19

November

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Giants 27, Packers 13

Tramon Williams was making tackles near the line of scrimmage and intercepted a pass in the red zone. It was a big day for No. 38.

Tramon Williams was making tackles near the line of scrimmage and intercepted a pass in the red zone. It was a big day for No. 38.

For the first time in three weeks, the Green Bay Packers’ starting quarterback (Scott Tolzien) played beyond the game’s first series. So, there’s that.

In his first career start, Tolzien was able to move the Packers offense down the field on his way to three scoring drives. But much like Tolzien’s first outing with the team, his day was clouded with turnovers.

Although he completed 70 percent of his passes en route to a 339-yard day against a good Giants defense, Tolzien’s second interception to Jason Pierre-Paul clinched the game for New York, as JPP picked off the pass and raced into the end zone, extending what was a seven-point lead to 14.

And here we are. The Packers are 5-5 on the season and likely need to win five of their last six to make the playoffs.

With the Vikings next on the schedule, the Packers have a good chance at getting back over .500, despite being without Aaron Rodgers for at least another week. But then again, it’ll more than likely be another ugly slugfest in which the winner is decided by a late score.

The value of Rodgers is undeniable. Not only is he really, really good at throwing the football, eluding pressure and making pre-snap reads, but simply having No. 12 under center completely opens things up for the running game. It’s not exactly rocket science, I know. Eddie Lacy is a great back, but defenses are stacking the box in a way I–having grown up watching Rodgers and Brett Favre–have never seen.

On the sideline, Rodgers has to be looking at these defensive fronts, shaking his head and thinking “If only.” Favre is probably sitting on his recliner in his Wranglers and laughing.

Either way, the Tolzien-led Packers are the Tolzien-led Packers. The Rodgers-led Packers can beat any team in the league, in my opinion. But the Tolzien-led Packers cannot.

This week? I believe the Tolzien-led Packers can beat the Christian Ponder, Matt Cassell or Josh Freeman-led Vikings. But we will see.

Game Balls

Tramon Williams

28

November

McCarthy Admits Mistakes – And There Were Plenty

Mike McCarthy Admits Mistakes

Mike McCarthy Admits Mistakes

As I sat in MetLife Stadium and watched the NY Giants dismantle the Packers before my eyes, my neck started to hurt from shaking my head so much. Beyond the disappointing play and the result, I was especially not pleased by what I saw of the Packers game plan, play calling and decision-making.

Coach McCarthy went away from the running game after the Packers were down 17-7, opting to go to more of a spread offense. What this did, of course, was let the Giants DL know they could just single-mindedly go after Aaron Rodgers.  Add to that the shaky revamped offensive line, and McCarthy almost got his quarterback killed.

Having let the Giants’ pass rush get their mojo back, one might expect that McCarthy would have tried something to slow it down. Perhaps a screen pass or two. Perhaps a draw or two. But those adjustments were just not forthcoming.

As he ignored Alex Green in the Lions game, McCarthy pretty much forgot about James Starks until the end of this game, when it didn’t matter. Starks was fairly effective against the Lions, a team playing a very similar defensive scheme to the Giants. One might have expected to see Starks as the main ball carrier Sunday night, but instead, he mostly sat and watched.

And how about that handoff to Alex Green on 2nd and 20 with seven minutes still left in the third quarter down by 21 points? White flag anyone?

McCarthy also made some questionable decisions with regards to Mason Crosby. With the score at 7-7 and only halfway through the first quarter, McCarthy sent the struggling Mason Crosby out on 4th and five to try a 55 yard field goal.  First thought – iyour going to put your slumping kicker in a position where the odds are greater that he will fail?

But forgetting about Crosby’s struggles for a moment, I have to simply ask; Why? In the first quarter of a tie game? The right play that early in the game is to play field position. Let Masthay punt the ball and try to pin the Giants deep in their own end.

Then, once the whole complexion of the game had changed, with the Giants holding a three-possession 17 point lead late in the second quarter, McCarthy calls for a field goal on 4th and inches from the 11 yard line.  At that point, it was pretty obvious that three points was not going to be much of a help in this game.

25

November

Packers vs. Giants – Game Day First Impressions, Unfiltered: NYG 38 GB 10

Green Bay Packers vs. New York Giants:

My unfiltered game day running blog post of comments, observations and first impressions.

Inactive for Packers today: WR Ramses Barden, RB Da’Rel Scott, LB Mark Herzlich, OL Jim Cordle, DE Justin Trattou, DT Jimmy Kennedy, OL James Brewer

Inactive for Giants today: QB Graham Harrell, CB Davon House, LB Rob Francois, OL Herb Taylor, TE D.J. Williams, DE Howard Green, LB Vic So’oto

Game Notes:

The two most recent Super Bowl Champions meet this evening in a highly-anticipated showdown. Many people thought this would be the 2012 season opener, but the Giants ended up hosting the Dallas Cowboys.

