A few thoughts on Ahman Green’s induction into the Packers Hall of Fame and this weekend’s game in Dallas.
A few thoughts on Ahman Green’s induction into the Packers Hall of Fame and this weekend’s game in Dallas.
I was all set to watch the Packers and Falcons and do a full recap on Sunday, but then everyone in the world forgot how to drive in the snow and I had to go in to work and remind them. When I finally got home, I was dog tired and made the executive decision to leave the Packers game in the DVR until after work on Monday.
Now that I’ve finally gotten a chance to watch the game, here are five quick, random thoughts as the Packers come off their first win in more than a month.
1. I love Eddie Lacy’s feet. Strange though this may sound, I think the strength of Eddie Lacy’s game is his quick, light feet. His quickness allows him to set up blocks easily, and we all know what he can do once he turns on the power. His final yardage totals Sunday were nothing impressive, but he got consistent yardage early when the passing game wasn’t slicing off big plays.
2. Jordy Nelson is a bona fide star. Even with Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines for the better part of six weeks now, Jordy has barely missed a beat. With two more catches, he’ll set a new career high, and if it weren’t for a dud of a game on Thanksgiving, he’d be closing in on a career high for yardage as well. Though he only had four catches on Sunday, he made the most of his opportunities, racking up 85 yards. If he wasn’t around, the Packers would have been in serious trouble during their Rodgers-less stretch.
3. The defense can play…sometimes. The play of the defense has been frustrating all year, but perhaps the most frustrating part is that we saw them play well for a few games at the beginning of the year. Then the bottom fell out and the defensive collapse was swift and thorough. On Sunday, though, they got stops regularly, shutting the Falcons out in the second half and turning them away in a timely manner late in the game. You can see there is talent there (and you can also see that the Falcons are truly pathetic), but you can also see how rarely it seems to rise to the top. Frustrating.
4. I want to see more of Sean Richardson. In all honesty, anybody who says they know something about Sean Richardson is probably lying. Other than a handful of defensive snaps, we’ve really barely seen him. But the physical dimensions are intriguing. At 6’2″ and 218 pounds, he’s by far bigger than any of the Packers other safeties. His physical gifts alone merit more attention, and hopefully we get it.
5. I am not yet a believer. The talk was fast and furious after the Packers win and the Lions loss. The Pack is back! Only a half game out of first! Rodgers is coming back! It’s just like 2010! Stop it. Don’t delude yourselves. The Packers had a top five defense that year, were churning out points offensively late in the season, and could legitimately come up with a stop against a big-time team when they needed it. None of those things describe the Packers this year. Even if they were to rally and make the playoffs, chances are good the result would be another first or second round thrashing rather than a deep run. Don’t believe the hype.
At least not yet.
Brett Favre recently became a champion again, winning a high school football state championship Friday night…and he looked like a hobo doing it. No seriously:
Here’s another look at Favre’s amazing beardly skills.
I guess when you’re a multimillionaire former star athlete, you can do whatever you want. As a person who recently embraced his own facial hair powers, I fully approve of this move.
Speaking of things I can approve wholeheartedly, I also recommend this excellent picture of Brett Favre taking batting practice as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers:
So much yes.
Once upon a time, the Packers and Falcons were the foremost contenders in the NFC North. The year was 2010 (or technically, 2011…the season was 2010) and the Packers were headed to Atlanta to take on the high flying Falcons offense. Of course, you know the story from here. The Packers offense exploded, Tramon Williams ran back an interception, and the Packers beat Atlanta the worst it’s been beaten since William Tecumseh Sherman was in the neighborhood.
Though the Packers gained the upper hand that day, it seemed like the seeds of a rivalry had been planted. Both teams seemed destined to return to the playoffs again and again, and they’d almost surely meet each other at least once more, if not in the Georgia Dome, surely at Lambeau Field.
