Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Take -> Wild Card Round

Greetings, G-Force.

I'm a happy man. I like to surround myself with happy people.

It is likely an appropriate time to remind everyone that I'm not a journalist. I don't write for the public. I write a blog. It's intended for the fan. Notably, fans of the Green Bay Packers.

I promised myself to write in sobriety for the rest of the season. It's not happening. After all, since Sunday, if I haven't been working, I've been celebrating the glory that is the Green Bay Packers. I've had two pints of Lagunita's Hairy Eye Ball, a 1/2 pint of Cuvee des Jacobins and I'm now sipping a Stillwater Cellar Door that has been aging since 04/23/13. Forgive me.

Once upon a time, two hated rivals met. In a city located on a lake. One had good karma. The other, not so much. There was a joyful team located in the heart of America's Dairyland. They were called the Green Bay Packers. The Packers were playing the Monsters of the Midway. Those Monsters were city boys. They went head-to-head in a heated battle. Until...


On January 2, 2014, I received this text from a Viqueens fan: "Remember last year when Rodgers thew a 48-yard touchdown pass to Cobb on 4th and 8 with :38 seconds to go in the game, to beat the Bears, in Chicago, for the NFC North Championship and a ticket to the playoffs?"


Yes. Yes, I do.

Packers v Bears. In Chicago. For all of the marbles. Win or go home. Bears fans say, "Nutler outplayed Rodgers." Statistically, maybe that's true. And, then, Rodgers had his moment.

4th & 8. Less than a minute to go. Rodgers, who'd missed nearly all of 8 straight games, is lined up out of shotgun. Trailing by a point. The season on the line. Facing an all-out blitz.

Julius Peppers has a shot, but Kuhn makes a sublime block. Peppers swings his leg in an attempt to trip the alluding Rodgers. Rodgers gets to the outside. Cobb, who'd missed the past 10 weeks is supposed to run a curl to the yard-mark, but he notices a lapse in the defense and sees a flat-footed Chris Conte. Mid-play, Cobb audibles to a fly route. Arm-raised, he streaks past Conte. In mental unison, Rodgers sees the same as Cobb. In elegant fashion, Rodgers tosses a rainbow into the arms of Cobb for a touchdown.

Fittingly, Ray Nutler finished the game with an interception into the hands of Sammy Swagga. You know, Sammy Swagga. He's the same guy who ended the TRUMP CARD FOREVER game with an interception.

Are you kidding me? Hollywood couldn't have wrote it better.

So, for the third time in three calendar years, the Packers have beaten the Bears at Soldier Field to clinch a title. In 2011, they won the NFC Championship Game. In 2012, they won the NFC North title. In 2013, they once again won the NFC North title.

THE BEARS STILL SUCK. FOREVER. YES, FOREVER! And for Bears fans, I'm sorry, but envy is the ugliest word in the dictionary. Thus, I'd be afraid to look at myself in the mirror.

This Division title feels sweet. It was absolutely improbable. Consider the football miracles that allowed this happen. The Packers trailed Minnesota 23-7 in the 4th Quarter. They rallied to tie the game. The Packers trailed Atlanta 21-10 at the Half. They rallied to win. The Packers trailed Dallas 26-3 at the Half. Once again, they rallied to win. Then, a 61-yard FG diced Detroit and allowed us to control our own destiny. That 61-yard FG was the longest game winning FG in the history of the NFL. The Packers appeared playoff bound until an NFL-admitted officiating mistake prematurely cost the Packers a hard-fought game against Pittsburgh. However, once again, Detroit choked. This time to the lowly Giants. Regardless, the hated Bears had a chance to clinch the Division. On national TV. Against the Eagles. Until, Philly dropped 54 points on them. Yes, FIFTY-FOUR. A game in which Ray Nutler threw as many TD's to the Eagles as he did to the Bears. All of this set-up:

4th & 8. Less than a minute left. On the road. Rodgers to Cobb. Dagger. Heart. Inserted. Twisted. NFC NORTH CROWN. Therefore, the Trump Card is furthered to even greater depths.

I don't believe in schadenfreude. Unless it's dealing with the Bears, their fans and their organization.


Here are some takeaways from the NFC North clinching victory over the Bears:

* As I've said for years, an aggressive Mike McCarthy is a good thing. A conservative Mike McCarthy is never a good thing. On the final drive, McCarthy was aggressive. He went for the gusto. Because of it, THE BEARS STILL SUCK.

* 4th & 8. Forever.

* 00:38. Yes, thirty-eight seconds. That's 38. It's all that remained. It signaled victory. Remembered forever.

* Aaron Rodgers' run on 3rd & 3 from the 30 was absolutely amazing. He fooled Briggs out of his cleats. Dove for the necessary yardage. All guts. A Championship play.

* EDDIE! EDDIE! EDDIE! I hope to hear the chants in abundance this weekend.

* Welcome back, Randall Cobb. 2 catches. 55 yards. 2 TD's. Including the game winner, which was an NFC NORTH winner.

* Jordy Nelson. Man, I'm not sure that there are 5 WR's I'd take over him. Jordy, dude, sign with Green Bay. Forever.

* Well done, JJ!

* Fun buzz, Jarrett Boykin.

* James Starks is healthy. He's running with a vengeance. We haven't seen this type of purpose out of Starks since the XLV run. Brings back kind memories.

* John Kuhn powers forward for an all-important yard. He then follows it up with a killer block on Peppers.

* 4th & 8. Beat it, Chicago.

* Good concentration, AQ81.

* Be ours, Jordy. Until death do us part. And then some.

