Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Take -> Week 8

Greetings, G-Force.

Dominant victories over the hapless Lions and Browns have a man feeling cautiously optimistic. Yes, the combined 57-3 thrashing offers a positive vibe, but for the first time in the '09 Regular Season, the Green Bay Packers look like their having fun. The camaraderie is back. Unity is apparent.

Successful athletes walk a fine line between arrogance and confidence. Often times crossing the border. When in the spotlight, they want to look good. Feel good. Play good. Last week, as a unit, the Packers played this part. It was good to see a lil' flair in the wardrobe. T-Mon rockin' the yellow boots! Pickett, Ras-Al kickin' it with yellow wrist bands. We added flavor. A zest that this roster required. A new attitude.

Suddenly, the Packers are playing inspired football. Playing with a purpose. Clicking on all cylinders. TJ Lang getting to the 2nd level creating the extra space for Grant to bust into the secondary. Lang also providing gaps in which you could almost hear Vince Lombardi echoing, "you get a seal here and a seal here and you run the play through the alley!"

Rodgers goes for 246 and 3 TD's. For the most part, he was releasing the ball on cue. A nearly flawless performance. Displayed via a QB rating over 155. Connecting with 8 different receivers.

Grant was explosive. Following blocks and getting to the second level. Bouncing off defenders. Quinn Johnson makes Grant a different back.

Driver & Jennings running after the catch and looking as dangerous as ever. It was also good to see James Jones in the end zone again. Donald Lee continuing to show himself as a legitimate possession receiver. Spencer Havner! Are you kidding me?

Charles Woodson! Ohio native. University of Michigan grad. When I saw him lined across from Brian Robiskie wiggling his fingers early in the game, I turned to Vargas and A* and said, "Chuckie is lined up across from a Ohio State alum, you know he's grabbing a pick." Congrats on #4 for the season, Charles. And #40 for a career. 10 more and to me, you're a lock for the Hall of Fame. Also notable, in two games against Ohio teams this year, Charles Woodson compiled 13 tackles, 3 interceptions, a forced fumble and a TD. He's a stallion.

Cullen Jenkins makes a play every game. He'll never get Pro Bowl consideration, but he's deserving of being mentioned.

AK-74 playing possessed. He's hand is in the dirt. I love it.

Nick Barnett & AJ Hawk playing aggressively.

Why is Brady Poppinga on the field?

It's so nice to have Ras-A-tari back on the field.

Ras-Al playing like he's in his mid-20's.

The past two weeks have propelled the Packers back into the thick of the playoff race. One game out of the Division lead. In a 4-way tie for the Wild Card. Importantly, one game ahead of the hated Chicago Bears.

This week, it's the 'queens coming back to town. A tie for 1st place in the division is at stake. The forecast is calling for an epic early November day. Low 40's. Light snow flurries. It'll be picture perfect.

Brett Favre in Purple. The notion still seems wicked to me. Somewhere Peter Tosh is screaming "every time I see the wicked man, my blood turns cold." I'm not going to get into my sheer disdain over the last 6 months again. It's not beneficial to be redundant. However, I beg that the Lambeau Field faithful offer a rude welcoming for the man who brought our team back to football prominence.

In no way do I want him feeling comfortable. Please, G-Force, I beg of you, offer the entire Minnesota sideline a standing...BOOOOOOOO!!!! Be loud. Be proud. Hate the color purple. Do so with a spitting vengeance! For 60 minutes, this is an off 'yur ass, on 'yur feet type game. If you can't bring it for 60 minutes, offer your ticket to someone that can. This is a statement game for the future of our franchise. It's up to the G-Force to provide the support and heightened Green & Gold praise. Don't sway.

The game at Minnesota could be considered "sticking it" to Ted Thompson. The game at Green Bay would be "sticking it" to the Green Bay Packers. It's up to us to help not let this happen.

