Friday, January 30, 2015
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
New from JS:Packers faced with choices as Bryan Bulaga nears free agency http://t.co/Mvn9d8EeKWI'd like to see him return next season because he's much better than their current in-house alternatives (JC Tretter and Don Barclay). Tretter wasn't given much of a chance at tackle after he lost his starting center job to Corey Lindsey but he didn't look great during in a few late season snaps and he gave up a big sack to Mario Williams against the Bills. Barclay was solid in 2013 but he's coming off an ACL injury. Bringing Bulaga back is clearly the best choice, however there are a couple reasons why that's not going to happen.
— Tom Silverstein (@TomSilverstein) January 28, 2015
They're already paying big bucks to Josh Sitton and TJ Lang. As it currently stands, according to Over The Cap, Sitton and Lang carry the 5th and 6th largest cap charges on the team. The Packers can't afford to tie up all their salary cap room at one position (offensive line), and neither Sitton or Lang should be considered for release since they're both arguably better than Bulaga.
He's not their biggest priority in free agency anyway. Cobb and Tramon Williams are more important, but that's a topic for a later post.
The free agent market for tackles stinks. I mentioned this earlier, but Bulaga is at the top of Walter Football's list of free agent tackles. He's proved that he's healthy now and he's been a good to great player during every season (when healthy) after his forgettable rookie campaign. All the other top players listed have been inconsistent (Free, Dunlap) or are coming off a major injury (Roos). Any team that's making left or right tackle a priority should be camping out on his doorstep the moment free agency begins.
GM Ted Thompson has been known to let his offensive lineman walk. After their Super Bowl win in 2011, it wasn't a big surprise when he let Daryn Colledge leave in free agency, but it was a bigger upset when Scott Wells left the following year. Then Evan Dietrich-Smith was allowed to leave last offseason. Though it is different because those three players are interior lineman while Thompson was quick to re-sign LT Chad Clifton and RT Mark Tauscher up until the moment they both decided to retire.
It'll be sad if he leaves, but successful teams can't afford to bring back every player. Maybe I'm wrong about this and both Bulaga and the Packers can find common ground, but I'm mentally planning for the worst.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Monday, January 26, 2015
At least Kuhn was the leading rusher for Team Carter. Who knows how many Pro Bowl's he might make if the NFL leaves fullback in as a position separate from running back.
Jordy Nelson and Clay Matthews were opponents tonight but they celebrated a TD together anyway http://t.co/7ks8eWGfzq pic.twitter.com/aSC8PyQ6XdI'm really glad to see Nelson make his first Pro Bowl. It's been deserved for a while, and I'm really glad the Packers signed him to an extension before he made his first Pro Bowl. Unfortunately they didn't do the same for Cobb, but maybe there's nothing to worry about since "he's a Ted guy."
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 26, 2015
Obviously Kuhn's the biggest Pro Bowl surprise (not by too much when you consider how few teams use a fullback anymore) but the next biggest surprise was CB Sam Shields. His 2014 season was solid, but he didn't stand out under the conventional stats (2 INTs and 9 pass defenses). The recognition was more a sign of respect for him after his 2011-2013 seasons.
2014 was also a down year for Clay Matthews, but that's more a matter of perspective. Matthews was so good in 2009-2012 (too many injuries in 2013) but he was still 2nd team All-NFL according to the AP in 2014. That's certainly a season worth of a trip to the Pro Bowl.
So that's the last we'll see of any Packer in uniform until spring, and the last time they'll play in a game until early August. That's too long.
Saturday, January 24, 2015
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
At end of firing season, I had #Bears as one of the least attractive jobs open. Now they have Fox, Fangio and Gase. Fairly stunning.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.
— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) January 22, 2015
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
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Monday, January 19, 2015
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.
TOUCHDOWN SEAHAWKS!!! @DangeRussWilson to @chopchop_15 FTW! #GBvsSEA #Walkoff pic.twitter.com/xt5ZmyWSWuMike 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.
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) January 18, 2015
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
Saturday, January 17, 2015
Friday, January 16, 2015
So instead of predicting a score, if I'm honest I'd give more points to the Seahawks, or spending too much time on their road woes, I'll focus on how they can win the championship.
