BACK TO EVEN! A little momentum cooking. Still, in dire need of continuing the win streak if we're going to extend the life of the 2016 Season beyond the regular season. We dug the hole. Now, we have to dig ourselves out. Nonetheless, you have to enjoy the journey to reach your destination. The last two games were excellent indicators that this team still has fight.
It's Stout season. And, while my previous two beers were stouts, I sit down with a Crooked Stave Pure Guava from August of 2015. It's refreshing. It's perfectly carbonated. Much of the fruit has quieted, but it still has a tropical mist to its nose. I listen to MGMT's Oracular Spectacular album. It offers a healthy, uplifting energy. An "electric feel" - of sorts.
Here's my quick vibes from the last week:
* An aggressive Mike McCarthy is a good Mike McCarthy. The thought never gets old. Once again, McCarthy was in attack mode. Once again, McCarthy's team walked away victorious. It's noteworthy the McCarthy's teams have a 33-14 record in December and January regular season games. I have great confidence that his teams will continue to be prepared to win games between now and the end of the year. I have confidence that McCarthy will continue to be aggressive in his personnel use. I believe that McCarthy will continue to mix up his packages. The offense won't be stagnant. He'll keep defenses on their toes. He'll win the mind games late in the contest, which will propel the Packers to victory.
* Aaron Rodgers. Outside of the fumbled snap, it was a mostly magical performance from the 2-time MVP. Rodgers was gutty. He was in attack mode. He was smart. He was decisive. He used his legs. He remained patient. He battled through pain in difficult conditions. He stayed within the offense. He took shots deep. He took chances in 1 on 1 coverage. He was the MVP.
* JORDY! JORDY! JORDY! He looked like he was back to me! He got separation deep when the DB slipped. On the final, game-clinching drive, it was vintage JORDY. The drive went 8 plays for 89 yards. Nelson grabbed two balls on the drive for 49 yards. He braced himself for contact on the brilliant catch down the sideline for 21 yards. And, then, on the all-important 3rd & 6 from midfield, he out jumped the Texans star CB, Kareem Jackson, for a 28 yard catch. It was a monstrous performance from Nelson. Loved the emotion he was showing on the field as well. He understands the urgency.
* Randall Cobb. SNOW ANGELS! What a beautiful pass by Rodgers on the TD. Rolling right and whipping it across his body. Cobb smothered himself in contact and held onto the football for the TD. Cobb is playing with great passion right now. He's lethal as a punt returner as well. Fearlessly attacking the oppositions return units.
* It was 7-7. There were just over 3 minutes left in the 3rd Quarter. The Packers were backed up at their own 2. McCarthy gathered his wits. He gave the backfield to Montgomery. Finally! Dude, what were we waiting for? On 3rd & 1 from the 11, Montgomery responded. In epic fashion with a 13 yard run. He's a mismatch. I'm not sure how to defend him. He's too fast for LB's. He's too tough for CB's. He's a fantastic talent. He's quickly becoming a Packers favorite of mine.
* James Starks. 4 carries. 1 yard. Those statistics included a 4 yard gain, in which a decisive, quick-footed runner would've gained at least 7 and possibly 12. He had room to run. He didn't take advantage. Barring injury, I'll be disappointed if he has 4 carries in a game again this year. We are so much better with him on the sidelines.
* Christine Michael. On the contrary to Starks, the stats don't tell the story. He looked quick. He has a burst. He's lining up 8 yards off the line of scrimmage. He has a nice zip to his step. I also really enjoy the way he sells the play fake. He's well schooled. He has a big game in his future. It appeared to me that he's clearly still learning the offense though. It looked like he didn't understand the audible on the 3rd Quarter hand-off to him. He caught Rodgers' attention, in advance, so there was no harm, but it was evident that the didn't know the adjustment. For my eye, Michael didn't have room to run when the ball was in his hands.
