Just Another Yawner at Lambeau.

Posted October 16th, 2018 @ 02:10pm

This game had just about everything: redemption for Mason Crosby, late game artistry from Aaron Rodgers and atrocious defense (until the final three drives). Much like the opener, I sat at my seat at Lambeau with the Pack trailing in the fourth quarter, thinking about what a terrible loss this would be.

A loss to the 49ers at home, against a backup QB, would have made for quite an interesting bye week in Titletown. There would have been finger pointing, some calling for Mike McCarthy's head, others declaring the season over well before it was time to go trick or treating.

But Rodgers treated us to yet another vintage fourth quarter performance, with assists from Davante Adams, Jimmy Graham and a beautiful back shoulder catch by EQ. We'll hand out one more assist to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, whose unit failed to protect the sidelines in that final drive, allowing the Pack to coast down the field for the final 1:07 with relative ease, despite their lack of timeouts.

The comeback will not erase what we watched for most of the night though. The defense was putrid against the run (the 49ers came in as the #4 rushing offense, but that should have been the unit's #1 focus), and couldn't stick with former track star Marquise Goodwin, who's missed most of the season dealing with injuries. But they stiffened when they needed to, allowing just three yards in the Niners' final three drives. When they took over near midfield in the closing seconds, I figured it was game, set, match. But McVay took a shot deep and Beathard turned into a backup QB again and Kevin King made him pay, setting up Rodgers' magic.

I found myself thinking that Todd Gurley and Jared Goff may score 100 points when the Packers come to visit in a couple of weeks. So let's look at the big picture here. The defense, other then a shutout of the Bills, has been uneven and slow to get comfortable with Mike Pettine's system. Maybe the bye week will help them get healthy, self-evaluate and be more prepared for the final ten games. Special teams has also been well below average, with ten penalties already and coming off a terrible night in kickoff coverage. Only Crosby's bounce back evening saved that unit from a failing grade on Monday night.

The offense figures to improve with the likely return of Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb after the bye. With three receivers eclipsing 100 yards (first time that's happened for the Pack since '80), the passing game is coming around. McCarthy appeared to be more willing to give Aaron Jones a lead role in the ground game Monday night, but he finished with just eight carries for 41 yards. His usage figures to increase, provided that the Pack doesn't fall way behind in the next couple of stiff road tests.

Which brings us to the schedule. At 3-2-1, the Pack is right in the mix in the North, but they've already played half of their home games and have looked miserable on the road. Now comes four road tests in the next five games, against opponents who sport a 16-7-1 record. Even the one home game looks dicey, against the 4-2 Dolphins. The Packers will be considerable underdogs in their next two games, against the Rams and Patriots and unless the defense has some kind of 'come to Jesus' moment, Rodgers and the offense will need to   try to keep up.

After a brutal stretch, the Pack could easily find itself sitting at 5-5-1 heading into December and in need of another 'run the table' rallying cry. But if they don't get considerably better on defense and cut down on the killer penalties and wasting timeouts, it's hard to believe this year's edition has that in them.

 

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With Bye Looming, Pack Has a Chance to Get Their House in Order.

Posted October 15th, 2018 @ 01:10am

So here come the largely luckless 49ers, ravaged by injuries, in what appears to be the easiest game left on the Pack's schedule. If the Packers don't bounce back in a big way from the debacle in Detroit, it will be hard to take them seriously as they get set to tackle the meat of their schedule, following the bye.

As nearly double digit favorites, the Pack won't prove a lot by soundly taking care of the Niners, but there is a lot that can be accomplished to give the team a modicum of momentum as they get set to the a week off and hopefully get healthier.

Let's start with the offense, where the majority of the frustration of the team's slow start falls. Aaron Rodgers has not played close to his usual standard and the hope is that after a week off, his knee will be markedly better. When he aggravated it on the first series last week, it impacted his performance. But with or without the injury, the ball security issues need to go away. So do the penalties and the need to waste timeouts with the shot clock running down.

It's time to see this offense get off to a quick start, put points on the board early and get their opponent on their heels. At this point, we don't know whether he'll get Geronimo Allison or Randall Cobb back. Both are listed as questionable as they battle back from hamstring injuries. My hunch is they rest Cobb so he can take advantage of the bye and come back close to 100% in two weeks. Hopefully Allison will be ready to come back, otherwise we'll get another chance to see how the rookies respond on a big stage.

The 49ers have really struggled to get a pass rush going and only have three takeaways all season, so this should be an opportunity for the Pack's offense to get rolling. If the passing game clicks early, it will open up things for the running game. Is this the week that Aaron Jones gets the lion's share of the carries? We all hope so, but I'd be surprised. McCarthy's being stubborn on this front. Jones' day will come, but I don't think he'll get that opportunity on Monday night--I hope I'm wrong.

