6-0! I'm amped! The Packers are COming to enjoy Western Skies. To the city that I've adopted as my own. They're COming to visit my crib in undefeated fashion. 6 and 0. That's a glorious feeling!
I'm in a celebratory mood. I'm sipping a Crooked Stave Progenitor Noir. It was bottled in March of this year. It carries a strong nose. It's a 6.2% ABV dry-hopped dark sour ale. It's full of goodness. Rich with citrus, but carrying a heavy wine feel. It's WILD! Much like the finish to the Packers victory over the Chargers!
Due to a sleeping baby, fittingly, I listen to Simon & Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence" album. It's gentle. It's relaxing. It's calming. It also helps to temper my enthusiasm. At this stage, I'm so excited that I feel like I could take down Demaryius Thomas in the open field.
Here are some quick takes since I last wrote:
* The Packers gave up 503 yards passing and it was the defense that won the game. Amazing. But, right now, the 2015 version of the Green Bay Packers relies on its defense to win games. Not its offense. Who would've thought that? I certainly did not.
* Twice in the 4th Quarter, the Packers had the ball with a chance to grab a 2-score lead. I was looking for that CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE. Twice, the offense failed to deliver the 7 points that were necessary to seal the deal. Meanwhile, the Chargers had the ball 3 times in the 4th Quarter. They mustered up 3 points in those 3 drives. Defense, man. Defense. The Green Bay Packers are winning with defense.
* 11:10 to play in the 4th Quarter. Packers 24. Chargers 20. The Packers take over at their own 29. I text out to a couple of folks: "Now, we see what we're made of." 1st down: Lacy fumbles. Lang out hustles all. Somehow, he recovers the ball in a similar game saving effort as he had in Miami last year. Gotta love TJ Lang! Still, it's 2nd and 14. Rodgers gets sacked. 5 yard loss. 3rd & 19. Screen to Lacy for 12 yards. Punt. That was not Championship football.
* The MVP looks frustrated. It appears as though he needed a break. The bye came at a good time. Seems to me like he's pressing a bit. Maybe, it's the MVP that needs to R-E-L-A-X right now. It appears as though he went to Mexico to chill over the bye week. Good man. COme to the Rocky mountain state in a refreshed fashion, mate. It's GO time.
* Eddie Lacy. Man. Eddie. My boy. We need you. I write to you in what little patois that I know: Wah gwaan, Eddie? Galang mi bredren! Ju be Bumblebee. Dem yards are rice & peas. No need passa passa. Ease up. All be cook & curry. Natty, Mek We Dweet!
* It's clear that Rodgers doesn't trust Janis. But, was there a telling moment when Janis caught the 33 yard pass on 2 & 8 on a busted play late in the 3rd Quarter? Maybe. It was interesting to note that Rodgers was sprinting behind Janis and Janis ran down the field. And, Rodgers was the first to greet Janis after he got up. Three plays later - on 3rd & 5 - Rodgers went back to Janis. Janis drew a crucial penalty. I wonder if the busted play might turn out to be a turning point in their relationship. Janis isn't a WR that needs to be targeted 8 times a game. But, if he gets 3-5 targets, a big play could be waiting. As evidenced by the game against the Chargers. 2 receptions for 79 yards.
* I'm calling it: In the coming weeks, we'll see Aaron Rodgers on the read-option and he'll keep it. He's faked it a couple of times recently and it's been WIDE OPEN. Soon, it's coming and it'll be a 10-12 yard TD run.
* First run play of the game: Total treat to see TJ Lang get to the second level.
* James Starks running in XLV form is a thing of beauty. 10 carries, 112 yards. Displaying first-class vision. Running skinny and fitting thru tight holes. Great to see. The Green & Yellow Hornet stepped up in big fashion.
* Get well, Ty Montgomery. We need you! Plus, Ty, I want to continue to watch you shine. I want to continue to watch you grow into a wholly-rounded WR.
* 17-17. 3rd & 3. 3:08 to play in the 3rd. The Packers had lost all momentum. They go big with Richard Rodgers, Justin Perillo, Kuhn, Starks, and James Jones as the potential targets. The ball goes to Kuhn in the flat. The drive resulted in a TD. I've said it before and I'll say it again. No reason he doesn't catch 2 balls a game. He'll move the sticks. The offense has relied too much on the big play. We've needed runs longer than 10 yards and passes longer than 15 yards. We need more plays that are netting 5-8 yards. We're not used to seeing a Packers offense that has 4 drives that end in a 3 and out.
