11

March

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

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

I was watching the Minnesota Gophers play the Michigan Wolverines in the Big 10 tournament on Friday night and somehow the end of the game made me think about the NFL.

It was one of those down-to-the-wire college basketball games that makes the sport so exciting, or at least should make the sport so exciting. Unfortunately, whenever the intensity got ratcheted up to 10 and you were getting to the edge of your seat, a timeout would be called. Or the refs would need five minutes to review a play. Then another timeout. Then another review. And so on, and so on…

The end of what should have been a memorable game was ruined by meddling coaches and refs who relied too heavily on the crutch of instant replay.

So what does this have to do with the NFL? I guarantee you if a similar problem existed in the NFL, it would do something to correct it. The NFL isn’t afraid to innovate, even if it means upsetting some people in the process.

If I was in charge of college basketball, I would ban timeouts in the final two minutes. Actually, I would still allow timeouts, but only to stop the clock. Once a timeout is called, the clock would stop, the team that called the timeout would get the ball out of bounds, and play would resume. There would be no long break as the players wandered over to the bench, listened to their coach draw up another play, then wandered back onto the court.

This would be a fairly major change to college basketball, one that would causes coaches and longtime fans resistant to change to start whining. Loudly.

They would claim the new rule alters the way the game is played. I would say, damn right it does. It makes the game better.

They would claim coaches need those timeouts to set up crunch-time plays. I would say that is what practice is for and admonish the coaches for not properly teaching their players how to function in high-pressure situations without someone holding their hand.

They would say the new rule is only to placate casual fans. I would say all fans will appreciate a more exciting game, except maybe for you and your fuddy-duddy friends.

11

October

Packers Week 6 Stock Report: Bishop and Jennings Rising, Hawk and Clifton’s Health Falling

Desmond Bishop joins the rising category this week.

Packers Week 6 Stock Report: The Green Bay Packers improved to 5-0 by beating the Atlanta Falcons 25-14 on Sunday night. The Packers overcame a 14-0 deficit and the loss of Chad Clifton to get the win.

Last season at this time, there’s no way the Packers win that game. But Aaron Rodgers is so good right now that the Packers are never out of a game.

It was tough finding candidates for the falling category this week. It was equally as tough limiting the rising category to three players.

Rising

Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers is the best player in the league right now. The Packers probably lose Sunday night if their quarterback is merely good. But Rodgers is great, and he played great once again on Sunday.

Desmond Bishop
Bishop keyed the defensive turnaround by slicing through a gap and bringing down Michael Turner early in the second quarter. From there, the Packers D controlled the game and looked like the defense from last season.

Greg Jennings
Jennings typically hovers between steady and rising, but there’s no doubt where he belongs after five games. He’s one of the best route runners in the game and he’s been making plays in every game this season.

Steady

Mason Crosby
Crosby is a perfect 9 for 9 on FG attempts, including a huge 57-yarder on Sunday. Can’t be much more steady than that.

Mike McCarthy
McCarthy should probably go in the rising category, but we’ll keep him here for now. I love how open-minded McCarthy has become. He’s allowed Capers to make any type of adjustments needed on defense and he’s constantly trying new things throughout the course of a game on offense.

BJ Raji
Not only did Raji continue his stellar play on Sunday, he let the Falcons have it during postgame interviews. Much respect to Raji for taking care of business on the field, then calling it like he sees it after the game.

Falling

AJ Hawk
For those of you that play video games, go fire up your old Sega Genesis and play a version of Madden from the mid 90s, then play the latest version of Madden for the PS3. You’ll notice that the old Madden is much…more…slower than the latest PS3 version. Unfortunately, Hawk is stuck in the old version of Madden. He looks slow, and there’s no explosion whatsoever when he tries to make a play on the ball.

30

June

Despite Success, Packers Empty Backfield Formations Will Always Make Me Nervous

Aaron Rodgers needs to get rid of the ball quickly in empty-backfield formations.

Whenever the Packers lined up in an empty backfield formation last season, I got nervous.

Could Clifton and his creaky knees keep a speed rushing defensive end out of the backfield? Could the Colledge/Wells/Sitton interior combo handle a middle blitz without the safety net of a running back? Could Aaron Rodgers make his reads quick enough and get rid of the ball ontime? Could the ancient Mark Tauscher or the young Bryan Bulaga hold up the right side?

These are thoughts that raced through my head whenever Rodgers broke the huddle and set up behind center, all by his lonesome.

“That’s the franchise quarterback standing there all alone,” I would yell. “Somebody go stand next to him and protect him!”

If Julius Peppers or Ndamukong Suh broke through, there’s nothing Rodgers could do besides curl up and hope no major bones shatter while he’s driven to the turf. I resumed yelling: “Do we really want to alter the course of the franchise just so we can get Brett Swain in the game or line up a running back as a receiver?!”

Turns out, I shouldn’t have worried so much. The Packers were good in empty backfield sets.

Football Outsiders charted each team’s success in empty backfield formations last season. The Packers used an empty backfield 11 percent of the time (second most often in NFL) and averaged 5.5 yards per play (11th overall). Their DVOA with an empty backfield was 29.6 percent, ninth best in the league.

These are good numbers. Maybe I shouldn’t worry so much.

Even though the evidence points to empty-backfield success for the Packers, I’ll likely always shudder when Rodgers lines up without at least one partner in the backfield. It’s my nature, I guess.

Whenever I play Madden on the PS3, the Packers are almost impossible to stop with an empty backfield, five wide-receiver set. Somebody gets open, and Rodgers just zips him the ball.

Sophisticated offenses, feakishly athletic receivers/tight ends and rules that favor the passing game are making real-life football more like Madden every season. We’re probably going to see the use of empty backfields increase in the coming years.

That’s not good for my blood pressure. Hopefully it’s good for the Packers.