In 2013, the story is a little different. The Packers and Falcons may meet again in January…but only if they agree to meet at a bar for drinks while other teams are playing in the playoffs, because neither of them will be making any noise in the NFL’s second season.
The reasons for both teams’ decline are pretty similar: injuries, shoddy defense, and rapid ascension by competitors have edged both Green Bay and Atlanta out of the playoff picture for the time being. Atlanta is already officially eliminated, and Green Bay is headed there very soon.
Of course, the teams are still required to show up for Sunday’s game (I think…what would happen if they didn’t?), and regardless of whether or not anybody else is paying attention, a game of some kind will still take place, someone will win, and someone will continue their habit of losing.
How far we’ve fallen.
5 - Receiving touchdowns for ageless wonder Tony Gonzalez. It’s the eighth consecutive season in which he’s had at least five touchdowns and the 14th time in his unbelievable 17 year career. If you ever want to be amazed at somebody’s stats, go look at what Gonzalez has done and how consistently he’s done it. If it weren’t for his two touchdown season in 2005, Gonzalez would have FIFTEEN consecutive years of five touchdowns or more. Some guys don’t score fifteen touchdowns in their entire career! He’s truly amazing and I kick myself every time I remember that the Packers all but had him.
4 - Packers players with four or more sacks. Say what you will about the defense, but the pass rush hasn’t been half bad. Wildly inconsistent? No doubt. Productive? Yes. On top of that, Datone Jones, Mike Neal, and Brad Jones only need one more sack each to reach the four sack plateau. If nothing else, the days of Clay Matthews being the lone pass rushing machine seem to be over.
3 - Games in which Jarrett Boykin has played, but been held without a reception, the most recent of which came against the Lions last week. I know the Packers offense was all kinds of lousy last week, but it’s legitimately surprising to see Boykind held without a catch. He’s performed quite admirably since the Packers’ tidal wave of injuries began to crest. Hopefully he bounces back Sunday.
2 - Rushing touchdowns by Falcons running back Steven Jackson in last week’s win over the Buffalo Bills. To say that Jackson has been a disappointment for the Falcons this season is like saying water is wet. He signed a three year, $12 million contract this offseason, and for their investment the Falcons have received 339 rushing yards, 128 receiving yards, and four touchdowns all together. However, Jackson has been much healthier recently, and he’s topped 60 yards in his last two games. Perhaps a meeting with a soft Packers front is just what the doctor ordered.
1 - Atlanta Falcons with more than one interception: rookie Robert Alford. The Falcons only have six interceptions on the season, so apparently the have nearly as much trouble catching picks as the Packers, who have only managed six as well. That said, at least one of Atlanta’s interceptions was pretty spectacular. Catch out this grab by the aforementioned Mr. Albert:
Last Time – Packers: 25 Falcons: 14 – October 9, 2011
Despite falling behind early, the Packers rallied for a nine point win, sparked by a 70 yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to James Jones. It was a tough, hard fought win in a season that featured plenty of blowouts by the Packers.
Meet a Falcon – Roddy White – 6’0″, 211 lbs – WR – 9th NFL Season
“Rowdy” Roddy White has been one of the more productive wide receivers for the past seven seasons or so. This year, hampered by injuries, White has been significantly less dangerous, but that may not matter against a porous Green Bay secondary. White isn’t particularly big and he may not be as fast as he could be if he was at full strength, but he’ll certainly be a handful.
(Warning: explicit language)
The Falcons will win if…
…they manage to somehow avoid scoring less points than the Packers, which would seem like a serious challenge given how poorly the Packers offense has been playing and how little interest the Packers defense seems to have in slowing down opposing teams.
The Packers will win if…
…the can force turnovers like they did last week, but score points like they have an offense that can actually score points, which I’m not sure is a thing that they actually have. Hooray, 2013!
The Pick: Falcons: 28 Packers: 17
I have no confidence that the Packers can actually score enough points to play a competitive game any more. The Falcons have been bad, but the Packers are basically giving points away on defense. As inept as the Falcons have been, they can’t be bad enough to avoid outscoring the Packers.