* Randall Cobb has not been himself over the last couple of weeks. Hoping the bye week brought him health and rejuvenation.
* Once again, it was James Jones as the savior. This time on the back shoulder!
* Really wish the Packers could've applied the dagger on the final drive. Disappointing to see the last drive stall in the Red Zone. Richard Rodgers was open. The MVP just missed him.
* Hoping Davante Adams is at full strength this week.
* Good to see Jared Abbrederis with the ball in his hands on the Kickoff. He's worked hard to get to this point. Ran fearlessly. Kudos.
* Justin Perillo with the BIG 21 yard reception. Loved to see him go and get it!
* The offense needed that bye. Get rejuvenated. Refresh. Reset the mojo. Get back into the groove. Return to the juggernaut that has dominated the NFL for the majority of the last 8 years under Mike McCarthy. I almost wonder if McCarthy needs to be more involved in the offense.
* DATONE JONES! Getting his hands up and batting down a 3rd down pass. AND: 3rd & 7 from the Packers 40. 7:01 to play. Packers leading 24-20. Was there any doubt that Rivers would connect on a first down pass? And, if it were not a first down, he'd surely get the Chargers in FG position, right? WRONG! Datone! With a monster sack!
* Julius Peppers with another crucial sack. This time it was to stall a 3rd Quarter drive when it appeared that all momentum had slipped away and when it appeared as though the Chargers were going to take the lead.
* We need Raji's presence back in the rotation. He keeps legs fresh. Adds great depth to the DL.
* Good to see Guion active.
* Fun seeing Mike Pennel and Mike Neal in the mix to force a fumble.
* Great to see Mike Daniels and Mike Neal merge on a big sack!
* Throw the stats out the window! This defense ROSE TO THE OCCASION when they needed to.
* Joe Thomas has to wrap up on the sack. His inability to take down Rivers cost the Packers 3 points.
* CLAY! What a presence. Loved how Capers moved him around to try and confuse the SD attack.
* Nate Palmer loaded up the box score. But, he lacked impact plays. I think he needs to trust his instincts. He's in position. He just second guesses himself.
* Micah Hyde. Do we have a more sure tackler? He continues to play with a genius wisdom. He's so steady. Razor sharp in the mind.
* HaHa with the BOOM! The forearm shiver! Wicked! Pure bliss! Jarring the ball loose! Greatness! But, dude, can't get turned around on the deep ball. That was total amateurism.
* Sammy Swagga was in position. He just has to hold onto the ball. Can't waste those plays. Cost the Packers 3 points.
* Damarious Randall. From here on out, he's going to be targeted. He's going to be picked on. Thought he had solid coverage. He just didn't finish the play...until the final play! Kid made a LARGE play on the biggest play of the game. Baited Rivers. Got the jump. Made the game sealing play.
* Hayward has a big play pick coming. I can feel it. It's happening. And, I'm thinking it's a pick-6.
* Really like when Capers calls the CB blitz out of the slot. Don't love it being Hayward. Would like to see Rollins on a blitz out of the slot. Rollins is hungry to make a play.
* I'd prefer to not see Chris Banjo in coverage. Get healthy, Morgan Burnett.
* From a hands perspective: JC Tretter > Brandon Bostick.
* Mason Crosby. $$$.
* 6-0! Yes, 6-0! Two game lead in the Division with 10 to play! Like our position. McCarthy teams always look better in December than in September. We haven't always played perfect football, but in the end, the scoreboard has stared at the G-Force with beauty. Carry on, Titletown, U.S.A.
* Sir Charles shout-out! AFC Defensive Player of the Month. What a stallion. My favorite football player. Ever!
This week - it's the Donkeys! On Sunday Night Football! 6-0 v 6-0! And, the Donkeys are breaking out the 1997 jerseys. They'll be honoring the 1997 team. They'll also be placing Pat Bowlen into the Ring of Fame. Tickets are going for as much as $3,000. I couldn't be more stoked to be in attendance with my brother, Chad. Yes, the Packers are COming to Mile High in undefeated fashion. I can't get over that. On the radio today, the local hosts were bantering over how many Packers fans would be in attendance. Some were estimating that there could be as many as 30,000 Packers fans in attendance. They set the over/under at 20,000 fans. Mile High will be bleeding Green & Gold. Epic!
