Tag Archives: Packers 49ers

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 Mythical Chip on Rodgers’ Shoulder

As you watch Saturday Night’s game, keep in mind the following phrase: with the 24th selection of the 2005 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select Aaron Rodgers, QB, Cal. We all remember that night – seeing an incredibly young-looking Rodgers waiting in the green room for what seemed an eternity. But that night also started the development of a giant chip on Rodgers’ shoulder that he carries to this day.

Aaron Rodgers, now the best QB in the league, shares a trait with Michael Jordan that drives their success – the inability to forget those who have slighted them. For instance, during his HOF induction speech, Jordan made sure to remind everyone for the 1-thousandth time that he was cut from his high school basketball squad.

In a similar fashion, Rodgers doesn’t forget. He still keeps a letter from a college coach during his recruitment that told him he’d never make it. He remembers a professor at Cal advising him that he would never make it. And he even reminds McCarthy that he did not pick him with the 1st selection when he was at San Francisco.

Which brings us back to the present. Saturday night marks the first time Rodgers will play a meaningful NFL game at Candlestick Park, the home of his favorite team growing up in Chico, CA – a shade under 3 hours from the stadium. Rodgers immediately pointed this fact out following the wild-card win against the Vikings. And in doing so, it became immediately apparent that he was relishing the opportunity to go home to face his favorite childhood team and the team that doubted his skills when it took Alex Smith instead of him in that 2005 draft.

This is great news for Packers fans because the signature games of Rodgers’ career can trace back to him entering that game with a point to prove. No matter how insignificant – or even imagined – the doubt, hate, or negative commentary may have been, Rodgers tends to latch onto it and use it to fuel his greatness.

Rodgers' emphatic Championship Belt, announcing his ascension to the 'Elite'

Rodgers’ emphatic Championship Belt, announcing his ascension to the ‘Elite’

The first instance was the 2010 divisional round playoff game at the Georgia Dome. At the time, Rodgers was 1-1 in the playoffs, having posted gaudy numbers in the epic near-comeback at Arizona in the year prior and impressive stats in the week prior on the road at Philly. Still, he hadn’t validated himself as an elite QB. Heck, PA, the vox of the Vikings, called Rodgers “The Big Box Score.” Entering that evening’s matchup, the talk focused on the young-QBs, with many proclaiming Matty “Far From Ice” as the next one to join the elite club.

All Rodgers did was play his single-best game of his career. In the 48-21 route, Rodgers completed a ridiculous 86% of his passes for 366 yards 3 TDs and one rushing TD. And it wasn’t just these lofty stats. It was the way he did it. He combined pinpoint accuracy with incredible poise and an uncanny ability to escape pressure. Succinctly, it was Rodgers’ coming out party.

Rodgers next signature game was the first game of the 2011 season – the home opener against the ‘Aints. Leading up to the game, the media was praising Brees for organizing player-only workouts while the lockout consumed the summer. Rodgers, in turn, did not.

Rodgers led the Packers to a 42-34 victory, throwing for 312 yards and 3 TDs. And after the game, Rodgers quipped throughout his presser about the fact that the offense was rusty for not having practiced like Brees did. This was the first clear-cut example of Rodgers’ obsession with proving doubters wrong.

The most recent case was the Packers demolition of the previously unbeaten Houston Texans in week 6 of this season. At 2-3*, the Packers were struggling and a date at the undefeated Texans had many questioning this team.

Of course, you know the story. Packers routed Houston 42-24 in its most complete game of the season. Rodgers threw for 338 yards and a career-high 6 TDs. He could do no wrong that evening. And following the game, Rodgers was asked what he’d like to say to his critics: “SHHHHHH!

There are no critics to motivate Rodgers for Saturday night’s tilt. But, he doesn’t need them. He still has that chip marinating on his shoulder since the 49ers overlooked him in that 2005 draft.

Don’t get me wrong; winning at San Francisco this Saturday will be no small accomplishment. But, knowing that Rodgers will enter the game with that chip on his shoulder gives me a great amount of hope.

What the Hell is Going On Out There?!

Both the Gophers and Vikings end the week with better records than the Badgers and Packers. As Vince said, “What the hell is going on out there?!?!?” The most disappointing aspect of the Packers loss is the fact that so little has changed from last year’s problems.

The Packers “boasted” one of the worst defenses in the league last year. Hemorrhaging yards and big plays, the defense was painful to watch. It couldn’t apply any pressure on opposing QB’s, couldn’t get off the field on 3rd downs, and sound tackling was a figment of our imagination. All pre-season, we heard about the upgrades at crucial positions and how much the fundamentals were emphasized. Things were going to be different. Well, what happens week 1 against Alex Smith – yes, that Alex Smith – & Co.? The defense allowed Smith to orchestrate 5 straight scoring drives, made Frank Gore and the player formerly known as Randy Moss relevant for one week, and still struggled tackling – I’m looking at you Morgan Burnett.

