8

November

Packers Periscope: Week 10 vs. Philadelphia Eagles

The Past

Last time these two teams met was in the NFC wildcard game in 2010.  However, the Packers got to experience the beast that they themselves had created; during the season opener Clay Matthews III knocked out starting quarterback Kevin Kolb with a concussion, which paved the way for the resurgence of Michael Vick, who had been just released from jail after pleading guilty to operating a dog fighting ring.  With the more dynamic Vick leading the way with vertical receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles boasted one of the most dangerous offenses that head coach Andy Reid had ever fielded.

However, during the playoffs the Eagles failed to get much going on offense while the Packers watched as rookie James Starks, who had been hobbled by injuries all season, burst onto the scene with 123 yards rushing, a Packers record for a rookie running back in the playoffs and saw a little glimpse of what was to come in their stunning 2011 season when an unknown undrafted rookie blocking tight end named Tom Crabtree made his first touchdown reception by sneaking past a linebacker.

On special teams, the Packers didn’t make many mistakes, which couldn’t be said for the Eagles as kicker David Akers left 6 points off the board with two missed field goals.  The Packers also enjoyed several big plays on defense, notably Clay Matthews completely destroying tackle Winston Justice and a last minute end zone interception by Tramon Williams that pushed the Packers into the divisional round against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Present

A lot has changed for the Eagles since the 2010 playoff game.  13 year incumbent Andy Reid was replaced by college football phenomenon Chip Kelly, who had lead the Oregon Ducks to a 46-7 record with 4 bowl appearances with his fast-paced, spread offense.  While Kelly and his super speed offense sent shockwaves throughout the NFL after their opening game against the Redskins after calling 53 plays in the first half, the rest of the NFL adjusted and the Eagles have been the epitome of “up and down” with some thrilling victories and some crushing defeats which explains the 5-3 record.

While Michael Vick still holds the starting quarterback position in name, Nick Foles has made a case to remain under center after a record breaking 7 touchdown, 158.3 QB rating touchdown performance last week against the Oakland Raiders.  On the other side of the ball, the Eagles defense has been largely ineffective, sorting out much like the Green Bay Packers in terms of defensive efficiency.

1

November

Seven games into rookie season, Micah Hyde looks like he belongs

Packers rookie Micah Hyde, just 22 years old, has already proven to be a versatile defender and solid return man.

Packers rookie Micah Hyde, just 22 years old, has already proven to be a versatile defender and solid return man.

Prior to coming off the board in the fifth round of April’s NFL Draft, Packers rookie cornerback Micah Hyde had no idea where he’d be selected.

“I was hearing stuff from all different angles, but at the end of the day I really didn’t care,” Hyde said. “As long as I got the opportunity to get on a team somewhere, whether it was first round or free agent, I was going to try and make the best of it.”

On the final day of the draft, Hyde was on the golf course when he got the call from a Green Bay number. He said people looked confused when they saw a group of 20-something-year-old guys throwing balls into the pond and driving across the fairway in a spontaneous celebration.

But for Hyde, who grew up in Ohio and attended college at the University of Iowa, Green Bay seems to be the perfect fit.

“This is exactly where I want to be,” Hyde said. “I was fortunate to be picked by the Packers because this is the perfect place, and the draft, all that stuff is in the past.”

Hyde was pick No. 159 in April’s draft, but there certainly aren’t 158 rookies making a bigger impact than he has thus far.

Talking to second-round pick Eddie Lacy last week, it was clear that Wisconsin’s cool October weather was an adjustment for him, but while Hyde says he doesn’t “like to play in the cold,” he’s grown accustomed to it.

Last week, in the temperature-controlled confines of the Metrodome, Hyde scored his first touchdown on a 93-yard punt return just before halftime. After proving to be a valuable player in the secondary, capable of covering the slot and playing on the perimeter, Hyde stepped up and gave the Packers a splash play on special teams–an area in which such plays have been lacking so far this season.

“It was definitely exciting,” Hyde said. “Especially because it was at Minnesota and it kind of quieted the dome a little bit.”

On his way to the end zone, however, Hyde nearly had a fail of Danny Trevathan proportions. Less than ten yards shy of the goal line, Hyde slowed his stride and strutted as he approached the end zone. He stumbled and nearly faceplanted.

30

October

Packers Stock Report: The Bears (and the Vikings) Still Suck Edition

Micah Hyde’s punt return for a TD elevates the Packers rookie into this week’s rising category.

The Packers closed down the Metrodome in style Sunday night, bowling over the Vikings and filling the cavernous white bubble with the sweet sounds of Go Pack Go!

Hearing Go Pack Go echoing throughout the Metrodome as the Packers beat the Vikings is one of the best sounds in all of sports. I won’t miss the Dome, but I will miss the times when the Packers play well enough to allow Cheeseheads to take the place over.

