BEARS STILL SUCK! BEARS STILL STUCK! BEARS STILL SUCK!
4-2. In creative fashion. It was one of those games that could've been painful - at times - if you allowed it, but in the end, the Packers stuck to the game plan and they had too much firepower for the pathetic Bears. Meanwhile, with Minnesota's loss, the Packers are, once again, right in the thick of the NFC North race.
I'm mellowing out to the Ethan Tucker "Acoustic in LA" album. Low key acoustic music. Fun lyrics with a hoppy beat. I'm sipping a Trinity 7-Day Sour that I've been bunkering since May of 2014. It's a tart sour. Not overwhelming sour - instead it has more of a wheat feel to it. Still highly carbonated. Both Lacto and Brett yeast leave a distinct rub to the back of the palate.
My quick vibes from the last week:
* Great to see the Packers rolling onto Lambeau in "stormtrooper" uniforms. Capped with the classic Packers yellow helmet. Gorgeous uniforms. Even more gorgeous to see a victory over the Bears.
* Kudos to Mike McCarthy. He was in a tough spot. Coming off of an ugly performance. Playing the most hated rival. With multiple significant injuries. He devised a game plan that put the ball into the hands of his 2-time MVP QB. He mostly looked at routes that were 7 yards or less. As a play caller, he was disciplined. He was patient. Frankly, I wasn't sure that the McCarthy/Rodgers combination had that type of patience in them any more. It was good to see. Even when the Packers trailed 10-6 in the 3rd Quarter, McCarthy stuck with the game plan. He didn't waver. His decision paid off.
* It would've been easy to be a yawner of a fan with the Packers only putting up 6 points in the 1st Half, but man, the Packers were unlucky. Twice, Cobb nearly had TD's. Additionally, the 90-yard drive that netted nothing was unfortunate as well. They had opportunities, but they didn't finish the deal. Regardless, we were handicapped and we moved the ball with elegance.
* Heavy credit to Aaron Rodgers. Surrounded with adversity, Rodgers played well. He wasn't laser sharp from an accuracy perspective, but mentally, he saw the field well. He was quick to get rid of the ball. He made really good decisions throughout. He carried the team to victory.
* Ty Montgomery. What a performance. I love his crossing routes out of the backfield. He's a constant mismatch. I don't see any reason why he can't continue to catch 7+ balls a week. For years, I've wanted a scat back in Green Bay. Finally, we have one.
* Jeff Janis is clueless. RUN THRU THE DEFENDER! Draw the flag. When's he going to learn?
* Bummed to see Abby's career in GB come to an end.
* GERONIMO. Hope to see him in action this week.
* Trevor Davis concerns me as a PR. Wish we were healthier in the Secondary, so we could play Hyde at PR.
* I liked Don Jackson's quickness. And, his confidence.
* It's so fun having Ripkowski on the team. The Packers are a better team when he's on the field. He moves people. I wouldn't play a TE without Jared Cook. Two backs. Three WR's. Have Ripkowski on the field. He opens holes. He's a punisher of a blocker.
* There was a Davante Adams sighting. In a grand way. He was dominant. He had wiggle. He had swagger. I really hope he can build on that performance.
* Had Cobb made the two plays in the end zone, he'd have had his best game in a year and a half. Still, he was a mismatch. He was getting in and out of his breaks. Really great to see Cobb finding his 2014 form.
* I expect Jordy Nelson to bounce back from his mini slump with a really big game.
* The Packers need Jared Cook to get healthy.
* Don Barclay should never step on the field again for the Green Bay Packers. He's a horrible liability. When Lindsley is ready to return, I have to imagine that it'll be Barclay who goes.
* TJ Lang. Pay the man. Make a Packer for life. Love him as a figure on this line. His toughness was a huge component to the Packers pulling this one out. When Lang went out in the 2nd half, I wondered if he was done for the game. I worried that he was not going to be able to come back. But, once again, Lang displayed his toughness. His grit was clearly appreciated by Rodgers who walked over to Lang after his TD pass to Cobb to thank him for his efforts and to offer him a complimentary tap on the shoulder pad. TJ Lang is a Green Bay Packer.
* Bakhtiari and Bulaga continue to show well.
* Tretter is a stud at Center.
* Props to Lane Taylor. He's played much better than I expected that he would.
* What's happened to the special teams units? We seem to be faltering in every phase. Needs immediate improvement.
* Kenny Clark!!!! What a monster game. He was tossing OL to the side. He was quick. High effort. Making plays. He's coming into his own.
* Mike Daniels continues to dominate the line of scrimmage.
* Two weeks in a row, Guion has been inconsistent.
* Need Pennel to find his form. I'm expecting him to have a great second half of the year.
* Blake Marinez with the pick! Loved his excitement. Kid wants it.
* Nick Perry. He has to be considered a Defensive MVP candidate, doesn't he? 5.5 sacks on the year. An interception. A fierce run stopper. Guy stuffs the box score. Against Chicago, he had 4 tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, an interception, a pass defensed, and a QB hit. Another fantastic game for Perry. Really, he has been absolute magnificent in all games this year - with the exception of the Cowboys game. He's going to get paid.
* JP was motivated to play his old team. We need more of that zest from Peppers.
* Clay was physical when he was on the field. Wonder if his body can hold up as an OLB? Doesn't seem like it. Wish we'd see him more at ILB. Next to Martinez. We'd have great speed in the middle of the field. I'm worried that we're eventually going to be exposed in the passing game on plays to the RB. Might happen this week.
