Saturday, January 12, 2013

My Take -> Divisional Playoffs

Greetings, G-Force.

As you know, I write for the fans, from a fan's point of view. Right now, I'm stoked! In dominant fashion, the Packers ended the Minnesota Viqueens season. And, thus, another chapter in the rich rivalry between the Packers and the 49ers will be written this Saturday Night. A couple of vibes from the Wild Card Victory:

* Go for the throat, Irishman! I don't understand why McCarthy gets passive in a win-or-else scenario. At 24-3, it was unlikely that Minnesota was coming back. Sure, I agreed that running clock was vital. But, it shouldn't come at the expense of taking our offense out of it's rhythm. Short passes to WR's in space would work just fine.

* Loved the intensity of the fans at Lambeau. Felt the buzz through the TV screen. Goodness abound! BLESS!

* Welcome back, Sir Charles Woodson! Callme crazy, but one of the biggest plays in the game was 2nd & 5 from the Green Bay 13 on the Viqueens first drive of the game. In the 8-plus quarters that we had played the 'queens, we showed an inability to stop AP. Then, Sir Charles bursts through the double team and drops AP for a 2-yard loss. The defensive intensity and momentum shifted. Suddenly, we were dominating the line of scrimmage. Sir Charles, you are the Lion in this Kingdom!

* If Erik Walden & BJ Raji play as they did vs Minnesota, we're going to be really tough to beat. Well done, men! Beastly performance.

* Either AP or Peyton Manning will win the NFL's MVP, but Aaron Rodgers is the NFL's best player. IF we let him carry us, we'll be Super Bowl Champs. I firmly believe that.

* DuJuan Harris. Keep it up, mate. And if you do, you deserve a key to the City! He led the team with 5 catches. Moreover, he totaled 100 yards. He was a tremendous dump-off option. Patient, yet running with a vengeance.

* Be Great, Greg Jennings!

* Welcome back, Randall Cobb.

* Move sticks, J-Mike!

* KUUUHHHHHHHNNNNN! Remember how valuable he was in the XLV Run? If not, hopefully, that was a reminder. That said, please eliminate the FB dive.

* Jeremy Ross, once again, impressed in the return game.

* Love Jordy on the crossing route.

* T-Mon ups his intensity.

* The Claymaker is as valuable of a defensive player as there is in the NFL.

* Sammy Swagga playing at Pro Bowl levels!

* Brad Jones has his limitation, but his effort is great. Leaves his soul on the field on a weekly basis.

* Dom Capers deserves a Game Ball! Loved the way he adjusted. Kept the defensive energy at positive levels. Mixed up his looks. Loved how he intertwined Neal & Clay. Even though Neal has been relatively ineffective when he's standing up.

* I was satisfied with the entire OL unit. If they can play at that level for 12 more quarters, it'll be a SUPER offseason.

* It's great to have Aaron Rodgers as the Quarterback of the Green Bay Packers.

* Tom Clements, please don't leave. Same to you, John Dorsey. You're both valued and appreciated!

* Stay true, Mason Crosby.

* Kind vibes to you, Casey Hayward.

* Can someone please make a special teams tackle on kickoffs?

Green Bay at San Francisco. At the Stick. Saturday Night. Prime Time. If I am dreaming, Lord, please don't let me open my eyes. I'm confident. I believe the Packers are going to win. In convincing fashion. Seriously. I do. Eerily, I almost feel overconfident. Until I heard the potential weather conditions,I felt better playing in SF than I did playing MN last week. Generally speaking, I felt the Packers are better suited to play at the Stick in January than they are for playing at Lambeau. Even with the storied SF tradition and the rowdy SF fans. We're road tested. Battle tested. We've shown our mental mettle. We're fit to punch them in the mouth. For 60 minutes.

