Oh Where, Oh Where Did the Offense Go?

Posted September 22nd, 2014 @ 02:09am

So, about those 34 points I thought the Packers were going to score...

Three games into the season, the Packers offense is an abject mess. That's not a sentence I've written or spoken too many times over the past 20 seasons. It starts with the running game. On one hand, the Pack has faced three staunch run defenses. On the other hand, Mike McCarthy inexplicably continued to stick with it against a Lions defense that was auditioning corners off the street all week and signed two of them. Yet the ordinary Joes who were out there did enough to keep the passing game in check all afternoon.

If Eddie Lacy and company can't get untracked against the Bears (and their lousy run defense) next weekend, we'll know we've got serious issues. It was a lousy dal all around. His fumble put the Pack in an instant hole and the safety following Davon House's pick was the turning point in the game (equal blame falls on McCarthy for the play call).

I mean, if you would have told me the Pack would get three turnovers and hold Megatron under 90 yards and the Lions offense to 10 points, I would have said the Pack would breeze to an easy victory. But for the first time in 11 games against the Lions, Rodgers was ordinary. His receivers couldn't get open and Cobb and Boykin dropped key third down passes. James and Jermichael, where are you?

The sky is falling alarmists will be out in full force and I think it's a bit early for that. There are legit concerns about where this team stands right now, but there are signs of encouragement. The defense played well; Julius Peppers was excellent and Davon House looks like his offseason training with Darrelle Revis paid off. Ha Ha Clinton Dix got his first pick and is off to a very good start. The unit tired near the end, after spending over 38 minutes on the field, and Reggie Bush made them pay with the game sealing touchdown and then gaining enough yards to run out the clock.

The only real negative from the defense came with some key penalties on third down that extend Lions' drives.

For now it's the offense that needs fixing and that's supposed to be McCarthy's forte. The line must block better and open holes. The receivers need to get on the same page as their quarterback. And the running game has to get untracked.

We knew the opening quarter of the season would be tough with three road tests against quality teams. 2-2 seemed like an acceptable start. To get there they'll need to beat the Bears at Soldier Field. It will be a stiff road test: they're gonna need to pull a few all nighters between now and Sunday.

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Can Pack Put Lions in Deep Freese?

Posted September 19th, 2014 @ 04:09pm

As the Packers get set to embark on a key stretch of three division games in 11 days, let's take stock of what we know about this team through two games.

Not much.

The 2014 version of this team that we all had in our heads before the season started has yet to show itself. Are they the undisciplined, not ready for prime time bunch we saw in Seattle on opening night? Are they the sleep-in-their-eyes late risers who woke up just in time to beat a team they were expected to handle easily? Are they Super Bowl contenders or just a good team that will win enough games behind Aaron Rodgers to keep them in the playoff hunt come holiday time?

These next three games should give us a clue as to how high this team could climb. When we last saw the Pack at Ford Field, last Thanksgiving Day, they were blown out. Now we know Rodgers didn't play that day and we also know that Rodgers has never lost to the Lions in games he's started and finished. That should provide a level of optimism for this Sunday, but obviously it's a new season and the Lions have a brand new coaching staff.

The Lions looked great at home on opening night when they dismantled the Giants, a team that will be lucky to win five games this season. Their offense was grounded in Carolina last weekend, despite the fact that the Panthers de-activated (finally) their best player just hours before kickoff.

Matthew Stafford is a confounding player for Lions fans to watch. At times he looks like Brett Favre. Other times he looks like Randy Wright. He still has Calvin Johnson, the best receiver in the game, who always seems to make big plays against the Pack (and everyone else). They added Packer nemesis Golden Tate to take some of the pressure off Megatron. Through two games he's been productive: 11 catches for 150 yards. The Pack can't roll all the coverage over to #81; Tate needs to be accounted for, especially if they try a Hail Mary (sorry).

The Lions' two-headed running attack has been slow out of the gates. Reggie Bush and Joique Bell have found little room so far--much due to an offensive line that has not looked very good. They're thin to begin with and with right tackle LaAdrian Waddle unlikely to play with a calf injury, they're even thinner. If the defense handles the run like they did last week, they could force Joe Lombardi and the Lions to become pass-happy. Clay and company should be able to rattle Stafford into some mistakes.

That said, the Lions are always more productive at home and should be able to put up 24 points in their sleep. The question is, can the Pack score more than that?

It begins this week with Eddie Lacy and the running game. After facing two staunch run defenses in Seattle and the Jets, the Lions rank 28th so far and they've faced two mediocre running teams. It feels like Lacy is ready to explode and with Bryan Bulaga expected back at right tackle, the line should be ready to help make that happen.

Since 2008, Rodgers has thrown for more yards and touchdowns against the Lions than any QB in the NFL. Granted, he gets to play them twice a year, but his numbers are impressive: in 10 games, he's had a 100-plus passer rating 8 times and has thrown 19 TDs and only 5 picks.

