Category Archives: 2011 Postseason

15

November

Packers Periscope: Week 11 vs. New York Giants

The Past: The two teams that always seem to cause the Packers trouble in the past couple years are the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants.  Packers fans obviously remember Brett Favre’s last pass as a Packer going to a Corey Webster in the NFC Championship game in 2008; Packers fans will also remember the Giants manhandling the Packers in the 2011 playoffs when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was surprising only average while the defense finally collapsed and lost the game for the team.

However the last meeting between these two teams was perhaps the most lopsided; the Giants won 38-10 in 2012 season again embarrassing the Packers.  Outside of one spectacular 61 yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson, Rodgers was largely ineffective, going 13 for 24 for 158 yards and an interception.  The running game didn’t do the offense many favors either, totaling 82 yards with a 3.7 ypc split between Alex Green, James Starks and John Kuhn.  The defense stuck to their “bend but don’t break” philosophy, but missing both Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews, allowed 3 Eli Manning touchdowns while the Giants running game ground the Packers down with 31 carries for 147 yards from Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown.

With the loss, the Packers fell to 2nd place in the NFC North while the Giants snapped a two game losing streak and got back into the NFC East playoff race.  However a loss to the resurgent Redskins (headed by rookie sensation Robert Griffin III) the next week followed by a loss against Baltimore in week 16 eliminated them the NFC East crown and a loss by the Lions to the Bears at the end of the regular season eliminated them from the playoffs all together.

During the offseason, multiple changes were made including the release of starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw and the notable drafting of right tackle Justin Pugh, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and quarterback Ryan Nassib.  Overall, the 2013 draft class has been disappointing of late, Pugh ranks 56th out of 76 eligible tackles, Hankins has played 74 snaps the entire season while Nassib still hasn’t supplanted Curtis Painter (yes, that Curtis Painter) as the backup quarterback.

---- Get AddToAny
24

March

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Forgive me, Packers fans, I’m about to stick up for the Chicago Bears.

(*The author pauses for a moment to put on his bullet-proof vest, change the locks on his home, and take a deep breath*)

I have no problem with the Bears one year, $2 million contract offer to Brian Urlacher. I’m actually insulted that Urlacher called the offer “insulting.”

Football is a business. Good teams make roster decisions not to reward once-great players or keep local heroes around to appease the fanbase. Football has been trying to teach us this lesson over and over again, but most people will never learn it, or simply refuse to even try to learn it.

Urlacher was a free agent for the first time in 13 seasons. He’ll be 35 years old in May and he missed the last month of the 2012 season with a hamstring injury.

In the 12 games that Urlacher did play, Pro Football Focus graded him out positively in only three of them. He finished with an overall season grade of -11.3. Pro Football Focus is not the be-all, end-all of player evaluation, but from what I saw of Urlacher in 2012, a -11.3 seemed generous. I thought he was slow and a shadow of his former self.

Does a $2 million contract offer for a once-great, but now aging player coming off an injury and likely on the downswing of his career really sound that insulting to you?

It doesn’t to me.

To be fair, there are two counter-arguments to this: 1) Urlacher’s leadership means a lot and is worth more than $2 million, and 2) the Bears have next to nothing at middle linebacker now that Urlacher is gone.

I don’t know how much “leadership” is worth, especially for a player who is declining on the field. To me, not very much, but I’m not in an NFL locker room, so who knows?

Yes, it’s true that the Bears now have next to nothing at middle linebacker, but that’s still not a good enough reason to overpay for an aging player. Draft a rookie to develop. Find a younger player who could do what Urlacher did for a fraction of the price. Sign Brad Jones.

24

November

Packers Young Secondary Can Erase Bad Memories of Playoff Hail Mary

Casey Hayward

Packers rookie CB is leading a younger and more aggressive secondary.

I know your belly is still full of Thanksgiving turkey and you’re probably all excited that you managed to outlast the middled-aged lady next to you for that discounted Xbox at Wal-Mart on Black Friday.

If you can overcome your full stomach and pause your Xbox euphoria, take a minute and watch the video of the Packers allowing a Hail Mary touchdown to the Giants’ Hakeem Nicks before halftime in last season’s playoff loss.

Makes your full tummy feel more like the stomach flu, right?

Now, take another look at the play. Notice the four players around the ball when Nicks comes down with it? Not one of them will be on the field for this Sunday night’s rematch.

Charlie Peprah is off the team. Charles Woodson is injured. Sam Shields is injured. And Jarrett Bush mainly plays special teams (I suppose it’s conceiveable that Bush could end up out there, but hopefully not).