If the last two decades are any indication, this is going to be a game to remember. It's worth a trip down memory lane:

In the 1995 playoffs, the Packers were underdogs as they entered the Stick. Adam Walker fumbles after being popped by Wayne Simmons. Craig Newsome scoops it up. It was 21-3 at the Half. It finished 27-17. After this game, for the first time in my life, I believed the Packers could win a Super Bowl.

In the 1996 regular season, the Packers and Niners played a thriller on Monday Night. Down 17-6 at the half, the Packers stormed back in the second half. The beneficiary of a blown referee call, the Packers were in striking distance late. Chris Jacke was good from 31 yards with 8 seconds left to tie it. In OT, Jacke was perfect from 53 yards. Behind 11 catches for 220 yards from Don Beebe, the Packers were victorious, 23-20.

The '96 playoffs featured one of the most fun games I've ever attended. Desmond Howard was magic and put the Packers in position for 14 points with two electrifying TD's. The Packers marched to the NFC Championship with a 35-14 victory.

The Packers and Niners met at the Stick in the 1997 NFC Championship. The Packers dominated throughout and left with a 23-10 victory. The Niners did not score an offensive TD.

In the regular season in 1998, they met in Green Bay. Travis Jervey was a gem. He rushed for 95 yards and a game clinching 11 yard TD run. Antonio Freeman was a stallion as he caught 7 balls for 193 yards.

The '98 playoffs featured the Packers v SF at the Stick in the Wild Card. Rice fumbles. Packers recover. Game over. Or so we thought. The ref blows the call. Says Rice was down. Steve Young to TO. 49ers victory. Devastation.

In the 2001 playoffs, SF traveled to Lambeau. Mostly remembered for the unbelievable deflection by Mike McKenzie. It was 18-15 midway through the 4th Quarter. It appeared as though SF was moving in for a score. Jeff Garcia had TO running down the sideline. TO had a step on Mike McKenzie. At the last moment, McKenzie got his hand in the air and knocked the ball into the air. Drive-by Tyrone Williams came down with the interception. Favre went to work. Green Bay won 25-15.

In 2002, we saw TO bust out the pom poms at the Stick. The Packers defense was stellar. Green Bay won 20-14.

In 2010, we witnessed what was arguably the best individual effort in my lifetime. Donald Driver's 61-yard TD was a thing of beauty. Never to be forgotten. Green Bay rolled, 34-16.

Yes, there have been many moments. Fun games. Mostly Packers wins. And, then this year, the vibe changed. In the season opener, SF came to Lambeau and left victoriously. They dominated Green Bay. They more more physical. More athletic. Plainly stated, they were the better team.

In mid-December, it was hard for me to envision a scenario in which the Packers would beat the NYG, SF or Denver in a playoff battle. I couldn't picture the Packers OL protecting Rodgers enough to win. But, things have changed. Don Barclay has improved our run blocking. So has EDS. Harris has provided a legitimate running threat. Justin Smith is playing with one arm. And, at times, in late December, the SF defense has looked winded.

Offensively, while Colin Kaepernick gives SF more diversity and big play potential, he has not brought the same consistency that was present with Alex Smith. Although Kaepernick's legs present a significant threat, he's occasionally been an erratic passing QB. And, while he's shown glimpses of brilliance, he's also shown that you can confuse him. Get creative, Dom Capers.

Don't get me wrong, SF is a formidable foe. They punish you. They can dominate with physicality. They bring high intensity to every play. Jim Harbaugh, like him or not, is a master of creating mismatches. He puts his players in position to succeed. He'll have some tricks up his sleeve. Harbaugh will utilize Gore and Kaepernick in the run-draw option formation that MN used so successfully on its first possession. The Packers will have to be prepared.

Harbaugh will get LaMichael James into space. It'll be important for the Packers to stand him up because if James gets loose, he won't be caught.

Although Kaepernick hasn't been utilizing Vernon Davis as much, it'll happen this week. Be ready, Sir Charles. Woodson did a great job of not biting on the play fake last week. He was glued to Rudolph, which helped the defensive frnt to make big plays as Joe Webb was late to get off of his 1st read.

