Saturday, January 24, 2015

Shields convinced Bryant made controversial catch

Packers CB Sam Shields isn't exactly taking the side he probably should on Dez Bryant's NFC Divisional incompletion. 

Shields believes Bryant caught the ball, according to a recent ESPN.com article.

Shields called the controversial play a catch in the article, adding it was a "helluva" one at that. The overturned catch, coming on a late 4th-and-2, essentially doomed the Cowboys in the contest, one which they would eventually lose 26-21.

Bottom line: it appears common sense is continuing to trump technicalities when it comes to the play, though said technicalities are in fact part of the league's rule book. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Matthews fined $22K for block on Wilson

Packers LB Clay Matthews has been fined $22,050 for his hit on Russell Wilson in last week's NFC Championship Game, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports. 

Coming after Wilson had a pass intercepted by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the second quarter, Matthews blocked Wilson pretty aggressively, and the league has apparently thought it was excessive. 

The knock has been labeled a cheap shot by some, but Matthews doesn't think so.

"I was just blocking whoever and it turned out to be the quarterback and obviously calls are going to go in their direction whether it was a blind-side hit or whatever," he told Rob Demovsky. "I'm just looking to pick up a block and unfortunately that's just how the game played out."

The Bears Have Replaced Just About Everyone

There will be a lot of offseason moves to write about for the Green Bay Packers, especially in regards to their free agents. But it's been a really surprising past couple of weeks for the Chicago Bears, who are coming off a disastrous 2014 season. This tweet sums up my thoughts.
This all got started a couple weeks ago when they hired GM Ryan Pace. His real test will come in the draft, but recruiting an impressive collection of experienced coaches who were in demand is a great start. Even if it turns out that he isn't a star in the draft evaluation process, their former GM struck out in the 2014 draft, so the organization had to try someone else.

John Fox is obviously a head coach who's had a lot of success in Carolina and Denver, and to bring along his OC Adam Gase, who was rumored for nearly every head coaching vacancy, is a major bonus. They don't get to bring Peyton Manning with them, but they were successful in Denver before Manning came to town. Fox and Gase are probably bringing a smash mouth style of football to Chicago which doesn't require a great passing quarterback either. However, that style doesn't seem to fit their current personnel, so a lot of changes might be coming soon except they probably won't eat $15.5 million guaranteed for Jay Cutler in 2015. Plus he's probably untradeable (he did get beat out by Jimmy Clausen last season).

On the other hand, there are reasons why Fox was allowed to leave Denver. And he's not exactly the best in-game manager.

Since Fox is best known as a defensive coach, I was surprised to see former 49ers DC Vic Fangio hired to the same position in Chicago. He didn't get the HC job with the 49ers so it should be expected that he's leaving the bay area, but he must have had other opportunities. A star DC isn't going to transform a defense if they don't have good players on the field, and the Bears are starving for talent on defense, but I can't imagine a better candidate at DC for the Bears than Fangio.

As an interesting side note, they also hired former Packer DC Ed Donatell to coach the defensive backs. Welcome back to the NFC North.

Overall, this is a much stronger group of coaches than I expected the Bears to hire. That doesn't always translate to success on the field. But bringing stability after a chaotic 2014 season will be a big relief for them and it might be a sign the Bears will be better sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Packers deny Rams' request to interview Van Pelt

The Packers have a denied a request by the Rams to interview team quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, ESPN Wisconsin's Jason Wilde reports. 

Van Pelt, who served as Green Bay's running backs coach for two seasons before changing jobs last year, is currently a candidate for St. Louis' open Offensive Coordinator position, according to Wilde.

Still, this doesn't mean Van Pelt's out of the running by any means, as the Giants were also denied the right to interview then-Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo last offseason before hiring him later. 

Expect more to come of this story in the near future. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Rodgers to sit Pro Bowl, be replaced by Bengals' Dalton on roster

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has decided to sit out this year's Pro Bowl, according to Bleacher Report.

Rodgers will be replaced by the Bengals' Andy Dalton on the roster. Rodgers has been nursing a calf injury for the last month, and must not have found further injury worth risking for the essentially-worthless exhibtion.

Besides him, it was also reported today that Randall Cobb and Sam Shields will head to Hawaii after two more elected guys chose to stay home.

The Packers will now have six representatives in next weekend's game, with Jordy Nelson, Josh Sitton, John Kuhn and Clay Matthews being the other four.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sitton Understandably Upset After Loss to Seahawks

Now that the team's season is over, Packers Guard Josh Sitton is pretty upset.

Here are some of his postgames from yesterday's loss, courtesy of NFL.com's Kevin Patra. They're kind of harsh:

"Anytime you feel like you should have won, it's tough to get over. And when it's the last one, it's very difficult to get over. You feel like it's a waste of seven, eight months. What's the point of getting this far? I'd have rather not even made the playoffs." 
"We kicked their ass up and down the field all day. And there's no reason we shouldn't have won the game. Literally one of 10 plays you can pick that if we get it, we win the game. It's frustrating when you should have won the game and you're the better team. And I thought we were the better team all day except for three minutes."

