I write with confidence. For those that have followed this blog long enough, you know my theory is to write with an optimistic, yet realistic approach. I envision the Packers winning. Weekly. I believe in the Green Bay Packers organization. It's been tough to keep the faith in the 2015 version of the Green Bay Packers. Frankly, from a rooting perspective, it's been one of the difficult versions of the Green Bay Packers to love. It's been a frustrating season. But, when their backs were against the wall. In the Wild Card round. Down 11-0. On the road. Facing a 3rd & 4. The Packers offense found life. They never looked back. Suddenly, once again, there was rejuvenated hope within the hearts, minds and souls of the Packers community. And, with this organization, communal belief goes a long way.
As I write, I calmly listen to the Bob Marley "Confrontation" album. It's Marley's last album. Released 2 years after his death. A compilation of largely unreleased tunes. It offers a great vision of how much beautiful music was left in his creative life prior to his departure. Give Thanks and Praises is a gorgeous, but underrated Marley tune. The consistently of the album runs smoothly. Elegantly. It'll carry the mood. Throughout.
I sip a Renegade Depravity. A milk stout that is littered with Peanut Butter. Most Peanut Butter Stouts will leave you requiring a toothbrush due to the residue of the powder that lingers post consumption. Not this one. A true treat. When it's around, I buy it by the growler. Often. 11% ABV. It's beautiful. It doesn't overpower you with syrup. Instead, it's a legit pour. That leaves the mouth watering for more. I love this beer. I look forward to it annually.
Here are my quick vibes from the last week:
* I love Mike McCarthy. Prior to this year, he's always seemed to rally the team when they were in a time of need. In the first truly desperate moment of the season, his offense came together. To the tune of 32 points over a crucial 5 consecutive possessions. The offense was creative. It was cerebral. It had variety. It was productive. Even in makeshift form, the results were splendid. Props to you, Mike McCarthy.
* While the team scored points, it didn't play exceptionally well. There were flaws. But, for the first time in a long while, there was camaraderie. A bit of the "One mind. One purpose. One heart. One goal." type mentality seemed to exist. You know, XLV-style. There was togetherness. There was teamship. From the eye test, the team appeared to be having fun. That was entertainment to my amateur eye.
* Aaron Rodgers completed 58% of his passes. He threw for 210 yards. He averaged 5.8 yards per attempt. And, that, my fellow Packer friends, is exactly why I don't live and die by the box score anymore. While Rodgers wasn't overly dominant, he was efficient. He wasn't a precise as we've seen him in years past, but he was in control. He commanded the line of scrimmage. He connected on important third down plays. He led TD drives of 80, 60, 80 and 76 yards. He wasn't the surgeon. Instead he was the engineer. And, the results offered hope for the future.
* It was great to see the ball in a number of different players hands. In the past, it was the norm for 7 different receivers to catch passes. But, that disappeared over the 2nd half of the season. Against Washington, 4 players carried the ball and 7 players caught passes. We used our weapons. We moved the ball effectively. We saw the results that we've been yearning to taste. It's important to spread the pig skin wealth.
* It was great to see the Packers defensive line riding high and applying pressure. Mike Neal with the vital strip-sack and recovery that turned the tide and gave the Packers the ball back as the Redskins threatened to extend their lead. Nick Perry was active with 2.5 sacks. Clay was a dictator with 1.5 sacks and multiple pressures. He was dangerous on the stunt. Peppers looked youthful with his 2 QB hits. On multiple occasions, Peppers was forcing Cousins to move off of his spot as Peppers got a push from the DT spot. Mike Daniels may not have been in an authority in the box score, he was a pursuant on the field. He consistently won the leverage battle and collapsed the pocket. BJ Raji displayed great quickness. His excitement along the line caused all kinds of issues for the interior of the Redskins OL.
* Another game in which YELLOW JAKE showed he can play in the NFL. Especially in the run game. He's showing first-class run stopping skills.
* Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward played their best football of the season. In fact, Hayward earned himself a pay check. Someone will watch Hayward's ball skills and tackling from the win over the Redskins and they'll overpay him. I doubt it'll be Green Bay that offers him the money, so he's likely gone. But, Hayward was straight-up balling on Sunday!
* Q-Rollins can tackle. In fact, he might be the best text book tackler on the team.
* Jeff Janis continues to shine on special teams.
* HaHa Clinton-Dix's high effort play to force DeSean Jackson out of bounds just shy of the goal line was an important play of the game. It slowed the Redskins momentum, while the Packers offense figured out how to attack the Redskins defense.
* It was nice to see Letroy Guion getting a push into the offensive backfield. That hasn't happened much in the 2015 season.
* JC Tretter might've saved the Packers season. It's been a struggle to find replacements at Tackle on the OL. After a rough first quarter, Tretter was up for the challenge. He wasn't forceful, but he was impressive over the last three quarters. Highly versatile player.
* Liked seeing Abby in the slot and Cobb on the outside. With Abby on the field, McCarthy has options as a play caller in the no-huddle. He can shift Cobb to the outside or move him to the backfield. He can create confusion for the defense. Abby's presence also gives Rodgers the ability to adjust at the line of scrimmage. It seems as though the Packers can play faster at the line of scrimmage - due to their versatility and options - when Abby is on the field. I'd like to see Abby roll into the backfield and to see him on a swing pass. Much like we saw Ty Montgomery earlier in the year. I'd imagine that's the next dimension of those packages.
* We saw Jeff Janis line up in the slot. Nothing came of it. But, I have to wonder if there's a deep ball coming to Janis out of the slot. Maybe on a wheel route. One in which he's lined up against a 2nd tier DB who lacks the speed that Janis offers. Might be a big play coming out of that formation. McCarthy has been known to hide formations for key situations. Look for a play in which Janis runs a wheel route out of the slot. I'd think he'd be in man-coverage. With little emphasis. I picture Janis lined up in the slot to the right. Jones to the outside of him. Jones runs a quick slant that acts as a mini pick. Janis wheels around him up the sideline. And, then he uses his speed. If I were McCarthy, I'd design the play.
* Sad to see AQ81 out for the year. Hoping Perillo gets a shot to move chains. Sitting down just across the first-down stick on little curl routes. Have to play the chains this week.
* I've wondered if Kennard Backman would make a play down the seam this year. Maybe on play-action. No one would be prepared for it. It could be a wrinkle to throw in this week. And, it would not take genius creativity to design it. A simple go route. Backman lined up tight to Bakhtiari on the left side of the line. He's on the short side of the field. Fake the draw to Lacy to the strong side of the field. Look for Backman streaking. Could find a nice gain.
* Randall Cobb touched the ball 8 times. That's a winning formula.
* Just when Davante Adams looked to be ready to make an impact on the 2015 Season, he goes down with a fluke injury. Bummer.
* Aaron Rodgers and James Jones were in lock-step with one another. Fun to watch.
* We saw Aaron Rodgers smile. Yes, it happened. I DVR'd the game. I watched the game a 2nd time. It really occurred. It was pretty cool.
* The Packers were struggling. Looking poorly. Down 11-0. I opened a Boulevard Love Child #4. There needed to be more love. Additionally, we all gave Family Hugs. An offensive onslaught ensued. Believe in the Family Hugs. When in doubt, hug a family member. Forever.
* There was a Green 'n Yellow Bumblebee and Green 'n Yellow Hornet connection for the first time in what seems like a season. Both Starks and Lacy were impactful. Both were found in the end zone. Both were determined. Both were consistently grabbing plus yardage.
* I'm happy Robertson Daniel is on the Packers roster. He's a long, active DB. He can run. But, I hope he's not needed this weekend. Really hoping Sammy Swagga and Q-Rollins are fit to go. The fact that he's activated has me concerned about the availability of both Sammy and Rollins.