When I break down this game, the first place I look is Jared Allen vs TJ Lang. Lang has been terrific against mediocre talent. If Clifton can't go, Lang must elevate to show he can compete versus the best in the business. If so, he may be our LT for years to come.

Surprisingly, A.P. has been quiet this year. At Lambeau, we've done fairly well against him. Using Ras-A-tari as an extra LB at the line, Bigby has been a sure tackler and an 8th man in the box. Meanwhile, Collins has been deep preventing the BIG HR play. Obviously, we must contain A.P.

Favre to Sidney Rice has become one of the more lethal tandems in all of football. Rice tortured us in the first match-up. We have to trust that T-Mon can cover Rice over the top and try to have Nintendo Nick jump the deep slants that Rice has been running effectively.

Throughout his career, Berrian has been a stiff test for Ras-Al. He was in the first game. He will be again. He seems to make a big play every time they match up. Favre's going to go to this well. Unquestionably. Ras-Al must be up to the task.

Shiancoe continues to develop a great rapport with Favre. A consistent chain mover. A terrific red-zone threat.

In order to slow down the Minnesota offense, you HAVE TO GET PRESSURE FROM THE INSIDE! Without it, the 'queens are difficult to contain. But, if you can get in the immobile Favre's face, you can slow them down.

Losing J-Mike will hurt our offensive attack. He was our best weapon in the first match-up. Rest assured, McCarthy is sitting under a night lamp drawing up a bit of trickery to create points and to make up for J-Mike's absence.

The Packers come out throwing early. Attacking the left side of the 'queens defense where there's a huge void as they're playing without Winfield. Benny Sapp & Tyrell Johnson are the weakness of their defense. We go after them.

Puma route to Jennings. Short curl to Lee. Crossing route over the middle to Double-D. We move inside the 30. Grant gets stuffed on a 3rd & short. Yes, the Packers short-yardage offensive woes continue. However, Crosby is true from 43 yards. The Packers take an early 3-0 lead.

Favre leads the 'queens to midfield where miscommunication occurs on a 3rd down. The defense is off the field. The faithful are rowdy!

Early in the 2nd Quarter, Minnesota moves the football. A shovel pass to AP for 12 yards. AP pounds at the interior of defense. Favre to Shiancoe. It's Favre to Rice on a back shoulder fade into the corner of the end zone. Minnesota grabs the lead.

The Packers strike back. Showing a youthful fight. An exuberant energy inside the huddle concocts a Rodgers inspired drive. Rodgers picks on Benny Sapp again. James Jones fighting for extra yards. The Lambeau faithful shows their approval with a rousing ovation. It's Rodgers to Driver for 6 points and a Lambeau Leap into the South End Zone stands! The Packers regain the lead!

Percy Harvin responds with a big time return to put Minnesota into Packers territory. Minnesota closes the half with a late FG to tie it at 13.

Early in the third quarter, Berrian gets deep.

The Packers continue to play with heart. Pride abound. Under the lights of Lambeau. Players blowing cold smoke with each breath. Grant pounds for first down yardage. Almost unbelievably, the Packers find success with physical football. The Packers spread out Minnesota's depleted secondary and hit them with Grant who gets himself into the second wave of their defense. Inside the red zone, it's Rodgers to Jennings on a slant to the right side of the Minnesota defense. 20-20.

The Packers get their turnover. AK-74 gets to Favre and the football comes loose. Jenkins recovers. We convert into points.

It's late. 5 minutes left. Favre comes strolling out. One more magic Lambeau moment in his pocket. Methodically picking the Packers apart. Pissing us off with each 3rd down completion. Favre to Shiancoe. Favre to Rice. Favre to Taylor. AP plows into the end zone from 12 yards out.

And then, it's the true passing of the baton. It's 2 minutes left. Where Favre created his legacy. Standing on the sidelines. While Rodgers goes to work. Hollywood could not have wrote a better story. As time expires, it's Mason Crosby from 45 yards and a Green Bay Packers dagger into the hearts of the Minnesota Viqueens.