#Packers ready for rain in Seattle. Watch: http://t.co/VDzwVQxd82 #GBvsSEA pic.twitter.com/zS238sZUgUAaron Rodgers has to play like it's a home game. For most of this season, Eddie Lacy has ran well at every venue he's played in. Despite a poor first half against the Cowboys, Rodgers did something at halftime to stretch his calf into a second gear and he was lethal down the stretch. It also helped that WR Davante Adams also started making big plays. In Rodgers's worst statistical game of the season, at Buffalo in Week 15, he wasn't the one dropping every pass in sight. He's only going shine if his teammates play their best. Maybe it's better said that the entire offense has to play like it's a home game, but as their field general, Rodgers is going to be front and center in that effort.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) January 16, 2015
It's Mike Daniels time. The Packer defense got some big plays last week from Julius Peppers, but the coaches are being careful with his snap count and he's just as likely to be lined up outside as Mike Neal (who stinks). Clay Matthews has to be careful about committing a personal foul, but he's capable of making a big play too. When the defense came to life in the second half against Dallas and held them to 7 points, it was in large part because of Mike Daniels. No defensive lineman plays more snaps then him and he's twice the playmaker of anyone else on the line, against the run or the pass. The defense has been at it's best this season when Daniels is wrecking havoc at the line of scrimmage.
While the special teams have gotten burned at times this season, the good news is that Seattle's special teams aren't anything special either. A big punt return from Micah Hyde isn't absolutely necessary for them to win, but a return touchdown would have a bigger impact then usual because the Packers's offense might struggle to score over 20 points on it's own. I never expect too much from this unit, but they can't be on the wrong end of a big play on Sunday.
This isn't the best set of circumstances, a hobbled Aaron Rodgers facing the defending champs on the road, but the most important thing is that they've made it this far and given themselves a chance. Seattle's a great team, but the Packers have the ability to out play them. Now they've got to get it done.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Eddie Lacy glad he doesn't have to tackle Marshawn Lynch. #Packers http://t.co/JwoRo4AitFWhat's true for Lacy is probably the same for Lynch; they're both a load to take down and arguably the two most physical runners in the NFL.
— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) January 15, 2015
The last time the Packers played a run defense this good was just two games ago when they played the Lions, who are ranked No. 1 overall by Football Outsiders (the Seahawks come in at No. 2). Lacy ran 26 times for 100 yards against them in Week 17, but his per carry average was dragged down by several late 4th quarter carries when the Packers were up by two scores and trying to run out the clock. Otherwise, Lacy hasn't been held to under four yards per carry since their November 9th blowout against the Bears. He's been able to run against every defense he's faced over the past couple months and he should be able to run against the Seahawks.
While nearly every player on the Lions defense has a positive run defense grade according to Pro Football Focus, the Seahawks have a negative grade from every member of their defensive line except Michael Bennett, who's been a monster on run defense. Since Bennett isn't a giant nose tackle (274 lbs.) he's probably doing most of his damage when he beats a block and makes a tackle in the backfield. The lineman are going to have to maintain their blocks on Bennett to keep him in check.
Though their defensive line is overall a negative against the run, almost every other defender at linebacker and in the secondary has either a positive run defense grade or is playing at an elite level. Lacy might be able to break through to the second level with regularity but he might not be able to break a tackle against their second level. Lacy's had a run of greater than 20+ yards in each of his last six games, but that streak might end against the Seahawks.
So the Seahawks have a great run defense that isn't going to allow many (any) big runs but the Packers should have some success on the ground. I don't expect they'll ignore the ground game, but as long as they stick with it should be productive.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
How can Rodgers, #Packers target #Seahawks secondary? All-22 look at 3 route combinations: http://t.co/lB3VUS7weo pic.twitter.com/SkEiEgtOczHis article is written like something that a former NFL safety would love, and it's a bit heavy on concepts and formations, but he found three examples of big plays against the Seahawks's defense (which he admitted were hard to find). Two of them were passes to tight ends, and twice it showed how to exploit a linebacker in coverage. Just as TE Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers were surprise helpers in their win over the Cowboys, the Packers are going to have to use them again to exploit Seattle's linebackers in coverage.
