A quick note: I noticed that I picked up quite a few readers last week. Please know that I'm not trying to be Bob McGinn or any other journalist. I don't intend to be. I'm a fan. I write for the fan. My intent is to be an Optimistic Realist. I often use the words "we" or "us" as I consider the Packers my own. Welcome. And, thanks for reading! The readers inspire me to continue.
5-2. Perched atop the NFC North by our lonesome. What a beautiful buzz. In celebratory fashion, the rivalry at the Dome that's named after a Shopping Mall was closed to echoes of "Go Pack Go!" Well done, G-Force! The crowd was loud and in charge. It was a grand 4th Quarter. The chants that rang thru the dome were truly sublime. Pure ecstasy!
When I looked at the schedule before the season, the first thing that jumped out at me was the Viqueens and Bears in back-to-back weeks. In convincing fashion, a win was placed next to the Viqueens game. Now, it's time to do the same to the hated Bears. 'Tis the Season, get after a Pumpkin beer. My favorite is the Imperial Pumpkin from Dry Dock. Here's some vibes from the win over the 'queens:
* Mike McCarthy continues to impress. I wondered what tricks would be up his sleeve. The biggest one was Jordy in the slot. On two critical 3rd downs, Jordy was in the slot and was given a free release. Both went for TD's. Credit to Rodgers for his pinpoint accuracy on both balls. Word up to Jordy Nelson as he made great catches on both plays.
* Can we please sign Jordy Nelson for life? On the "Aaron Rodgers Show" - Rodgers talked about carpooling with Nelson. He called them good friends. Can't we just lock him up? I mean Nelson is quickly catapulting into one of my favorite WR's that the Packers have ever had. He seems to "do it for the love and not for the money."
* It's unlikely that Aaron Rodgers can win the MVP award as Peyton Manning has been beyond brilliant, but man, Rodgers has been MVP worthy. Playing with what appears to be a 2nd tier supporting cast, Rodgers' play was elite. Only 5 incomplete passes. He connected with 6 different receivers. He threw for 285 yards and 2 TD's. He was in complete control. Fully cerebral. All game.
* Jarrett Boykin is so impressive. Love the way he picks the ball off the turf. Strong hands. A willing, talented blocker. He's gifted.
* Myles White feels like he's a part of something. He's in on the celebrations. He wants to be a player in this league. He wants to prove himself. He's hungry to be a good blocker. Lined up in the slot, he was occasionally late in getting to the CB, which hindered potential big runs for Lacy and it clearly affected White's body language. He's a proud kid.
* Have to appreciate Marshall Newhouse. Total team player on the sidelines. A cheerleader. He was a Tackle eligible on the Lacy TD and he was the 1st to greet him.
* There was sensational camaraderie shown between Lacy & Starks post the Starks TD. Lacy was genuinely excited for Starks & shared the joy.
* Eddie Lacy has taken over for Donald Driver as having the best smile on the team.
* Micah Hyde is the Artisan. In his youth, he was aged to perfection.
* I've thought long and hard about this. I've thoroughly scoured depth charts. Where would you rank Mike Daniels as far as interior pass rushers? Here's who I'd put ahead of him: JJ Watt, Muhammad Wilkerson, Jason Hatcher, Henry Melton, Suh, Fairley, Geno Atkins, and Darnell Dockett. That's it. Some might say Justin Smith, Chris Jones or Dontari Poe. And, while I'd agree that Smith, Jones and Poe are better all around players, I'd take Daniels as a pure pass rusher. No matter how you slice it, he's definitely a top 15 interior pass rusher. Let me remind you that he's a 4th Round pick in his 2nd year. Cheers to you, Ted Thompson. I'll continue to say it, Mike Daniels makes a play every single week. He plays to his strengths and he's a true bulldozer.
* Thought Chris Harper played well for the Packers on special teams last week. Active. Looked like a willing tackler. Wonder when he gets introduced to the offense.