Whoever is playing against Michael Crabtree better get in his face. SF runs a variety of short routes to Crabtree. They rely on his run after the catch ability. They run the slant with great success. If there's help over the top, I'd like to see T-Mon look to jump one of those slants. But, there has to be help as I can see a pump-fake and Crabtree sprinting down the sideline.

With injuries to Mario Manningham & Kyle Williams, we'll see a bundle of our old nemesis, Randy Moss. Historically, Moss has burned the Packers. This time, I like the was Sammy Swagga & T-Mon match up with him. They'll test us deep. Beware.

Frank Gore is tough to bring down. He's a machine. A possible HOF rusher. If he's held to under 100 yards as AP was last week, it'll be tough for SF to win. With the run-draw option, look for Gore to run between the tackles. It'll be important for the DL to hold its ground. Stick to your gaps. Don't be confused.

Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith absolutely crushed the Packers OL in Week 1. The 49ers also sent Carlos Rogers and Perrish Cox on a variety of successful blitzes. The Packers will be better prepared this time.

In Week 1, Chris Culliver was an absolute stud. He manhandled all of our WR's in man-to-man coverage. Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner were absolute monsters.

Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis form the best LB tandem in the game.

If the Packers don't nut-up, it'll be frustrating.

Give the ball to Aaron Rodgers. Let him be a Superstar. Let Aaron Rodgers carry you, Mike McCarthy. Play with 3 wide. J-Mike up tight on the side of the field in which Aldon Smith is lined up. Chip Aldon Smith. Every play. Rodgers will need two dump off options. One being J-Mike. The other being the RB. At times, I look for it to be Harris. Other times, it'll be Kuhn. And, look for a bit of Cobb in the backfield as well. Don't be surprised if he's consistently used as a receiving option out of the backfield The Packers will have to mix it up.

Rodgers was great against MN. He was patient. He used the dump off. He got rid of the ball quickly. He was cerebral. He'll have to play this way again.

I expect to see a lot of John Kuhn as a blocking back. He'll also be a receiving option. Look for Kuhn, Harris and Cobb to combine for a minimum of 10 catches out of the backfield.

Glide on by, Greg Jennings. Glide on by. Make a big play. Change this game.

Joe Staley couldn't block the Claymaker in Week 1. I'd use Erik Walden, not Matthews, as the shadow for Kaepernick. Walden has done this before. In his best game as a Packer in Week 17 of the 2010 Season, Walden mostly shadowed Ray Nutler and came on delayed blitzes. I'd like to see him do the same this week. Don't hinder Clay as a pass rusher. Send CM3 directly after Kaepernick. One mission. Get the QB, Clay. Hopefully, Neal can get some pressure as well. But, importantly, have Walden shadow Kaepernick in an effort to prevent the big play with Kaepernick's legs.

I feel good. I think the Packers come out with a vengeance. And - one of the DB's makes a BIG play. I'm guessing T-Mon. In grand fashion. Possibly a Pick-6. Sir Charles has had great fortunes against young QB's. He, too, is a prime candidate for a monster, game-changing play.

I envision a big victory at the Stick. After all, if anyone in this world deserves to go out on top, it's Double-D. Does anyone have better karma coming to him than Quickie himself? Here's to you, Donald Driver! Go be a gunner and make a tackle, mate!

Don't let Ted Ginn beat us.

Green Bay 30. San Francisco 20.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.


Stack said...

What a season. Perhaps we can get into that later, but I'm here to leave behind a long overdue mock draft. Call it the first of February. Bowl Season is never over at Stack's house. And the Super Bowl is always the next one. That being said, the Pack showed that despite last year's investment, we still need help on the defense. In this year's draft, I'm getting my guys according to plan and I'm getting out.