* Once again, I'd like to congratulate Eddie Lacy on setting the record for the greatest rookie year for a RB in the HISTORY of the Green Bay Packers organization.

* Aaron Rodgers is the best player in the NFL. Rusty or not, I want #12 on my team.

* Once again, Sammy Swagga sealed victory. Glorious!

* I enjoy the way T-Mon is playing. He's tackling well. He's reading plays. He has another big play in him this year.

* Andy Mulumba. Man, you have to appreciate his grit. He's still raw. But, he a fighter who plays the run well. Fun to see him notch a sack.

* Good effort, Mike Neal.

* ¿Donde esta, BJ Raji? Honestly, until I saw him celebrate after the 4th & 8 play, I wondered how much he cared.

* Jamari Lattimore and AJ Hawk left a lot to be desired.

* Micah Hyde is an Artisan. The more he plays, the better he's getting.

* Morgan Burnett and MD Jennings make me yawn.

* Sean Richardson. Dude, you have to make that tackle. If you can't, you don't belong.


* Mason Crosby has been gold this year.

* Rodgers to Cobb. With 38 seconds left. On 4th & 8. For the win!

* The game ended on a Ray Nutler interception. That was a mint moment.

* ¡Ay dios mio, Nick Perry!

* On the Bears second to last possession, the 2nd & 12 play was huge. Mulumba held the edge to perfection after Mike Daniels won the point of attack and busted up the play. Forte tried to make the best of what was around, but Mulumba was a student. Word up, Daniels and Mulumba!

* I feel good about the Packers OL. Bakhtiari balls. Sitton and Lang are studs. EDS and Barclay play with guts.

* I haven't gone crazy. Since Thanksgiving, the Packers defense has been Championship quality with the exception of the 1st half of the Cowboys game. Once again, turnovers and poor special teams play put the Packers defense in a bad position. When the defense has needed stops, they've gotten them. They've also forced turnovers.

* Eddie Lacy is a Green Bay Packer. Yes, the Green Bay Packers have a running game. Man, that feels good.

* As my cousin Danny said, this is the 2nd greatest Packers v Bears game. Only behind TRUMP CARD FOREVER.

* The Halas Trophy rests in the Visitors Locker Room. So, does the NFC NORTH Crown. TRUMP CARD is healthy. It lasts forever.

* Someday, you'll be sitting on your porch. Your Grandson will turn to you and say, "Grandpa, tell me a story about the Packers and the Bears." You'll pick up your glass of Dewar's on the rocks. Sip it slowly. You'll set the glass back on the table and you'll say, "It was 4th & 8..."


This week - it's the 49ers. In the Wild Card game. Yes, the same 49ers who have owned the Packers the last three times we've met.

I'm on record. If the Packers played the 49ers 10 times, I believe SF would win 8 of them. Regardless of whether the game was played in Green Bay, in San Francisco or on Mars. SF matches up well with Green Bay. San Francisco isn't necessarily a better team than the Packers, but they match-up well with us. Just like I believe Green Bay matches up well with Seattle.

First of all, if you've followed along, I'm a Mike McCarthy fan. I don't know a bigger fan. The issue is that I view Jim Harbaugh as a top-3 coach in the league. Harbaugh is a master of creating mismatches. He's the best in the league at it.

San Francisco has a beefy, athletic, intimidating offensive line. Arguably the best in the NFL. The Packers DL hasn't been elite. Colin Kaepernick's speed presents problems especially without the Claymaker. Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter are punishing backs who will - more often than not - push through AJ Hawk, Brad Jones and Jamari Lattimore for yards. Vernon Davis is a match-up nightmare for the Packers defense. Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin are far more physical than T-Mon and Sammy Swagga.

Defensively, the 49ers front 7 is as good as it gets. Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman can run with WR's out of the slot. Ray McDonald and Justin Smith are superstars. Aldon Smith is among the best pass rushers in the NFL. Until this year, Ahmad Brooks has been vastly underrated.

Thankfully, in the secondary, the 49ers are banged up as Carlos Rogers and Eric Wright might not play. Donte Whitmer and Eric Reid are legit at Safety. Tarell Brown can play. Tramaine Brock is physical. Don't underestimate the injuries to Wright and Rogers. If they're unable to play, that's a huge advantage for the Packers.

So, how do the Packers win? Spread them out! Then, pound away with Lacy and Starks. Get Jarrett Boykin on the field. Play JJ, Nelson, Cobb and Boykin. With Lacy or Starks as a single back. While I like AQ81, the mismatch is in the slot with Cobb and Nelson vs LB's or a depleted SF secondary.

Defensively, aim to contain. Single deep safety. 8 in the box. Limit the big gains on the ground. While over the past 8 weeks the Packers have played with 2 down lineman in abundance, I expect to see a lot of 3 down lineman this weekend. Stack the box with brute strength. Play with robust intensity. Trust Shields and T-Mon. Force Kaepernick to throw into the elements. Know that opportunities are coming. When the opportunities present themselves, carpe diem.

Also, feel fortunate for the cold weather. It'll slow down Kaepernick and make the read-option less lethal. It evens the playing field from a speed perspective. Advantage: Packers.

I fully anticipate the G-Force to be animated. Loud and proud. In full-effect. Making it difficult after the Packers grab an early lead.

It's a grind-it-out kind of game. Both teams looking to pound it at each other. With SF leading 23-17 late, Rodgers gets the ball. Destiny on his side. It's Rodgers to Nelson to move sticks. It's Lacy pounding away. With the crowd elevated, it's Rodgers to Nelson for a game-winning TD.

It's a nail biter. It ends in the Packers favor. Destiny is on our side.

Packers 24.
49ers 23.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

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