Friday, December 31, 2004

Reggie White's funeral was today. When I first heard the news, it really surprised me, and reminded me of the too young passing of former Chief Derrick Thomas. White's signing with Green Bay was the fourth and final major step that led to the Packers two mid 90s Super Bowl appearances, after signing Ron Wolf, signing Mike Holmgren, and trading for Brett Favre. There is a lot of commentary on the internet over the last week regarding Reggie White the man and player. While no one has disputed Reggie White as a great football player, many comments have been made about White has said over the years (his comments on homosexualty apparently cost him a job with CBS) and charitable activites he never actually did (failed to pay a promised donation to a charity in Denver and never rebuilt the church destroyed by fire in the mid 90s). I'm not the best person to address Reggie White the person, so I'll leave that for other websites. But Reggie White the player was dominate at times, always the first concern of every opposing offense and made the entire defense better, and the second greatest Packer player since the end of the Lombardi era.

The only regret of Reggie White's Packer career should be the way it ended. If it hadn't been the salary cap era, it would have never been a problem. But White was unsure about retirement over the entire 1997 season (he played hurt most of the season) and throughout and after the 1998 season. Ron Wolf was trying to plan for life after Reggie on defense, but needed the salary cap relief Reggie's retirement would bring after the 1998 season. New head coach Ray Rhodes asked Reggie to reconsider retirement and he appeared to be considering a return in 1999, but Ron Wolf ran out of time and had to ask Reggie to officially retire with the NFL. Reggie was NFC defensive player of the year in 1998 and obviously wanted to play again or he wouldn't have played for Carolina in 2000. Its a small regret, but it would have been great to have seen White play for the Packers in 1999 and 2000.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Packers 28, Jacksonville 25. The good news is that this game truly didn't matter. When the Packers beat Minnesota next week, the Packers essentially assure themselves the #3 seat and the NFC North championship. A Packers loss would result in the top wild card spot and a game at probably Seattle (someone has to win the NFC West). All the problems that resulted in the Packers loss were fundamental problems with the team that aren't going to be fixed this season if ever.

First Half: Jacksonville scores an easy TD. Who's fault is it? Just about everyone (defensive coaches and players) can take some blame. QB Brett Favre/RB Ahman Green fumble in the red zone (1 of 3 red zone turnovers). Fumbles and Green just seem to go together and there is nothing to be done about it. Then the defensive penalties start...Are the Packers defensive players frustrated or poorly coached or both? All 3 top CBs Al Harris, Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas keep constantly grabbing the receivers. Jacksonville has two of the top DTs in the NFL in Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, rookie 3rd string C Scott Wells held his own, and he even handled Henderson one-on-one on a big Green run play. Great heads up play by FS Darren Sharper (everyone on both sides gave up on an apparent incompletion except Sharper who stripped the ball from an offensive lineman who picked up the ball and ran in it for a TD). K Ryan Longwell missed his first field goal within the 40 yard line in a long while and it cost in this game (this again isn't a problem that needs or can be fixed but it cost the Packers big in this game). Overall it was a very poor half with a lot of Packer turnovers and penalties. Packers 10, Jacksonville 14.

Second Half: TE Ben Steele has been useless for weeks, but he caught a couple of short passes in
this game and finally started to show his usefulness. The Packers took advantage of their blocker overload on short yardage running plays to set up the TD pass to WR Donald Driver (who is sneaking up on an outstanding season). They had been overloading blockers to the strong side all season, usually ran for the short gain for the first down, and used that tendency to set up the TD pass. How did the Packers run defense set up a big RB Fred Taylor TD run? Everyone (coaches and players) can take some blame. Sharper blitzed to the wrong side and took himself out of the play (was it his fault or a bad scheme?), DT Cletidus Hunt was blocked by one blocker and pushed out of the hole, NT Grady Jackson was blocked by the left guard one-on-one, if either Hunt or Jackson had occupied more than one blocker then the center couldn't have come out and blocked LB Nick Barnett out of the play, and finally SS Mark Roman (who has had a bad last few games and might have played his way out of the lineup for next season) took a bad angle and couldn't make the tackle. Maybe LB Hannibal Navies should be the middle linebacker (he is bigger than Barnett) because he showed again that he can't cover anybody. Rookie DE Corey Williams had a lot more playing time this game and made some plays to show that he might be a starter next season. How many times can Favre throw an interception in the end zone? In this game, the answer is twice. The interception to CR Rashean Mathis in the end zone was a true stinker (Favre just lost sight of him) and Mathis's second interception appeared to be caused by the cold when Favre's out pass just lost its zip across the field. FS Deon Grant's interception was a great play on Grant's part with perfect timing. How can coach Jack Del Rio defend SS Donovan Darius's attempt to take WR Robert Ferguson's head off? That was the most vicious attempt to intentionally hurt a Packer since DT Warren Sapp broke LT Chad Clifton's hip a couple of seasons ago and it can't be defended. WR Antonio Chatman got his first TD reception for his career, which is great for him since he has played better than now injured WR Robert Ferguson and truly is the 3rd wide receiver. The Packers almost got the onside kick, but that was a long shot anyway. Packers 25, Jacksonville 28.