While the Packers edged out a victory against the Giants during last season’s Week 13 game, they lost in an embarrassing fashion during the Divisonal Round playoff game. Aaron Rodgers said on his weekly show that he’s not playing for revenge, but some players might be, and most fans are relishing the idea.

The Giants are coming off of their bye week, and a fresh defensive line could be a problem for a recently reshuffled Packers offensive line. This will be the marquee match-up of the night.

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Mike McCarthy Pregame Show on 620 WTMJ:

 

Giants as Common Opponent: It’s definitely usually a big game when we get together. It’s an important game. I like the way our team has been playing and growing.

Dealing with Injuries: You have to give credit to the players. They’re doing everything we’re asking them to do and taking advantage of their opportunities. The coaching staff is doing well getting them prepared.

On Randall Cobb: Another excellent example of a secon- year player being exceptional. Have been planning concepts and wrinkles for him. A top-notch slot receiver who makes plays and positive yards when we put the ball in his hands.

On Casey Hayward: We really made a conscious effort to make sure we got younger players in and started. We didn’t want to go through what we went through last year. Casey is a hell of a football player and is doing a great job in the slot.

Greg Jennings and Clay Matthews: Greg is very close. He felt great and looked good on Thursday. If this was a playoff game, Greg would be out there. Clay is getting close, but we’ll have to see where he is this week.

20

January

Green Bay Packers: 4 Stats That Sum Up 2011-12 Struggles

Packers TE Jermichael Finley led his position in drops with 14.

It might be difficult to say that a team that won 15 regular season games went through many “struggles,” but the truth is that the 2011-12 Green Bay Packers had their fair share of significant flaws that were successfully covered up for most of the season. In the end, all four of them came back to bite the Packers in their 37-20 loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Divisional Round.

The weaknesses I speak of could be summarized by a high percentage of Packers fans. But while those defects pass the eye test, they also pass the stat test. Using numbers from Pro Football Focus, we can take a closer look at just how poorly the Packers played in certain areas of the game this season.

Missed tackles: 109

Packers coach Mike McCarthy was very adamant during his final press conference about how the lacking fundamentals in his team’s tackling was a major disappointment for the Packers’ 2011 season. This stat re-enforces McCarthy’s worries. The Packers missed 109 tackles this season, which amounts to almost 6.5 a game over the 17. In comparison, the San Francisco 49ers missed just 65 over that same amount of games. Charles Woodson led the way with 18, but he had plenty of company. Tramon Williams had 16, Charlie Peprah 11, Sam Shields 10, Morgan Burnett nine and both A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop eight. That’s simply too many missed plays from too many players for a defense to be as consistently good as you’re looking for in the NFL. Also, PFF had the Packers down for eight missed tackles last Sunday against the Giants.

Drops: 52

If there was one flaw that consistently showed up in an otherwise machine-like performance from the Packers offense, it was drops. The Packers put 52 catchable passes on the ground in 2011, which was good for over three a game over 17. Jermichael Finley was the biggest culprit with 14, a number that led all NFL tight ends by at least five drops, and Donald Driver finished second with eight. James Jones had six, Greg Jennings five, Randall Cobb four and Jordy Nelson three. The running backs had 10 (James Starks four, John Kuhn and Ryan Grant three). In a pass-heavy offense like the Packers run, a certain amount of drops are excusable. But not 52. The same can be said for seven in one game, which is exactly the number Green Bay had against the Giants. It’s hard to be consistent on the biggest stage with that kind of catching percentage.

18

January

McCarthy Makes it Obvious that Packers Want TE Jermichael Finley Back in 2012

If you trust what you were hearing from Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy during his final press conference of the 2011-12 season Wednesday, then you also should have no worries about where tight end Jermichael Finley will playing next season.

He’s not going anywhere.

McCarthy praised Finley on several different occasions, calling him a “talented young man” who has a “great work ethic” and wants to be “a great player.” McCarthy also said that the Packers “need him out there” and that Finley has a lot of room for improvement.

If the Packers head coach had even entertained the thought of letting a 25-year-old tight end walk in free agency, this amount of praise would seem unlikely. McCarthy obviously wants and plans on Finley being a part of the Packers’ roster next season, and I’d say there is a very small chance of the opposite becoming reality.

Finley, who is scheduled to become a free agent this offseason, caught 55 passes for 767 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011. Most had expectations that far exceeded that output this season, but drops and inconsistency plagued him at times. In the Packers’ 37-20 loss to the Giants in the NFC Divisional Round, for example, Finley dropped two passes and had what some have called a miscommunication with quarterback Aaron Rodgers on an important third down play in the second half.  But nonetheless, fans throughout the 2011 season have been hard on the enigmatic tight end.

