Previewing the Green Bay Packers vs. the Adrian Petersons

No disrespect to the Minnesota Vikings who are one of the better stories in the NFL and NFC North particularly. Still they are without their best receiver in Percy Harvin and are riding a very young and inexperienced quarterback in Christian Ponder.

The one thing the Vikings (6-5) do have is Adrian Peterson who has miraculously come back from a nasty knee injury to put up MVP-like numbers. Peterson will have to top that miracle to beat the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in a game they absolutely need to stay pace with the Chicago Bears. If the Packers (7-4) don’t beat Minnesota, it will inevitably be panic time in Wisconsin. [Read more…]

Chargers topple the Packers in a sloppy match-up; Preseason Notes and Links

Football has finally arrived, at least sort-of. In one of the first preseason match-ups of the year, turnovers were the name of the game as the San Diego Chargers and Green Bay Packers combined for seven of them. Don’t be fooled into thinking the scrubs were at fault either because star quarterbacks Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers had three of them.

Despite making a comeback in the third quarter, the Packers fell just short to the Chargers by the score of 21-13.

Follow the jump to find some notes and links regarding the winners and losers on the Packers roster. [Read more…]

Green Bay reeks of desperation, an improving defense, and the year 2004

PACKERS TAUSCHER

By Jake McCormick

Have you ever been disappointed in a 26-0 shutout before last weekend? Better yet, has the Packer offense ever been the lighter fluid doused on your fires of frustration in those seemingly lopsided wins? Lost in Mike McCarthy’s inept playcalling in the red zone, a broken condom of an offensive line, and a lack of a consistent running game is the fact that the Green Bay defense has quietly made steady improvements and now ranks in the top 10 in the league in many statistical categories. Sure it’s early in the season and the Packers have played a mostly mediocre schedule, but do I need to remind you of last season’s defense under Bob Sanders? More predictable than a James Bond movie.

The Packer defense is currently ranked 10th in points per game (18.6), 8th in yards per game (298), 10th in passing yards per game (192.6), 16th in rushing yards per game (105.4), and 3rd in interceptions (10). They outrank the Minnesota Vikings in all of these categories except rushing yards per game, sacks, and forced fumbles. And the Packer offense deserves some credit for making the defense look good, as they have managed to limit their turnovers to two fumbles and interceptions apiece to make sure the defense’s turnovers are not in vain.

Lions Packers FootballI’m not saying the Packer defense is on par with the Vikings’, but it has taken steps forward to get to that point against nearly identical opponents. This weekend’s game features the Cleveland Browns on the opposite side of the field, who have many players with the LeBron flu and many more that play like they do. The Packers have a second straight chance to strengthen their defensive chemistry against a lesser team before facing the meat part of their schedule against the Ravens, Vikings, and Steelers.

The possibility that the Packer defense may win the team games as the offense continues to find itself is definitely a new feeling for Packer fans. Clearly the offensive line has problems everywhere, Rodgers has problems getting rid of the ball because he always hears footsteps, and the running game is so 2008. This of course has led to some desperate measures by Packer management in the form of free agency. Green Bay is rivaling New England in blast from the past free agent pickups. Unlike in New England, new Packers Ahman Green and Mark Tauscher actually have expectations to be regular contributors. Considering Ahman Green’s best days are seemingly behind him and Tauscher is coming off of knee surgery, it’s interesting to hear McCarthy and Ted Thompson changing their tones towards picking up veterans.

For all we know, Tauscher could be everything he was before last December’s knee injury, and Green could have a little bit of fumes left in his injury-proned tank. But wouldn’t these midseason problems have been alleviated if the team was more active under this philosophy during the offseason? Maybe McCarthy and Thompson have seen the light and understand that a free agent that will guarantee you some veteran level of production may be better than giving an annual baptism by fire to younger players. And maybe this is a way to cover their asses for free agent impotency. Either way, I hope it works.

Using the Kubler Ross stages of grief to cope with the Packers’ Week 2 loss

Can you believe Lamar Odom had five sacks?

Can you believe Lamar Odom had five sacks?

By Jake McCormick

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.

That’s how I dealt with the Green Bay Packers’ pitiful loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that rightfully deserves a reality show and is a lot like the villains in any James Bond movie. SPECTRE or any other bad guy looks like an upgrade over the previous movie, but the end results are the same.

Denial: Bolting up from my barstool in downtown Milwaukee, not caring that I had left delicious onion rings and half a beer at my seat, I ran outside and did my best Revenge of the Sith Darth Vader Frankenstein impression, screaming to the skies “NOOOOOOOO!!!!” It became evident in about the middle of the third quarter that the Packers would not win the game, but I tried convincing myself otherwise until Ed Hochuli flexed his referee muscles.