* Don Barclay is a solid player when he plays straight ahead. He uses leverage well. He's willing. But, when he has to move, he often times struggles. The good thing for Barclay is that the weather is changing and the game is about to slow down a bit. Props to McCarthy for sticking with him. He's an above average run blocker.
* Liked the design of the package with Taylor & Newhouse lined up in the backfield with Lacy. It didn't work in large part due to Bostick missing his block. Was happy to see how often they used Newhouse as an extra lineman. Remember 2003 when Kevin Barry was consistently used in Jumbo packages? It worked well then. It looked good in the Dome. Well done, Mike McCarthy. Keep things interesting. Soon, we'll see play-action and a deep ball out of that formation. This week? Possibly.
* Before the season, I wrote often about my desire to see more of Jamari Lattimore as an ILB. I'm liking what I'm seeing. With each game, Jamari Lattimore becomes more comfortable. He attacks with a vengeance. He's solid in pursuit. He's had sacks in back-to-back games.
* Put this on a Thought Pad: Including playoffs, prior to last week, Jared Allen had played 12 games vs the Packers. He'd accumulated 44 tackles & 17 sacks. Last week, he had N.O.T.H.I.N.G. ZERO. ZILCH. He was SHUTOUT. CHEERS TO YOU, DAVID BAKHTIARI!
* I've been hard on EDS. At times last week, he was great. He does get tossed around on occasion, but for the most part, I've liked his push over the last couple of games.
* It's a 2-man race for Coach of the Year: Andy Reid and Mike McCarthy.
* Jarrett Boykin was targeted 6 times. He had 5 catches for 89 yards. Myles White was targeted 7 times. He had 5 catches for 35 yards. Greg Jennings was targeted 3 times. He had 1 catch for 9 yards. ¡Be Great, Greg!
* AQ81 was good, not great, in the blocking game. And, he looked good the two times he was targeted as a receiver.
* Eddie Lacy. THE HAMMER! I love the nickname. Let's keep him running North & South rather than East & West.
* Once again, the Packers stacked one side of the line of scrimmage and ran a pitch play with success. A play-action is coming out of this formation soon. Trust me.
* Really liked the screen passes to Lacy. On the first one, I wish Josh Sitton had blocked Kevin Williams. If so, it'd have been a TD.
* James Starks slashing thru the 'queens defense is a thing of beauty.
* MICAH HYDE!
* Please, Jordy. Forever. You & Me. I beg of you.
* Johnny Jolly, BJ Raji & Ryan Pickett all made nice plays on AP.
* Good news for you, Morgan Burnett: You only have to play AP once more this year!
* Two weeks in a row that Jake Stoneburner has had a bad penalty. Clean it up, young man. But, know that I appreciate your desire.
* I wish that Chris Banjo and Sam Barrington had an extra step. They both have a heart that you cannot teach. Might lack a bit of instincts. But, they play with great desire. The kind of guys that you root for. But, both look a step slow.
* Welcome back, Casey Hayward. Big plays are coming.
* Good game, T-Mon. He's not the XLV version of T-Mon, but he has a big play coming. Sure, he's a step slower, but I like his mind. Thought the first PI call was awful.
* By the way, on the 2nd to last play of the 1st half, AP did not get out of bounds. Horrible officiating.
* Here's a 3-play stretch. Micah Hyde makes a tackle on 3rd down to get the Packers off the field. Micah Hyde runs a punt back 93 yards for a TD. Micah Hyde is on the field for Kickoff Coverage. Some would call him a Football Player. I might as well. But, first, I'd call him an Artisan.
* Eddie Lacy initiates contact.
* Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba aren't stars, but they're serviceable.
* Mike Neal isn't ever going to be an above average player in space, but I like him as a pass rusher.
* Keep plugging, Datone Jones. You're getting closer with each game.