Tweet of the Week
Jerel Worthy gives the most confusing inspirational quote ever.
Life is but a beach chair. So why stress it. Live it. Embrace it. Dominate it. Want it. Get it. Dream it. Then never let IT go!—
Big Cheese (@I_AM_Worthy99) December 02, 2013
Join us on the audio journey that is the 13th episode of The Packer Perspective Podcast!
Have you worked your negativity over the Packers 40-10 drubbing at the hands of the Lions out of your system yet? Yeah, neither have I, but instead of once again declaring the season over, it’s time for a little positive reassurance.
Make no mistake, though. This season is over. It just is. Whether the Packers shut Aaron Rodgers down for the year or he comes back for next week’s game, the Packers’ flaws run too deep to make any serious run at a championship this year. Even if he were under center every game for the rest of the year, Rodgers’ presence would likely just lead to prettier, closer losses. And say Green Bay was to make the playoffs. With a defense as dysfunctional as the Packers possess, it’s far more likely we’d see something like the 2011 defeat at the hands of the Giants or last year’s one sided affair in San Francisco than the championship run in 2010.
But about that positive reassurance. There’s a team currently sitting near the top of the NFC standings that was in almost the Packers’ exact predicament a year ago. A team that you’ll see on prime time television tonight. A team with a recent Super Bowl win, a good offensive coach and a fantastically talented quarterback at the helm.
I’m talking about the New Orleans Saints.
Much like the 2011 Packers, the 2011 Saints were a wonder to behold. The offense was clicking, Drew Brees was putting up legendary numbers, and everything seemed ripe for a trip to the Super Bowl. But after losing an epic showdown with the 49ers in the NFC Divisional Round and enduring the fallout of the vastly over-punished Bountygate scandal, the Saints found themselves without head coach Sean Payton and basically rudderless heading into 2012.
New Orleans managed to squeak out a 7-9 record that year, a fairly respectable record given the circumstances. The defense, though, was anything but respectable, and it proved to be the main reason for the Saints’ demise. The 2012 Saints surrendered a whopping 28.4 points per game, good for 31st in the league and also ranked 31st in total passing defense and 32nd in rushing defense. Advanced stats might paint a less harsh picture, but the simple volume numbers portray the Saints as a sieve that year.
But their failure on the field brought the Saints a higher draft pick than they’d had in some time. After never drafting higher than 24th overall from 2010 to 2012, the Saints found themselves picking 15th overall in this year’s draft, and they used that spot to select Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, an instant starter who has recorded an interception, a sack, and 42 tackles in ten games so far.
The Saints also brought defensive coordinator Rob Ryan aboard, who has helped the defense regain the potency it had during the Saints’ 2009 Super Bowl run. Under Ryan, the Saints defense has jumped in just about every major ranking. As of last week (they’ve obviously not yet played this week), New Orleans was giving up just 17.8 points per game (good for 5th in the league) and ranked third and 15th in passing and rushing defense, respectively.
To top it all off, Sean Payton is back this year, and under his leadership the Saints seem better than ever. Where they end up remains to be seen, but New Orleans is clearly in a better place now than they were a year ago.
In a lot of ways, the Packers are a lot like the Saints. Coming off a reasonably successful year in which they ended their season with a loss to the 49ers, the Packers are without their most important leader (Aaron Rodgers, duh) and their defense is a shambles, surrendering 25.4 points per game (25th in the NFL) and finding themselves ranked 23rd in pass yardage and 27th in rushing yardage. The Packers of 2013 are in a very similar situation to the 2012 New Orleans Saints.
So can the Packers duplicate the Saints’ bounce back to relevance? It’s certainly possible.
