Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Packers 41, Oakland 7. Did Oakland go to the Super Bowl last year? The Packers added an exclaimation point to an awful and disappointing season for Oakland by embarrasing them on national TV. When the Packers don't turnover the ball on offense and their receivers are able to get a step or two on their defenders in coverage, the Packers will destroy lesser teams like Oakland. Brett Favre statistically had the best game of his career, and good luck to him on what is sure to be a difficult week for him after the sudden death of his father Irvin on Sunday night.

The NFL has continued to make the tiebreaker formula a complete screwup. If Seattle wins, Dallas loses, and the Packers win, the Packers could miss the playoffs depending on the outcome of the Baltimore/Pittsburgh game. Huh? I read ESPN's website and the first tiebreaker is head to head and the Packers beat Seattle earlier in the season, so how can Seattle be tied with the Packers under any circumstances and make the playoffs while the Packers sit at home? I am not asking for an interpretation of the rules, but asking under whose twisted logic does that make any sense. How can Seattle overcome the #1 tiebreaker, head-to-head, by beating the Packers or Dallas on the #6 tiebreaker, strength of schedule? Why?

I'd expect the Packers are focused on winning next Sunday, and that job got a little easier with Denver clinching a wild card spot. Denver can't win the division and Clinton Portis is still hurting, so their should be no incentive to play him next weekend.

First Quarter: Oakland was amazingly consistent (bad) the entire game. Rick Mirer proved he can't throw the ball accuarately over 10 yards. Oakland passed on 4 of their first 5 plays, although their run offense is their strength, and after a Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila sack they punted. Favre started off the game by immediately abusing Oakland's secondary, who was the worst secondary I have seen this season. Oakland was blitzing, keeping their linebackers and strong safety close to the line of scrimmage to stop the run, and Favre picked their secondary apart. Oakland's secondary was only credited for 2 pass defenses the entire game. Favre completes a long pass to Robert Ferguson who just ran by Philip Buchanon who gave a five yard cushion to any receiver he faced all game. Buchanon is having a terrible season, and his confidence must be shot by this point. Wesley Walls made a great touchdown grab, but I have no idea how Oakland's strong safety Derrick Gibson missed intercepting or knocking the ball down. Oakland 3 and out; the Packers defensive line got a great push on the line of scrimmage all game long and Grady Jackson was great in the first quarter. Antonio Chapman had a nifty return, spinning out of a tackle and gaining some yardage. Chapman had a promising game, he even had a punt return for a touchdown although it was called back because of two illegal blocks that sprung him on the return. The Packers had a lot of penalties on offense in the first quarter, but none of them mattered including a holding penalty that set up a 3rd and 12. Tony Fisher and the offensive line ran a perfectly executed screen pass to convert on it, and the next play was Javon Walker's first touchdown pass as he ran by Buchanon (again) for the catch. Oakland answers with a touchdown drive by running on 5 of their next 6 plays including the long touchdown run by Charlie Garner. John Madden started talking in general about the poor tackling in the NFL after watching Garner's run, and Madden was right, the Packers tackling was awful on the play because Darren Sharper, Al Harris and Marques Anderson all missed tackles. It was one of the few bad plays by the defense all game. Packers 14, Oakland 7.

Second Quarter: The Packers move the ball easily over 50 yards on their next drive, but it stalls on a 3rd and 4 on a rare Favre incompletion and leads to an easy Ryan Longwell field goal. Oakland 3 and out. Mirer isn't accurate enough to sustain drives by passing, so without an effective running game or big plays on offense, Oakland can't go anywhere. Oakland had some success running the ball in previous games, with a league average 17th ranked run offense, but they were so far behind they had no opportunity after the 1st quarter to exploit it. Oakland doesn't have much speed at receiver, and except for all the passes Jerry Rice caught in garbage time in the 4th quarter, the Packers secondary did a great job keeping with Oakland's receivers. Ferguson makes a great catch on 3rd and 9 while he was falling out of bounds. Then the long underthrown bomb to Walker, where the two Oakland defenders (including Buchanon again) ran past the play while Walker had great ball awareness. Oakland 3 and out. Ho-hum, another long pass to Walker sets up David Martin's first touchdown catch since September. Oakland gets the home crowd excited by making their first 1st down of the quarter on a long pass to Rice, but Mirer is sacked twice in the next 4 plays for a turnover on downs. A hail mary to the end zone is actually defended by Oakland (probably one of their two pass defenses in the game) to deny Favre his 5th touchdown pass of the half. Packers 31, Oakland 7.

Half time: Shaq! Oh that ABC synergy!

Third Quarter: Any hope Oakland had for a better second half was immediately crushed on a long kickoff return by Najeh Davenport. Great burst of speed by Davenport, but a great job for the kick blocking with a huge hole for him to run through. Favre throws 3 of his 8 incompletions on the drive and Longwell kicks another easy field goal. After Rice's long catch and fumble, I missed most of this quarter, but Mirer's interception to Michael Hawthorne (who has been a fantastic early season pickup) ended his game as he was replaced by Rob Johnson. By this point, the Packers are handing the ball off a lot with an occasional Favre pass to keep Oakland honest. Packers 34, Oakland 7.

Fourth Quarter: I watched all their was to watch in this quarter, which was a lot of passes by Johnson, eventually replaced by Tee Martin, and a lot of Packers runs. Johnson looked awful, and it is appropriate that Johnson is sacked (he is the NFL all time leader in sacks/attempts) on the first successful cornerback blitz I can remember the Packers executing in weeks. Apparently the cornerback blitz is only successful against sack magnets like Johnson. Favre throws a 40 yard bomb to Donald Driver, who I can't imagine was the first option on a pass play in a blowout. Antonio Freeman gets a catch on 3rd down to convert, and on the next play Ahman Green has his easiest run of the game on an untouched touchdown run. Finally Oakland gets sick of watching Johnson after he throws one of the worst interceptions I have seen all year. Johnson is trying to throw to Jerry Rice on a quick slant, but he double clutches as he sees Hawthorne standing 5 yards deep right in the path of the pass, then Johnson throws it anyway right to Hawthorne! Johnson should not have been cut after the game, but immediately after he threw that pass. Martin has some success for Oakland at quarterback, like it matters, but Aaron Kampman gets a highlight reel moment when he sacks Martin, forces a fumble, and recovers it himself. Packers 41, Oakland 7.

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