7-3. Back on top of the NFC North! In dominating fashion! What’s the cure to a slump? A road trip to visit your little brother. And, thus, a ray of hope flickers through the Nation’s most admired sports franchise.
To celebrate, I poured a Central Waters Black Gold. An Imperial Stout that measured in at 11%. Aged in bourbon barrels. Thick, nearly oily, throughout the pour. Little head at the brim. Heavy chocolate taste with hints of vanilla and robustly bourbon. A great addition to a celebratory night.
The “Trick or Treat: Best of the String Cheese Incident” spins loudly. Love the version of Get Down Tonight. Leaves me in party mode.
Here are my quick vibes from the last week:
* An aggressive Mike McCarthy is a good Mike McCarthy. It was clear from the get-go that McCarthy wanted to set the stage with an aggressive tempo. The 4th & 1 call on the opening possession showed that McCarthy meant business. The Packers were fortunate to draw the off-sides penalty, but regardless, the decision to potentially leave 3 points on the table was a mental trendsetter for the game.
* For the first time in the 2015 season, the Packers looked like a team that was capable of sustaining a significant playoff run. It was a playoff environment. A physical game. And, the Packers were the far more physical team. The ‘queens are a tough group. The Packers punched them in the mouth. Early and often. The Packers dominated the line of scrimmage and outmuscled the ‘queens. Much in the same way that you’d expect big brother to dominate little brother in a street fight.
* For the ‘queens, it was their Super Bowl. For the Packers, it was a crucial Week 11 NFC North dogfight. The Packers played focused, physical and fully determined to leave victorious. The ‘queens played undisciplined, desperate and scrappy, which is totally out of character.
* The #1 focus of the MN franchise is beating the Packers. The Packers went to the Land of 10,000 Lakes and left with a dominant victory. It’ll be interesting to see if there is a lingering mental effect for both teams over the next 2 weeks. To a man, the ‘queens looked mentally and emotionally defeated. Meanwhile, the Packers looked unified and at times, they even appeared to be having fun. There smiles, embraces and even an all-telling fist bump between HaHa & JPepp. How cool was it to see Pepp, Clay and HaHa enjoying a chill moment on the bench after a bicep-flexing, testosterone-driven display of dominance.
James Jones gon’ HOODIE!
* The NFC North is ours for the taking. It’s time to build on this momentum. While the performance wasn’t pristine, there was enough positives to enhance the mood inside the locker room at 1265 Lombardi Ave.
* EDDIE! EDDIE! EDDIE! With a vengeance, EDDIE shows up! 100 yards. In a crucial game. A tone setting display as he carried Linval Joseph on multiple occasions. His spin move offered belief in a time of need.
* Throw the stats out the window, after the initial drive in which Rodgers looked jumpy; the MVP was in form. He was in control. When the ‘queens cut it to 19-13, Rodgers engineered a drive for the ages. The 1st & 15 connection to Adams was brilliant. The 3rd and 6 pass to HOODIE when he was rolling out to his left was beautiful. The TD pass to HOODIE when he was rolling to his right to elude duress was one for the ages. And, the 2-point conversion was totally awesome. A memorable backhanded flick to HOODIE that felt beltworthy.
* Before the game, the ‘queens fans paid to have a drone flying over their tailgates. The drone was burning an Aaron Rodgers jersey. During the game, the reigning MVP torched the ‘queens for 30 points on two passing TD’s. Prior to the Packers game, the ‘queens had only given up more than 20 points on one occasion; a 23-20 loss at Denver. Stay classy, ‘queens fans.
* EDDIE! EDDIE! EDDIE!
* Love the screen to Starks! The block by Lang was a Pro Bowl play.
* James Jones. Always the fashion artist. HOODIE!
Randall Cobb is pressing. He’s trying to make things happen. Desperately. He’s in a panic mode. He’s overly anxious. And, he and Rodgers aren’t on the same page. They aren’t seeing the field the same way. They aren’t in unison, but I really enjoyed the business conversation that they had as they walked off of the field together post the 3rd down incompletion in which Rodgers thought Cobb was going to take the route across the field. Instead, Cobb stopped his route and the ball hit off his hands.
* Last year – I thought Cobb was among the best Red Zone receivers in the league. It was good to see him shake loose for a TD to close the first half.
* Championship teams finish and start halves in elite fashion. It was sublime to see the Packers move the ball 80 yards on 9 plays for a TD to close the 1st half. And, it was equally as nice to see the Packers start the 2nd half with a FG on a 61 yard march. It was a 12 play drive that ate up 4:47 off the clock.