Anger: Between the Packer crapfest, some douche 49er fan running up and down the rows in the bar every time Cincinnati did something and a Viking fan that yelled “Percy!” every time Percy Harvin touched the ball, I was poised to rip the Marquette University “McCormick Hall” sign from its post a few blocks from my house. I figured at least I would have something cool with my name on it instead of the usual bar fight story or broken parking meter. I also proceeded to drop F-bombs like George Carlin, and really was tempted to drive up to Green Bay and hand every member of the offensive line a broken bicycle to ride to practice at the start of the week.

Bargaining: This one was very short lived, seeing as I don’t pray and I refuse to believe God cares about sporting events. Why bother when it’s only Week 2 and every other person in the world is praying for something on His day off?

Depression: This one set in pretty quickly once I got home. I felt like I had a bad day at work (Which, technically, I did), and had seven days to think about it. I’m pretty sure my depression after a Packer game is like a woman’s depression after watching the last episode of Sex in the City.

Acceptance: Thank god this came to me Sunday night, and without severe detrimental effects to my relationships with my girlfriend, friends, and family. It is only Week 2, the Bengals do have a good offense, and the Packers have been drinking their own Kool-Aid. At this point, it’s a good thing they get their balls tugged out through their anus by a lesser team; hopefully it’ll be a big kick in the jaw early on instead of down the road. Build off of this, teach the offensive line how to block, and move on to preparing for St. Louis. And if the team that played the Bengals shows up in two weeks, we will be slaughtered and hung to dry. Hopefully I’ll be blacked out if that happens.

Here are my positional grades, and as you’ll note, they are much more cynical and tough than last week’s:

Quarterback

I seriously couldn't find a photo from this game where Rodgers wasn't being dragged down from behind.

I seriously couldn't find a photo from this game where Rodgers wasn't being dragged down from behind.

This is the best grade I’m going to give, because Aaron Rodgers’ lack of success was pretty much determined by his porous offensive line. Rodgers was taking hit after hit, but failed to make a big mistake other than take sacks. If you don’t have enough time, just limit the turnovers, and I would prefer that to what a former Green Bay quarterback would’ve done in those situations.

Grade: B

Running back
When the quarterback has three less rushing yards than your starting running back (43 to 46) and only carried the ball four times, you have the typical Packer running game. Ryan Grant has shown he can push a pile if needed, but still has yet to break a run that isn’t called back by a holding penalty. Grant claimed he is more prepared than ever for the position, but talk is cheap, in the words of Tom Brady. Sure the offensive line sucks, but good running backs create something out of nothing and HOLD ONTO THE BALL. I haven’t seen that yet this year.

Grade: C

Receiving corps
Donald Driver was Rodgers’ favorite target against Cincinnati, but Greg Jennings could’ve been replaced with Brett Swain and we wouldn’t have known the difference. Jennings was a non-factor all game, and I’m still trying to figure out why. The Bengal secondary isn’t filled with shutdown corners. It’s good that the ball was dropped considerably less than against the Bears and Driver got into a rhythm, but Jennings needs to get the ball when the team needs its playmakers the most.

Grade: C+

Offensive lineBengals Packers Football
Easily, EASILY the biggest problem spot in the team. Of course, you can’t win games if the quarterback is pulling a Jim Everett every play, nor if the line has fewer holes than a condom. Allen Barbre wasn’t the big problem, and that’s a problem. Chad Clifton was knocked out of the game and Daryn Colledge slid over to take his place in the third quarter, but neither player did their job (Paging Mark Tauscher…you’re needed on a crappy line). With 10 sacks given up already, Rodgers will not live through another full season of the line doesn’t remember that pass protection is a requirement for employment.

Grade: F–

Defensive line
Typical Packer defense. After shutting down a very good Chicago running back in Week 1, they sleepwalk against a castoff Bear with drug problems. Cedric Benson is NOT an elite running back, nor is he even a starter in most fantasy leagues, but somehow he gained 141 yards on 29 carries. Giving up a guaranteed 4-5 yards on a play is not a victory for the defense, and no matter what, YOU DO NOT LET AN OFFENSE CONVERT ON A 3RD AND 34!! Was Mike Sherman on the sidelines again, or what? That was the worst mental mistake of the game, and that goes for the entire defense.

Grade: D+

Linebackers
3rd and 34. It’s not that hard to stop, really. Especially when inside their 20 yard line. Either way, the linebackers were kept silent most of the game, and other than a Clay Matthews sack, looked like they were going through scout team drills. This is a deep group of players, but someone needs to step up and Ray Lewis somebody. By that I mean hit someone hard. On the football field.