Now that the Packers have dispensed of the Vikings and Christian Ponder, it’s on to the Bears and Jay Cutler  Josh McCown. Instead of extending this intro any further, prepare for Bears week by watching this educational and informative video:

On to the stock report:

Rising

Micah Hyde
On his Tuesday afternoon radio show, Aaron Rodgers wondered how Hyde fell to the fifth round in the draft. The rookie is a solid all-around player — a decent tackler, decent cover guy, decent slot blitzer, and now he has a punt return TD under his belt. In a secondary filled with young talent, Hyde is fitting right in.

Mike Daniels
The type of relentless pass rush and the ability to finish a sack once he gets in the backfield is just what the Packers needed this season. Many thought it would come from rookie Datone Jones, but it’s actually coming from Daniels. Daniels added two more sacks on Sunday. Christian Ponder is not a good quarterback, but he is elusive and not easy to bring down. Daniels got him twice.

T.J. Lang
What’s left to say about the interior of the Packers offensive line? Lang has been battling some bruising defensive tackles all season and keeps on winning those battles much more often than he loses. Lang might be a bit undersized, but he’s athletic and excels on combo blocks when he’s asked to get to the second level.

Steady

Jordy Nelson
It’s like Nelson and Rodgers had a devious plan on Sunday night against the Vikings:

Rodgers: “Hey Jordy, instead of getting wide open tonight, just glue yourself to the nearest defender so I can show off by whizzing a pass right by the guy’s ear hole and into your hands.”

28

October

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 44, Vikings 31

Jordy Nelson caught two touchdowns, giving Myles White and the rest of the team reason to celebrate.

Jordy Nelson caught two touchdowns, giving Myles White and the rest of the team reason to celebrate.

The opening kickoff made it look like the Minnesota Vikings would have a shot to upset the Green Bay Packers in teams’ final meeting at the Metrodome, as Cordarrelle Patterson raced 109 yards for a touchdown.

But from then on, it was all Packers.

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense moved the ball up and down the field with ease throughout the game. Despite having Myles White as his No. 3 receiver and Andrew Quarless as the starting tight end, Rodgers threw for 285 yards and a pair of scores to go along with just five incompletions.

His two touchdowns–both to Jordy Nelson–were perfect. There’s no other way to put it, really. Rodgers zipped the ball right past the defender’s earhole on each throw, leaving the defender with no chance at deflecting the pass.

After the first scoring connection from Rodgers to Nelson, I tweeted, “If I’m Aaron Rodgers, I’m putting an ongoing loop of that throw on a projection screen. Maybe in every room of my house.” And I meant it.

Then, after Nelson’s 76-yard score, I, again, wanted share my admiration. However, I just couldn’t seem to think of the words. It was simply another perfect throw by one of the best quarterbacks in football.

That touchdown, ironically, reminded me of Rodgers’ crucial third-down dart to Greg Jennings in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLV. Jennings, now with quarterbacks Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, Matt Cassell and the Minnesota Vikings, was targeted three times Sunday night and only caught one pass for nine yards.

It’s safe to say that, while wealthier, Jennings is not having a lot of fun wearing purple this season. And that’s nothing against the color.

Speaking of Jordy Nelson, I think it’s worth revisiting the unwritten rule that you can’t compare white wide receivers to anyone other than white wide receivers. Nelson isn’t Eric Decker or Ed McCaffrey. He’s not Wayne Chrebet or Wes Welker.

The guy is every bit of 6’3″ 217 pounds. He’s not the fastest receiver in the world, but he does everything you could possibly ask a wide receiver to do, and he does it well.

21

October

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 31, Browns 13

Packers receiver Jarrett Boykin enjoyed his first career Lambeau Leap following his fourth-quarter touchdown against the Browns.

Packers receiver Jarrett Boykin enjoyed his first career Lambeau Leap following his fourth-quarter touchdown against the Browns.

Already shorthanded on defense the previous week against the Ravens, the Green Bay Packers offense joined the club, heading into their matchup with the Cleveland Browns severely undermanned.

But despite being without receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones, quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the Packers offense up and down the field, scoring 31 points against a solid Browns defense. For Rodgers, it may have been his best performance of the season despite throwing for a modest (by his standards) 260 yards.

Unfortunately for the Packers, the injury bug continued to hang around the team Sunday, as tight end Jermichael Finley suffered a neck injury on a vicious head to the head from Browns safety Tashaun Gipson. Finley was loaded onto a stretcher and taken off the field, although he did show movement in his extremities.