* Montgomery touched the ball 8 times. He totaled 56 yards. That's 7 yards per touch. Fantastic work.
* RIP! RIP! RIP! I HOPE HE HAS A LONG CAREER IN GB! HUGE FAN! Is there anyone tougher than him in the NFL? He seeks contact. He wins that battle every time, it seems. Wish he could play ILB.
* When Jared Cook catches the ball, it seems like it's a first down nearly every time. Hope he continues to be utilized more and more in the offense. Would like to see him targeting roughly twice as much as he is right now.
* Davante Adams didn't have his best game. Didn't seem like he gave maximum effort. Tough footing, but it didn't appear as though he was trying to get in and out of his cuts.
* Definitely not Lane Taylor's best game. Need more from him as we try to fortify a minimal semblance of a run game over the last month of the year.
* Jason Spriggs was a battler. Guard might end up being his position.
* When your defense is mediocre, ball control is one opportunity that you have to limit possessions for the opposition. Even if it comes at the expense of operating out of the no-huddle offense.
* I often talk about the CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE. It's the knock-out punch. Wayne Larrivee's "dagger." But, for my eye, the CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE can just be a time eating drive. It doesn't have to be a drive that nets points. Nonetheless, the Packers offense has delivered that CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE two weeks in a row.
* Clay Matthews is hurt. It's clear that his left shoulder cannot handle contact. He's approaching blockers in a fashion in which he doesn't want contact to the left shoulder. When rushing, he needs to attack as a ROLB. That way - the can approach the edge without the fear of getting a physical shove to the shoulder. I still believe he's best utilized at ILB. Generally speaking, he'd see the contact coming at him as well. I appreciate his courage. And, his mere presence is a difference maker. But, it's definitely banged up.
* Speaking of injuries, the Nick Perry hand situation could be devastating. It'll be tough for the Packers to finish the season on a 6-game winning streak without a healthy Nick Perry. His injury worries me.
* Julius Peppers. What a gamer! Again, the dude just makes plays. In fun fashion. He has a strip sack coming again. It'll be a game changer. Maybe not this week, but it's coming soon.
* Dean Lowry with the monster performance!
* The Packers need Jayrone Elliott to produce. They need him flying around the edge and creating a big play. I like how he has been dropping in coverage, but he's needed as a pass rusher right now.
* Really solid game from Datone Jones. Maybe his best game of the year. He was physical at the edge. He was pursuant all game.
* Micah Hyde was a diamond in the secondary. Treat to see him cover last week. He was slapping wrists and defending well.
* Jake Ryan played with great activity. Interesting positive attribute: Ryan looks like he runs with the same speed on a slow track as he does on a fast track. A true mudder.
* Didn't like how Morgan Burnett and Joe Thomas were getting sucked in on running plays. Way too many big runs. Packers were vulnerable.
* With that said, I wish the Packers would play with Burnett and Clay at ILB on a handful of plays each week.
* Ha Ha has superstar potential. He has another big play coming.
* Q-Rollins & Gunter teaming up to cause the forced fumble! Big way to start the game!
* This defense won't be dominant. But, if this defense can cause a turnover or two a game and if it can apply pressure on the QB in the same fashion that it has over the last two weeks, we're going to be tough to beat. Especially, if the offense continues to utilize the quick-passing game.
* Crucial play of the game: Packers leading 14-7. Houston crosses over to Packers territory. Less than 11 minutes left. Ryan comes on the inside blitz. He breaks through. He forces Osweiler to flip to Blue. Guion reads it and buries Blue for a 9 yard loss. I pumped my fist so hard that I thought I was going to have the same AC joint injury that Clay has and I yelled so loud that I felt as though I injured a vocal chord. Intense play!
* 12 plays. 98 yards. Glorious season-saving drive.
* I had high hopes for Mike Pennel. Now, I doubt he ever plays for Green Bay again.
