Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Packers 38, San Diego 21. This was the biggest win for the Packers all season, because it came the same day as a Seattle loss and a Minnesota loss. For the first time since early in the season the Packers control their own playoff chances because if they win out they have the wild card at least, and are tied for the NFC Central lead. Its a mixed blessing, because the Packers run offense is regressing and it hasn't looked dominant the last three weeks. The first 4 games after the bye week, the run offense looked like the best in the NFL, but defenses appear committed to stopping the run and they are hoping for a Brett Favre interception or two (or three...). The Packers offense seems to stall, and turn the ball over, anytime it calls too many pass plays in a row. San Diego is a bad team, they appear to have several players on their lines and their defensive secondary who shouldn't be starting in the NFL, but LaDainian Tomlinson is the most impressive and dangerous player I have seen in the NFL this season.

First Quarter: I missed the first touchdown drive, but Donald Driver caught 2 passes on the way to his best game of the season and Ahman Green had his 2nd longest run of the game (9 yards) on his way to the touchdown run. Green broke Jim Taylor's single season rushing record, but it took him many rushes to get the 40 or so yards he needed for it. San Diego had a great opening drive thanks mostly to Packers' penalties. This was the second game in three weeks, the Detroit game on Thanksgiving is the other one, where the refs made questionable calls for big yardage for the Packers opponents. The pass interference call against Mike McKenzie was especially weak because both players were going for the ball. But the defense held near the goal line and started the bend but don't break theme it played with most of the game. Penalties were a big part of the quarter, keeping the first San Diego drive alive and killing a subsequent Packer drive. Packers 7, San Diego 3.

Second Quarter: The penalties continued into the 2nd quarter as the refs were working on a quota or something. Someone named Antonio Gates started catching a bunch of passes. Gates caught passes in each quarter and probably had his first 100 yard receiving game of his career. The good news is that Gates and Tomlinson were the only productive offensive players in the game for San Diego. San Diego's big and expensive wide receiver, David Boston, had an unimpressive game and made his biggest contribution in the game on a fumble off his knee that Marques Anderson recovered. Anderson always seems around the ball. San Diego pins the Packers down at their 3 yard line, but Green runs them out of the tight spot and a San Diego penalty helps on a 3rd down play. Wesley Walls catches a pass on 3rd down that is just short of the 1st down marker and forces a punt. Walls has seemed to have a catch in each of the last couple of weeks that is just short of a 1st down. San Diego should have scored on their next drive, but Darren Sharper has a great leaping interception while on a blitz that stops it. With only 1:25 left in the quarter, Favre runs a great 2 minute drill and throws a perfect touchdown pass to Driver, diving towards the front end zone marker, and it is thrown to a place that only Driver could catch it. Packers 17, San Diego 3.

Third Quarter: The defense couldn't get off the field, and Favre didn't help matters by going 0 for 5 with 1 interception for the quarter. The run offense wasn't much better with 1 carry by Green for -2 yards. Although with all this time, San Diego only scores once in the quarter with a field goal. San Diego, however, has the ball for 3 drives in the 3rd quarter and 2 of the drives end by the Packers goal line (including a touchdown scored just after the start of the 4th quarter) and 1 drive ended when Chukie Nwokorie forces a fumble on a sack. Nwokorie did a great speed rush move around the left tackle and it was the only play that stopped San Diego in the quarter. The secret to San Diego's offense is to make sure Tomlinson has the ball a lot. Its a pretty good strategy. If Tomlinson got better blocking and wasn't hit so much at the line of scrimmage, he would be lethal with his speed and strength in the open field. Packers 17, San Diego 6.

Fourth Quarter: In the first 3 minutes of the 4th quarter, San Diego scores 2 touchdowns and takes the lead. Tomlinson scores both touchdowns. San Diego runs a great play with Tomlinson motioning out of the backfield, he moves into the slot, and forces some poor linebacker to try and keep up with him. On the 2nd touchdown of the quarter, Tomlinson is in the slot, gets about 3 yards of cushion (you can't give him any cushion but if you don't he'll blow by you so its a lose or lose situation), and runs right through and by the entire Packers secondary. The Packers are quick to respond with a great kickoff return by Najeh Davenport, running past and through a couple of players, and Favre throws a great deep pass down the field to Robert Ferguson. Unfortunately, by this point the Packers defense has spent most of the 2nd half on the field, but it doesn't hurt their play. I have been critical of blitzing by the Packers, but it worked perfectly on the next fumble by Drew Brees. LB Hannibal Navies blitzed, while NT Grady Jackson busted up the middle right by the offensive guard and forced the fumble. Then Navies, who was in the backfield because he blitzed, fell on the ball at the 1 yard line of San Diego. Green caught a pass in the flat for a touchdown on the next play. This was the best blitz play of the season, and the blitzer didn't even force the pressure (directly) or got a sack. San Diego scores 2 touchdowns in 3 minutes, and the Packers answer back with 2 touchdowns in 3 minutes. San Diego's next drive is killed by a holding penalty on 1st down. Then Green has his longest run of the game, 33 yards, and Favre finds Ferguson for his 2nd touchdown and Favre's 4th. San Diego drives down to the Packers goal line again, but they can't punch it in. For the game, San Diego was at the Packers 15 yard line or closer on 5 drives and only scored 13 points. Packers 38, San Diego 21.

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