Round 1/Pick 25: John Jenkins - DL Georgia. Plug this beef ball in and dominate the line of scrimmage on run plays. Not only should he be able to play a 5 technique, he should be able to play in some 2 down schemes with 5 LB. Pickett is aging, albeit gracefully. We have little more than the Piano Man. Need presence up front.

Round 2/Pick 57: John Simon - OLB - Ohio State. If you're telling me that this guy is available at this point in the draft, I would feel obligated to draft him. I like Nick Perry. I want him on the field taking snaps, playing plays. But the reality is such that Perry missed most of the year; Matthews missed a month. Having a player like Simon to plug in on the outside in either of those circumstances, or to compete for playing time and add layers to defensive capabilities with more LBs on the field, this guy is your man here. Coached by Vrabel. Made plays at the LB position in the Big Ten. Would be a great Packer.

Round 3/89: John Cyprien - SS - FIU. Haven't seen a ton of this dude. Seen enough. Need a presence in the secondary. Need tacklers.

Stack said...

Round 4/121: Brian Schwenke - C - Cal. I would consider this guy one of my more important targets in the draft. He shows excellent movement skills. Add some muscle, keep growing the hair, you're gonna make the pro bowl, bro! Land this guy Ted!

Round 5/153: Kwame Geathers - DL - Georgia. I'm doubling down on D Line in this draft. Massive man. Has the tools to play on this level. Already got him a buddy in Jenkins. Coaching and environment will hearten the nfl bloodline. I don't know if he lasts this long. I have my doubts, but I'd consider trying to move to get him.

Round 6/185 & Round 7/217: I don't know if it is crazy to think that someone might look to move down at this point in the draft but if they were, I certainly would be willing to package these two to move a few spaces up in Round 6. Specifically if Theo Riddick or Duke Williams were available in the mid- to late 170's. Riddick played well for ND against big-time talent. Kind a a poor man's Cobb, he can play out of the backfield or lined up wide. Also fields punts and kicks on special teams. Good shiftiness, but is he fast enough to make it count? I'd take him here. Williams is a tackler out of the secondary. Seems like a SS to me, but seems to have some cover skills.

That being said, if I stay at those spots (6/185 & 7/217), I will draft there.

Round 6/185: Josh Boyd - DL - Miss St. More beef. We know people down there, we should be able to get a good scout on this guy.

Round 7/217: Cierre Wood - RB - ND. Wood moved the chains against good defenses. He is a good fit for the zone running scheme. Does not have elite speed. He'd be a good pick here. I'd also be interested in the oft-injured Bruce Taylor, though he may be an UFA prospect.

Post draft UFA: Bruce Taylor - ILB - Va Tech. Bright guy, basically been hurt his whole career, but plays the middle well and with heart. The guy that has a swelling effect on a game, you hear his name more as the game goes on. Would love to give him a chance.

Travis Howard - CB - Ohio State. Guy looks the part, but plays somewhat passively. Fields kicks well. Will the light come on or is football not really his thing?

Kapron Lewis-Moore - DT - ND. Depends firstly on the medical. Doubtful that he'd even play this year. I think that he's got the potential to develop into a player.

Izaan Cross - DE - Georgia Tech. I've seen this guy play really well against good competition. Should fit the 5 technique.

Baker Steinkuhler - DT - Nebraska. Curious about this guy. Every time Nebraska played UW, Steinkuhler was out there holding his own. Great bloodlines. Could still be on the way up.

MarQuies Gray - WR - Minnetonka. This guy is a stud. Can he play a receiver in a pro offense? Remains to be seen, but man, love seeing this guy with the ball in his hands.

T.J. Barnes - DT - Georgia Tech. Big, big man. Have seen he and his partner Cross just dominate games, but have also seen him disappear, play narrow, and get blocked. Have seen the brilliance, would be interested depending on the draft's outcome.

Mike Taylor - LB - Wisconsin. Just putting his name up here because he deserves it. Guy might have a brief NFL career, but he tackled anything that moved, and I loved watching him.