When in doubt, throw the TRUMP CARD. Halas Trophy. Soldier Field. Visitors Locker Room. TRUMP CARD FOREVER! Yes, the XLV run remains clearly in the front of my mind. And, the Soldier Field magic still remains. Now, Rodgers to Nelson for 60 yards on 3rd & 11 with 00:31 seconds left sits just behind the Rodgers to Cobb 48-yard TD on 4th & 8 with 00:38 left in the game. Both are true signs of being able to drop TRUMP CARD. Post the win, hope still remains in the hearts of the Titletown, U.S.A. faithful.
When you bunker beers, you save true treats for celebratory fashion. The 2013 New Glarus Wild Sour Ale fits in that category. Sour plum goodness. Still beautifully carbonated. Surprisingly, a little less sour than I recall. To celebrate I listen to Stevie Wonder's Number 1's collection. After all, when the Bears equalized at 27, I was uptight. But, with Aaron Rodgers, everything's alright. Really wish this was released on vinyl.
Here are my quick vibes from the last week:
* Mike McCarthy. Aggressive. Assertive. Playing his stallions. Leaving victorious. In December. I'm not surprised. Are you? In typical McCarthy fashion, his team is peaking when it matters. And, now, his team controls it's own destiny. The NFC North is the Packers to win. Win and we're in.
* Aaron Rodgers. Had Nelson caught the two earlier deep balls and had Adams caught the two TD passes, statistically, Rodgers would have entered the MVP race. He's carried the team. I've wondered about his leadership skills previously, but the RUN THE TABLE message is residing strongly within the Packers locker room. His belief has carried over. Others could've said the RUN THE TABLE statement, but it wouldn't have carried the same weight. It needed to come from the 2-time MVP. He's playing with a magical form.
* Ty Montgomery! YES! YES! YES! Displaying elite skills. He's still learning the position - obviously - and I can't tell if he's overly patient or if he's slow to see the hole on occasion, but while that was an absolutely fantastic performance, I think he can be even better with more experience at the position. I love the way he powers through arm tackles. I love the burst between steps 2-5. He has a quick turbo button to his eruption through the running lane. His first TD was grand. He got the edge and then he batted off a would be CB tackler. What's amazing is that as marvelous of a performance as it was, he had 1 yard on 2 receptions. Someday - he'll have a 200 yard day.
* Christine Michael. Can you say explosive? With Michael and Montgomery, we're onto something. Throw in the occasional RIP touch and I like our backfield in a way that I've never liked our backfield. We have a great mix of players who feel comfortable with the football in their hands.
* Jared Cook. Continuing to grow in the offense. Rodgers is looking to him. He's a third down weapon. He's a mismatch all over the field. I hope he's back next year on a cap friendly deal.
* JORDY! JORDY! JORDY! Adding to his Legend. I still need his autographed photo hanging in my Packers Wall of Fame. For my taste buds, he defines what it's like to be a Green Bay Packer. Great dude. Teammate. Hard worker. Bounces back in a tough moment during a sub-par game to make the monumental game clinching play.
* Adding to how tremendous the Rodgers to Nelson play really was, the Packers had both back-up Guards on the field for the play.
* Momentum is on the side of the Packers. Need to keep on playing with confidence.
* Loved the fake reverse to Janis on the first drive of the game. The results weren't glorious, but it sets up a double play-action play in which their might be an open receiver of the top. Look for it. Fake hand-off to Ty, fake reverse to Janis, and Adams is wiggling his way down the sidelines for a big play.
* Julius Peppers! I had a feeling he had a big play coming. You know what? He has another one happening before the end of the season.
* Play Clay Matthews at ILB. Please. He's not healthy enough to take on the contact against a more powerful OT.
* As I've been saying, the Packers don't need their defense to be elite. They just need to convert a turnover or two a game and they need to apply pressure on the QB. The turnovers were in abundance last week. The pressure on the QB was not enough. Still for 3 Quarters, the Packers had a championship worthy defense. The 4th Quarter meltdown was largely due to a lack of pressure on the QB and a lack of intensity on the perimeter at CB. I'll never understand why the Packers give such a cushion on the outside. Baffling.
