Saturday, January 9, 2016

My Take -> NFC Wild Card

Greetings, G-Force.

I often say that we are all a product of our roots. We apply those roots to today. In my youth, I had a Mother that loved more than anyone I've ever met. I had a Father that smiled and enjoyed life more than anyone I've ever met. On Sunday's in the fall, we watched Packers football. Come playoff time, we watched football with great intent. Though I was at the 1982 Packers 41-16 victory over the Cardinals, I was only 4 years old. The game is vividly etched in my mind. I loved the fire throughout Lambeau on that great day. It had been 10 years since the Packers had been in the playoffs. Post that year, as I watched the playoffs, I yearned for that Packers playoff feeling. The Packers never tasted a playoff game again in the 80's. Still, I never lost my love for the team that hails from Titletown, U.S.A. I always viewed the team with a healthy perspective - painful as it may have been. The Packers are a soulmate of mine.

As I write, I sip a Crooked Stave Silly Cybies. It's a Belgian Style Dark Ale. Aged in Oak Barrels. With raspberries. Measuring in at 9.0% ABV. A tremendous treat. Perfectly sour. With a heavy raspberry flavor throughout. True perfection. Pumping through the speakers is the Phish White Tape. Felt that it had a couple of lyrics that brought comedic approach when absorbing them with the current state of the Packers fans I communicate with.

Trey opens the vinyl with these lyrics: "Woke up this morning and I had those walking blues. I wasn't walking nowhere cause I didn't have no floor." Reminded me of how buzzed out Packers fans have been throughout the 2nd half of the season. And, the views that there was no bottom. Well, after losing 6 of the last 10 games, it's possible that the fans were right. But, in my opinion, that's no way to live. Why choose the doldrums of life? This team has playoff exposure. It's tasted playoff success. Keep the spirits up!

I love the ACDC bag lyrics when Trey belts out: "Time to put your money where your mouth is. Put 'em in a field and let 'em fight it out. I'm running so fast my feet don't touch the ground. I'm a stranger here I'm going down. Let's get down to the nitty gritty. Let's get this show on the road!" It's playoff time! Time to see what this team is really made of. The Redskins are the strangers to that playoff feeling. The Packers have the experience. Let's play!

Here are my quick thoughts over the last week:

* The ghosts of Lambeau's past were showing their faces as Teddy Bridgewater threw the ball left handed. They smiled down on 1265 Lombardi Ave as Mason Crosby forced a fumble. They flexed their muscles as Teddy Bridgewater mysteriously dropped a handoff to AP. The crowd was animated. The team wasn't good enough. In the Regular Season, the Packers didn't have the pension to seize victory. And, thus, we finished 10-6. We lost the NFC North crown to the 'queens. At the most hallowed of American theaters. That's an awful buzz. But, as a community, we must bounce back. As now, it's for real. Keep those vibes -- kind.

* I've been vocal about the relationship between Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers. Reading of their body languages - it hasn't seem healthy. There's appeared to be clear discontent. A true disgust that was lingering behind the scenes. It was frustrating to watch. McCarthy seemed infuriated by his inability to reach his 2x MVP QB. Rodgers appeared to be disgruntled. Unappreciative of his mastermind Head Coach. Neither had made a public comment to negate such thoughts. And, then Pete Dougherty wrote this article on Friday morning: - and if you haven't read it, buzz in. It's my favorite read of the year. They both admit to the conflict that has brought struggles, but they also both seem to have it behind it. Are they legit emotions? Possibly. Was it a PR stunt? Potentially. Either way - I embrace the article. It was a great way for both of them to put on their game faces. It offers hope that Clark Kent is walking into a phone booth. It's time to flip the proverbial light switch.

* If I could define the 2015 Regular Season in 3 plays, it'd be:

1.) 4th & 5. 2nd Quarter. Trailing 6-3. James Jones beats Xavier Rhodes on a double move. In past years, this would've been a TD. Jones had a step and a half. Instead, the reigning MVP was short on his pass and thus, the ball was knocked away. In 2015, Aaron Rodgers wasn't his MVP self.
2.) Trailing 13-3, but showing signs of life after a sublime Micah Hyde interception. It felt like a moment in which the Packers would cut the lead to a one-score game. 3rd & 12 after a questionable holding call on Corey Linsley negated a physical first-down run by Eddie Lacy. Josh Sitton playing LT for the first time in his NFL career. Playing it with less than a week of practice. A week in which there weren't even enough healthy DL for him to hone his skills, so he was practicing against a pass rushing OL. But, on this crucial 3rd down play, Sitton has to block a hard pursuing Everson Griffen. Sitton isn't up for the challenge as Griffen blows by him. Griffen hits Rodgers' arm just before the ball is released. The ball falls to the turf. The 'queens pick it up and return the ball 55 yards for a TD to make it 20-3. The 2015 team has suffered too many injuries to function. They gave a valiant effort. But, the results weren't good enough to claim the Division crown.
3.) Teddy Bridgewater fumbles the handoff to AP. The seems to bounce to YELLOW JAKE. But, YELLOW JAKE isn't able to win the fight for the ball. Instead, AP recovers. All year, the Packers have struggled to recover the loose football. They have won the 50/50 ball when it's been rolling on the turf. So close. Yet, so far away.