* There was a Jeff Janis sighting. In a big way. The Kickoff return was a momentum swinging play. The queens had just taken the lead. The crowd was rowdy. Janis showed his speed. The PI play was no fluke. I fancy that if the Packers ran that play 3-4 times a game, they’d likely get a big play nearly every week. He was also wide open on the previous possession on 3rd down, but the blitz got to Rodgers too quickly. Or else, Janis might have had a long TD. He had a step on Newman. Janis also continues to shine on special teams. Area of improvement: he needs to become a better blocker. Especially in the open field.
* Justin Perillo is a solid route runner. He’s not fleet of foot, but he gets out of his break well. Like how he sits down in the zone as well.
* Week in and week out, Richard Rodgers amazes with how poor he blocks. Little to no recognition. Lacks fight. On Lacy’s first run, he had a huge hole, but Richard Rodgers ignored Harrison Smith. Unbelievable.
* TJ Lang is a stud. A total throwback.
* It was telling to see Corey Linsley and Aaron Rodgers share an embrace before the game. They’re working on their mojo.
* Huge game for JC Tretter. Stepped in with great form!
* I like when Josh Walker is used as an added blocker. It’s predictable that they’ll run behind him when he’s on the field, but it it’s been successful as Walker is winning his battle. Richard Rodgers’ inability to block has forced the Packers to design new strategies to get a push in short yardage situations.
* EDDIE! EDDIE! EDDIE!
* Wasn’t Bakhtiari’s best game, but he’s a fighter. Same applies to Bulaga.
* Clay Matthews. What a Superstar. Totally dominating. He won with both speed, power and intelligence. He shot gaps. He got around the corner. He was in AP’s head. Fantastic performance from Clay. He’s undoubtedly the 2nd best Packer defender in my lifetime.
* Good to see Peppers getting a push. Looked fresh. Looked possessed.
* Datone Jones might be listed as an OLB, but who are we kidding? The Packers were clearly in a 4-3 and at times, we were lined up in a 5-2 formation. What a fantastic performance from Jones. Two crucial sacks and an epic batted pass on 3rd down. Datone’s best game as a pro.
* Speaking of the 5-2 formation. Loved the creativity by Dom. Guion, BJ, and Daniels were punishing. Neal and Peppers were collapsing. Dom was a mastermind.
* BJ Raji is earning a contract. Spectacular game from Raji. He came on a variety of moves. Showed good quickness on the spin move. Displayed great strength at the point. Forceful game from Raji.
* Mike Daniels was a star. High impact plays in the run game. Intimidated AP. Awesome sack of Teddy. Stokes my fire when Daniels is animated.
* Mike Pennel and Letroy Guion held the point of attack in fine fashion.
* I’m eternally grateful that Clay Matthews is a member of the Green Bay Packers. Love his game. Spectacular presence. Fun to see him attacking the football and going for the strip.
* HA HA! Masterful game. Terrific play on the sack. Forceful tackler. Makes his presence felt.
* Burnett and HaHa merging on the forced fumble of AP was a riveting moment in my life.
* Sammy Swagga was ballin’. Made a number of key tackles on third down. Played well in coverage. He was inspired.
* Casey Hayward with his best tackling game of the year. Even affected a play on a blitz, which shocked me.
* Liked seeing the Packers utilizing Q-Rollins on the blitz. He didn’t get home, but I’m interested to see his nose for the football when he’s attacking a QB. He’s fearless.
* Monster game from Mason Crosby. Way to rebound!
* Liked how Jayrone Elliott was utilized in the rotation. He didn’t get home, but he was close on a couple of occasions.
* What was Joe Thomas thinking? He ran right by Teddy when he had a clear shot at him on a third down. He went to cover a back that wasn’t even remotely a threat. It’s that type of play that makes me cringe and absolutely salivate at the thought of adding another star ILB to this team. Between Thomas and Palmer, we lack instincts. We lack playmaking ability. They’re decent gang tacklers, but they aren’t going to make a game changing play. Ever.
* Think of how dominating Clay would be if we had an above-average ILB lined up next to him? The Packers should draft 3 ILB’s this year. I’m not joking.
* I want to see more of YELLOW JAKE, but two weeks in a row he’s been slow to close the hole in special teams and thus, big plays have happened because of it. While YELLOW JAKE can’t be worse than Palmer on the inside, I’m concerned about his quickness ILB. Hope I’m wrong.
* Good to see Demetri Goodson drawing a penalty as a gunner.
* I want to see more of Janis as a kickoff returner. Adds a weapon to the arsenal.
* Just fair catch the ball, Randall Cobb.
IT’S BEAR WEEK! THE BEARS STILL SUCK!