* Imagine the Packers pass rush when the Claymaker and Nick Perry come back. Daniels, Perry, Clay and a Jones/Neal rotation. We'll get home with just 4. Often.
* Sammy Swagga continues to be elite. I'm scared of what his financial demands will be.
* Brandon Bostick has a hard time releasing off the line of scrimmage. Need to not have him as one of the 7 guys at the line to try and help him get a release.
* MD Jennings is a smart player. He knows where to be. He has a hard time finishing the play. But, he seems like a man that is due good karma.
* AJ Hawk with another above average game.
* Thought Lang and Sitton were excellent.
* The Packers will block another punt. Soon.
* I'm going to overlook the Cordarrelle Patterson kickoff return for now. Patterson is a player with a bright future. Last year at this time, I had him as an ideal target for the Packers in my Mock Draft.
* The sooner Franklin is taken off of Kick Returns, the better.
* Keep on, keepin' on, Mason Crosby.
* Brief pause to recognize the brilliance of Ted Thompson......thanks, Ted. Thank you, Ted. No, really, thank you, Ted. With all sincerity. You're brilliant. Far smarter than I. I questioned this teams depth. I did. I admit it. I thought we were a "9-7 team. 10-6, at best." And, while we're not out of the woods, I didn't think this team would win 3 straight without Clay.
* Quick note on Mike McCarthy: Are the doubters finally confident in this man's system? The Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, Dom Capers, and Aaron Rodgers combination is lethal.
* Dom Capers has the defense playing good football without two of our best defenders in the Claymaker and Brad Jones.
This week - it's the Bears. In life, I aim to be a peaceful man. A lover, of sorts. I like to smile. I enjoy being around those who smile. Rarely, if ever, will I use the word "hate." In fact, there's one thing in life that I hate. That's the Chicago Bears. Well, maybe Ray Nutler as well. But, I hate the Chicago Bears. Everything about them. In fact, I might hate the Chicago Bears as much as I love the Green Bay Packers. Seriously. Some of you may know that I travel from Denver to Chicago every other week. Because of this, I've grown to hate the Bears even more than I did already. This deeply rooted hatred has grown extensively.
I have to admit. I wish Ray Nutler was playing this week. The Packers own him. In grand fashion. I wish we could watch him throwing it into Hayward's lap. Oh well.
Allow me to remind you of one thing: Halas Trophy. Soldier Field. Visitors Locker Room. Gon' Pop Tarts on the Bears and XLV is a cherished vibe. Trump Card Forever!
The stats suggest the Packers should run away with this one. The Packers are averaging an NFC high, 438.9 yards per game. Furthering the potency is the fact that Lacy is averaging 4.0 yards per carry and Starks is averaging 6.0 yards per carry. Meanwhile, the Bears defense is last in the NFL in sacks and yards per pass play. They've given up 34 plays of 20 yards or more, which is tied for 31st in the NFL. They're last in yards per pass play. They're 24th in average rushing yards given up per game, and they're 28th in the NFL in third down percentage and completion percentage. Further, they're beat up with Henry Melton and Lance Briggs being out for the game. Charles Tillman's status is also in question. It's my guess that Tillman will play, but he, too, is injured.
On paper, the potent Packers offense should scorch the beat-up Bears defense. But, this is Monday Night Football. It's the Bears and the Packers. The greatest rivalry in sports. Throw the stats out the window. This one is for real. Rise Up, Lambeau!
While the Bears will be playing without Ray Nutler, they will have Josh McCown. If you watched the Bears play the Redskins, the Bears were more impressive with McCown than they were with Nutler. I give the credit to Mark Trestman. I think Trestman is a sound coach. He has solid offensive design. He has a system. And, by all appearances, the Bears have bought into that system. I believe that McCown is a bigger threat to the Packers than Nutler. The Packers know Nutler. There's not much video of McCown running the Trestman system. McCown is a running threat. He's a decent passer on the run. With the Packers injuries at OLB, it wouldn't surprise me if McCown makes a number of annoying plays as he uses his legs to elude pressure and create positive plays for the Bears offense. Especially early in the game.