If the season ended today, the Packers would pick 16th in the 2014 NFL Draft. If Aaron Rodgers is sidelined for much longer, it’s possible that they could pick even higher, although with five wins already it seems unlikely they’d pick any higher than about 10th overall. Still, plenty of difference makers can be had picking between 10 and 16. For a few examples, Carolina defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, Seattle defensive end Bruce Irvin, Houston defensive end J.J. Watt, Detroit defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Seattle safety Earl Thomas, and New York defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul were all drafted in that range. Clearly there’s talent in the top half of the draft, and that’s probably where the Packers will be picking.
In addition to a likely high draft pick, Aaron Rodgers will be back under center in 2014, provided he’s not brought back too early this year and hurts his collarbone again. But assuming he doesn’t, just having Rodgers back and at full strength makes the Packers a different team for reasons too obvious to merit an explanation.
The only remaining piece to a New Orleans-esque rejuvenation is a new defensive coordinator, and this is where things get sticky. Under Dom Capers, the defense has been undeniably bad in the second half of 2013. But early on, things looked pretty promising at the very least, and this team has obviously performed well under Capers in the past. It doesn’t stretch the imagination to see the Packers keeping him around. That said, I wonder if there needs to be a shake-up of some kind on the defensive side of the ball. Someone needs to be held accountable for the failures on defense, and that someone might just be Capers.
So as you watch the Saints tonight (if you’re privileged enough to have ESPN, that is), keep in mind where they were a year ago. There were dark days in New Orleans, too, but they showed that the road back doesn’t always have to be long and arduous.
After getting outgained almost 10-1 in yards, outscored 40-10, and generally walloped in every phase of the game, there’s no need for an in-depth recap. With six losses on their record, a passive defense, and an offense that is completely lost without its leader, the end of the Packers’ 2013 season is obviously at hand. It’s time to start seeing who wants to play for a job for next year.
Enjoy your holiday weekend. We’ll be back next week.
Though much has yet to be sorted out when it comes to this year’s playoff picture, there’s one thing I’m reasonably certain about: a 9-6-1 record won’t get the Packers into the playoffs.
Yep, stranger things have happened, like the Seahawks squeaking in at 7-9 a few years back, but that’s far and away the exception to the rule. To get in, you’ve got to win.
Of course, win is just about the only thing the Packers haven’t done since Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. They’ve switched quarterbacks, rotated offensive linemen, relied on practice squad receivers, done different things on defense, tried fake punts, switched quarterbacks again, ran Eddie Lacy about a million times, called to see if I wanted to play quarterback, and eventually just resorted to losing all the time except when they tie. It’s been a weird month.
Though Rodgers returned to practice this week on a limited basis, he’s not going to play Thursday, so to keep their ever dwindling playoff hopes alive, the Packers will have to win without him. It’s just one time, but they haven’t made it happen yet, and this may be their toughest test yet.
5 - Sacks by rookie defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, a prospect considered so raw around draft time that his own mother didn’t even know he couldn’t be drafted by more than one NFL team. Ansah’s five sacks represent a quarter of the Lions’ sack total this year, which is rather remarkable considering how highly regarded their defensive line is around the league. Still, even if the numbers aren’t spectacular for the rest of the members of the unit, Ansah and the rest of the defensive line remain very dangerous.
4 - Multi-touchdown games by Calvin Johnson, the Lions mega-super-ultra-star receiver. The Packers managed to avoid Johnson in their first meeting with the Lions this year, but there’s no such luck this time around. With Sam Shields recovering from a hamstring injury, it’ll be up to a rotating cast of defensive backs to slow Johnson down. Good luck with that.
3 - Games in which Packers wide receiver Jarrett Boykin has had six or more receptions. Boykin has been one of the Packers’ more pleasant surprises this year, stepping up big in the absence of Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley. He’s averaging 6.8 catches and 73.4 yards per game over the last seven weeks.
2 - Players currently on the Packers who have logged a kick return of longer than 20 yards. One of them (Johnathan Franklin) was recently sent to injured reserve with a concussion/neck injury. The other (Micah Hyde) was moved off kick returns last week while he nursed a groin injury. Franklin, of course, was injured in relief of Hyde, but all of this is just a footnote to my larger point: the Packers are really awful at returning kicks.