* Morgan Burnett. Our season might hinge on his ability to cover the TE. With Jimmy Graham, Kyle Rudolph and Eric Ebron waiting in the wings; the Packers are going to need premium TE coverage skills. Burnett is often given that task. That worries me. I wish that was Micah Hyde's responsibility.
This week - it's the hated Seagulls from Seattle. In a near must win for the Packers. Even with a loss, both the Wild Card and the Division are potentially within reach, but I don't want to face those odds. Let's win out and we'll be in. Each game is vital. Neither Tampa nor Detroit did us any favors last week as both came away with tough road wins, so we have to take matters into our own hands. And, that requires winning out. 10-6 will make the playoffs.
Seattle comes to Lambeau off of one of their best performances of the year. They dropped 40 on Carolina. They have talented playmakers on offense. Doug Baldwin is an underrated, premier WR in the NFL. He's physical. He's dangerous. He catches everything. He's tough minded. Jermaine Kearse is overly talented, but the guy makes plays. Almost every week. Jimmy Graham is healthy and fitting into the Seattle offense in a scary fashion. He and Russell Wilson have found comfort with one another. Tyler Lockett is a terrific slot WR who can also line up on the perimeter and win with speed. Paul Richardson has shown flashes of becoming an emerging threat at WR. Thomas Rawls is a dangerous do-it-all back. Wilson is healthy and he's playing at an MVP level. He's seeing the field. He's not making mistakes. He's mobile. He's an All-Pro talent at QB. The Seagulls OL is their liability. The Packers must dominate the line of scrimmage. I believe they will.
Seattle plays a lot of 4-2-5 defensively. They do a great job of rotating their front 4. Michael Bennett often plays on the outside on early downs and rotates to the inside on pass downs. Bennett will give Spriggs and Taylor all-kinds of problems. Tony McDaniel and Ahtyba Rubin are solid run-stopping DT's. Cliff Avril can still attack the QB. Off the bench, Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh add speed as edge rushers. Jared Reed is a talented rookie DT as well. Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright are as good of a tandem as their as at LB. Brock Coyle adds high-effort to the depth of their defense. Richard Sherman is elite. So is Kam Chancellor. The rest of the secondary has the attitude and the swagger, but they aren't as talented. The Seagulls will be without Earl Thomas. So, expect the Packers to attack Jeremy Lane, DeShawn Shead, and Steven Terrell. Look for the Packers to utilize the quick hitting attack. Early and often.
I pray that Lockett doesn't destroy us on special teams. He concerns me. Greatly.
I look for the Packers to utilize Montgomery. Coming out with Jordy and Cobb in the slot. Adams and Cook on the perimeter. The Packers will try to get Cook matched up 1 v 1 against Wright on the outside. They'll try to get Nelson matched up against someone not named Richard Sherman. If Sherman is matched up against Nelson in the slot, Rodgers will lick his chops and Adams will get 10+ targets. It's a match-up league. Rodgers will see the match-ups, he'll attack the edges.
The Packers DL dominates the line of scrimmage early. Guion and Daniels make their impact felt. They swallow Rawls.
Eventually, Russell Wilson gets loose. He connects with Graham and Baldwin for big plays. He quiets the crowd. Seattle grabs a 3rd Quarter lead.
But, the Packers grab momentum. Michael bursts to the second line of the Seattle defense. Adams grabs a back-shoulder grab. Rodgers connects with Cook on a deep ball. The Packers defense forces a turnover. Crosby seals it with a late FG.
It'll be a fierce dog fight. From the start. I've been wearing my GET LOUD LAMBEAU t-shirt all week. I'd like to hear Lambeau rockin'. Don't be afraid to stand up and make some noise either. We need to create a false start or two. We need to force them to burn timeouts early in the 1st & 3rd Quarters. The Lambeau faithful need to be lively for 60 minutes. We can't afford a 3rd Quarter energy let down. Prepare to celebrate!
Go Pack Go!