The Lions will no doubt try to take Jordy Nelson out of the picture, after the career game he had against the Jets. That should open up lots of opportunities for Randall Cobb and the emerging Davante Adams. The Lions continue to be thin at corner--they've lost two guys for the season and have very little talent behind starters Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay. Hard not to see Rodgers lighting up the Lions, per usual.

The point spread has the Lions favored by one and it feels like a field goal kind of game. That's where the Packers have the biggest mismatch. While Mason Crosby has been picture perfect through two games, the Lions kicking game is a mess. They're still looking for a replacement for Jason Hanson, who retired two years ago. Rookie Nate Freese has the job, but wouldn't if he wasn't a seventh round draft pick. He's two for five on field goal tries so far--making two under 30 yards and missing three in the 40s.

He's probably down to his last miss, which has to be weighing on his mind. Look for McCarthy to ice Freeze (sorry again), if the situation calls for it. If it comes down to a game of field goals, it would appear the Packers have a big edge.

Nothing we've seen from the Packers so far suggests that they're ready to go on the road and beat an explosive offensive team. But this is the Lions and it's not Thanksgiving Day and Rodgers is playing.

Packers 34  Lions 31

Reminder: I'll be watching the game at the Park Tavern on Sunday. Hope to see you at the 11th Frame, the bar behind the bowling alley. Great prizes along with food and drink specials, as always.

And, Monday is the 7th annual Border Battle golf tournament at the beautiful Stoneridge Gold Club in Stillwater. There's still time to register and it's going to be a beautiful day: www.stoneridgegc.com

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Pack's Comeback Win Comes in the Nick of Time (out)

Posted September 15th, 2014 @ 01:09am

If they're all going to be like this, I'm going to need to stock up on Prilosic. Yes, the Packers dug themselves out of a 21-3 hole, but if not for a very fortuitous time out call, who knows how this crazy game might have ended.

Thank goodness for Marty Mornhinweg. After helping Brett Favre and the Pack capture Super Bowl XXXI, he continued to help the Pack during his disastrous two year stint as Lions coach. But never has he been more helpful than he was on this Sunday. When he frantically asked Rex Ryan to call timeout before the big fourth down play, the side judge blew his whistle, nullifying what would have been the game-tying play and giving the Packers defense a much needed, if undeserved mulligan.

So where do we start? On the Pack's first play, which Rodgers fumbled after not cleanly receiving the snap? On the defense's first quarter ineptitude where they couldn't get off the field on third down? On the Pack's inability to match the Jets with touchdowns early, settling for three field goals to answer the Jets three touchdowns?

Or should we pick things up on the last drive of the first half, when Rodgers and company executed a pitch perfect 97 yard drive that cut the lead to 21-16 at the half, providing momentum as they headed into the locker room?

At that point we started to believe the team was settling down from its disastrous start, which included an inexplicable challenge by McCarthy on a sideline catch by Eric Decker, which was completely, obviously a catch (and a great one, at that).

The Packers should ultimately be credited for getting their act together and keeping the team in the game. The run defense was vastly improved, holding the two headed team of Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory to 64 yards on 25 carries. And after allowing the Jets to convert five of its first six first downs, they stiffened in the second half, holding Geno Smith and company to just 2-8 on third downs the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, Jordy Nelson was brilliant and the team needed nearly every one of his career high 209 yards to secure the win. Randall Cobb's numbers were more ordinary, but he found paydirt twice. It was also nice to see rookie Davante Adams contribute with five catches--including a couple of key third down receptions. Rodgers is developing some trust with his young receiver. He has yet to develop that with his tight ends--Andrew Quarless caught one pass for eight yards. Let's hope Brandon Bostick is ready to go as the Pack heads into a key stretch with three straight division games.

It was too close for comfort and there was a lot not to like, but the Packers didn't panic, settled down on both sides of the ball and got a little lucky at the end. On a weekend when the rest of the division came up short, we'll take it. Safe to say, the Packers don't have to be concerned with peaking too early, at this point.

But they'll need to be a lot sharper as they head to Motown. Splitting the next two division road games would be acceptable. But they'll need to be a lot sharper from the start if they expect to make an early NFC North statement over the next couple of weeks.

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Get your Packer foursome together for the annual Border Battle Golf Tournament, Monday, Sept. 22nd at Stoneridge GC. Great lunch and plenty of trash talk. Info and registration at www.stoneridgegc.com

Power Rankings

The Baker's Dozen Why 13 and not 10? To celebrate the Pack’s 13 NFL titles, of course. 9/9/14

  1. Seattle (1)
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  4. New Orleans (4)
  5. New England (5)
  6. Packers (3)
  7. Indianapolis (7)
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