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) January 14, 2015
The last time a quarterback had a good game against Seattle's defense was arguable on November 9th, when Eli Manning wasn't too bad in a 38-17 loss. Unsurprisingly he got a big game from WR Odell Beckham Jr. but he also got a career game out of third string WR Preston Parker. So another big game out of WR Davante Adams is important. In the season's opener, no Packer wide receiver other than Nelson and Cobb caught a single pass and that can't happen again.
For something completely different, the last team when the Chiefs beat the Seahawks, they did it in large part by calling more running plays for Jamaal Charles than pass attempts for Alex Smith. Maybe that was just what the Chiefs had to do because of their quarterback and lack of decent wide receivers, but it's something to consider when the Packers have Eddie Lacy available.
In the end, no pass heavy or run heavy attack is the answer. The Packers will need a combination of both, and every receiver on the team is going to have to deliver.
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Monday, January 12, 2015
Fact that these calls would have probably been different depending on who the ref was in each game stinks. Need more B&W rules @ErikFrenzIt was arguably the correct call though it's easy to find other examples when the refs gave a receiver a catch under similar circumstances. It really helped that CB Sam Shields got the tip of his finger on the ball and made WR Dez Bryant shift the ball in his hands. I remember when WR Greg Jennings had a touchdown catch reversed back in 2010 and it was overturned because the ball moved around a little bit in his hands. The receiver has to keep the ball from moving at all, no matter how awkward his grip. On this play, the ball moved around in Bryant's hands before he hit the ground and then popped up when he hit the ground. There was never a point when the ball wasn't moving around. It defies common sense because he did snatch it out of the air and stretched out towards the goal line, but I agree with the call based on the NFL's rules. I can't imagine this non-catch won't be discussed about at length when the rules committee meets again in the spring.
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) January 12, 2015
As for the rest of the game, it was going to be QB Aaron Rodgers's responsibility to win it despite his injured calf muscle. He ended up with a QBR of 83.1 (anything over an 80 is elite, MVP level stuff) and his only turnover was a fumble after a botched snap that was as much C Corey Lindsey's fault as it was his. The offensive line deserves extra credit for giving him time to throw when he's in no condition to run, but the Cowboys don't have good pass rushers on their defensive line and it probably wouldn't have helped had they blitzed more. Rodgers is arguably better at beating single coverage when he sees the blitz coming.
I've been concerned about their lack of a reliable third receiving option behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Nelson wasn't a factor, I haven't watched the All-22 film but I assume the Cowboys were bracketing him with double-coverage (CB under, S over) all game (just as the Packers did a lot against Dez Bryant). Cobb still had a big game against mostly single coverage but they needed another other receivers to step up. Instead of one, three unlikely receivers had big games and touchdown receptions (Davante Adams, Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers). Adams was obviously the key with a team leading 7 receptions and 117 yards. It was a surprising performance from Adams when you consider that he was a non-factor for the entire month of December. Aaron Rodgers had seemed to have lost faith in him last month, but he's back in his good graces now.
It was a mixed day for the Packer defense. They played much better in the second half and got huge games from Julius Peppers (two forced fumbles) and Mike Daniels, who was a beast in the middle. But the linebackers weren't a factor (not much from Clay Matthews, except what could have been called roughing the passer, and a holding penalty for a first down against Brad Jones) and the secondary was a borderline mess. CB Tramon Williams had a couple of penalties for first downs and some missed tackles. SS Morgan Burnett looked like a missed tackling machine in the first half, especially on special teams. Both Micah Hyde and Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix took bad angles on the long TD pass to Terrance Williams. No receiver topped 100 yards but it could have been much worse if Tony Romo had attempted more than 19 passes. The Cowboys are a good offense and they can make defenses look bad, but the Packer defense can play better.
For the second time in three seasons, the Packers won their playoff game at home and now head west to take on the NFC West champ. Two years ago it was a divisional game but this time it's for a trip to the Super Bowl. There will be a lot to talk about this week.
