Packers XLV

Reason For Hope, Reason For Concern

Posted January 11th, 2011 @ 03:01pm

They have steam. In their eyes, they've won three straight playoff games and this Saturday is just the next item on the "to do" list. The Green Bay Packers feel like they are on a roll as they head into Atlanta: winning must games against the Giants, Bears and Eagles the last three weeks.

Meanwhile the top-seeded Falcons haven't played a meaningful game since December 27th, when they lost at home on a Monday night to the Saints. They closed the regular season sleep-walking through a cupcake closer at home against the Panthers and have been sitting around waiting for their turn to play.

So Mike McCarthy is selling the players on their momentum. Six days rest vs. 13? 'No big deal, we like our chances.' Hard to argue with him. In a road game where Aaron Rodgers threw for less than 200 yards and fumbled in the red zone, Greg Jennings caught one ball and the team as a whole ran five plays on the Eagles' side of the field in the second half, they beat a solid, dynamic team and earned their way into the divisional round.

That gives the Packers hope. The emergence of James Starks, if nothing else, makes the Pack unpredictable and more difficult to prepare for. Perhaps for the first time this season, play action may actually be an effective tool for McCarthy and Rodgers to use. Defensively, this team is playing at a different level from last year's playoff edition. You can bet watching film of the first Atlanta matchup will fire them up: it was the worst tackling performance of the season. Michael Turner was a one-man wrecking crew and there were more missed tackles than we'd seen all season. You know they're pumped up to get a second chance.

Look, the Falcons are the top seed for a reason. They've got a great young QB who's 20-2 at home. His top targets include top-5 guy Roddy White and instant Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez. Plus, Turner is an elite back. Defensively, they're middle of the pack, but they have big play guys like John Abraham, Dunta Robinson and Curtis Lofton.

The Dome will be rockin' and the game has all the makings of a heavyweight bout, with both teams landing punches and the result coming down to who can make the big play. That's where the concern comes into play. Despite the rousing win in Philadelphia the Packers gave us glimpses of why they are a six seed and not a two seed in the playoffs.

Their maddening  habit of failing to execute in key situations, mismanaging the clock and getting ultra-conservative with a lead could easily have cost them against the Eagles, as it did in losses to Chicago, Washington, Miami and Atlanta. Go back to the drop by James Jones at the end of the half. That whole drive had ugly written all over it, beginning when McCarthy failed to use a timeout as the Eagles were trying to kill the clock. Rodgers got the ball and the Pack wasn't sure whether to try something or not. When they did, Jones failed to convert.

Their last possession is hard to argue with too much. The strategy was to run the ball, force the Eagles to use their timeouts and try to leave Vick with as little time as possible.  But, as a few readers have correctly thrown out there, why not try play action there and try a safe pass over the middle. Complete one or two of those and the Eagles don't even get the ball back.

So far the 2010 Packers will be thought of as the team that withstood 15 players heading to IR and the team that lost a lot of close games--none by more than four points. In fact, they haven't trailed by more than seven points all season.

You get the feeling that after Saturday night that second point will either be underlined or forgotten. This game will most likely be decided in the final two minutes. If the Pack can rise up and avoid the big mistake late (a la the penalty on the late kickoff in the first Falcons meeting), they just might take down their second species of bird in this post-season.

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Comments (12):

Outstanding post however , I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject? I'd be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Bless you!

on December 6th, 2014 at 08:27pm

thanks for share!

on February 24th, 2012 at 05:22pm

I too got upset over McCarthy’s conservative play calling at the end. But I took another look at it. You’ve got the lead, controlled the game, got a RB who’s hot, and you’ve been able to run the ball. Plus you’ve got the best defense in the NFL and feel comfortable putting it in their hands if need be. Considering all of those things and looking at it from the coaches (or risk-management) perspective, (not the fans perspective) I now think I would have made the same decision. Yes, we’d all like to see the Pack pummel opponents, but as the coach you want the W, unless you’re an _-hole like Ditka or Lovie (Lovie, now there’s a real football name). From the other point of view, what if we had gone for it before the half and given up a pick6? Giving the other team momentum and hope is not a good way to send your opponent into the locker room at halftime. The same thing holds true for the end of the game. Would it have happened? Probably not, but the Giants never thought it would happen either. We won the game, so McCarthy’s philosophy worked because he believed in the team and believed that he put them in the best possible position to win. I believe in the team and that includes McCarthy. I believe you ride the horse you came in on (and that’s no reflection on MM’s weight).