1 - Lions quarterbacks to attempt a pass this season, while the Packers have had four. Not long ago, it would have been much less shocking for the shoe to be on the other foot. Matthew Stafford has been all but durable in his relatively short NFL career, while the Packers obviously have a long legacy of quarterbacks hardly ever getting hurt. That’s obviously not the case this year, but the Lions and Packers are almost in the same boat record-wise. Still, I’d take the Lions’ quarterback situation over the Packers any day.
Last Time - Packers: 22 Lions: 9 – October 6, 2013
It seemed like everything was coming up the Packers way as they easily dispatched the Calvin Johnson-less Lions. Aaron Rodgers had a pedestrian 274 yards, but Eddie Lacy ran for 99 yards, Jermichael Finley had six catches, James Jones had a monster day (4 catches, 127 yards, 1 TD), Randall Cobb was a Swiss Army knife (4 catches, 35 yards; 2 rushes, 72 yards), and the Packers defense piled up five sacks, including two by the pre-injury version of Nick Perry. Life was good. Life…was good. Sigh.
Meet a Lion – Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah – 6’5″, 271 lbs – DE – 1st NFL Season
If you were making a modern defensive end, he’d look a lot like Ezekiel Ansah. He’s tall, but limber and explosive, much like Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants. Right now, he’s more of an athlete than a football player, but as we’ve already discussed, he’s been plenty effective. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to make use of his prodigious athleticism this week against either a hobbled Don Barclay or a full-strength Marshall Newhouse. I hope Matt Flynn makes it through the game with both collarbones intact.
The Lions will win if…
…they play to their potential in any way, shape, or form. Right now, the Lions should just be a better equipped team than the Packers. They’re dealing with far fewer injuries, match-up well with the Packers’ weak spots, and (perhaps most importantly) they have their starting quarterback under center. This should be a win for the Lions.
The Packers will win if…
…Mike McCarthy pulls some kind of magic out of his hat for what could likely be the Packers’ last stand of 2013. Much like the New England game in 2010, the Packers find themselves turning to Matt Flynn with their season on the brink, but unlike that game, their season will almost certainly be over if they can’t come away with a win. The Packers will need everything to break their way for this to be a game.
The Pick – Lions: 28 Packers: 17
I just don’t see a win in the cards. I hope I’m wrong. Yes, the Lions did lose to the hapless Buccaneers last week, but Tampa has been playing much better recently and aren’t nearly as decimated by injury as the Packers are. For all intents and purposes, this should be a walk in the park for the Lions.
Tweet of the Week
“Oh hey guys. Just sittin’ around with my trophy. No big.”
Congratulations. You are now a writer of sports. No doubt about it, Eddie Lacy has been great this season. But after a while, it gets difficult to sort between the fact and evolving legend of a player as young and as instantly successful as he’s been. I’ve heard him described in terms so reverent you’d think he was already posing for a bust in Canton, which is certainly an exaggeration. That said, I’ve also heard claims that he’s overrated and an injury waiting to happen and fat, so clearly you can’t believe everything you hear.
I’ve loved watching the young Mr. Lacy. I like just about everything about his game. But it’s frustrating sometimes to not know where he fits in the grand scheme of Packers running back history.
So I decided to fix that. Behold, a visualization of the last 30+ years of Packers running backs. In the above chart, I’ve graphed the touchdowns, yards per carry average, and yards per game aaverage for the Packers’ leading rusher each year dating back to 1980. I encourage you to click on the graph to get a better look at how the years compare. Here are a few takeaways.
So in light of the numbers, how best do we appreciate what Eddie Lacy is doing? In a simple statement, he’s already the second best running back the Packers have had in the last 30 years. Ahman Green did it bigger and more consistently, and that’s the ceiling Lacy will be challenged to reach. But he’s off to a good start, and he’s certainly been fun to watch.