Tag Archives: M.D. Jennings

A Moral Victory of Sorts

In a 16-game schedule, moral victories are usually worthless or reserved for average to below-average teams. But, for this Packers team, Sunday’s performance was a moral victory.

The Packers were shorthanded (as they always seem to be) without Burnett and Hayward, and were starting a rookie LT and second-year, undrafted RT against arguably the best front-seven in football. Yet, despite a minus-2 turnover differential and a really poor day in the return game that left the offense in precarious starting field positions, the Packers held a lead at the halfway point of the 4th Quarter. They were just hanging ’round – alligator blood.

It was a resilient effort – which explains the moral victory. The Packers absolutely shut down the 49ers rushing offense, which was the 4th best last season. The front-seven played with tenacity and energy that has been sorely lacking in recent years. Claymaker was playing with reckless abandon (which ultimately proved costly with the late hit), Raji and Pickett were plugging the middle and making plays down the line, and Nick Perry was setting a hard edge. And I’d be remiss not to mention Jolly’s presence and solid play. It’s hard not to notice the energy he brings not only on the field, but also being a leader on the sideline.

On the other side of the ball, the Packers got nothing going in the run game – which, frankly, wasn’t all that shocking against that defense. But, I’d still call it a successful day for the young line. The biggest indicator of this is the fact that MM did not have to devote another blocker or two to help the young tackles. As a result, the offense was allowed to run their normal offense with multiple receivers sets and not worry about Rodgers getting blasted. And, let’s be honest, for the most part, Rodgers had time to make plays. With that being said, it was disappointing seeing that Sitton proved to be the biggest downfall at times – three penalties from him is unacceptable.

Ultimately, the downfall was our secondary – which, ironically enough, was hailed as our deepest position group coming out of the preseason. I’ll be the first to admit, this onslaught caught me off guard. Boldin is a nice player, but he’s not a 200-yard WR type. He absolutely killed us in the slot, abusing McMillian, Hyde, and Jennings. We simply did not have an answer.

Post-game comments suggest it could have been the result of our game plan to contain the read-option. Maybe. But, I think it had more to do with our inexperience in the back-end and he/them taking full advantage. The losses of Burnett and Hayward proved to be the difference. And unfortunately, both have hammy issues that seem to be the multiple-week variety.

So, the Packers start the season 0-1 again. But, Packers fans have to feel pretty good coming out of this loss. The Packers showed an intensity and resiliency that have been missing. A finesse team showed grit and toughness. And that bodes well going forward.

The Impact of Woodson’s Injury

The improved Packers defense is well-positioned to handle the loss of its leader.

News broke mid-afternoon that Charles Woodson is out for 6-weeks due to a broken collarbone, the same collarbone he broke in Super Bowl XLV. It’d be fair to think that replacing an 8-time Pro Bowler, 2009 Defensive MVP, and a pure playmaker in the secondary would be difficult for a defense fresh off putting together one of the worst statistical seasons ever for a collective defense. Amazingly, that’s not the case with this new and young defense.

At age 36, there is no denying the fact that Woodson has lost a step. Because of this, he moved to safety in the base defense and plays the slot in sub-packages. His savviness, game knowledge, and veteran leadership have enabled him to seamlessly make this transition. But, his stats bear out the fact he’s not the player he once was.

In the 7 games so far, Woodson has only 1 INT, 1 FF, and 1.5 sacks. His tackling numbers are consistent with years past, though he has more assisted tackles this year already than all of last year. These numbers support what the eye can see. He’s simply not the playmaker we’ve grown accustomed to over these past seven seasons. And he’s been getting called for holding and clutching WR’s like he hasn’t in years past.

In Woodson’s place will slide a number of young and talented DB’s. In the base package, you can expect more Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings, the same safeties that take over in the sub-packages. McMillian is the more willing tackler of the two and has already shown a knack for being strong in run support. I expect to see more of McMillian in the base for this reason.

In sub-packages, which the Packers play greater than two-thirds of the plays, the Packers are sitting pretty with four young players that have proven they belong: Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey “All I Do Is Catch Interceptions” Hayward, and Davon House. Of course, Williams will man the outside along with Shields when he returns. Hayward will get the nod for Woodson’s role. This is a fitting replacement given Casey’s knack for the ball. And when the Pack go dime, they still bring in Davon House – who very well could be the starting CB in place of Shields had he not gotten injured. In his first game back, House showed well last weekend with strong, physical play, and showing mostly tight coverage. Needless to say, the Packers are well-stocked with four players that could all start for many NFL teams.

The biggest unknown will be how much Woodson factored into getting the defense aligned pre-snap. It will be incumbent upon Morgan Burnett and Tramon Williams to become the vocal leaders in the defensive backfield.