on January 11th, 2011 at 01:43pm

First.....From a Rube's standpoint I'm going to give a Rube game plan for the Atlanta game. On defense I'm going to call it the Matty DEICER Plan !! Stack the box....do not let Michael Turner beat us....make Matty DE ICE beat Woodson, Shields, and Williams. I do not think he can giving the way they are playing. Turner killed is in our last game with them....do not let him beat us. DE-ICE him with takeaways by our big play guys and win third downs. Capers can throw in a few different looks but the basic plan has to be this Now for the offensive game plan..MM needs to be agressive and by that realize this is a QB league and season....we have one of the best in AROD....trust him and let him go.....if he tries a Philly game plan we will get blown out...James Starks I love..but he is not getting 123 yards rushing in this game.....let AROD throw 45 times and do not get conservative if we get ahead early. Arod must limit turnovers and win 3rd downs which he can do. MM's task is to be aware of and manage the clock and timeouts. He's got to be better than he has been in this game. This is the "Rube Game Plan" ....a win is a win but these are my thoughts.....stay aggressive !!! GO PACK GO !!!

on January 11th, 2011 at 02:57pm

I think the reaction to the conservative playcalling is that too often we have seen that choice not pay off and see it costing us a game. There has got to be something behind the abysmal record in close games that McCarthy has managed. It worked this time, but I hope we can keep our foot on their throat if we are fortunate enough to have a late lead in this weekends game. --I just hope McCarthy remembers that playaction is the real value of our successful running game.

on January 11th, 2011 at 02:59pm

Hey Head Cheese I also get sick of how coservative we get at the end of games. But I was wondering if you heard anything about the video replay system in Atlanta. If they control when the Packers view the replays. It's a real disadvantage. GoPack

on January 11th, 2011 at 11:29am

Wow, I have to give it to SoCalSchen, agreeing with me on your first post is a great way to start your blogging existence. Of course, I agree with me too, and wholeheartedly at that. --- Nice stat reference by the way. 3.8 yards per carry. I would have figured they would be more successful than that. If they can hold Turner to that this weekend, things will go well. Anyway I know that deep down, Daveeeyyyyyy (TheHeadCheese) is very proud to have you on board. ---Everybody, please give it up for my California brother, SoCalSchen! Go Pack!

on January 12th, 2011 at 08:07pm

I agree with Scheny Schen wholeheartedly - playaction is the real value of our successful running game. I don't want to see the Jumbo package on any short yardage play unless it is to set up a TE for a wide open first down/TD. I do want to see Starks running it often in a spread formation. If we get TD's as opposed to FG's, and don't turn the ball over, this will be a very winnable game. Atlanta's running game is overrated as well. They only average 3.8 yards per carry. That is not dominant, it just shows that they are going to keep at it regardless of the success they are having. Love the blog by the way - intelligent conversation unlike other sites that are just cheering sections. That being said - Go Pack!

on January 12th, 2011 at 12:08pm

I agree with Scheny Schen wholeheartedly - playaction is the real value of our successful running game. I don't want to see the Jumbo package on any short yardage play unless it is to set up a TE for a wide open first down/TD. I do want to see Starks running it often in a spread formation. If we get TD's as opposed to FG's, and don't turn the ball over, this will be a very winnable game. Atlanta's running game is overrated as well. They only average 3.8 yards per carry. That is not dominant, it just shows that they are going to keep at it regardless of the success they are having. Love the blog by the way - intelligent conversation unlike other sites that are just cheering sections. That being said - Go Pack!

on January 12th, 2011 at 12:09pm

Ah geez, just kick the damn ball already...this waiting is tough!

on January 13th, 2011 at 07:34pm

Hey Triple G, be grateful the game is being played on Saturday instead of Sunday! Go Pack!

on January 13th, 2011 at 10:12pm

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on June 23rd, 2012 at 02:22pm

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