To celebrate, I pour an Avery Grand Cru Beast. More than 18% ABV. I pour because it's robust. It's strong. It's bold. You know, all of the feelings that were on display post the epic victory over the Patriots. But, I'm reminded to R-E-L-A-X. So, I put on Culture's "World Peace" album.
Here are my quick vibes from the last week:
* Thought the Lambeau crowd showed up in electric fashion. Playoff atmosphere. The weather may be cooling off, but the intensity is heating up. Past teams didn't seem to care about the road going thru Lambeau. This team is hungry for Titletown U.S.A. to host the playoffs.
* An aggressive Mike McCarthy is a good Mike McCarthy. Against New England, McCarthy was the dictator. He offered a variety of looks that the Patriots hadn't prepared for. He had 5 receivers on the field. Often. He had Cobb in the backfield. Often. He kept the Patriots guessing for the entire game. He kept adjusting before NE could catch up.
* Aaron Rodgers. MVP. And, it's not even close. Only JJ Watt has an argument.
* Super Bowl teams are often tested throughout the season. They learn the art of perseverance. They win in a variety of ways. Recently, we've seen the Packers win on a legendary 2-minute drill in Miami. We saw the Packers absolutely dominate the Viqueens, Bears and Eagles at home. We saw a victory on the road in which the ball wasn't bouncing our way and the Packers pounded away on the ground. Then, against NE, the Packers had a CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE only thwarted by an Adams drop as he was walking into the end zone. The drive was an 11-play, 65-yard drive that ate up 5:10. But, the drop forced the Packers defense to rise to the occasion. The defense elevated and to force NE into a 47-yard FG that was pushed wide right. This team is winning in a wide variety of ways. That feels Super.
* Early in the game, Rodgers reminded me of Favre a bit. Uber focused. Pressing a bit. High on a lot of throws. Animated!
* The Packers may have only sacked Brady once, but they were in his face often.
* Clay looks so passionate coming around the edge.
* Awesome to hear the Lambeau faithful forcing a timeout less than a minute into the 3rd Quarter. Great volume, G-Force!
* When AQ81! is the lead blocker, EDDIE should follow his lead more often than not.
* DAVANTE ADAMS! Wish he would've caught the final pass, but man, what a breakout game. An elegant route runner. He catches the ball with his hands. He still needs to work on his footwork down the sidelines, but his route running is already significantly above average. He has a grand future. He also showed toughness as he went up in traffic and came down with the ball.
* Way to Lively Up, Richard Rodgers! Still not a great blockers as he often chooses the wrong guy, but he has displayed tremendous hands. Great over the shoulder grab.
* 4 weeks in a row in which AQ81! has made a big play! His third down reception was enormous. It's fun to watch Aaron Rodgers' relationship with AQ81! as the MVP gives the TE enough attention to keep him happy and always gives him a congratulatory finger point after a big reception.
* JORDY NELSON. FOREVER!
* Each week, Randall Cobb shows that he deserves more $$$. He'll be a Packer for the foreseeable future and it has to excite the MVP that he'll have Nelson, Cobb, and Adams at WR for the next couple of years.
* Corey Linsley is human. Was surprised that he was late on the inside blitz on 3rd down inside the Red Zone.
* Another stellar game out of the OL. Bakhtiari, Bulaga, Linsley, Lang and Sitton. Wow. We are blessed. Hope Bulaga takes a hometown discount and sticks around for a while.
* On the biggest defensive 3rd down play of the game, it wasn't Clay, Pep, T-Mon or Sammy Swagga that made the play. Instead, it was a combination of Mike Neal & Mike Daniels. Monstrous!
* On the first drive of the game, Linsley was a true stud. Getting to the second level. Putting his hat on a LB. Creating yards.
* Sam Barrington setting the tone early with back-to-back tackles on the opening drive to get the defense off the field. Barrington and Clay compliment each other well. I didn't like seeing Barrington lined up outside covering a RB. That'll eventually be exposed.