Sometimes you have to give props where props are due and thus I ask this question: Is Pat Bowlen the most under appreciated owner in NFL History? He was the Broncos majority owner for 30 years. In those 30 years, the Broncos went to 6 Super Bowls and only had 5 losing seasons. Fancy that.
This game is being billed as Rodgers vs Manning. They've met once before. It was 2008. At Lambeau. Manning took the Colts to Green Bay on a gorgeous October day. It was a celebration. Packers 34. Colts 14. Manning threw two interceptions that were returned for TD's.
Mile High is going to be electric. For any fans that will be in attendance, be sure that you get into the stadium at least 45 minutes early......
*** As most of my readers know, My Father has been producing games at Lambeau Field for the last 26 years. Yes, 26 years. Mac! He's my Dad! And, that dude belongs in the Packers Hall of Fame someday. I'm biased, sure. But, think of how prominent "BANG ON THE DRUM" is in Packers culture. That's Mac. Think of how prominent the baseline into the "GO PACK GO" chant is at Lambeau. I mean -- from a GameDay experience perspective -- they're synonymous. Aren't they? When you wake up on Sunday morning, what's the first base line that runs thru your head? Thought so. Mac. Packers Hall of Fame. Book it! Cool story: for Christmas one year, Todd Rundgren sent Mac a signed drum. That's legendary. Sorry for the rant. But, I love my Dad. He's a good man. He's a Father. A Brother. A Grandpa. And someday, he should be a Packers Hall of Famer. Also, if you go on a tour at Lambeau Field this year, be sure to ask for Mac to be your tour guide. And, when you get him, give him a fist bump and tell him that the BuzzBoy sent you.***
......so, with that said, I know GameDay experiences. I was taught it by the best in the business. The Broncos do it right. I'm not going to spoil it for those that will be in attendance. But, trust that it's really freakin' cool and you do NOT want to miss it.
The Broncos play defense. They're littered with ballers. Von Miller and Demarcus Ware get the props. But, man, off the bench Shaquil Barrett gets to the QB. Derek Wolfe is a tough block on the DL. Sylvester Williams and Malik Jackson have been dominant. Antonio Smith and Vance Walker have been tremendous role players in the rotation. Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan are the best ILB combo in football. They're so versatile. They can get to the QB on the blitz. They're terrific in coverage. They're dominant in the run game. They play with speed. They play with power. Darian Stewart and TJ Ward are incredible run stoppers. Stewart attacks the run game from 10-12 yards deep as well as any safety in football. Alibi Talib has been a superstar all year. Chris Harris is as underrated as it gets at CB. He has shutdown CB skills. Bradley Roby has surprised me with how well he's developed as a slot CB. And, David Bruton is what the Packers had hoped Sean Richardson would become. Bruton has made a number of big plays this year. He almost looks like an undersized LB at Safety. This Broncos defense attacks the football. They break on the ball. They're susceptible to being beat on double moves and play-action. The Packers have to be creative, while looking to move the ball against this aggressive defense. Right now, Wade Phillips has this defense hitting on all cylinders. They've had a pension for making the big play and they're turning those big plays into points on what seems to be a weekly basis.
The Broncos offense is misunderstood. No, they haven't been dynamite like in years past. But, when they've needed to get points, they've gotten them. Late in the Ravens game, they engineered a drive that got them a FG. The same thing happened against MN. Against KC, they scored a TD to tie the game in the waning seconds. Down 20-16 in the middle of the 4th Quarter against the Browns, Manning hit Emmanuel Sanders on a 75 yard-TD over T-Mon. When this Broncos offense has been desperate to score, they've done it.
It's interesting. Thus far, Kubiak has often used Manning under center in an effort to establish the run game. But, the Broncos offensive line hasn't been able to open up holes for CJ Anderson or Ronnie Hillman. And, as Manning has been in his drop, he's had his back to the field, so he hasn't been able to survey the field like he's done throughout his career. In turn, he hasn't been as cerebral as years past. He hasn't been able to study the defense. Additionally, the Broncos OL has not been as talented as in years past. They have three journeymen in Evan Mathis, Louis Vasquez and Ryan Harris. Matt Paradis is a decent 2nd year Center and Ty Sambrailo is a developing rookie LT. Sambrailo hasn't played in this type of stage before.