* Kyler Fackrell continues to work hard and to make a meaningful impact when he's on the field.
* Marwin Evans!!!! Great talent. Love that he's on the roster. I get excited to see what he's going to do on special teams.
* Solid game from Ladarius Gunter. Way to bounce back, young man.
* Morgan Burnett has been around the football two weeks in a row. He's been active. Can it continue?
* Micah Hyde is invaluable to this team. Need him on the field. So dependable. Offers so much versatility. I'd like to see him come on a blitz out of the slot. Feel like he could make a game changing play as a blind side rusher.
* TJ Lang. Needs to be re-emphasized. Football player. Turn back the clock player. Thank you, TJ.
This week - it's the Falcons. In Atlanta. It's a make a believer out of me week. In a Super Bowl or Bust year, the Packers need a statement win. A victory in Atlanta would be just that. It'd also allow the Packers to potentially go on a little run. After this week, the Packers play Indy and TN. You'd like to think that the Packers would win both of those games. It'd be fun to see the Packers at 7-2. It's a week-to-week league and a lot changes - quickly. But, a win in Atlanta and suddenly, the Packers are in position to put themselves in a healthy spot.
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!
The Falcons can score points. In abundance. Matt Ryan is playing as well as he's played since 2010. Julio Jones is arguably the best WR in the NFL. Devonta Freeman is a do-it-all RB. He's physical, he's fast, and he has great vision. He'll challenge the Packers LB's. Mohammed Sanu is an extremely talented #2 WR. Jacob Tamme is a solid blocking TE and a sure-handed, savvy TE. Justin Hardy is a developing #3 WR who has all of the talents that you look for in a young WR. The Falcons OL is improved. Jake Matthews and Alex Mack are core players. Andy Levitre, Chris Chester and Ryan Schraeder are all over-achievers. The Packers are lucky that Tevin Coleman won't play this weekend.
Defensively, the Falcons are getting after the QB. Brooks Reed and Vic Beasley offer a good speed/power combination from the ends. Both are high effort QB rushers. Beasley brings the type of turf speed that has offered Bulaga troubles previously. Jonathan Babineaux and Grady Jarrett are run stuffers up the middle. Deion Jones offers great speed at ILB, but he's undersized and can be moved in the game. De'Vondre Campbell is a talented LB, but he often plays too high and can be moved in the run game. As pass defenders, both Jones and Campbell are gifted. Keanu Neal is a beast of a safety. He pursues with vicious intent. He's not fast-footed, but he punishes. Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant have played well on the perimeter. They'll challenge Davante Adams. I loved Jalen Collins coming out of college, but he has yet to show his worth in the NFL. I'm not sure how the Falcons plan to cover Randall Cobb in the slot. Their secondary is shy on depth.
The Falcons special teams scares me. Eric Weems is a threat to take it to the house, every time that he touches the ball. Matt Bosher is a better punter than Jacob Schum and will swing the field, if needed. Matt Bryant is automatic in the dome.
The Packers can't expect to win a shoot-out. If this thing gets into the 30's, I don't feel good about the game. The Packers are going to need to utilize ball possession. Long sustained drives on offense. Once again, the Packers aren't going to be fortunate enough to have a full-time RB who understands the offense. So, I expect Rodgers to throw 40+ times. The only reason it won't be more than that is because the Falcons will have more success moving the football than the Bears. Nonetheless, expect Rodgers to play with ball control. Underneath routes to Cobb. Stacking WR's to the right side of the line of scrimmage to allow Cobb to get a free release. We'll see Montgomery on a wide variety of routes out of the backfield. There isn't an ILB in football that can cover Montgomery as a receiver out of the backfield.
If we see Knile Davis, I certainly hope it's with Ripkowski in front of him. Out of the I-formation. Ripkowski can help pave the way. Also, Ripkowski will blow up Campbell and Jones 10 out of 10 times. He'll add multiple yards to each carry. I like the way the interior of the Packers OL matches up with the interior of the Falcons DL.
Chewing up the clock keeps Julio Jones off of the field. It's hard to cover Julio Jones with an All-Pro secondary. It's even tougher to cover Julio Jones when you're down your top 3 CB's. Ladarius Gunter has the length and the physicality to match-up with Julio. He doesn't have the speed. Don't forget, on the other side, Demetri Goodson can't cover Sanu. Still, I'd try to take Julio away. I'd put HaHa over the top of Gunter. I'd double Julio all day. I wouldn't let Julio beat me on a deep ball. If Sanu is going to grab 8 balls for 120 yards and 2 TD's, so be it. But, I'm going to trust that the defensive front can slow Freeman in the run game. And, I'm going to slide HaHa to help limit Julio's touches.
I'm scared of seeing Freeman in the screen game and on wheel routes against Jake Ryan in coverage. Big plays could be awaiting the Falcons offense. So, it'll be important for the Packers to keep the Falcons offense off of the field.
Dom Capers has had a great year. I'm curious to watch how the Packers approach the Falcons weapons. I have confidence that he'll have a couple of tricks up his sleeve.
I'm expecting to see Rodgers to Nelson on the back shoulder. At least 3 times. The Falcons CB's, Trufant and Alford, are both aggressive. They'll both look to jump routes. At some point, a stop and go will work. For a big play. Likely to Nelson. Maybe to Janis.
Historically speaking, neither Rodgers nor Ryan have been overly prone to turnovers. If there's a turnover this week, it could be the crucial play in the game. I'm expecting to see JP making another play this week. A strip sack that changes the outcome.
Packers 24. Falcons 23.
I'm a believer.
Go Pack Go!