It's a thriller.

Green Bay 30. Minnesota 27.

This young generation of Packers grabs their first trademark victory in the post Brett Favre era. Against their former leader. It draws them into a tie for first place in the Division. There's an overwhelming state of euphoria inside the elite theater in all of sports. Pure ecstasy. Joy in a picturesque Lambeau Field.

Feel it on the inside. Wear it on the outside, baby!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Take -> Week 7

Greetings, G-Force.

I find it comical when I read the press and the utter negativity that surrounds the present state of our organization. I read blogs and others opinions and it's full of hate. Instead of rejoicing in a 26-0 victory, an emphasis is placed on our faults. Quite sickening, it is.

Sure, the penalties are unacceptable. Rodgers still held onto the ball too long. For the most part, the OL looked pathetic. Our running game is below expectations, even though Grant did rush for 90 yards. I was frustrated as Quinn Johnson blew up LB's to open up holes, only to have a guard not be able to sustain a block. But, the reality is that we SHUT OUT an NFL franchise. I believe that I read the Lions had not been shut out since 2001. I also heard that the Packers had not shut out the Lions since the 1950's. To me, these are significant achievements.

Don't get me wrong, I'm frustrated in McCarthy's tolerance for inexcusable performance. We consistent fail to hold ourselves accountable for our actions. I'm also disappointed by Thompson's refraining of veteran FA's. Additionally, I heard rumors of Joe Thomas being on the trading block. I would have offered Bishop, AK-74, Hawk and a 1st rounder for Thomas to be the pillar of Rodgers' backside for the next 12 years. Instead, the Packers remain at the center of trade rumors and on the outside looking in when the deadline passes.

Any way, I was stoked to see Ras-A-tari back on the field making the interception in the end zone to preserve the shut out. I was stoked to see Nick Barnett beat Kevin Smith to the corner on 4th & 1, which forced Smith to the inside where CM3 was able to make the play behind the line of scrimmage. I was stoked to see CM3 record 2 sacks in a game. Cullen Jenkins making a pick on a well designed screen play! Reading the play perfectly. AK-74 with his best game of the year, the first time he's looked comfortable. Ras-Al coming on the blitz and getting home! Double-D setting the Packers receptions record. Greg Jennings getting into the open field. James Jones getting deep on a beautiful look-off by Rodgers which created the wide open big play. J-Mike continues to impress. Jordy and T-Mon both looked strong returning kicks. Rodgers connected with 9 different receivers!

I'm not saying that we don't have a ton of work ahead of us. In fact, we're an average football team. But, with our schedule, we can do some damage. And, it's important to remember that in Week 5, the Detroit Lions were trailing the Super Bowl champions 28-20 late. They had the ball inside the 30 yard line and looking like they were to equalize. G-Force, a win is a win just as a loss is a loss. In the standings, this win is the equivalent of the loss to the 'queens. And, it's important for us to keep this in perspective. We also must remember that there's two ways to get into the playoffs: 1.) you win the division. 2.) you qualify for the wild card. After 5 games, we're in decent shape.

As fans, we become obsessed with the quality of team that we've defeated. We use that as THE barometer to measure ourselves. Whatever happened to the days of 1994? In '94, we squeaked out wins against bottom feeders such as the Jets & Rams. In no way were we dominant. However, as fans, we cherished those victories and thought of them as monumental. The only reason that '09 is different is because of the expectations we've placed on the season. Admittedly, I'm one of those that predicted great things. Even today, I still believe that we are in solid position to be playoff bound. And as the Giants displayed in '07, once in the playoffs, anything can happen.

This week, we have the Browns. Another contest in the 8 game swing stretch that will decide our season. As I think about this game, if we don't become arrogant and overlook this game, we should win it easily. But, we CANNOT look ahead to the November 1 show down. Stay focused on the task at hand.