The Broncos use a fair amount of TE sets with Owen Daniels and Virgil Green. Green is an athletic TE who can present mismatches. He's often used at FB and get himself into the flat. Owen Daniels is a well-oiled veteran who hasn't seemed to be in rhythm with Manning for most of the year. At WR, Demaryius Thomas is a superstar, but he's struggled this year. He's dropped more passes than normal. He hasn't been able to separate on the deep ball. And, he appears to be frustrated. On the other side, Emmanuel Sanders has blossomed into a Pro Bowl caliber WR. Sanders is Manning's go-to guy. On a big play, it's Sanders - not Thomas - who Manning will be looking to. Especially on third down. Sanders runs multiple go-routes. He'll test Damarious Randall's speed. Sanders is savvy. He's smart and he's been able to come up with another gear on the deep ball. Jordan Norwood is an undersized slot receiver who doesn't offer much. Bennie Fowler has good length and has been a decent receiver when called upon. Look for Cody Latimer to get his shot. Latimer has great length. He's big. He's fast. But, he hasn't gotten his shot. He's essentially the Broncos version of Jeff Janis. If Latimer gets a look, it'll move Sanders to the slot, which would give Denver three legitimate WR options.
I expect the Packers DL to dominate the Broncos OL. Especially on the interior. I'm hoping to see Clay coming with pressure between the Guard and Center throughout the game. These days - Manning can't get off his spot. And, the Broncos OL has had a tough time anchoring. With Daniels, Raji, Matthews and Jones applying pressure up the gut, I can envision Manning throwing a couple to us. He have to seize the day and finish the play.
I'd also like to see Jake Ryan applying pressure this week. In college, Ryan was a talented pass rusher. He came from the outside. He came from the inside. I'd like to show Manning a disguise that he hasn't seen with both Matthews and Ryan coming up the middle. It'd force the quick throw. Hopefully the DB's are ready to jump routes. If so, we could see a pick-6.
With Randall's injury, we might see Ladarius Gunter. If so, Manning will unquestionably test Gunter's speed with Sanders and/or Thomas. I wouldn't be excited about that match-up. Gunter might have the length, but he doesn't have the speed to run with either of them.
The game starts at a frantic pace. Both teams flying around the field. Led by the defenses. Both teams attempt to generate a run game early on. Neither team is successful. Clay is dominant as Hillman tries to get the corner. As CJ Anderson pounds between the tackles; Guion, Daniels, Pennel and Raji hold the point. Peppers bulls Sambrailo backwards to collapse the pocket. Jones flashes his quicknesses. To fight the altitude and to keep the troops fresh, the Packers consistently rotate the DL.
The Packers offense meets Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan. Trevathan and Marshall patrol the middle of the field. They limit Lacy's ground efforts. They d-up against Richard Rodgers. The Broncos crowd makes an impact.
From a points perspective, early on it's Mason Crosby vs Brandon McManus as the teams exchange FG's. Then, Cobb gets loose on a crossing route for 20 yards. And the Packers are in business. They find rhythm. Streaking multiple first downs. Lacy continues to try to pound against the heart of the Broncos defense. Slowly, but surely making his mark. And, then, once again, it's James Jones on the back shoulder. Aqib Talib cries for the push off, but it's not coming.
The Broncos put together a drive. Largely behind a big ball to Sanders. Manning finds Daniels for a short pick-up. He hits Green in the flat. It's Thomas on a crossing route. Hillman grabs 12 yards. Anderson punches for three. And then, it's Manning to Sanders to equalize.
This Packers team is built on defense. We win with defense. And, once again, our defense flexes their muscles. It's Hayward with a pick-6.
The Packers sack Manning 3 times. The Packers force two turnovers. Lacy carries it 20 times. Davante Adams catches 4 balls. Importantly, the Packers don't turn the ball over.
Packers fans gonna be crunk'd up. In Super fashion.
Packers 20. Broncos 16.
Lively Up Yourself. It's real.
Go Pack Go!