Packers Lose In Seattle: Heartbreaking 28-22 in OT

I was OK during the game, maybe it was too much like a bad dream while I was watching it live, but after the game I was a wreck. I went for a drive, I had to choose between binge eating or drinking (I chose eating, since I was driving), and then I couldn't go to sleep until 3 a.m. because I couldn't turn off my brain from thinking about it. I'm surprisingly alert after getting little sleep which probably goes to show how wired I still am.

Below is the worst of the worst moments that went wrong down the stretch. There's no dancing around it, if you're a fan of Bill Simmons then I'd put it at Level 3 (the Guillotine) because there wasn't one unbelievable play that lost it for them (see below about Brandon Bostick, the thought that he would blow a key play is completely believable), so I've posted below the worst video moment I could find.
Mike McCarthy. I understand his coaching decisions down the stretch, even if they look terrible in hindsight. Maybe he would have more aggressive if he knew Aaron Rodgers wasn't limited with his calf injury but his passive run out the clock, punt the ball strategy kept giving the Seahawks one more chance. The key coaching moment was at the 6:51 mark in the 3rd quarter when the Seahawks converted on 3rd and 19. It was the first drive of the game when the Seahawks' showed any signs of life, and with them backed up (and they should have been backed up even further except a poor call by the refs forced the Packers to decline a 15 yard penalty) the Packers played coverage (which was OK considering the down and distance) but then three pass rushers didn't make much of an effort to get after Russell Wilson. With plenty of time to throw, the eight defenders in coverage completely forget about the Seahawks' leading receiver, Doug Baldwin, and that's when I knew the defense was gassed.

To the defense's credit, they still stopped them on that drive, forced them to punt two more times before Morgan Burnett grabbed an INT (I haven't seen the reason why he slid instead running for more yards). But then Clay Matthews sat out with what appeared to be a leg injury, before returning for the final drive in OT (no idea about that one either) and the defense appeared lifeless. When they lost the coin flip to start OT, I knew they'd never get the ball because Seattle would score a touchdown. McCarthy seemed to believe in his defense, which gave him good reason for 3+ quarters, but he should have seen they were against the ropes. On their 4th quarter possessions, he should have told his MVP quarterback to make some passes, convert some 1st downs, and put the game away.

A.J. Hawk and Sean Richardson. While it looked like Richardson deserved blame for getting back into coverage late on the fake field goal, he did have to run from the other side of the formation. On the other hand, Hawk put himself into no man's land and decided too late to run at punter Jon Ryan. With 10 other teammates on the field and absolutely none of those teammates behind him, he should have been thinking coverage first and defended the goal line. Also, despite forcing a fumble in the first half, it gives another reason in a series of reasons why the Packers will release LB Brad Jones as soon as possible.

Offensive drive at the 6:53 mark in the 4th quarter. Run, run, pass incomplete, punt. They just had success on the previous drive with a big run from James Starks, so this doesn't look like a bad decision. TE Andrew Quarless could have caught that pass on 3rd down too. Getting a 1st down should have been a priority, but the play calling wasn't terrible (yet).

Burnett takes a knee with 5:13 to go. See above. Maybe it's OK if there's under a minute to go but this was bad coaching/decision/something.

Eddie Lacy carries the ball (three times) with 5:04 to go. There were too many timeouts left, the field position was too good, and Seattle's was doubling-down on playing the run. How much damage could Rodgers's have done with a play action pass? Instead they gave Seattle that another chance to turn the tide. Plus the drive ended with an awful punt from Tim Masthay as the special teams continued to unravel down the stretch.

Brandon Bostick. I didn't consider this an unbelievable play because it was a bad decision by a player who's been a disappointment for the past couple seasons. It was bad play from a guy who was in over his head. This will always stand out as the one moment when they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but it wasn't on the coaches (other than for putting Bostick out on the field in the first place). I would have loved to have seen Justin [Settlers of Catan] Perillo out on the field instead. It's clear that Bostick was one of the guys asked to block while WR Jordy Nelson stood behind them to grab the onside kick and he would have caught it if Bostick hadn't gotten in his way. He let his instincts get the better of what his coaches were telling him. I'm surprised they didn't release him immediately after the play. I'm never happy to see this happen to any player, but his NFL career was on thin ice before and now it's officially over.

Aaron Rodgers. He needed to make some plays for them to win and he instead delivered one of his worst games in years. Though they won in Chicago four years ago, Mike McCarthy has led his quarterbacks into three NFC championship games they've played poorly each time. Rodgers's calf injury was a major reason for it, along with the great Seattle defense, but they should have challenged Seattle's CBs more. Especially after Richard Sherman's shoulder injury left him with only one arm. CB Byron Maxwell is a good corner too, but he's also been known to draw a pass interference flag (he had one during the 1st half).

When they did finally attack for the game tying field goal, Rodgers looked sharp. Seattle had been focused on stopping the run on their previous two possession so this drive made me think back on how deadly a play action with a few minutes left in the game could have been.

Find the ball Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He had an amazing game, that 2nd INT of his was a thing of beauty, but he dropped a 3rd INT (maybe it would have been a pick-six) and then he couldn't find the ball on their desperation two point conversion. It's not all on him, the two previous possessions had been a disasters for the defense, but this was just the final of many blown plays at the end of regulation.