As I mentioned this 8 game swing stretch will decide our fate. If you can't win at home and if you can't win against inferior teams in a league intended to breed parity, you may as well pack up your bags and start the offseason. I'm confident that we will perform.

A trip to Cleveland should continue to provide some much needed momentum to our locker room. Let's remember that Cleveland was an opponent that we demolished in the preseason when we looked primed for big things. But, in the same breath, let's remind ourselves that the Browns have played better over the last three weeks. They played the Bengals nose-to-nose for 75 minutes only to lose on the last play of OT. They beat Buffalo in swirling winds. They played the Steelers tough and were threatening midway through the 4th Quarter to make it a one-score game.

If you haven't been paying attention, Mohammed Massaquoi is quietly becoming a dangerous weapon for the Browns. Since Derek Anderson took over as the QB for the Browns 3 games ago, Massaquoi has 14 catches for nearly 250 yards. Anderson can throw the deep ball and Massaquoi is a deep threat. Expect the Browns to challenge T-Mon deep.

Josh Cribbs is the NFL's elite kick return man. He's averaging nearly 30 yards per kickoff and 17 yards per punt return. He's returned two kicks for TD's. It would not surprise me if Cribbs has a BIG return this weekend.

Chansi Stuckey recently joined Cleveland in the Braylon Edwards trade. He'll add a decent slot option for Anderson on short, check-down routes.

The right side of the Browns line is a couple of sieve's. AK-74 gets to the QB this weekend.

It's a homecoming-of-sorts for CM3. Too bad he has to go against Joe Thomas, one of the elite young LT's in football. It'll be an interesting challenge for CM3. If he can impress this week, it'll be a huge step in his development as a player. Over the next 2 weeks, we'll learn a lot about where CM3 is at in the early stages of his career.

Defensively, outside of Shaun Rogers, the Browns are vulnerable. Kamerion Wimbley, Brandon McDonald, Brodney Pool and Eric Wright are all young, athletic, aggressive and improving, but they are not ready to carry a defense. With the loss to leading tackler, D'Qwell Jackson, they have a major void in the middle of their defense. I'd attack the right side of their defense with Robaire Smith and David Bowens. I'd also go over the top of Abram Elam.

The Packers come out and grab an early 7-0 lead. Rodgers gets the TE's involved early. Lee & J-Mike both move the chains. Forcing the LB's to drop back in coverage, Grant breaks through the left side of the line for a 12 yard gain. It's Rodgers to Driver for a TD.

The defense holds and Rodgers goes to work. It's James Jones on a short ball. He goes back to the TE's. Again to Lee. Again to J-Mike down the seam. 10-0 Packers.

Midway through the 2nd Quarter, Cribbs turns the tide with a kick return. Mixing Jerome Harrison and Jamal Lewis, the Browns punch it in to make it 10-7. The Dawg Pound rises and makes life tough for Rodgers to close the half. 13-7 Packers at the break.

At 16-7, it looks like the Packers will pull away until Anderson finds Massaquoi deep. The Browns close to 16-14.

Then the Packers respond. Rodgers finds Jennings behind the defense and the Packers respond with a quick strike behind Abram Elam. 23-14 Packers.

Derek Anderson has thrown 6 interceptions compared to 2 TD's. With the Browns trailing, the offense becomes predictable and so do Anderson's results. Nintendo Nick steps in front of a pass and takes it to the house.

Rodgers finishes with 250 yards and 2 TD's. Grant tops 100 yards. We move to 4-2 and we're in the thick of the Wild Card Race.

Packers 30. Browns 14.

Welcome back Ahman Green. I hope you spend time with our youngsters educating them on what it means to be a member of the Green Bay Packers. I wish for you to elevate our mental state through veteran leadership. I believe that you can still give us 30 offensive yards a game. That would be an upgrade over what we're currently getting from our back-up RB's.