* Vince Lombardi is quoted as saying, "The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising agin after you fall." The Packers have fallen. But, with the playoffs in the present, it's time RISE UP!

* Loving Jeff Janis as a gunner.

* Wake up, Kennard Backman.

* The 2015 Regular Season Green Bay Packers weren't good enough to overcome mistakes. They needed to be overly precise. Without perfect precision, the Packers didn't finish drives. On the opening drive, the Packers were dominating the line of scrimmage. Pounding the ball at the heart of the 'queens defense. Over the first 12 plays, the Packers drove the ball 69 yards. Mostly on the ground. And, then McCarthy calls a great roll-out to the left. AQ81 was open in the flat. Right in front of Rodgers. The reigning MVP didn't see him. Instead he threw the ball away. When the Packers haven't capitalized on those 2nd down plays, the drives have stalled. This was also evidenced prior to the 4th & 5 mis-throw by Rodgers. On 2nd & 4, Rodgers hit Cobb in the flat. Appeared like it'd definitely be a first-down and if he made one person miss, it could've been a TD. Instead Cobb dropped the ball. Eventually, the drive stalled.

* How do the Packers conduct a practice? If you have 53 players on the active roster and 18 are either not participating or limited participants, you're down to 35 players. Then, consider that 3 of those players are QB's and 3 are specialists. All of a sudden, you're down to 29 players who are taking part in practice. Further, consider that the top 6 OL on the roster are on the injury report. Not fully participating. Also, Raji, Guion, Elliott, Neal, Perry, Daniels, and Datone Jones have all been off and on the injury report over the last 2 weeks. With that said, how is Mike McCarthy expected to put together a game plan? McCarthy has often said that "Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance." So, without his team on the practice field, how is McCarthy supposed to prepare his team? Seems like an overwhelming challenge.

* I give heavy kudos to TJ Lang, Bryan Bulaga, Corey Linsley, Josh Sitton, and David Bakhtiari. They are all warriors on the OL. A turn back the clock style of player. True fighters. 1960's type players. But, let's face it. When you don't practice all week and then you have to battle a beastly 300 pound man in 1 on 1 protection on Sunday, how do you expect them to consistently win? You'd have to imagine that they miss the mark on their ideal hand placement or that they miss the leverage battle on occasion - simply because they haven't been able to practice all week. You need repetition. It brings muscle memory. When you don't practice, how do you improve? How can you work on tendencies? You can't. And, thus, mistakes will occur.

* The Packers have run a timing offense. Based on precision. Oft mastered during the week and then put on display on Sundays. But, when you don't have your team on the practice field, how do you master your craft? You don't.

* I often wonder how much endurance is lost due to the team not practicing. Mike Daniels has come out as a ball of fire over the last couple of weeks. But, he wasn't able to sustain his energy throughout. He wore down. Can you blame him?

* Great to see Micah Hyde finding the football. Twice!

* Mason Crosby. WOW! Was almost a play for the ages.

* I'm seriously concerned about how long Sammy Swagga has been out with his injury. Didn't seem like a devastating blow when he hit the turf. Appeared to be mild contact. Clearly, it was more than what caught the eye. Vibes to Swagga! We miss him. Hope he's OK.

* I hope I never see another pass to Richard Rodgers in the flat again.

* The Packers need Justin Perillo moving sticks on short curl routes. A possession target. Who sits down in the middle of the defensive zone. Who finds the gaps. A guy that Rodgers can play pitch and catch with. Perillo has those talents.

* I'm afraid of seeing YELLOW JAKE in coverage on a RB again.

Sooner or later. It all gets real. Sunday is that day.

I remind myself that the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers weren't an impressive Regular Season team. The 2007 New York Giants were an average Regular Season team. The 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers were not considered to be likely contenders. In 2010, the Packers found their way into the playoffs through the backdoor. In 2011, the Giants went 2011. In 2012, the Ravens stumbled into the playoffs. All won the Super Bowl.

In 2010, the Packers finished 10-6. They went to the NFC East Champions. Then, they went to the NFC South Champions. Then, they went to the NFC North Champions. History has a funny way of repeating itself. See you in Minnesota in a couple of weeks. Watch out, Pittsburgh. Pop Tarts comin' back again. Plus, Green Bay v Pittsburgh in Super Bowl 50 seems to make the most sense.

I kid, I kid. Kinda.