* Another strong game from Clay. He looks like a natural at ILB.
* Crosby has to make that kick.
* The aura around this team is magical. The vibe is healthy. The teamship is grand. Mike McCarthy is tremendous at building a Locker Room.
* The first 4 offensive plays went to EDDIE. He was dominant as he grabbed 51 yards on those 4 plays.
* Early in the game, Belichick was planned to keep a 3rd CB on Adams. McCarthy & Rodgers sensed this and attacked this match-up. Knowing they'd have success and that NE would adjust, he had a back-up plan. As Belichick changed that strategy, McCarthy brilliantly moved Cobb to the backfield and used Cobb, largely, as a receiver.
* Randall Cobb looking like Dave Meggett. How great was that HB Circle wheel route?!?!?!
* I liked seeing Jarrett Boykin getting involved. Nice little 6-yard pick up out of the backfield.
* JP with the tipped pass!
* Really nice tackling, T-Mon.
* Get healthy, Sammy Swagga. You, too, Jamari Lattimore.
* When AJ Hawk was on the field, he was victimized. On crossing routes and in the run game.
* Quite possibly the best game of Datone Jones' career. Good pressure. Attacking. Doesn't have the stats. Had the energy.
* Mike Daniels was a MAN!
* I want to see more of Jayrone Elliot. Speed rush. From the outside. Up the field. Especially against stationary QB's like Matt Ryan and Kyle Orton in the coming weeks. As he comes up the field, I'd have a LB coming to the inside on a blitz. Elliot could be the next addition in the continued evolution of this defense. Sure, he struggles against the run. But, that's not what he is at thus point. He's a one-trick pony, but it's a talent that we lack without Clay at OLB.
* HaHa with another big game. Physical. Aggressive. Intense. Fearless.
* Great grab, James Starks!
* Liked Jayrone Elliot and Sean Richardson on special teams coverage.
* Though Burnett missed a couple of tackles and got beat a couple of times, I thought he was steady.
* EDDIE meaning business on 3rd & 1 is an exciting buzz.
* Really, really impressive tackling by T-Mon. Worth mentioning again.
* Sam Barrington plugging holes!
* Rodgers throwing on the run and making it look easy.
* Guion & Boyd continue to work hard.
* As the remains an issue and kickoffs continue to fall short of the goal line, I get the feeling that DuJuan might break one. However, I'm more concerned about our kickoff coverage unit making the tackle than I am the prospects of Harris getting loose.
* Brandon Bostick. I've never liked him because he can't stay healthy. But, still, his athleticism cannot be denied. I'm still waiting to see him used as a mismatch down the field.
* It's noteworthy that James Jones has 60 catches on the season. EDS has started 11 of 12 games for Tampa and is healthy, once again. I'm hoping he starts 15 games. I want two compensatory picks.
* The MVP continues to use his legs to grab chunks of yardage.
Saw a bunch of college football this past weekend. Made great progress on desired NFL Draft prospects. Most of it confirmed what I've already been writing. Added a new target for late in the Draft. As always, it's rare for me to list an OL, I only list if I've watched the player and I have the Packers picking #32. I'm still seeking additional DL to add beef to the line. Also, thank you to CBS DRAFT SCOUT for your guidance. Here goes:
1.) Hau'oli Kikaha, OLB, Washington. With Danny Shelton, DT, Washington likely off the board, I go with Kikaha who is the best pass rusher in CFB.
2.) Trey Flowers, DE, Arkansas. Long. Elephant style player. His length changes games. He's athletic. Both quick and powerful off the snap.
3.) Kurtis Drummond, S, Michigan State. Ballhawk. Smooth tackler.
4.) Jake Ryan, ILB, Michigan. Instinctive player. Natural defender. Looking for more game speed at the position than he brings, but I haven't found it yet.
5.) Gerald Christian, TE, Louisville. Big, athletic target who can get down the seam.
