It's a return to normalcy. A reality check. Frankly, the media tried to make the Packers out to be better than we are at this stage. The hype was fun. We wanted to belong among the top 3 teams in the NFL. We wanted to be on level ground with the Cowboys & if that were the case, we felt that the Lambeau advantage might provide the difference. Instead, we discovered that we were outgunned by the Cowboys. They were too strong. They were too fast. They seemed to have a defined game plan. We appeared confused and incapable to adjust. Really, they played the way we should have played. They ran the ball right at us. They blitzed the QB. We did neither.
We failed to finish drives as B-Jack continues to struggle to pick up the blitz & James Jones routinely drops the ball. Jordy Nelson stopped his route short and went up for the football with one hand. In the red zone, J-Mike was unable to get off the line of scrimmage when it appeared as though he may have been the first option. Rodgers was left with little time & few options. Call it youth, I guess.
No worries. Before the season, a realistic goal was to win the NFC North Division. After 3 weeks, we have the lead. Before the season, I had no idea what to expect out of this season. While 10-6 was a possibility, so was 6-10.
I have a fascinating weekend ahead of me. On Saturday, I'm headed to Busch Gardens with A*, Vargas, and Lisette. Then, we're staying at the Sheraton Riverside in Downtown Tampa. Probably heading to the Tampa Brewing Company at some point. And Sunday - we'll be in attendance. We NEED this game. The schedule thickens & the Packers need to stay ahead of the competition. Plus, I believe that Minnesota will lose at Tennessee this week. I also believe that the Bears lose against Philly this weekend. A 2-game lead after 4 weeks would be delicious.
Tampa is a coming off of a thrilling victory at Chicago in which Brian Griese played arguably the best game of his career. He threw for 407 yards & 2 TD's. While he did throw 3 interceptions, he was stellar down the stretch.
Griese - almost exclusively - uses a variety of crossing routes and slants. Occasionally, he'll make in a fly pattern, but he relies on the playmaking skills of Michael Clayton, Antonio Bryant, and Ike Hilliard. Jeremy Stevans has been a reliable target so far this year as well. Griese wisely uses BJ Askew as a safety valve. Thus far, it sounds as though Joey Galloway will not be playing this week.
Earnest Graham & Warrick Dunn have combined for over 350 yards & 2 TD's this year. It's even more impressive when you consider that they are averaging over 5.5 yards per carry.
As is the custom, Tampa's defensive front strikes fear in offensive lines. Frankly, this match-up scares me. Kevin Carter is playing like he did in 2004. Using an aged mix of speed & power, he's applying pressure. Gaines Adams is a talented end and Greg White is an underrated pass rusher. Additionally, our offensive line has struggled mightily this year. In my mind, Tauscher & Clifton have had the worst years of their careers. Tony Moll does not belong in this league & thankfully, he will be back on the bench with the return of Wells. But, this will be Scott Wells' first action of the year and I hope the line gels like a veteran unit.
The interior of Tampa's D-Line can be exposed. You can run at the heart of the defense. You can run at Chris Hovan. Jovan Haye is an above average pass rushing DT, but he, too, can be moved on run downs.
Tampa's LB's are fast & athletic. You cannot beat them running side-to-side. You've got to run right at them. Normally, the combination of Rudd, Brooks, and June are sure handed. And they're certainly some of the best pass covering LB's in the league.
Ronde Barber can still play, but he can be attacked. He cannot get up and play the ball in the air like he used to. On the opposite side, Philip Buchanon is a solid corner, but he struggles to tackle and can be beaten. At safety, I attack Sabby Piscitelli. I would try to put him in space and isolate him in coverage. He can be used & abused.
This is an important game for Aaron Rodgers. On the road. Hostile environment. Warm climate. There will be defensive pressure in his face. His patience will be tested. So will his decision making. At some point in the 2nd half this Sunday, Rodgers will be faced with a situation in which he will be dealing with a crazed environment and the Packers will need to move the football. At this very moment, we will learn a lot about where Aaron Rodgers is in his development.
It concerns me when Rodgers dances in the pocket. He's too valuable to our team to risk injury. If it's not there, either find the TE or get rid of the ball. Regardless, don't let those big Defensive Lineman clip at your ankles when you're trying to escape pressure. I've seen it too many times.
Offensively, McCarthy must stick to his game plan. Too often, we're out of shotgun. Grant ran for over 4 yards per carry. B-Jack ran for over 6 yards per carry. Yet, for some strange reason, we did not stick to the run. We were far too predictable. What happened to play action roll-out passes to the TE? Why are these plays no longer in our offense? It baffles me. I'm guessing that McCarthy learned his lesson.
The Packers come out and establish a run game. Taking it right at the teeth of the Bucs defense. Grant pounds away. Physical in nature. Consistently, he's missing the cutback. This week, after enhanced film study, he finds it and gets himself into the Bucs defensive backfield. We stick to the run and control the clock. Grant carries the ball 20 times this week. He also finds the end zone for the first time.
The Packers grab an early lead.
But, the Buccaneers fight back. Scratching and clawing with Graham & Dunn at the middle of our defense. Nitpicking yards. Griese goes to the basics and goes after T-Mon & Willie B. as they try to fill in for the Pro Bowler, Al Harris. He finds all three of his WR targets (Clayton, Bryant and Hilliard) for 1st downs. He frustrates the Packers defense as we continue to sit back and only rush 4.
Tampa grabs the lead in the 2nd half. And Rodgers goes to work.
He hoists one towards Jennings who goes up & over Barber to make the play. The Packers are moving. It's Rodgers to Lee on playaction. It's Rodgers to Driver for a TD.
Griese goes back to work looking for a response. FINALLY! The Packers come with an inside blitz. During the offseason, we heard so much about the Packers LB blitzes and defensive disguises. FINALLY! We see it. Hawk & Barnett applying pressure. YES! We actually come with 6 defenders. With a hand in his face, Griese throws one in the lap of Chuckie!
The ball goes back to Grant. And then to Lee as a safety valve. It's Greg Jennings & a two touchdown Packers lead.
Green Bay 27. Tampa Bay 16.
I'm bringing the G-Force and the lively rays to the Sunshine State. I'm bringing quick decisions to Aaron Rodgers. I'm going to find KGB. And with or without Al Harris and Ras-A-tari Bigby, I'm bringing Rastaman Vibrations, POSITIVITY!
Could You Be Loved? At 3-1, you can!
Go Pack Go!