I'm not predicting a Packers Super Bowl. Not even close. But, the Packers have the best player in the NFL. He just has to play like he's the best player in the NFL. The Packers are built around Aaron Rodgers. It's time for him to put the cape on. It's time for him to carry the Packers. It's time for Rodgers to further his greatness. Aaron Rodgers has a chance to go down as one of the greatest QB's of all-time. But, in order to be considered, he has to shine in the playoffs. The lights are on. This is when careers are written. It's time for Rodgers to become untangled. It's time for Rodgers to etch his name into Legendary status. Without another Super Bowl, he'll never be considered amongst the likes of Montana and Brady. With one more, he enters the discussion. Prior to the year, I predicted 10-6 to 11-5. We finished 10-6. But, I also thought, let's get to the playoffs in see what happens. After all, we do have the best player in the NFL. He just has to play up to his standards.

In past years, the Packers have had a lot of pressure on themselves entering the playoffs. This year, there is none. Let's make a run!

The Redskins were 6-2 at home this year. They represent a dangerous opponent. Not unlike the Eagles in 2010. They're hot. Seemingly peaking. With DeSean Jackson as a lethal deep target.

Quick story. September 21, 2014. I turned to my brother-in-law. I tell him, "Someday, Kurt Cousins is going to be a starting QB in the Super Bowl." He has all of the tools. He sees the field. He makes quick decisions. He has enough mobility to move the ball with his legs. He needed to work on preventing mistakes. He was turnover prone. He seems to have fixed that part of his game.

Cousins has weapons. DeSean Jackson can still run. Without Sammy Swagga, I'm not sure that the Packers have anyone to cover him. I like our rookies, but neither of them can run with Jackson. Pierre Garcon is still a physical route runner who gets to the spot. Jamison Crowder is a solid slot receiver. Jordan Reed is arguably the 2nd most productive TE in football. He'll give the Packers fits. Matt Jones might be the best screen receiving RB in football. When Jones is on the field, the ball will be in his hands. Somehow. Some way. Either via the run or the pass. Alfred Morris isn't what he was a couple of years ago, but he's still a talented one-cut runner. But, the Washington OL can be bullied. It'll be up to Raji, Daniels, Neal, Peppers, Pennel, Perry and Guion to come out swinging.

Washington's defense gets after the QB. Chris Baker, Ryan Kerrigan, and Preston Smith can all flat-out rush the passer. Not fully one-dimensional players, but that's their best trait. If Bakhtiari isn't fit to go, I'm concerned. On the interior, Jason Hatcher will give Lang, Sitton and Linsley everything that they can handle. Terrance Knighton and Ricky Jean-Francois rotate to add beef to the 'skins run stopping efforts. The Washington LB core can be exposed outside of Perry Riley. Riley is a baller. Trent Murphy is capable, but he's proven to be a hair too slow for the NFL. Will Compton doesn't scare anyone. The Redskins secondary can be beaten. DeAngelo Hall is still a fighter, but he can be beaten on double moves. Bashed Breeland is a high effort player, but he can be outmuscled. Both Breeland and Hall are gamblers. The Redskins signed Cary Williams this week. I presume that they expect him to play a role in the nickel. His best days are behind him. He's a grabber and is sure to get penalized if he sees the field. Dashon Goldson is a fierce intimidator in the middle of the field. I'm happy that Will Blackmon has had a nice career in the NFL. I've always liked Willie. He's a great athlete. But, he's an average Safety. At best.

Look for Rodgers to get the Redskins to jump offsides on a couple of plays with his hard count. The Redskins will be itching to get to the MVP. They'll be experiencing nerves in their first playoff game since 2012. They'll be jumpy. Rodgers takes advantage. He finds a big play.

The Redskins CB's get multiple penalties as they fight at the point of the Packers WR's routes.

The Packers struggle to cover Jordan Reed on comeback routes over the middle and in the flat on play-action roll-outs. He annoys the Packers. Garcon runs the 15 yard deep-in. He runs the 20 yard post. Jackson takes off on a fly route. Matt Jones gets 50 yards on screen plays. Alfred Morris pounds away between the tackles.

YELLOW JAKE plays strong in the run game.

The Packers line Peppers at DT on the right side of the defense on 3rd down. Clay is at OLB on the right side. Peppers collapses. Takes out the Guard and the Tackle. Clay stunts to the inside. He welcomes Cousins to playoff football.

At some point, Cousins gets knocked off his spot and throws off his back foot into the hands of a Packer. I'll predict that it's HaHa who makes the play.

Nick Perry grabs a sack. Dustin Hopkins misses a FG for the 'skins. Both teams score 5 times.

I've been waiting for weeks for Rodgers to have a vintage AARON RODGERS performance. It's gotta happen. He wings it all over the park. He finds his rhythm. He finds his California Surfer Smile. He plays with glee. He's on target. Almost amazingly, Davante Adams has a big day. So does Randall Cobb. Our Regular Season memories are erased. There's new belief in the steps of the good folk in Green Bay, WI. We live for another week. And, for a moment, all feels right in the world again.

Packers 27
Redskins 23

Call me the Jokerman. I still believe in the Green Bay Packers. I will until the season dies. Forgive me, I'm wired that way.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

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