It is also worth noting that the Packers’ schedule sets up nicely for the six games Woodson will miss. Two games remain before the bye week. Both at home, against offensively challenged teams. Off the bye, the Packers travel to play the free-falling Detroit Lions. The toughest game will be the following weekend at NYG. But then, the sixth week is a home game against the Vikes, who also have challenges in the passing game. If the original prognosis is true, the Packers are well positioned to handle these next six games.

Let’s be clear: Charles Woodson is a special player that, even at an advanced age, brings a lot to the table that cannot be replaced. He’s a pro’s pro and the veteran leader on a young team. Though he’s lost a step, he’s savvy and has made game-changing plays few others could make. But, with a stable of young talent in the defensive backfield, the Packers are well-positioned to handle the six weeks without their defensive leader.

Sometimes You Just Need to Vent

Hide your kids. Hide your wives. This is going to be aggressive. Tonight was the low-point in the NFL labor dispute with the refs. And the “low-point” is the polite way of saying the replacement refs are worse than Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight. Ugly, terrible, and simply incompetent, the replacement refs cost the Packers a hard-fought victory over the pesky Seahawks tonight.

As if it was a slow death over these last three weeks, the replacement refs have steadily regressed to the point of endangering players safety and ruining the integrity of the game. The culmination is tonight’s epic performance. Picking up from Sunday Night’s debacle, yellow flags littered the field for much of the night. Any chance of tempo was shot – not that the Packers established any. Still, a real football game had developed in the midst of this shit-show. That is until the last two possessions for the Seahawks.

Up 5 (never mind the terrible 2-point conversion play-call), Russell Wilson threw a terrible INT that should have been the perverbial dagger. But, wait. A replacement ref had a yellow flag in his pocket still. Flag out of pocket, and a phantom roughing the passer call on Walden pulls the dagger out and keeps the drive alive. Game Should Be Over Call No. 1.

Still, Wilson is at the helm and the Seahawks had yet to get a first down on their own the entire second half. Let me repeat that… the Seahawks had ZERO first downs on their own merit in the second half with less than 6 minutes to play. Thankfully they had the refs on their side tonight to make up for their incompetence.

In little more than a minute of play, the Seahawks faced a 1st-and-25. Wilson makes another pass downfield – that can only be described as a “lob-thrown-by-the-passer-in-a-game-of-500” – that is up-for-grabs. Shields sees this unfold and is looking back at the ball for the last 3/4-time it is in the air. Admittedly he has a hand on Sid Rice’s jersey. But, Rice has a full on grab of Shields’ shoulder pads. Both guys battle for the ball. The grab of the jersey wouldn’t be called in pop warner football. But, the NFL hasn’t hired pop warner refs. They are worse than that. Pass interference. Spot foul. Gain of 35 or so yards – unwarranted. Game Should Be Over Call No. 2.

Despite playing against 12 men when you include the Zebras, the Packers stopped Seattle on 4th down and got the ball back deep in their territory. Of course, three straight runs nets negative yards and a punt is forced. Wilson completes one pass to get it to around the 20. Last second play. 4th down. Wilson fades back, avoids pressure, and throws another 500-type ball for the Hail Mary to end the game. Chaos ensues.

Despite the ball being pinned to Jennings’ chest, Tate allegedly caught the game-winning TD. Dohkay.

Amidst no less than 5 Packers – and this time they are ready to defend the Hail Mary unlike last January – Golden Tate gets away with highway robbery. Check that. That’s an insult to highway patrol-men. Tate would have been caught by Chief Wiggum! Tate pushed off on Shields in a clear offensive pass interference. And somehow, Tate then proceeds to catch the ball while cradling it against M.D. Jennings’ chest. You heard that correctly. M.D. Jennings, a Packer, had the ball pinned to his chest with both hands secure around it. Yet, the candy-ass ref calls a touchdown on the field because it’s in Seattle. Replay official inexplicably says the call stands. Game Should Be Over Call No. 3. Well, the game was over. Gift-wrapped for the P.O.S. Pete Carroll.

Roger Goodell, in his quest for utter world domination, has made the game we love a farce. Power hungry, Goodell has taken an unnecessary hard-line stance in his labor dispute with the regular officials. The result is utter and complete mockery of officiating.

Lost in this mess of officiating is the fact that there are careers and jobs at stake in the cut-throat NFL. Though I expect the Packers to make the playoffs, an undeserved loss can be the difference between home-field advantage and a first-round bye, and a road wild-card game. Worse yet, it can be the difference between making or missing the playoffs. With only 16 regular seasons games, every game truly matters. To have complete shit-for-brains officials deciding these games is embarrassing for everyone involved – from the owners, players, coaches, all the way down to the fans – the people that pay big money to this multi-billion dollar industry.

They always said it would take the refs costing a team a game in order to make Goodell react and cut a deal. Well, mission accomplished. Asshole.