And even with Claymaker’s 2.5 sacks, the Packers got little pressure throughout the game. Capers was forced to bring heavy blitzes in the second half to create some sort of pressure. But even that was mostly ineffective. Perry has the bull rush, and that’s pretty much it – not to mention he is a huge liability in pass coverage. Worthy, Daniels, etc. were invisible. Moses got little run. And I barely saw Hayward or McMillian out there (though that could be a good sign as in no word from secondary players means they did their job. We can hope.) Just no help from the newcomers. As they say, some things never change.

To pile on those issues, the coaching was poor. In classic MM fashion, he stubbornly attempted to establish a running game at various points in the second half when it was so clearly obvious we weren’t running on them. And then on the first possession of the second half, MM goes for the home-run play on 3rd-and-1. I’m all for aggressive play-calling. But, only when it’s appropriate. That was the wrong spot to get aggressive. We had yet to establish any rhythm on offense and needed to sustain that drive.

The most egregious coaching errors (and one player mental error), though, were at the end of the first half. Down only six despite being dominated for most of the half, the Packers got the ball with just over :50 left at their own 20-yard line. After a short completion on 2nd down, MM called a timeout with around :30+ second left. Coaching error number 1. On the ensuing play, A-Rodg couldn’t find anyone and instead of sliding and keeping the clock running, he threw it away, preserving SF’s last timeout. Player mental error. Reminiscent of Bradshaw’s long scamper to get the G-Men into range for the fateful Hail Mary to end that first half, the 49ers sent in Colin Kaepernick – the backup QB who is well-known for his running – who proceeded to take a QB draw for around 20 yards. An obvious play call that somehow no one on the GB coaching staff saw coming. Coaching error number 2. The result was the 49ers were in “field goal range” – quoted because it was still a 63-yarder. The timeout was way too aggressive, particularly since the 49ers defense is so dominant. And how the players were so woefully unprepared for Kaepernick is unacceptable. You can’t give away free points like that. And even though the Packers lost by 8, the 3 points required the Packers going for 2 and surely made it seem like a more daunting comeback when they needed 2 TDs and 2 successful 2-point conversions.

One of the more disappointing efforts of the afternoon belonged to D.J. Smith. He took poor angles and got shoved off potential tackles. His lack of size was evident out there. Not to be outdone, Hawk was up to his normal play – making tackles 3-5 yards downfield. He made one great play behind the line of scrimmage in the 1st half to force a field goal. Just more of the same.

As for the offense, the 49ers forced the Packers to methodically march down the field with underneath plays. They took away the deep shots and easily handled the alleged Packers running game. Randall Cobb emerged as the star of the offense. Making good on my Percy-Lite comparison, Cobb lined up all over the field – slot, out wide, and in the backfield. Although he didn’t register a carry, he wreaked havoc out of the backfield on quick hits to the flat. MM will get more creative with the burgeoning stud and he will be a big playmaker for the Packers this season.

Often overlooked, James Jones also put together a nice game. He had a couple long gains, and was looked to on a few bombs. He was hosed on a completed bomb because of a phantom offensive pass interference. (Yes, I know he had two arms extended, but the alleged push off didn’t create any unfair separation. No way that’s called by the real refs.) Most impressive for Jones was his YAC. Not known for the same, he made some nice moves and created most of his YAC.

I’d be remiss not highlight the offensive line’s play. Against a formidable front 7, the line held up for the most part. Aldon Smith got his hands on A-Rodg only when Rodgers broke away from the pocket. Justin Smith was never heard from. Newhouse had a bad false start penalty early in the game, continuing a trend from pre-season. But, otherwise, his name or number were never called. All-in-all, it was a pretty solid effort by the O-line. (Of course, this completely ignores the fact they can’t run-block – but we already knew that.)

Finally, it needs to be said. The refs were absolutely horrendous. I think the Packers got the short end of the bad calls – even with that missed block in the back on Cobb’s punt return. Calls were missed all game long. The refs conferenced over almost every call, slowing the game down to a painful level at times. It is simply unacceptable because the refs absolutely had a negative impact on the game. Did they lose the game for the Packers? No. But, they made their mark on the game in a negative way and who knows how the chain of the events impacts the game.

It’s one game. Far too early to read anything more into this other than the Packers got beat by a better team. The 49ers showed last season’s playoff run is no fluke. With a quick turnaround for Thursday’s game, the Packers don’t have time to lick their wounds. A Bears team far improved on offense will be a tough opponent for this defense. Hopefully, this loss lights a fire under the team’s ass, and makes them realize this is a different season and it won’t be so easy this time around.