If Eli Manning launches another Hail Mary on Sunday, the players around the ball will likely be a combination of Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Morgan Burnett, Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings.

That group is a lot more aggressive than the group that stood there with their thumbs up their butts while Nix caught the ball in the playoffs.

Hell, Jennings has already intercepted a Hail Mary pass this season, even though it counted as a touchdown for the other team.

Sunday night is a big test for the new faces in this secondary. They’ve held their own agaisnt the likes of Sam Bradford, Blaine Gabbert, John Skelton and Matthew Stafford. But Manning, Nicks and Victor Cruz are on a completely different level that what this secondary has seen over the last six weeks.

If Hayward continues getting his hands on passes, House keeps using his size to his advantage, Burnett, McMillian and Jennings keep developing their nose for the ball and Tramon just does what Tramon does, I think this group will hold its own.

If all of that happens (and it’s a big if), and the Packers claw out another road win in November, the sky is the limit for this team.

At the very least, it’d be another step in erasing the image of Peprah, Woodson, Shields and Bush looking helpless on the playoff Hail Mary.

8

August

Packers Training Camp Rewind: RB Brandon Saine

Packers RB Brandon Saine

I could have easily titled this post “Brandon Saine: The New Brandon Jackson?” or “Brandon Saine Could Be Packers Third Down Back,” because that’s exactly what he’s shaping up to be. Though, in all fairness, I actually think he could be better than Jackson used to be.

Saine was picked up by the Green Bay Packers in 2011 as an undrafted rookie out of Ohio State. Though he was released in the final cuts, the Packers signed him to the practice squad, where he stayed until being promoted to the active roster halfway through the season. His first significant appearance came in the Thanksgiving Day showdown against the Detroit Lions, and Saine would later go on to see some significant playing time against the New York Giants and the Lions rematch.

According to ProFootballFocus.com, these are some of the stats for Saine in the seven games he appeared in:

Snaps 78
Run 19
Pass 38
Run Block 12
Pass Block 9
Run Attempts 19
Run Yards 72
Yds. / Attempt 3.8
Pass Targets 11
Receptions 10
Catch % 90.9%
Receiving Yards 69
Yds. / Reception 6.9
Yards After Catch 78
YAC / Reception 7.8
Touchdowns 0
QB Sacks 1
QB Hits 0
QB Hurries 0

 

When I went back to watch some of the game film from last year, I focused on Saine’s two prominent appearances: Week 13 vs. Giants and Week 17 vs. Lions. The thing to jump out at me first was his ability to pick up the blitz.

While there wasn’t a large sample size to work with in regards to pass protection, you have to enjoy seeing him crack the extra pass rusher like he did there. He meets the linebacker dead on, with good timing, and stays low to maintain leverage.

Side Note: The single sack allowed by Saine last season was in the Divisional Round of the playoffs against New York. It came in the fourth quarter against a fast edge rush by OLB Michael Boley that just so happened to get the better of James Starks earlier in the game on the same move and also for a sack. Not an excuse, but it is noteworthy.

19

June

Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers Still Haunted by Playoff Loss: Good or Bad?

Green Bay Packers Coach Mike McCarthy

Mike McCarthy

After flirting with a perfect regular season and entering the playoffs as the NFC’s top seed, not many expected the Packers to drop out of the playoffs in the manner that they did.

Coming into the playoff matchup with the New York Giants, it felt as if the Packers were locked in towards winning the second of back-to-back titles and it was just a matter of playing out the games.

The crashing down caused significant heartache, disappointment, and regret of a missed opportunity. For many, those feelings have not subsided yet. After reading Albert Breer’s article for NFL.com, we can add head coach Mike McCarthy to that list of people.

In speaking with Breer, McCarthy admitted he wasn’t over the playoff loss and that “it’ll always bother [him].” McCarthy continued, “That’s the thing that kicks me around at night: Did I do the right thing the Giants week? Is there something I could’ve done differently with our team? That’s what you learn from.”

While McCarthy admitted the playoff loss still bothers him, Aaron Rodgers said he was able to move past that game. Graham Harrell begs to defer.

“He starts to get worked up,” Harrell told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He starts mumbling under his breath whenever he sees stuff about how close we were. At times, he says, ‘God, we played so bad.’ It just eats at him.”

From the perspective of fans, it’s definitely a good thing that McCarthy and Rodgers are still upset about the loss. This Packers team is made up of guys who have dealt with rejection, being overlooked, or whatever the case maybe.