Packers GM Ted Thompson now has three options with Finley: They can either re-sign him to a multi-year deal, franchise tag him at the tight end position or let him walk in free agency. After three seasons, each option has its pros and cons. But it’s obvious that the risks of letting such an untapped talent like Finley walk at his age far outweigh the cons of both re-signing him long term and the one-year franchise tag at rough $5 to 6 million.

And if you believe what you heard from McCarthy Wednesday, bank on Finley being back on the Packers roster regardless to start next season.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

17

January

Packers 2011 Season. It’s Over Johnny. It’s Over. The End.

OK, I’m having a little problem here. Admittedly, I’m still pretty shocked about the Packers loss to the Giants. I sat down to write a post-mortem, but I’m just staring at this blank computer screen and pondering where to begin. So, I think I’m going to need some audio and video aids to help me express my feelings…

Mike McTrautman: It’s over Johnny. It’s over.

John “Rambo” Rodgers: Nothing is over! Nothing! You just don’t turn it off! It wasn’t my war! You asked me, I didn’t ask you! And I did what I had to do to win! But somebody wouldn’t let us win!

Um, yeah, the Giants… Again.

As much as we all rejected the comparisons to 2007, the rosy-cheek Coughlin, Manning-face Eli and this band of underdog Giants marched onto Lambeau Field and once again took away what rightfully belonged to the Packers – another win on the way to the Super Bowl.

Both times, it was more than a loss, it was an embarrassment. In the 2007 playoffs, the Giants came into the frozen Green Bay tundra and won a game in elements only the cold-hardened Packers could supposedly withstand. The image of a thoroughly frozen and not wanting to be there Brett Favre (on the sideline just before he would go in and throw his final pass as a Packer) still haunts me.

This time around, the Packers were the de-facto best team in the NFL, with a 15-1 record and the probable NFL MVP at quarterback. But the Giants had an excellent game plan and other ideas. They forced the Packers into turnovers, and took advantage of their best mismatch – their wide receivers against the Packers’ secondary.

Just like Plaxico Burris in the previous playoff meeting, the Packers could not deal with the Giant’s big receiver, Hakeem Nicks.  The Packers couldn’t tackle Nicks, couldn’t cover Nicks and couldn’t catch Nicks. The Hail Mary completion just before halftime will go down as one of the most embarrassing moments in Packers history.

The Packers continued to fumble their way through the game (literally), yet despite being outplayed, still found themselves only 7 points behind with the ball on the Giants 39 yard line. Rodgers could not connect with an open Jermichael Finley on 3rd and five, and then was sacked on fourth down. The Giants marched down the field for a field goal, and after a Ryan Grant fumble on the next series, a Giants TD pretty much sealed the Packers’ fate.

16

January

Packers vs. Giants: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 37-20 Loss to New York

The Giants pointed their ship to the NFC Championship Game with a 37-20 win over the Packers. (Photo: Darron Cummings, GBPG)

The Green Bay Packers (15-2) picked an awful time to play their worst game of the 2011 season, and the New York Giants more than capitalized on it Sunday in knocking the defending champions out of the playoffs with a 37-20 win at Lambeau Field in the NFC Divisional Round.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. Capping a tough week

There was some this week, including Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who opined that the Packers could be more focused on Sunday in light of the terrible tragedy that struck that the Packers family early this week. But maybe those people underestimated how difficult the transition could be from a Friday funeral to a Sunday football game.

The Packers made their fair share of mental mistakes on the offensive side of the football—dropped passes, missed throws, back-breaking fumbles—that were very uncharacteristic of the Packers in 2011. Could that have partly been due to a week of grieving for the Philbin family and missing their offensive coordinator? Professional football players get paid a lot of money to separate the two, but these guys are human beings, not football robots.

2. Rusting the machine

Hindsight is 20/20, but you’d have to think Mike McCarthy will do some self-reflection on his decision to sit starters during the final week of the season. His team Sunday looked like one who hadn’t played a full game together in three weeks. The Packers offense, in particular, was never able to find the kind of rhythm that seemed so easy to achieve during the regular season.

Depending on who you ask, the Packers dropped five to eight passes on Sunday. Every single one of them was a momentum-killer. They also lost three fumbles—as many as they had all season—on their way to a season-high four turnovers. Finally, and maybe most importantly, the quarterback was far from his best on a night when the Packers needed him to be.

Would playing the starters in Week 17 have made a difference in any of those? Maybe, maybe not. But the Packers certainly looked like a rusty football team on Sunday. Execution all-around was in short supply.

3. More of the same