Of course, just a few years after former Packers safety Nick Collins’ career was cut short by a neck injury, many will fear the worst any time a Packers suffers an injury to his head or neck. I’m not a doctor and don’t pretend to assume to know the extent of Finley’s injury, but it certainly looked bad. Originally, I assumed Finley had suffered only(?) another concussion, which would have been his second of the season, but it’s pretty clear that’s not the case.

This is a neck injury, and it’s anyone’s guess as to when he’ll return to the field. If at all.

He stayed in intensive care overnight at the hospital, but according to Mike Garafolo’s official Twitter account, Finley was up and walking as of Monday morning. Walking is a good first step for Finley, but football continues to be an afterthought in the grand scheme of his serious injury.

On the bright side, it was another dominating performance by Dom Capers and the Packers defense.

Sam Shields, once again, shut down the opponent’s No. 1 receiver, Davon House stepped up and picked up a pass on fourth down and A.J. Hawk continues to look like the All-American he was at Ohio State University. Shields, specifically, is deserving of a great deal of credit for his job on Browns receiver Josh Gordon.

1

September

Surviving Sunday: News, Notes and Analysis from Packers Preseason

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Well, Packers fans, since the 2013 NFL season starts next Sunday, this is the last Surviving Sunday of the year.

NFL football games that actually matter will be keeping us occupied for the next 20 weeks or so, and there won’t be a need for 800-word posts wrapping up the news of the week and mixing in my ramblings about pro wrestling, video games, concussions, the media or whatever other tangent I like to go off on.

As always, thanks for reading. Hopefully the next Surviving Sunday isn’t published until Feb. 9, 2014, the Sunday after the Packers win Super Bowl XLVIII.

Roster cuts
All of the Packers roster cuts are in and there were a few surprises: 1) Vince Young is gone. I thought his ability to run and at least have a chance to make a play every now and then would save him, but I thought wrong. Now who’s going to back up Aaron Rodgers? Your guess is as good as mine. 2. Tyrone Walker didn’t make the team. I suppose that’s not really too big of a surprise, but he had a nice camp and I liked what I saw. Alex Green getting cut wasn’t much of a surprise. Starks has more pop than Green and is just a better back. You can’t play the injury card on Starks when comparing the two, either, because Green has injury issues of his own.

Tramon is back
Tramon Williams returned in Thursday’s preseason finale and had an interception on the Chiefs’ first pass. I’m not worried at all about Williams’ pass coverage. Sure, he gets beat more often than he did in 2010, but the good far outweighs the bad when Williams drops back in coverage. What I need to see from Williams is toughness. The 49ers will look at film of the 2012 Packers this week, see Williams retreat when a run comes his way, and start licking their chops. Williams needs to be a tougher tackler this season. Plain and simple.

24

August

Cory’s Corner: Packers Defense Will Be Back This Year

Johnny Jolly could add an edge to the Packers defense.

Johnny Jolly could add an edge to the Packers defense.

There are a lot of reasons to feel optimistic about this Packers season. Aaron Rodgers is the game’s best quarterback at the most important position. A capable running game is now firmly in place after drafting Alabama bulldozer Eddie Lacy. And the leaner, stronger Jermichael Finley is keeping his tongue muzzled.

Those are great reasons. But I’m the pegging the defense to have a bounce-back season.

I understand if a lot of you are raising your eyebrows right now. Heck, the Packers were 22nd in the league in defensive yards per game (336) and tied for 30th — that’s second to last — with 123 penalties.

Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy made a bold move by bringing back defensive tackle Johnny Jolly. He hasn’t seen game action in 3 ½ years, spent six months in jail and tried to get his life back after a codeine arrest. But Jolly is looking like the left defensive end that started all 16 games in 2009. He had a sack, a pick, two fumble recoveries and 24 tackles back then.

Jolly has looked great in the preseason, showing that the fire for football never went out. His presence is even more important now that first round pick Datone Jones has been dealing with a pesky ankle injury.

Like Jolly, linebacker Nick Perry is another key cog this year. The first round pick saw his rookie campaign truncated due to nagging knee and wrist injuries. He is trimmer than last year and has a better understanding of the outside linebacker position, which was different than defensive end which is what he played at USC.

That makes two great bookend linebackers in Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme. Clay Matthews has played out of this universe thanks to his impressive closing speed, his array of moves to get to the quarterback and his seemingly limitless energy. With a solid linebacker on the other side, Matthews will not be double-teamed nearly as often, which will open the door for Matthews to make his fifth Pro Bowl in his fifth NFL season.

The Packers front seven is better. Jolly brings a needed edge and nastiness that hasn’t been seen in awhile and A.J. Hawk brings the necessary leadership because he doesn’t care about the pay cut, he just wants to win. And as he heads into his eighth season, Hawk is like a quasi coach at inside linebacker.