Pardon me, but while I put together my notes over the last couple of days, I'm littered with a buzz from the Baus Family Vineyards. I'm not a wine connoisseur, but the Cabernet Sauvignon is well priced and delicious.
The 2012 Season has started in an awkwardly similar manner as the 2011 Season finished. We were outmatched. We were punched in the mouth. We lost to a physical team. Plain and simple. It hurt. Badly. But, it wasn’t overly unexpected. What was frustrating is this: if you’ve watched the 49ers play, you know that their offense is predicated on creating match-ups. Clearly, we hadn’t scouted the 49ers enough. When Michael Crabtree is lined up in the slot, you’d hope that Nick Perry is not lined up against him. Well, it happened. That’s a problem. A scary one. And let’s hope that scenario does not continue. Overall, the Packers weren’t polished. We lacked shine. Aaron Rodgers is one of the more cerebral players in the NFL. But, his decision on 3rd down with just more than 30 seconds to play in the 1st half was done out of frustration. If Rodgers slides to the ground, SF has to burn their last timeout and they likely go into the half with a 13-7 lead. Instead, Rodgers flips the ball out of bounds and SF saved it’s timeout, which led to the 16-7 deficit. The vibe was eerily similar to Hakeem Nicks dancing off the field after the Hail Mary that put the dagger in the 2011 NFL Season. Ouch.
With that said, I’m not going to be a negative man. I have not lost faith. SF is a solid team. I’m OK with the loss. I want to see improvement. It wouldn’t shock me if this team finishes 10-6 or 11-5, yet we might be better positioned for a playoff run than we were as a 15-1 team last year. This team will require patience. Patience from the coaching staff. Patience from the locker room. Patience from the fans. Our youngsters are being asked to make an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball. I’m confident that we’ll improve over time. And, thus, we’ll have the capacity to make a run late in the year. Please, don’t panic. Things will improve. It might not happen in the first 4 games of the year, but this team will find its stride.
If there is one positive takeaway from the game, it was Randall Cobb. I loved the way he was used. It was an extension of the running game. Success was consistently achieved. I am excited to see his role continue to evolve. I see big things from him this year.
Another super exciting piece of the 49er game was the play of Clay Matthews and Sir Charles Woodson. With Sir Charles’ 1.5 sacks, he’s within 3 sacks of becoming the FIRST PLAYER IN NFL HISTORY with 50 interceptions and 20 sacks. You know Sir Charles is ready to sic Nutler this weekend.
We’re 0-1. But, it’s time to move forward. And, this week, it’s the Bears. Our hated rivals to the south. I’m animated for this one. Want it. Desperately.
The Bears are the media darlings after their impressive home victory over the Colts. Nutler to Marshall looked legit. The Forte/Bush combo looked like an ideal match. On defense, the Bears front-7 looked ripe. They looked like they have tools in place to be a serious contender in the NFC. But, in order to do so, the Bears will have to get through the Packers. And, as we know the Packers own the TRUMP CARD over the Bears.
Remember it: Halas Trophy. Soldier Field. Visitors Locker Room. Trump Card. Forever.
That’ll NEVER get old.
But, 2012 is a new year. Even with a new year, the game will likely be decided by the play of Aaron Rodgers v Ray Nutler. In his career, Rodgers has been terrific vs the Bears. Nutler, on the other hand, has been, well, Ray Nutler against the Packers. The Packers have faced Nutler 7 times in his career. Once as a Bronco and 6 times as a Bear. Nutler has a 1-6 record against the Packers. In those seven games, Nutler has thrown 7 TD's and 12 interceptions. He was also knocked out of the NFC Championship with a questionable injury. Bears fans burned his jersey after the NFC Championship game. He was labeled a quitter. Thus far, the Packers have owned Ray Nutler. Let’s hope it continues for another week.
When the Bears have the ball, Nutler will look to use his reunited toy, Brandon Marshall. The last time Marshall matched up with T-Mon, Marshall ate him up. Still, I’d line T-Mon in a nose-to-nose, toes-to-toes fashion against Marshall. T-Mon must win that battle. I’d also give T-Mon over-the-top help with Morgan Burnett.
We saw a lot of J-Bush last week. This week - let’s see Casey Hayward! I’ve mentioned this often, but it’s worth reiterating; the last time Hayward matched up with Alshon Jeffery was when they were in college. On that day, Jeffery had 2 catches. Hayward had two interceptions. There’s familiarity there. I’d like to see Hayward lining up against him. Sure, Sammy Swagga should be the 2nd CB in the base defense, but I’d like to see Hayward on the field this week.
Forte is a stud. DJ Smith is going to have to play significantly better this week than he did last week or Forte may be in for a huge day. The Packers have had big penetration on the Bears DL in the past. Last year, in Chicago, Forte had 9 carries for 2 yards. It’d be nice to see that again this week.
On 3rd down, look for Walden to be on the field. Perry slides a step inside. Hand in the dirt. Like he did in college. Raji is lined up next to Perry. Look for Worthy and Daniels rotate with Raji. Clay as the other rusher. Let’s punish Nutler and force the big turnover.
On the defensive side of the ball, Bears will bring intensity. But, the Packers OL matches up well with the Bears DL. When the Bears rush 4, I expect Rodgers to have a fair amount of time. If Rodgers is blitzed, I like the match-ups on the outside – assuming Greg Jennings plays. In the past, the Bears have had no answer for Greg Jennings & J-Mike. I can’t imagine why that would change.
It’s important for McCarthy to get Rodgers in a rhythm early in the game. Rodgers needs to get off to a quick start. If one thing is for certain, he’s a much better player when he gets off to a quick start. He’s the MPV of the NFL when the Packers are playing with the lead. When they aren’t, he appears to get frustrated easily. In order to find a fluid start to the game, the Packers should attack Tim Jennings. While Jennings played well against the Colts, he’s never faired well against Green Bay. Short posts have been successful routes and they have eventually set up double moves. If given time, big plays will be had this weekend. But, first, let’s put some easy completions on the stat sheet.
As Rodgers finds success, look for Benson to get his carries. Playing against the team that drafted him, Benson is sure to be determined. He’ll be motivated to make an impact. Rather than the delayed draw or counter runs, I’d like to see quick hitting, punch you in the mouth runs that allow for a cut-back. Ryan Grant produced solid numbers in Chicago last year as he used patience and the cut-back to grab yards in large chunks, averaging 5.4 yards per on 17 rushes. Benson should get the same amount of carries and with that, we’ll likely see him have the same success.
Play the Trump Card, G-Force. The Packers find their stride and win a crucial NFC North battle.
Green Bay 31. Chicago 30.
We better be ready. If not, we’ll be 0-2 prior to the 2nd Sunday of the NFL Season. With two losses in the NFC. And, 2 losses at Lambeau. Be ready, Titletown. Make a difference.
THE BEARS STILL SUCK!
Go Pack Go!