Overall the Packers should just forget about this game, threaten to amputate the cornerbacks' hands if any of them keep grabbing at the wide receivers, and go win in Minnesota next week.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Below this post is the current post regarding the Packers/Detroit game. I posted this about Philadelphia right after the game two weeks ago but apparently blogger ate it. So I'm reposting it.

Packers 17, Philly 47. Well forget about that one. Instead of going over the shelling blow-by-blow, lets talk about the...

Offense. By far their worst game of the season. QB Brett Favre had his string of games with a TD pass end, the offensive line was physically beaten, and the receivers didn't get seperation/make plays. Minor minor note: TE Ben Steele dropped his 5-6 pass attempt in the last 3-4 games (replacing injured TE David Martin in the offensive scheme) without catching a pass and he has to be removed from the scheme. Mike Sherman needs to take a close look at this game film and find out what needs to be adjusted. QB Craig Nall has only played in two games this season (the last preseason game and this game). In the preseason, he convinced the Packers that they could safely release QB Tim Couch, and in this game he showed he has some potential. He is QB A.J. Feeley (Miami) good and a pretty good backup QB.

Defense. The secondary played poorly today, but they weren't helped by a very poor defensive scheme (especially on the first TD pass to WR Terrell Owens when they played 20 yards off of him) that employed a lot of zone/cover 2/matador schemes. Just a horrible defensive scheme. Philadelphia followed the Indianapolis game plan of passing for the entire first half and building up a giant lead. This would be awful, except Indianapolis has been torching the entire NFL this season and Philadelphia has a great pass offense, so its not just the Packers problem. Obviously nothing can be wholesale fixed this season, but this is the third 40+ point game allowed this season, so it needs to be fixed for next season. The secondary is pretty set with big contracts for CB Al Harris and FS (maybe 2005 SS?) Darren Sharper and both rookies (CB Ahmad Carroll and CB Joey Thomas) should be better next season. The linebackers need to be fixed; maybe wholesale changes, maybe replacing LB Hannibal Navies (he just doesn't make any plays), maybe something else, etc. The defensive line needs the most work. DE KGB has good games, he played well against Pro Bowl OT Orlando Pace last week, but some weeks he isn't a factor. DE Aaron Kampman never gives up on a play and has accumulated some sacks this season. There has been zero push from the interior, where DT Cletidus Hunt has been pulled on passing downs for DT Cullen Jenkins and NT Grady Jackson is the best interior pass rusher. Finding a defensive tackle who can create a pass rush is the top priority. Maybe changing the defensive coaching staff is in the future too.

Everyone in the NFC is playing poorly, except Philadelphia which is battling for best team in the NFL status along with Pittsburgh and New England, so the Packers should still win their division. Forget about this game and get ready to beat Detroit next week at Lambeau.
Packers 16, Detroit 13. A game they should have won, although Detroit is playing better than the Packers this season, and they won it. How can Detroit be the better team with a worse record and an anemic/pathetic offense? The Packers turn the ball over (-11 turnover differential) while Detroit doesn't (+8) and Detroit's defense is average while the Packers defense is bottom 5 in the NFL. Because Detroit protects the ball on offense and plays solid defense, they have been in a position to win games this season, but if this game was any indication, QB Joey Harrington just can't finish the opponent off in the 4th quarter.

First half: QB Brett Favre continues his offensive malaise. Favre's human and he goes through slumps and this one started in the first quarter in Philadelphia. The offense couldn't get anything going in the first half. It wasn't just Favre, WR Javon Walker was held in check almost the entire game and WR Donald Driver and TE Ben Steele (for about the fifth game in a row) contributed alongside Walker as each had a dropped pass. Could the refs call some more penalties? They were all legitimate penalties, but the refs called this game tight. Detroit's first scoring drive was all penalties. RB Kevin Jones continued to look good. He's been one of the best backs in the NFL during the 2nd half of the season and the Packers missing tackles (DE KGB blew a tackle on Jones's TD run) did help. In the game vs. St. Louis, two DBs ran into each other on a crossing route and WR Issac Bruce ran for about 50 yards after the catch. Same thing happened in this game and WR Az Hakim ran for about 15 yards. The Packers have to fix this because the next three opponents are going to try and exploit this confusion. The defense played poorly (considering they were only trying to stop Detroit) but held them to two field goals on two of the scoring drives. Packers 0, Detroit 13.

Second half: The refs tight calls started helping the Packers and the first scoring drive was fueled almost exclusively by penalties (55 penalty yards and 13 offense yards). Harrington: 2 completions in the 3rd quarter and 0! in the 4th quarter. How can you not come back from a two score deficit against Detroit? Harrington looked awful but the pass coverage was very tight in the half and the run defense was much better (no missed tackles). This was the worst wind I have seen in an NFL game this season. The wind gave an additional 15 yards one direction and took away 15 yards the other. The receivers stop dropping passes and Favre shakes off the slump with a 90 yard TD drive. The wind killed P Nick Harris's last punt and gave the Packers the field position they needed to win the game. Packers 16, Detroit 13.

Overall this was an ugly game to watch. The Packers weren't playing their best, Detroit's offense was inept, and a ton of penalties. Jacksonville is slumping bad (and coming up from Florida to play in Green Bay in December) and should have no chance, but they too have played better than the Packers this season. Jacksonville is very comparable to Detroit, although they are playing better thanks to better QB play. Just need to keep winning and don't have to worry about what your conference foes are doing.