Sunday, January 11, 2015
Saturday, January 10, 2015
Friday, January 09, 2015
On Aaron Rodgers, the strain is real. Of course, same thing he had before. Expect him to play & actually run *more*. I'll explain why #BRADHe might get a boost from Eddie Lacy on the ground, or from a strong defensive performance, or even another big punt return from Micah Hyde, but the most likely situation is that it'll all come down to whether he can carry his team to victory on Sunday. That's a lot of pressure for anyone, especially when that anyone is dealing with a double dose of calf injuries, but he's the New Joe Cool and he's going to have to R-E-L-A-X. If anyone can handle the pressure, it would be him.
— Will Carroll (@injuryexpert) January 8, 2015
When the Packers went on their 2010 playoff run to the Super Bowl, the offense played great but they also had their best defensive team of the last five seasons. This year's defense isn't as good (I still miss Nick Collins) but it's better than it was in either 2011 or 2013. Even though it's been said a thousand times that defense wins championships, it can also be said that in recent years a great quarterback can carry an imperfect team to the Super Bowl. While the Seahawks won it last year with their defense, an amazing run from a quarterback has been the more common path to the championship in recent years.
While Seattle did ride their defense to a championship last season, everyone knows the Packers don't have that type of defense. What they do have is a quarterback who's capable of going on a championship run, and who's done it before. If they're going to make a Super Bowl run, they're going to have to get there on the back of an awesome three game run by Aaron Rodgers, no matter how his ailing calf is feeling.
Wednesday, January 07, 2015
"I'm going on Sunday," Rodgers told ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky Wednesday. "It's just a matter of how."
"It just kind of depends on how (my calf) feels. I met with Doc. I've seen him every day. Nothing really changed on the schedule. This was kind of the plan from the start. It's progressing, but we'll see how it feels tomorrow."Good. Now we can focus on the game instead.
Monday, January 05, 2015
I spent my entire adolescence hoping for one shot at Dallas at Lambeau. I'm 33 & it's happening now. I'm ready for this. I ain't scurred.I hadn't thought of that until I saw this tweet. During the 1993-1995 seasons the Cowboys knocked the Packers out of the playoffs during three playoff games played in Dallas. They also lost to the Cowboys in Dallas during the 1996 season. I too hoped the Packers would have one shot at beating the Cowboys in Green Bay. They kind of had that moment when they finally got host the Cowboys at Lambeau and crushed them 45-17 in November 1997. But the Cowboys haven't played in a lot of playoff games since 1997 and the Packers never got a shot at beating that 90s era Cowboys team during the playoffs. Sure that doesn't mean anything leading up to next Sunday's game, but looking back to the 1990s is a lot closer to home for me than memories of the Ice Bowl.
— Ol' Bag of Donuts (@olbagofdonuts) January 5, 2015
It's hard to compare how the Lions played in this game against the Cowboys because the Lions have such a good defense and such a mediocre offense. Also the weather conditions will be a lot different (way below freezing) versus inside at Dallas. But the pass protection was interesting.
The game basically ended on a strip-sack of Matthew Stafford, but for most of it the Cowboys had trouble getting to the quarterback despite the fact that the Lions were missing arguably their two best pass protectors on the offensive line (Warford and Waddle) due to injury. The Packers's offensive line has been outstanding this season in pass protection. If the Cowboys can't get to Aaron Rodgers or have to blitz to generate any pressure, he'll slice them up.
On the other hand, the Lions were all over Tony Romo, especially during the early parts of the game. Romo didn't respond too well to the blitz and the Cowboys weren't missing any of their Pro Bowl offensive lineman. The Packers can rush the Cowboys just as well as the Lions did and Packer defensive coordinator Dom Capers certainly knows how to dial up a blitz. It'll be key to keep ineffective pass rushers like Mike Neal secure on the bench and ride the defensive starters harder now that they're into the playoffs.
Overall, the Cowboys have to be drained after rallying from a 13 point second half deficit to beat a tough Lions team. The Packers got the matchup I was expecting (even if I was hoping to face the Panthers instead) and they should be much better shape than the Cowboys.