Just look at “America’s Game: 2010 Green Bay Packers” and the stories of Aaron Rodgers being overlooked, Clay Matthews having to fight as a walk-on at USC, and McCarthy paying his dues by slowly working his way up the coaching ranks. Add in Donald Driver’s experience growing up in poverty and being a seventh round draft pick. All these individuals used the painful experiences and memories as motivation, to fuel their fires and reach the top level.

Coming off the Super Bowl win in 2010, these individuals had to find new motivations. The majority of the year, it wasn’t a problem as the Packers cruised to 15 wins, one more win than they accumulated in 2010 during the regular season and playoffs.

13

June

Did Too Much Toughness Backfire on Tramon Williams Last Season?

Maybe being so tough backfired on Tramon Williams last season.

If you haven’t read Tyler Dunne’s story on Packers CB Tramon Williams and his injured shoulder in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, take a few minutes and check it out.

Williams sounds like a tough guy, doesn’t he? Sounds like the type of guy that would fit in just as well in the Vince Lombardi era as he does in the Mike McCarthy era. From Dunne’s story:

 

 “His shoulder was torn, strained, bruised – and worst of all – Williams suffered nerve damage. That nerve damage zapped Williams’ aggressiveness and his play suffered.”

 

You can’t question Williams’ toughness, but is too much toughness a bad thing?

After a breakout season in 2010 earned him a new contract, Williams was terrible in 2011. The lack of a pass rush and overall ineptitude of the defense didn’t help, but there’s no sugar-coating the fact that Williams got torched way too often.

It sounds like Williams’ injured shoulder changed how he played and probably was to blame for at least a few of those torchings.

The injury also meant that Williams couldn’t press cover. When teammates were in the area of the ballcarrier, Williams avoided contact as much as possible, letting other players make tackles (or miss them). He also stayed away from pile-ups.

Now Williams is saying that the shoulder still bothers him and he might not be back to 100 percent before training camp.

Yikes.

As I write this, I’m sitting on my deck, enjoying a glass of water after my bike ride home from work (I’m also avoiding grocery shopping until my wife gets mad and orders me to go). In other words, I am in no position to judge whether an NFL cornerback is fit to play or not.

But the question has to be asked: What was gained by having an injured Williams take the field over and over again? Was a one-armed Williams really a better option than a healthy Davon House, Jarrett Bush or Pat Lee?

Yes, House is unproven and Bush and Lee make us wince whenever they run on the field, but Williams was in their shoes at one point, too. At the very least, Williams should have sat out the regular season finale where he was abused by Calvin Johnson and “was in visible pain in the locker room” after the game.

1

June

2011 Packers 15-1 Record Didn’t Match The Team’s GPA

 

Packers Report Card
The 2011 Packers GPA didn’t match their 15-1 record.

I know the draft is over and OTAs are in full swing, but I need to revisit last season for a minute. If we judged the 2011 Packers the same way professors judge college students, what would be the Packers final grade point average?

Let’s go to the report card.

Offense: A
Aaron Rodgers was the MVP and the Packers scored whenever they needed to. This would have been an A+ if not for the sputtering performance in the playoff loss to the Giants.

Special Teams: B+
Mason Crosby had a career season and Randall Cobb took a couple kicks back for touchdowns. There were also very few moments where special teams coverage made me want to put my wife up in a hotel for the evening so I could destroy the house and go on a drunken rampage.

Defense: D-
No pass rush. Poor tackling. Giving up a ton of big plays. The only thing that prevented an F were forcing turnovers and doing a somewhat decent job of keeping teams out of the end zone at the end of drives (at least early in the season).

Grade Point Average: 2.67

Conclusion
An ‘A,’ a ‘B-plus,’ and a ‘D-minus.’ That doesn’t look so bad. Yes, the poor grade on defense stands out, but it’s not hard to envision a team with an ‘A’ offense and a ‘B-plus’ special teams going 15-1. The D-minus on defense really drags down the GPA, though. If I had told you that the 2011 Packers would have a GPA of 2.67, would you have guessed that they would finish 15-1?

Probably not.

Maybe if I have some time later this summer, I’ll run similar studies for the most dominant regular-season teams of the past 10 years and see where their GPAs end up. For now, I did a quick study of the last team to finish 15-1 in the NFC North: The 1998 Minnesota Vikings with a young Randy Moss, rejuvenated Randall Cunningham and an active defense led by the chicken-chasing John Randle.

I gave the ’98 Vikes an ‘A’ on offense, a ‘B-minus’ on defense and an ‘A-minus’ on special teams. That’s a 3.47 GPA.

Now, back to last season’s Packers. Let’s break down the team in specific position groups and see how the overall GPA changes.