Who would have thought it, but the Bears OL is physical, while the Bears DL has been pushovers. Jermon Bushrod has proved to be a good signing. Jordan Mills and Kyle Long have been solid picks. I still question Mills, but I give him credit for the start to his season. Yes, the Bears OL has been mightily improved.
At the skill positions, the Bears have been better than they've ever been. Matt Forte is legit. Michael Bush is a bruiser. Brandon Marshall is a superstar. Alshon Jeffery has evolved into the WR that I thought he might. Martellus Bennett was a good offseason addition. Earl Bennett is a reliable 3rd WR.
I would like to remind you that 2 years ago, I was a big-time promoter of Jeffery. I’ve mentioned this often, but it’s worth reiterating; when I was watching Jeffery play against Vanderbilt his last year of college, Casey Hayward matched up with Alshon Jeffery. On that day, Jeffery had 2 catches. Hayward had two interceptions. There’s familiarity there. I wouldn't mind seeing Hayward lining up against him. With that said, last year, Sammy Swagga played well against Jeffery when they matched up against each other.
The Bears defense is not the Bears of old. Yes, they force turnovers. Yes, Tillman and Tim Jennings make up a top-shelf tandem. Though, you can watch the NFC Championship game from the XLV run and see that a bigger WR (uh-um, Jordy Nelson) can run a 15 yard post and get his body in front of Jennings. When this happens, Jennings cannot stop the bigger WR.
The Bears do have hope for the future in young LB's Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene. In order for the Bears to win on Monday Night Football, Bostic and Greene might need to come of age.
On defense, the Bears also will need Julius Peppers to return to form. He hasn't been himself in 2013. Regardless, he's a beast. Shea McClellin hasn't looked worthy of a 1st round pick, but he applied decent pressure at Lambeau last year. Corey Wootton was a talented DE, but due to injury, he's playing out of position at DT. A healthy Stephen Paea should help the Bears defensive interior. James Anderson is an average, physical LB. Major Wright has displayed playmaking skills. Chris Conte can be had. When either Zack Bowman or Isaiah Frey walk onto the field, they'll be targeted.
Devin Hester. Don't even think about it.
As always, this will be a physical contest. A bruising game. The Packers come out throwing the ball. It's a 15 yard post to Nelson. The same to Boykin. Then, it's play-action to Quarless in the flat. It's Rodgers to Boykin for the TD.
The Bears respond. The Packers double team Marshall. Jeffery & Marshall's wide length present problems for the Packers as they win a couple of jump balls. McCown uses his legs to disrupt the Packers rhythm. It's McCown to Bennett for a TD.
The Bears defense struggles to get off the field, much like the 'queens. McCarthy does a good job mixing Lacy and Starks. The Packers establish the running game. Grabbing 6-7 yards at a time. The Packers offense continues to find fortune.
Forte irritates the Packers defense. He picks up multiple first downs. They get him to the outside and into the open field for a 20-yard pick-up. They've gone to the pitch often this year with great success.
Eventually, the Packers inside rush rises to the occasion. Daniels and Jones apply pressure. Moreover, Hawk and Lattimore find success on inside blitzes. Brad Jones sees his first action in multiple weeks and he, too, finds success on inside rushes. Capers' disguise fools McCown and T-Mon grabs his first pick of the season.
I have an odd feeling that either Bostick or Harper makes a play this Monday.
It's Monday Night Football. It's Lambeau Field. It's the Bears and the Packers. In a shootout, it's a golden victory for the Packers.
Packers 34. Bears 27.
Remember it: Halas Trophy. Soldier Field. Visitors Locker Room. Trump Card. Forever.
That’ll NEVER get old.
THE BEARS STILL SUCK!
Go Pack Go!