was against the Indianapolis Colts during the pre-season; on the Colts first drive, the last play started with the Colts in the no huddle, they snapped the ball quick while the Packers defense was still in the process of calling coverages and adjusting assignments. The result? A ridiculously easy 17 yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon who blew by the confused secondary.

14

January

Packers – Falcons Playoffs Preview: Second Time the Charm?

Bring on the Falcons! The Green Bay Packers defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 21-16 in an NFC Wild Card matchup and now move on to the Georgia Dome to face the Atlanta Falcons this Saturday night in the divisional round.
One down, three to go, Packers fans.

In what is becoming a common theme in the Packers’ postseason opponents, they faced the Falcons earlier in the season. On November 28th, the Packers fell to the Falcons 20-17 on a last second field goal. It was arguably the poorest tackling day by an otherwise stout Green Bay defense as Falcons running back Michael Turner gained 110 yards on the ground and scored one touchdown. Quarterback Matt Ryan was also brilliant throwing only four incompletions out of 28 attempts.

You’ve heard it ever since the playoffs began: “Anything in can happen in the playoffs. Everyone’s record is 0-0 and it’s every team for itself.” Perhaps now more was this evident in the 7-9 NFC West champion Seahawks’ upset of the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints in Seattle last weekend.

The Packers stand one win away from their second trip to the NFC Championship Game in four years. This one will be on the road, playing either in Seattle or Chicago depending on the outcome of Sunday’s game at Soldier Field.

Breaking down the Falcons

It’s only been seven weeks since these two teams squared off so the Falcons’ tendencies should still be rather fresh in the mind of the Packers.

On offense, the Falcons boast one the premier young quarterbacks in Ryan. With a nickname like “Matty Ice” you know Ryan remains as cool as a cucumber and he has only lost two home games in his three seasons as the Falcons’ starting quarterback. Ryan remains one the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL.

Ryan’s favorite target is wide receiver Roddy White. Once one of the NFL’s problem children, White has matured into an elite receiver that will give the Packers fits all day. He is able to get the ball downfield but still isn’t afraid to go over the top to make the catch. He is truly a complete receiver.

Don’t forget tight end Tony Gonzalez either. While his “catch” in the first matchup will forever live in Packers infamy, he’s still one of the best tight ends in the game. He’s especially dangerous in the red zone so Dom Capers must keep tabs on where number 88 is at all times inside the 20.