Grade: D+

Secondary

Is it ethical for the AP to remove the guy on the left's middle finger from the photo? I'm assuming so, because they did it.

Is it ethical for the AP to remove the guy on the left's middle finger from the photo? I'm assuming so, because they did it.

The top three tacklers were Charles Woodson, Nick Collins, and Aaron Rouse (who was just cut for an Italian guy names Matt Giordano. I think I bought a pizza from his restaurant once). I had a youth football coach who used to say that if the safties and corners don’t register a tackle all game, the defense did their job. Woodson continued to make big plays with his two interceptions, including one he took to the house, but when you give up big plays, those turnovers can be negated. Letting Chad Ochenta y Cinco get into the endzone is enough to get downgraded to a C level, and his subsequent pussification of the “Lambeau Leap” was just as bad. At least Fred Smoot had the balls to do it in a group of Packer fans. (Props to the guy who gave the bird to every camera photographing or filming the move, and CBS not censoring it. That ranks right up there in Lambeau Leap lore with the fat woman that was slapping William Henderson’s ass for about 10 minutes.)

Grade: C

Special Teams
Mason Crosby looks like he’s starting to hit a groove, making a clutch fourth quarter kick and executing a beautiful onside attempt that the Packers recovered. Jason Kapinos isn’t terrible either. But the coverage units gave up a combined 181 return yards. That in itself was the deciding factor in the game. You can give bad teams great field position all day, and they will find a way to score.

Grade: C-

I just keep telling myself there are 14 games left. After Week 2 last year, the Vikings were 0-2 and the Packers were 2-0. Look how the season ended. I’m not saying there’s a guaranteed reversal for either team, but to bet the farm when the season is still in its infancy would mean you’d probably be dead by Week 5. Let’s just hope the Packers got the memo about their extreme deficiencies on the offensive line.

Did the Packers seriously win a close game?

Greg Jennings

By Jake McCormick

Thanks to the preseason, the Green Bay Packers have suddenly turned into the Gonzaga of the NFL. Thanks to guys like Skip Bayless and Bill Simmons, both of which I am about as big a fan as gun-touting, toothless Wal-Mart patrons are to President Barack Obama, the Packers seem to be gaining steam as an underdog pick for the playoffs and Super Bowl. I don’t claim to be an expert of wordplay and semantics, but doesn’t that make you a favorite if everyone is talking about you?

There were plenty of these subliminal message at Lambeau.

There were plenty of these subliminal message at Lambeau.

Anyways, Green Bay’s 21-15 win over the Chicago Bears was a bigger game than just the continuation of sports’ longest rivalry if the Packers are going to even come close to those expectations. Although it was pretty sloppy throughout the first 50 minutes for both teams, the game certainly ended in a way we have not seen, as Packer fans, since before Terrell Owens’ illegitimate touchdown in the playoffs as time expired. I say illegitimate because Jerry Rice clearly fumbled a few plays earlier and instant replay was not adopted until the year after. It sounds like I’m harboring some sort of resentment, and I am. But I digress.

Now the Packers have to face the Cincinnati Bungals and St. Louis Hams before heading into their Week 4 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. Both teams should be 3-0 at that point, and the NFL will count its cash after the most watched regular season game in league history. That is, until Week 8. And given the reactions to Viking highlights during the game, there will be blood.

Instead of doing a weekly generic analysis of why the Packers won or lost, I’m going to grade out each side of the ball by individual unit and give the key plays that contributed to that grade.

Offense
Quarterback

He just looks like a kid out there!!

He just looks like a kid out there!!

Aaron Rodgers was tap dancing for most of the game from the surprisingly strong Bears pass rush. Although he was sacked for a safety, Rodgers had no turnovers and was generally on target. But whatever failures he did have, he TOTALLY REDEEMED HIMSELF by carrying the team when they needed it the most. Congratulations A-Rod; you’ve cemented yourself as the best overall quarterback in the NFC North by answering people’s biggest question about your game. But I did love the graphic that said his only two comeback wins were against the 0-16 Detroit Lions. What a confidence boost that was.

Grade – A-

Running Back
At least no one got hurt. That’s really the only big positive I can draw from this unit. Ryan Grant had a few flashes of his 2007 season, and was definitely impressive when he pushed the pile for his first touchdown of 2009. The Bears defense was an overall solid unit against the run throughout the game, and the Packers will have a much better opportunity to develop the ground game against the lesser Bengal defense this Sunday.