* Congrats to TJ Lang. Ture footballer. Gritty. Gutty. A Packers HOF'er.
* HaHa. Taking the next step! Two massive, game-changing interceptions. Leading to 14 thrilling points.
* Need more out of Datone Jones. Especially in run defense.
* Damarious Randall. Who is this guy? Two weeks ago - he looked great. Last week - he looked like he didn't belong in the NFL.
* Micah Hyde. Earning big coins in his pocket.
* Ladarius Gunter. He's inconsistent, but he shows signs of being a legit #3 CB. And, he is a perimeter CB. Those are tough to find. Still have a feeling that he has an interception coming. I think it happens this week.
* Mason Crosby. Cool as a cucumber in hot sauce under pressure.
* Dom Capers. Zero confidence in him.
This week - it's the 'queens from Minnesota. Showing up in their purple panties. Last year - they stole the NFC North crown from us in Week 17 at Lambeau. This year - they punched us in the mouth in Minnesota. We need this one. Badly.
Sam Bradford has cooled off since a hot start. The 'queens offensive line has been decimated by injury. They've been a disaster. The 'queens have talent at the skill positions. Adam Thielen is a talented WR who gets almost zero props. He's a dangerous play-making WR who offers big-time match-up problems. The Packers had no answer for Stefon Diggs in Week 2. I'm not sure we can cover him this week either. Cordarrelle Patterson is being used more extensively as a WR, often catching short screen passes. He's a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. AP was back last week. His status is uncertain for this week. Without AP, they'd be using Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata as a 1-2 punch. Asiata has been tough for the Packers to tackle previously. McKinnon is a mismatch for the Packers. Especially as a receiver. He's tough to bring down in the open field. Kyle Rudolph often destroys the Packers. He seems to score a TD every time we play each other.
Defensively, the 'queens match up with us better than any team in the NFL. Between Robison, Hunter and Griffen; they get to Rodgers from the outside. Linval Joseph has beaten us up on the inside. At LB, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Chad Greenway make up one of the best LB groups in the NFL. Terence Newman can't run and can be beaten on the outside. Xavier Rhodes is an elite perimeter CB. Andrew Sendejo is a tough-minded, sure tackling S. The 'queens should get Harrison Smith back from injury. Without Smith, they'd have Anthony Harris playing S. If it's Harris playing instead of Smith, look for many big plays to come down the middle of the field. Smith might be the best run stopping S in football. Trae Waynes can be beaten. Captain Munnerlyn is a solid slot CB.
The Packers cannot let Patterson beat us on special teams.
Plainly stated - these teams don't like each other. Minnesota wants to be Green Bay. They look at us with envy. They look at GB in much the same fashion as GB looked at CHI in the 80's. They look at us with disgust. They go straight emo when we win.
Mike Zimmer will pull out all of the stops. He'll have trick plays. He'll have a fake punt or FG at some point. He might try an on-side kick. He'll be aggressive. He's trying to install an attitude within his organization that they have to be able to beat the Packers - much in the same way that Lovie Smith used to talk to his Bears teams. Whether we're on top or not, the North title goes through GB. And, Zimmer knows it.
Much like last year - look for the 'queens to try to get McKinnon loose on the outside as a receiver. They try him deep. Our LB's can't run with him. If they connect, it could be a big play.
I don't expect Montgomery to have as big of a game running the ball, but I do see him having a big game as a receiver. And, if the Packers think that they'll be able to run at the heart of this MN defense, they're silly. They should spread MN out and go to the short passing game. Then, it's Nelson on a double move against Newman for a big play.
The 'queens secondary is a bunch of grabbers. They'll be victimized for at least 3 penalties this week. The Packers must attack with the double move. They'll bite. All game.
The Packers front 4 destroys the 'queens OL.
The key match-up of the game is Morgan Burnett vs Kyle Rudolph. With the exception of 2012, Rudolph has always won this battle. The Packers need Burnett to show up. Or they need to play Micah Hyde on him.
Ladarius Gunter makes the big game changing play this week.
The Packers are in the midst of a special run right now. It won't be spoiled on Christmas Eve.
Go Pack Go!