A desperate heave at the most desperate time of the season brought a stroke of magic. An exclamatory hint of good luck. And, perhaps, it saved the season. In sports, momentum is a thing. If the Rodgers to Rodgers Hail Mary doesn't reap a memorable playoff run, then 2015 was meant to be a disappointment for the Green Bay Packers.
I write from Titletown, U.S.A. I breathe in the hallowed Green Bay air as the Packers sit at the top of the NFC North. The last week has been great fun. Not only have the Packers won via a 61-yard Hail Mary with 00:00 on the clock, but the 'queens have lost back-to-back games. And, thus, as I attend the game this week against the Cowboys, the Packers will be gleefully staring down at the rest of the Division.
I sip a New Glarus Milk Stout. It's sweet. It's smooth. It makes me smile. I'm eating Ron's spreadable cheese with Cheddar on top of Wheat Thins. I may or may not be listening to Bang On the Drum. Yes, I'm back home. We're all a product of our roots. My roots lie in Green Bay, WI. Forever.
Here are my thoughts over the last week:
* Julius Peppers may have been silent since the bye, but man, dude went straight spiritual gangsta when the Packers needed a game changing defensive play.
* Had Mike Neal not made an epic ankle grabbing tackle on the WR screen on 3rd & 11 mid-way through the 3rd Quarter, it'd have been 24-0. Neal's play, in many ways, was a game saving play.
* Down 20-0. This team was dead. They'd missed a chip shot FG. They were facing a 3rd & long. And, Rodgers to Rodgers provided a reason to move towards the edge of your seat with excitement.
* Richard Rodgers. Finally, the Packers tested the middle of the field. They found Rodgers as he was taking his break up the field. And, therefore, Richard Rodgers had the best game of his young career. He found yards after the catch. He was a difference maker, a chain mover. Guy is still a miserable blocker, but it was good to see him as a receiver taking the ball up the field rather than seeing him running towards the sideline after catching the ball on a short down and out.
* The Packers fans are an integral part of this organization. The players and the fans create a kinship community. One that is karmically intertwined. We rely on each others energy. Together, we needed a communal moment of jubilation. In Rodgers to Rodgers, we got it. Now, let's do something with it. The energy is high. It's time to carry on with goodness.
* YELLOW JAKE. Kid can play. Was great in the run game. Fun to see him pounce on the fumble. And, when he was beat in the passing game, he didn't give up YAC. Further, it appeared as though he intimidated when receivers were running across the middle.
* Mike Daniels played great. Total MAN.
* Speaking of men, David Bakhtiari. Just earning respect. Playing thru pain. Gon' old timer on us. Gritty. Gutty. Dominant.
* Jeff Janis. Why not keep running on the deep ball. Planned play to take a shot to Janis. Looked like the reigning MVP dropped it perfectly. Should have landed in his lap. But, Janis stopped his route. Was he trying to draw a penalty? Was his depth perception off? I'm not sure, but he looked like an amateur.
* Run the route 2 yards deeper, Abby.
* Another disappointing route running day from Davante Adams.
* 4th & 1. Season on the line. Cobb is open in flat. WOW! It exists! Why not do that more often?
* HaHa was the best Packers player last Thursday.
* Sammy Swagga is playing the best football of his career.
* Thought Crockett added a bit of a spark. Showed quickness. A small burst. More of one than we saw all pre-season. A little jittery. But, what could be expected. Impressive showing for the young kid.
* The Green Bay Press Gazette's "HAIL YES" quote was fantastic. So, was the moment that the HAIL YES play occurred. But, it doesn't erase the memory of 35 minutes of poorly played football.
* I'm bullish on the future of Quinten Rollins. Love how he plays. Fearless. Throws his body around. On the final 3rd down conversion by the Lions, Rollins was in position. Missed the deflection by inches.
* Eddie missing curfew? Come on, man. Really liked how McCarthy stood behind him this week in the press conference. If this team is going to do anything from now until February, we need Lacy. Mightily.
* Better days are ahead for the Packers offense. We're getting AQ81 back. The OL is getting healthier. Montgomery is close to getting healthy. Hopefully, Lacy finds his stride. These are not all "ifs" - they will occur. And, when they do, the Packers will be able to offer diversity on the offensive side of the ball. The Packers will be able to display creativity. And, Rodgers' weapons will expand.
* I wasn't overly high on Montee Ball coming out of college, but I was excited to see that he came into Green Bay for a tryout. And, I was hoping that the Packers would take a shot on him.
Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be Cowboys.
The Packers need this one. Win the next two and the playoffs should be a lock. We'd also be in position to not only win the Division, but to compete for the #2 seed. I can't stand the Cowboys. I'm still bitter from our rivalry in the early-to-mid 90's.
Regardless of the Cowboys inept play at QB, they have weapons on offense. Dez & Terrance Williams are a dynamite duo. Devin Street is a big target. Cole Beasley is a solid slot WR. Darren McFadden is healthy and playing Grade-A football. Jason Witten is still playing at a HOF level. Gavin Escobar can stretch the field. And, the Dallas OL is among the best in football. If they get average QB play, the Cowboys will put up points.
Defensively, Dallas balls. Their front 4 strikes fear in people. Greg Hardy is an evil man. He's also a dominant football player. The Cowboys sold their soul to the Devil when they signed him. Tyrone Crawford is an active pursuant of the QB. Demarcus Lawrence is an overachieving hard worker. Randy Gregory is an undersized pass rusher. At LB, Sean Lee is elite when he's healthy. Rolando McClain has found a home in Dallas. But, Dallas' secondary is vulnerable. Byron Jones has all of the athletic traits that you look for, but he hasn't been a world beater. Brandon Carr hasn't been the same player as he was in KC. Morris Claiborne has not been the player that I thought he'd be coming out of college. JJ Wilcox and Barry Church are talented players at S, but both can be exposed.
Can the Packers WR's separate? If not, we could be in for a long day. Dallas will get pressure. Dallas will get in Rodgers' face. They'll be physical up front. The Packers have to win on the outside.
Look for the Packers to use Lacy early in the game to try and soften up the middle of the Cowboys defense. It'd open up the play action. It'd make us less predictable.
In past years, the Packers would've beaten a lesser-QB'd team at Lambeau by 20 points. But, 2015 is different. Somehow, he we need to force a turnover. We have to win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Dallas will run the clock. They'll eat up the clock between plays. They'll use Witten and Beasley underneath. They'll try to pound the ball with McFadden. They'll look for big plays over the top to both Williams and Bryant. They'll try to win on deep slants and inside-posts.
I'm expecting Lacy to have a good game. A defining game for him.
I'm expecting Aaron Rodgers to take care of the football and to give the Packers an early lead.
I'm expecting Clay Matthews to make a big play this weekend.
I'm expecting a dogfight. A hard fought, hotly contested battle.
I'm expecting the Packers to prevail in a low scoring affair.
The Cowboys have lost 5 games by less than one-score. They can't be taken lightly. They're better than their record indicates. Lambeau Faithful, it's time to rise. Off your freakin' ass. On your freakin' feet. This is December football. In Titletown, U.S.A. It's time to make a difference. It's time to set the standard. If you have expectations for the player, I have expectations for you as a fan. Do your part. Make a difference. Bring your passion. Be loud. Be proud. Let's make 2015 a year to yell "HAIL YES!"
Go Pack Go!