Grade: B-

Wide Receivers
For a receiving corps that is considered one of the best in the league, they must’ve forgot to wash their hands after all those McDonald’s angus burgers before the game. But the receivers came through when they had to, especially Greg Jennings, whose jersey sales should spike nationally by midseason. A funny sidenote to his game-winning 50-yard grab on the 3rd and 1 audible: after the play, he didn’t realize the team was going for two and Donald Driver had to grab him out of the stands to get into the huddle, only so he could catch the successful conversion attempt. The guy is a pure stud.

Grade: B

Offensive Line
I know Mark Tauscher, and you Allen Barbre, are no Mark Tauscher. The O-line was sloppy all game, giving up four sacks to the Bears and causing Rodgers to hurry his progressions. Even his game-winning pass to Jennings was a blown assignment. Coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged that the line play was the biggest problem throughout the game, although Barbre did improve in the second half after giving up two free fantasy point plays to Adewale Ogunleye.

Grade: C

Defense
Defensive Line

Who ever said Purple Drank and Vicodin slowed hand-eye coordination?

Who ever said Purple Drank and Vicodin slowed hand-eye coordination?

Good golly, Mr. Jolly, you made the second best defensive lineman interception in Packer history, only behind Gabe Wilkins’ 1996 pick and leap over Buccaneer quarterback Trent Dilfer for a touchdown. Cullen Jenkins was an absolute force throughout the game, and this unit that was inept in the 4-3 in 2008 helped catalyst Jay Cutler’s career-worst four interceptions. This was the biggest defensive question mark going into the game, and they straightened that punctuation mark out real quickly.

Grade: A

Linebackers
The best play from this unit came from a backup. Brandon Chillar leaping over running back Garrett Wolfe for a sack was “Chill”ingly awesome. LOL…get it? Aaron Kampman turned in a very good performance for his first stand-up start since college, and the rest of the corps did a great job shutting down a premier running back that was used far too sparingly. Then again, Matt Forte hasn’t played well since Week 12 of last year, but overall the Packer linebackers lived up to expectations.

Grade: A-

Secondary
Al HarrisThey had three interceptions, including Al Harris’ finger pointing clincher, but they gave too many big plays to guys that can run but are still learning how to catch a football. They finally shut down a good tight end in Greg Olsen, but they got some help from guys like Desmond Clark, who stopped running a few routes that could’ve resulted in Bear scores. They must not be used to having a quarterback that isn’t forced to throw the ball in the first three seconds of the snap. Big plays can be nullified by big turnovers, so I’m not going to complain about a unit riddled with playmakers.

Grade: B

Special Teams
Returners/Coverage
Jordy Nelson did a good job filling in for an injured Will Blackmon and gives me confidence in their depth. It wasn’t extremely flashy, but if you get at least one 40+ yard return in a game, you’ll get a touchdown every once in a while. The coverage and return units, led by rising linebacker Desmond Bishop, held Devin Hester in check, thwarted that bone-headed fake punt, and had some big hits to spring Nelson. But here’s a quick memo to Jordy: when defenders are five yards away, please fair catch the ball. Thank you.

Grade: B+

Kicker/Punter
Mason Crosby can kick the ball a mile, but has problems with his accuracy. He missed a 49-yard kick, but more than made up for it by booting a 52 yarder in the second quarter and 39-yard field goal that put the Packers ahead in the fourth. Punting was a real adventure in 2008, but Jason Kapinos did a good job, averaging 44.7 yards in six kicks, including a 58 yard jack. You can’t ask for much more out of both in a low-scoring, defense-dominated game.

Grade: B+

Coaching
Offense
The Packer offensive game plan was pretty stagnant, but once again a Dumb and Dumber reference applies here. I didn’t have any objections to the play-calling because the Bear defense definitely exceeded expectations and made some good plays, and I typically judge a coach’s ability in crunch time. In this case, Mike McCarthy outcoached Lovie Smith and called the right plays at the right times.

Grade: B+

Defense
Have I already spent too much time mentally masturbating Dom Capers? After Sunday night, no. The Packers executed more blitzes in the first two quarters than all of last year. They were physical, aggressive, and unpredictable. And this came from a unit that didn’t have the right personnel for the 3-4 system. As Terry Boers from 670 The Score out of Chicago put it: A team doesn’t need the right personnel for the 3-4 if they are smart enough for the scheme. I already called Capers the MVP move of the offseason, and even though it’s Week 1, the change in attitude is already apparent.

Grade: A

If the Packers can contain Chad Ochocinco, get the offense rolling early and defense playing just as aggressive against a Bengal team that couldn’t score against a lesser Denver defense that is also converting to the 3-4, Green Bay will be sitting in a much better position a week from today.