On to the defense, where we hope we'll get rookie Jaire Alexander back from the groin injury. The unit is otherwise pretty healthy and should have the advantage over an offense that's been ravaged by injury. Former Hawkeye CJ Beathard has taken over for Jimmy Garropolo and is posting some pretty prolific numbers so far. But he struggles when pressured and may not have WR Pierre Garcon and RB Matt Breida; the latter was called doubtful by coach Kyle Shanahan earlier in the week, but now has a chance to play. Their top threat in the passing game, another former Iowa standout George Kittle, ice dealing with a knee injury but should be okay to start.

Looking to see this unit keep their hands off the receivers, so the flags remain in the officials' pockets. Looking for success on third downs--something they've been good at this season and looking for a solid pass rush: the primary missing element of this unit, though they've succeeded against the inexperienced QBs they've faced so far this season.

And then there's special teams. The microscope will be on Mason Crosby all night, but Ill be surprised if we don't see the usual Crosby on Monday night. If he struggles again, things could get a little interesting during bye week.

When this game ends, the Packers will have already played half of their home games and will get set to play four of the next five on the road, three in prime time, beginning with a late afternoon start at the unbeaten Rams. This one is an absolute must. The Packers need to make a statement to exorcise the demons from that Motown meltdown. I'm guessing we see it.

Packers 27   49ers 16

 

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Where's Marvin Gaye When You Need Him?

Posted October 8th, 2018 @ 01:10pm

It's fitting that the Packers were in Motown on Sunday, as Marvin Gaye's classic, "What's Going On" would serve as the soundtrack of the game for the Pack and its fans.

From the gaffe on the Lions' first punt that served them up on the Pack's yard line, to the two strip sacks of Aaron Rodgers, to Mason Crosby's inexplicable meltdowns, this was a performance that won't soon be forgotten.

We watched a lot of bad football last season when Rodgers was sidelined, and we've seen more than our share already this season: witness the first half against the Bears, the second half against the Vikings and pretty much the whole Washington game. But what transpired at Ford Field will leave a bad taste in our mouths for quite some time, and how the team responds will tell the story of the 2018 season.

There are plenty of elements of concern after this abomination, but it starts with the play of Rodgers. On a day when he was without two of his top three receiving options, he needed to be razor sharp, but he wasn't close to that. The knee injury that has caused him to miss practice time during the week has stunted his progress in getting in sync with his receivers, most notably Jimmy Graham (who doesn't resemble the version we saw in New Orleans) and the rookies, who were asked to step up and, for the most part, did their jobs against the Lions.

Rodgers shouldered plenty of blame for his uneven performances so far this season, but the time to get things squared away is running out. With the easiest game left on the schedule coming up next Monday (home against the 49ers) and then the much needed bye, the Pack will need to get healthy and get their act together or their season could go down in flames before the first snowflakes fall.

To get to ten wins, the Pack would need to win eight of their last 11 games. That means they would need to be perfect at home and then find three road wins. As a reminder, the remaining road slate takes them to LA (Rams), New England, Seattle, Minnesota, Chicago and New York (Jets). They will need to play infinitely sharper if they expect to go 3-3 in those games.

Now, on to Crosby. The Pack's all-time leading scorer had the worst game of his life. Never would have believed we'd see him miss four field goals and an extra point indoors in perfect conditions. Yes, he's working with a new snapper and holder this season, but it appeared that they were not the problem. You have to chalk it up to 'just one of those days' and assume he'll put it behind him. The fact that he made his last attempt in the final seconds should at least provide a modicum of confidence as he moves on to next week. As I tweeted during the game, if this is how Vikings fans feel every time their kicker takes the field, I couldn't take it.

Lost in the haze of the three first half turnovers and Crosby's foibles was the fact that the defensive effort was good enough to get the win. The run defense, minus one 24 yard Kerrion Johnson run, was solid and the pass defense was okay. Emerging star Kenny Golladay made some big plays, but Golden Tate and Marvin Jones were pretty silent. There is still a lack of big plays being made by guys like Matthews, Perry, Daniels and Clinton-Dix. They've looked great against young, inexperienced QBs, but have failed to make game-changing plays against the veterans they've faced. A turnover in the second half when the Pack was frantically trying to get back in the game could have made things interesting.

Think about it, the Pack gained 540 yards in offense, never punted the ball and lost by eight points. Has that ever happened before? I doubt it.

Bottom line, so far this season, the Packers look like an average team that is destined to finish around .500. There is time to turn things around, but they'll need their quarterback to get healthy and play like the all-timer that he is, their special teams units to get things cleaned up and their defense to start making game-changing plays.

Our hope is that the Packers can move on from "What's Going On" to "Dancing in the Streets." But for now, the jukebox appears to be stuck.

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Power Rankings

The Baker's Dozen Why 13 and not 10? To celebrate the Pack’s 13 NFL titles, of course. 10/9/18

  1. LA Rams (1)
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