It’ll be a day to remember at Lambeau Field. Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers all on the field at the same time. That’s magic. In Super fashion. Something to be thankful for and awesome that’s happening on Thanksgiving Day.
The Packers and the Bears. The greatest rivalry in American sports. The big city against the small town. They’ve played each other 191 times. The Bears lead the series 93-92-6. After Thanksgiving, the record will be even. Wild to consider!
Early in the year, it appeared as though the Bears would have a pathetic year. They seemed destined to finish 3-13. But, John Fox has turned it around. He’s reeled in Ray Nutler. In fact, Nutler has done a decent job protecting the ball for most of the year. The Bears have found a diamond in Jeremy Langford. Langford runs with speed, great vision and a quite toughness. He plants his foot and hits the hole. It sounds as though Matt Forte will also play this week, so expect the Bears to try and run the football north of 30 times this week. They’ll control the clock. They’ll try to run the ball right at the heart of the Packers defense. And, they’ll try to get the ball to Forte and Langford in the flat as both RB’s are solid receivers out of the backfield.
The Packers biggest defensive weaknesses play right into the Bears hands. The Packers struggle to cover the TE. Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller are both big play threats. With Micah Hyde’s status in doubt, look for Morgan Burnett to be pressed into coverage. The Bears will try to get Nate Palmer in space. If they succeed, we’ll be in trouble. The Packers struggle to cover crossing routes. The Bears live off of the crossing route. They love to use the middle of the field. The Bears offensive aim is to get their WR’s running in stride to enable them to gain excess YAC. Jeffery, Royal, Bellamy and Wilson are all dangerous after the catch. Jeffery remains an elite WR. Wilson is a young WR who is on the rise. Bellamy isn’t lethal, but he’s adequate. When healthy, Eddie Royal is steady.
The Bears OL remains a work in progress. I fully expect the Packers DL to win a couple of battles and to get into Nutler’s face. In the past, Nutler has done a decent job avoiding the Packers rush and using his feet to escape. In turn, he’s grabbed big yards running the football on 3rd downs. The Packers have to wrap him up. Vladimir Ducasse & Hroniss Grasu can be pushed around on the inside. Look for big games from Daniels and Raji.
The Bears do a solid job rotating players along their DL. Eddie Goldman has had a solid year. Jarvis Jenkins has been a great addition. Pernell McPhee has showed that he can be an every down player. He’s a great pass rusher. Willie Young is still a solid rotational pass rushing specialist. Bruce Gaston, the former Packer, has shown pass rushing promise from the interior. Lamarr Houston has ability and is a threat to get to the QB. At LB, Jonathan Anderson is developing into a responsible player. He’s been better than I imagined him becoming. Christian Jones has also flashed at times. Shea McClellin has had good games against the Packers previously. He’s a better ILB than he was an OLB. The Bears lack depth at CB. Kyle Fuller continues to play at a high level, but he can be beat on the slant and the 15 yard post route. Tracy Porter has found youth and is having a decent season. Adrian Amos belongs on the All-Rookie team. He’s not afraid of contact and plays the ball well. Antrel Rolle has been a stabilizing, gritty veteran addition for the Bears. The Packers have to spread out the Bears. They don’t have depth in the secondary and will give up big yards over the middle of the field.
The Bears come out controlling the clock. Grabbing chunks of yards consistently. 3-5 yards at a time. They find Jeffrey on a crossing route for 15. They settle for an early FG.
The Packers pound Lacy. With success. Lacy finds his bruising stride. It’s mudder season. Right where Lacy shines. It’s Rodgers to Cobb for a TD.
The Bears respond. Nutler to Wilson over the middle. Nutler to Jeffrey on the outside. Nutler to Bennett on an underneath route. Forte and Langford both annoy. They frustrate. They pick up 3rd & 3. Langford finds the end zone.
Rodgers is in rhythm. He hits Adams for 15 on a post. He trusts Janis and reaps the rewards with a big TD!
This has the makings of a night to remember. A classic Packers home blowout. But, the Bears are scrappy. They’re fighters. They’re competitors. They’ll keep this game close. They’d like nothing more than to spoil a grand ol’ Packers party at Lambeau Field on a Holiday. But, thankfully, we know that a big Nutler turnover is waiting in the wings. I’ve been waiting for a game changing play from Casey Hayward. Let’s hope this is the game.
Lacy grabs 90 yards and a TD. Rodgers throws for 275 and 2 TD's. Peppers and Matthews each grab sacks. It’s a great day to be a Packers fan.
Starr. Favre. Rodgers. Thanksgiving Day. Spectacular!
THE BEARS STILL SUCK!
Go Pack Go!