Bottom line, this was their first trip to the NFC championship game in four years and a great season. For the first 3+ quarters they outplayed and were more physical than the best team in the NFC. This was a terrible, heart breaking loss, but this is not a bad team or a terrible season. I haven't been this down since either of the home playoff losses to the Giants, but I will bounce back as a strong Packer fan as I imagine everyone else will too.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Reaction: Packers give up with seven minutes to play in crushing loss to Seahawks

You guys already know what happened today, so I'm not going to explain it. Still, this is a Packers site, and on it today must be discussed.

Today, the Packers played perfect football for 53 minutes. They picked off Russell Wilson four times, kept the Seahawks to just seven points, and led by 12. They had the ball after a Morgan Burnett interception, and for a second it was all over.

In my own household, there were cheers. Plans for a Super Bowl party were already being made while discussions on the upcoming AFC game took place. For a second, everything was perfect. The Packers, with a half-injured QB in Aaron Rodgers, had upset the mighty Seahawks on their homefield, and memories of Rodgers' famous "relax" comments came to my mind.

Then, all the sudden, something struck the Packers. The team who seconds ago had all the momentum in the world seemed to just turn off. Their attitude could be compared to what always happens with them: they stop playing prematurely, and almost blow the game.

Key word there is almost, because this time they actually did it.

Wilson led Seattle downfield at will to make it 19-14 and the usual nerves began to fill me. As always, I didn't expect the Packers to make it easy for themselves, but still, I was sure they'd find someway to finish it off.

Then Bostick dropped the onside kick, and I, probably along with the rest of the Packers' fanbase, knew it. The Packers were screwed, or any other word you would like to substitute there. 

Seattle scored again without trouble and went for two. Fortunately, on this play, Wilson ran back to the 20, so it could be assumed he had no chance of converting the play. However, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, having the game of his life, thought differently, and decided to play what can only be described as stupidly for the first time all afternoon. He let a receiver catch a lob pass the receiver had no business catching, and the score became 22-19. Game over, right? Nope, the Packers still weren't done screwing with our heads.

Because Rodgers, refusing to let his uninterested defense ruin his season, amazingly got the Packers all the way into field goal range within the next minute, setting up a Mason Crosby 48-yarder to tie things. Hope, I thought then. Maybe this'll just be a really awkward victory that we'll still appreciate.

No, because by chance the Packers then lost the coin toss (not sure which genius thought that idea up 100 years ago, but that's another story), and the Seahawks had the ball. I wasn't happy about this, but I tried to be optimistic. The Seahawks had had multiple worthless possessions up to that point, so maybe the Packers could force another. 

But remember, this is the Packers, and consistency is not one of their values. Indeed, after somehow forcing the Seahawks to face a 3rd-and-6, Green Bay gave up a pair of deep pass plays, the latter of which put six points on the board. And just like that, the dream was dead. The idea of watching TV personalites talk about the Packers' brilliance became nothing. The two weeks in which I was looking forward to writing about every aspect of the Super Bowl: nothing as well. 

Basically, the Packers let me down in this one. I appreciate the division title and the Cowboys win and all, but really, I don't. Had they lost this game in the first quarter, I'd be fine. They gave it their best shot and got this far and all, but just weren't good enough in the end. 

Only they were good enough. Maybe that's why I'm so upset right now. They had a chance to write a story. They had a chance to shock the bandwagon fans of the Seahawks, (Yeah, I'm calling you out. There were not this many Seahawks fans before last year) and play Tom Brady for their own trophy. But no, they traded it all away, essentially all their hard work since the summer, because they thought it was over. 

Bottom line: this season should be remembered for Rodgers' greatness, Davante Adams' emergence, Eddie Lacy's refusals to go down, and the 12-4 record. But it won't, at least not in the minds of Packers fans. Instead, it'll be seen as the lost season, somewhat of a forgettable one.

And after today's fourth quarter, maybe it should be.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Packers/Seahawks Final Prediction

My final prediction for tomorrow afternoon's NFC Championship Game:

Score: Seahawks 28, Packers 21
I want to see the Packers win this one, but then again, I have to be realistic here. The Seahawks are the better team, therefore they'll probably score more points.

Why?
Simply because the Seahawks are unbeatable at home and the Packers are just okay on the road. Not to mention, we still don't know how well an injured Rodgers will perform against Seattle's defense, good as he was last week. I still think it will be close, but that's about it. 

Let's hope I'm wrong.

Lacy probable for conference championship game

Packers RB Eddie Lacy has been listed as probable for Sunday's conference championship game in Seattle, ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky reports.

Lacy has been experiencing soreness in his right knee this week, according to Demovsky. However, team Head Coach Mike McCarthy isn't concerned about his health, assuring the media Friday "he'll be ready to play."

Lacy rushed for 101 carries on 19 carries in last week's divisonal playoff against the Cowboys, including one on which he ran for 29 yards. As for his entire season, he recorded 1139 yards on 246 carries, reaching the endzone nine times while fumbling thrice.