Monday, December 23, 2013

Packers Almost Rally, Fall Short To Steelers, 38-31

No one wants to win the NFC North. I'm still not quite sure how the Lions lost; they kept getting chances to win but did nothing with them. The Bears looked like a complete train wreck against the Eagles. The Packers would probably be running away with the division if they had QB Aaron Rodgers, though after I read this article on ESPN, I'm thinking he's not coming back at all this season. This picture summed up their game, but it's also a commentary on the entire NFC North:
What went wrong?

The defense. Big Ben had a decent game in terrible weather conditions while RB Le'Veon Bell ran for 4.8 ypc and 124 yards (he was barely above 3.0 ypc entering the game). 14 of the 38 points allowed weren't their fault, but the Steelers still managed three long touchdown drives (though one was after that pull-your-hair-out fake punt). That offsides call on LB Nick Perry during a field goal attempt was a huge mistake. It wasn't the defense's worst performance but they didn't step-up either.

QB Matt Flynn. He's been alternating every week between amazing (comebacks against Vikings and Cowboys) and dreadful (every other week). This week was back to dreadful. Two killer turnovers (an accidental hit on Flynn by TE Andrew Quarless turned into a pick-six; fumble on a scramble) led to 14 points, though I can't blame him for that INT. He again showed poor pocket awareness. He did make a bunch of good plays, but the end results (5.9 yards per attempt and ESPN QBR of 6.4) were ugly.

HC Mike McCarthy. The Packers ran the ball well despite having no big runs (5.0 ypc and nothing greater than 14 yards) but instead he kept calling pass plays. You can't run the ball all the time, they actually run the ball better when they go with a single-back and look like they're going to throw, but why did they call 44 pass plays to 28 rush plays? The worst moment was their goal line drive after Bell's fumble, when after one predictable running play with NT B.J. Raji pretending to be a fullback McCarthy put the ball into Flynn's hands and he overthrew two pass attempts. They eventually scored anyway because they got the ball back after that whatever the heck that call was by the refs. Is that even a rule? The next play, the Packers spread the defense out, pulled LG Josh Sitton to the right, and RB Eddie Lacy ran it in.

The botched ending at the one yard line with 20 seconds left. I liked the play calling, I wasn't happy to see the ball in Flynn's hands with the game on the line and RB James Starks was running well against a tired defense, but the right side of the line moved too soon. RT Don Barclay got the flag but RG T.J. Lang looked just as guilty and they just can't do that.

Despite the missed opportunity at home, the Packers still have another chance to make the playoffs with a win against the Bears next week. It's hard to imagine the Packers doing much in the playoffs but it's always a thrill to see a playoff game at Lambeau (they'd host that first weekend as a division winner) and sometimes a weak team can click at the right time.

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