5.) Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska. Big target. Elusive. With return skills.
5.) Curtis Riley, CB, Fresno State
6.) Cameron Botticelli, DL, Minnesota. The WI native reminds me of Don Davey. Surprisingly athletic. Deceptively strong. Really smart. Good nose for the ball.
7.) Sam Eguavoen, ILB, Texas Tech. Heavy hitter. Plays with passion. Inflicts pain.
This week - it's the Falcons. Whenever I think about the Falcons v Packers, I think of the 2nd Quarter of the Packers January of 2011 NFC Divisional win over Atlanta. To date, in my opinion, it was the best Quarter played by the Packers in my lifetime. 28 points. The 5th play of the Quarter capped off a 13 play, 81 yard TD drive that ate up 7:56. BJ RAJI as the FREEZER capped off a 10 play, 92 yard TD drive that chewed up 5:44. After a Sir Charles sack & a T-Mon pick, it was Rodgers to James Jones for a TD that completed a 7 play, 80 yard drive as the Packers were in a 2-minute offense. Then, we saw Clay with a big sack to knock the Falcons to the brink of FG range and on the last play of the Quarter is was T-Mon with the pick and a 70 yard return for a TD. GREATEST QUARTER EVER!
This years Falcons team finds themselves tied for 1st place in the NFC South. Somehow. They've won 3 of 4 and sit at 5-7 on the year. It's a must win game for the Dirty Birds. It's also a must win for the Packers as they aim to secure home field throughout the playoffs.
With Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, the Falcons are a threat to put points on the board. Both Roddy White & Harry Douglas did not practice this week. While the injury report isn't out yet, if they cannot play, Atlanta will have Devin Hester and Eric Weems running routes. Previously, both White and Douglas have given the Packers problems. At TE, Levine Toilolo is a big target. Bear Pascoe is a decent possession receiver. With Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers and Devonta Freeman, Atlanta has a wide variety of running styles at RB. The ATL OL is bad. Really bad. Except Jake Matthews, Clay's cousin. I fully believe that the Packers will have at least 3 sacks this week. They might get 5.
Look for Jones to get 10 targets. Mostly, on WR screens and deep balls. ATL will force the Packers secondary to make tackles. Additionally, they'll run Jackson up the gut as a bully to the Packers defense. Ryan will eat up click between plays. And, he'll mix in a blend of screens to Rodgers and Freeman who'll annoyingly pick up first downs.
Defensively, Atlanta leaves a lot to be desired. Sure, Osi can still rush the passer and has been a nightmare for the Packers, but he's what they have as a pursuer of the QB. Biermann can play the run. Paul Soliai is a tremendous run stopper. Tyson Jackson hasn't developed as a pro prospect. Jonathan Babineaux is just a guy. Prince Shembo is still learning the LB position in the NFL. Robert Alford will have a cast, if he plays. William Moore & Dez Southward will hit you, but both can be beat deep. Desmond Trufant was drafted too early and is overrated. Robert McClain can be beaten.
Other than Jones, the biggest concern is Hester returning kicks. On occasion, the Packers have struggled to cover kickoffs. We have to tackle Hester.
With ATL expected to run the football in an attempt to eat clock, I expect to see Capers mix it up again. He's offered a wide mix of looks. Look for some early down action with Guion & Pennel on the interior. Era specially if Boyd and Daniels are limited due to injury. Both are big, beefy defenders who should be intent on plugging holes. ATL wants to see 3rd & 4 or less. Often. If so, they'll feel comfortable. If it's 3rd and long, Ryan will be under duress all day.
Give help on Osi. Just a chip. Spread them out. Give the game to Aaron Rodgers. On MNF. Playing in his 100th game. On National TV. For the world to see. Rodgers goes for 350 and 3. The defense is in Ryan's face early and often. It's a Lambeau celebration and the mystique of the 2014 season continues to build.
Go Pack Go!