This week - it's the Cardinals. In Arizona. The same place in which the Packers were absolutely destroyed in Week 16. In the last match-up, the Packers were fully dominated. They were banged up on the OL. They had no answer for Freeney or Calais Campbell. Campbell and Freeney punished the Packers. Early and often. It became a blood bath. The Packers were demolished. The same won't apply in the playoffs.
The Cardinals took advantage of a depleted Packers OL in the previous meeting. But, this week, it appears as though the Packers OL will be healthier than it's been since mid-season. It sounds as if the entire OL has at least had limited participation most of the week. I'm hoping this leads to a better rhythm. A unit that is in-sync. I'm envisioning an OL that wins the point of attack. An OL with continuity. And togetherness. An OL that dominates the Cardinals secondary. While the Cardinals defensive front is talented, they aren't nearly as good as they were in our previous match-up.
Expect the Packers to establish the run early. Expect the Packers to pound away at the Cardinals DL. An abundance of Lacy. The Packers will move the Cardinals DL backwards. Lacy will cut forward and grab yards. In chunks. He'll keep the chains moving. If the Packers try to run the ball laterally, it won't work. Instead, they attack the Cardinals right between the tackles.
Defensively, it's beyond important for the Packers to win the line of scrimmage. They have to get Carson Palmer off his spot. Palmer can't move. They need to see Palmer move. They need to hit Palmer. Let Palmer know that we came to play. The Packers have to be more physical than the Cardinals on the interior of the line. I love seeing Peppers and Clay lined up next to each other. With Clay stunting to the inside. If Capers designs the same again this week, Clay will intimidate Palmer. He'll force a mistake. On the backside, it's Neal or Perry coming on speed rushes with Daniels collapsing. The Packers have to live in Carson Palmer's face.
The Cardinals have a number of offensive weapons. I'd argue that they have more talent at the skill positions than any offense in the league. David Johnson exposed YELLOW JAKE in the first match-up. YELLOW JAKE is going to have play tougher and quicker than he did the last time we matched up. Larry Fitzgerald is a match-up nightmare for the Packers in the slot. If Sammy Swagga can't play, the Packers don't have anyone that can match the speed of John Brown. The Packers had no answer for Michael Floyd in the first contest.
In order for the Packers to slow down the Cardinals offense, they're going to have to play two-deep safety to prevent the 15-20 yard routes. They need to congest the secondary past the marker. Force Carson Palmer to be patient. They need to make Palmer stick to the underneath routes. I doubt Palmer will stay disciplined. And, eventually, while rushing 4, the Packers will get pressure on Palmer. They'll force the mistake. But, the Packers have to prevent the big plays deep down the field. Make the Cardinals be methodical in their approach. Trust that we can get pressure with 4 rotating DL. And, an occasional 5th man coming on the blitz. If the Cardinals are attacking deep down the field with even moderate success, it could be a long day for the Packers defense.
Mike McCarthy is going to have to be aggressive. The Packers are going to need to create two additional possessions in order to win. They can come via turnovers, fake punts, fake FG's, or onside kicks. Somehow, someway, the Packers have to generate two possessions in this game. Ideally, they'll come through Carson Palmer mistakes. But, if not, McCarthy has to be aggressive in taking chances.
The Packers play no-huddle offense. They try to keep the Cardinals personnel on the field in an attempt to wear the down. They strive to find a free play or two. Rodgers succeeds and finds a big play down the sideline to Jones, who, once again, is rockin' a hoodie. Ever the fashion warrior, Jones shows that he's eager to continue his playing career in Green Bay. Jones tops 80 yards and scores a TD.
Rodgers is in control. He moves the offense with intent. He's on point.
Whoever gets the ball last, wins. Thankfully, the Good Lord is shining his Light on the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers delivers. He gets the Packers into FG range. Crosby connects.
Go Pack Go!