Finally, I'm presenting a solution to our red zone woes: BACK SHOULDER PASS TO J-MIKE! GET IT DONE!

Have a Little Faith,

Talkin' S-Mac.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Take -> Week 5

Greetings, G-Force.

I hope you enjoyed your bye week as much as I did. The timing was impeccable. The Monday Night buzz kill is behind me and I'm ready to watch our football program excel over the next 8 weeks. Yes, it's an 8 week mission that includes matches against some of the poorest talent in the NFL. 2 games against the Lions. 1 against the Browns. 1 against Tampa. If we play with aggressiveness, they should all be double-digit wins. In addition, over the next 8 games, we have 4 winnable HOME games versus Minnesota, Dallas, SF and Baltimore. Anything less than 7-1 is a disappointment. If you can't win the games you are supposed to win and you can't dominate your home field, you are no more than a pretender.

Before I get to the game, I feel it necessary to point out the obvious: The entire offseason I was saying it was imperative to bring in a guy like Vonnie Holliday. He knew the 3-4. He was a proven vet that brought leadership to the locker room. He'd played with Capers previously. Thus far, in 5 games, Holliday has 2 sacks and a forced fumble that kept the Broncos in the game against the Patriots. In 5 seasons, Michael Montgomery has brought ZERO leadership. He also has 1 forced fumble. The most sacks he's ever produced in a season is 2.5. Yet, we continue to accept such deficiencies. We allow the same people to make the same mistakes. Holliday's 2 sacks would also be tied for the team lead.

I'm happy Mark Tauscher is back. I hope he is fit enough to make an impact.

I can't believe I'm about to say it but I'm excited for B-Jack to play again. Wynn has been a failure.

Barnett has no inside pass rushing ability. I hope Bishop plays more this week.

We need Bigby healthy.

Rodgers continues to hold the ball too long. If I can see it for the first 20 games of his career, why can't our coaching staff? It's comical to me that the media is finally making it a topic.

It all starts this week. Detroit comes to town. The last time the Lions won at Lambeau was December of 1991. I was with my brother Chad. We were frozen. Barry Sanders hurdled a Packers LB. Mike Tomczak was the Packers QB. Vince Workman was our RB. Almost seems ancient to me. The streak continues this Sunday.

The Packers will use a balanced attack. Expect a heavy dose of Ryan Grant in the 1st quarter. The Lions have been surprisingly good for the 1st half of games. They pursue the line of scrimmage with Larry Foote and Julian Peterson. But, when you start players such as Deandre Levy, William James, Marquand Manuel and Jason Hunter, you are prone to giving up big plays down the field. Eventually, you're worn down.

Early in the game, it's Grant on the cutback. It's Grant on the pitch to the right. It's Grant powering left and cutting right.

With the exception of the 4th Quarter against the Rams, our OL has been pushed around. This week, we get off to a good start. Our running game opens up the pass. It's play action pass and deep down the field to Jennings.

The Lions defense has been destroyed against the likes of Brees, Cutler and Roethlisberger. Rodgers will have similar success. Utilizing short routes. Quicker designs. Rodgers finds Lee, J-Mike, Grant, B-Jack, Jones, Nelson, Driver and Jennings.

I'm sad to see Willie B. go, but I believe Jordy makes a play on special teams as well this week.

Defensively, with Calvin Johnson's status in question, the mission is to stop Kevin Smith. 8 in the box. A variety of blitzes. We attack.

Clay Matthews 3 gets his first clean hit on a QB. Jeff Backus is not what he once was. He can be pushed back and run around. Matthews makes a consistent difference.

Woodson gets his first sack of the year. He also gets his 4th pick.

Nintendo Nick records his 2nd interception.

If this one is not convincing, I'm concerned.

Packers 38. Lions 20.

Seasons change. So does the football mentality. Bring on the cold weather.

Oh, and also, the Vikings and the Bears both lose this week. We're back in it!

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.