Monday, November 8, 2010

The Bucky Five: These Guys Deserve a Week Off

1. From Early November to Late August - Some people, including myself, worried before their game with the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night that the Packers might get caught up in a trap game. The Cowboys were coming to Lambeau with a very disappointing 1-6 record, but these Cowboys are a team that is still full of talent (as we so often hear) and they could easily pull off the upset. Thankfully, I was about as wrong as you could be. I was never concerned that we were going to lose this game, but I was worried that it might be another outing where the result doesn't come until the the last minute, as we've seen so often this season. Instead, the bye week came a bit early for Green Bay as starters were being rested in the fourth quarter. Such things will happen when you win 45-7. I have to admit, things got a bit surreal there when I was watching Matt Flynn throw a ball to Brett Swain, as it kind of reminded be of watching garbage time in a preseason contest. No complaints here though. This was the win that we as Packers fans have been waiting for all season, a game where we can just relax and enjoy the success that is Packers football. We sure did get that on Sunday night.

2. Give the Pack Some Credit, NBC - This was one of those games where I really should have hooked up the radio to correspond with the TV broadcast, because the play-by-play provided by NBC was terrible. I don't have anything against Al Michaels or Cris Collinsworth, but on Sunday night they did go a bit overboard (sidenote: Cris Collinsworth has become one of those guys that people just like to hate, because for some reason everyone else hates him as well. Sure, the guy is opinionated at times, but I really feel like he's one of the smarter minds in football. I have never had a problem with him, and I like the "big game feel" that he and Al provide week-to-week. Yet for some reason, Cris is just a guy that people love to trash on.) This was a broadcast that was tailored to the Cowboys struggles more than it was the Packers success. I'll talk about the specifics in a minute, but this was a game dominated by Green Bay from start to finish. Yet, they never got any of that credit. This game was more about the Cowboys losing then it was about the Packers winning.

I guess I get why that is though. The Packers improving to 6-3 isn't really a story. Everyone knows that the Packers are a good, competitive team, and if you polled people at the beginning of the season, a 6-3 record for Green Bay heading into the bye week would have probably been the average of what people would have predicted. But for the Dallas Cowboys, America's Team, to be 1-7? It's unfathomable. I get that, especially in a year where they had hopes of being the first team to participate in a Super Bowl that was being held in their home stadium. Plus, it's not like they are some random team that is under-performing. The Cowboys are a nationally beloved team. You don't get the moniker "America's Team" for nothing. So there is a lot of interest when a team this popular struggles.

The thing I find strange is why this team is so bad to begin with, and I think that adds to the allure, so to speak, of a 1-7 record. Other than Tony Romo, this team hasn't had to deal with injuries too much, and I appreciated when Al and Cris noted that if either team should be packing it in due to injuries it would have been Green Bay. That alone speaks volumes about what the Packers are doing this season with a depleted roster. But the Cowboys are a talented squad, and instead they are the ones that are inexplicably 1-7. Much of the blame is being pointed towards their head coach, Wade Phillips, and it seems like everyone that has a microphone on isn't just asking why he should be fired, but legitimately wants to see him get fired. But hey, the Cowboys can deal with all their problems all they want, I don't care. All I know is that one of those seven losses came at the hands of the Green Bay Packers, and that loss was a much needed win for the Pack as they stay atop of the NFC North and head into a much deserved week off.

3. We Might Have a Balanced Offense After All - Cowboys struggles or not, this seemed to be the most complete game the Packers have played all season. Al Michaels noted that Mike McCarthy's gameplan this week was to just keep things simple. If that was the case, let's dumb it down as much as possible if that execution is going to result in 38-point victories. The Packers put up 405 yards of total offense, and surprisngly 138 of it was on the ground. Nobody really stood out stat-wise, but if you watched the game you could easily recognize that the Packers now have at least somewhat of a running game. Yeah, this was against an unquestionably poor Dallas defense, but I'm going to call that irrelevant for argument's sake. Brandon Jackson had one hell of a game - 42 yards rushing, 26 yards receiving, and a touchdown both ways - and he looks a lot more comfortable in the staring gig than he did when he first took it over from the injured Ryan Grant. John Kuhn performed well again with 50 yards on the ground, and Aaron Rodgers scampered for 41 himself. This isn't a team that needs a 100 yard rusher every week, because if we can get performances from the backs like we did on Sunday, we'll be just fine.

The rushing performance went along with a great passing attack, and before I look at stats, let's give some credit to the offensive line. The entire unit played very well, giving up just the one sack but for the most part giving Aaron Rodgers plenty of time to make decisions in and out of the pocket. He turned those decisions into 289 yards passing with three scores. Jennings quietly had a big game and caught one of the touchdownss, James Jones had a huge night going over 120 yards (still had one tough drop, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt tonight), and Jordy Nelson played well to boot. Nearly 300 passing and 150 rushing? You're going to win a lot of games with those kind of numbers.

4. Nearly a Second Shutout - Other than a well-executed drive by the Cowboys to at least put some points on the board before half-time, the Packers were very close to their second shutout in consecutive weeks. Where to begin with such an incredible defensive performance though? I actually think the Packers played better defensively than they did last week against the Jets. Against New York, the Pack had a few dropped balls and a missed field goal that allowed them to keep their opponent scoreless, but against the Cowboys it was blitz after blitz, hit after hit (although Nick Collins will likely be suspended a game for his hit in the second half).

Blitzing Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews from the same side repeatedly is going to confuse even an above average quarterback, so it was no surprise that it scared the hell out of Jon Kitna. Matthews was the beneficiary of a strong blitz in the fourth quarter that lead to his interception for a touchdown, he also finished with a sack and two tackles for losses. Woodson added a sack, Desmond Bishop had one as well, and even C.J. Wilson added one for good measure on the game's final play. The best defensive play of the night though may have been the Sam Shields pick at the beginning of the game when things were still close. The play he made on that pass would be impressive for a Pro Bowl veteran to make, yet Shields is just an undrafted rookie. All this, and I haven't even mentioned the Nick Collins fumble return for a TD on a second quarter kickoff. What a game.

5. The Race to the Playoffs Begins Now - Talk about the Cowboys all you want, national media, because back here in Wisconsin we're pretty pumped about a 45-7 win over one of our longtime rivals. Sure, this game didn't have nearly the implications that games of the past did between these two squads, but when have you ever been dissatisfied about a win over "Da Cowgirls", as we like to call them (for some reason, must be a Central Wisconsin thing)? We still have some decisions roster-wise to make about Al Harris and James Starks, and hopefully Goodell forgets to suspend Nick Collins, but there's no question this bye week is coming at a great time. Three big wins against the Vikings, Jets, and Cowboys, and the Packers deserve an extra week to rest up and get healthy.

It hasn't been an easy nine games, but at this point in the season we are 6-3, with all three losses coming by three points a piece, and two of them coming in overtime. Injuries and all, the Packers have a good team, and they are well-coached. They have worked through their misfortunes and are improving every week, and they look well on their way to an NFC North division crown. The bye week is followed up by two tough games for sure, on the road against Minnesota and then Atlanta, but if we can ride the momentum that we've been carrying since the first Vikings game then this Packers team could really put something together both at the end of the season and into the playoffs. Will this be the year we finally get back to the Super Bowl? Way to early to say. But right now, I'm beaming about the thrashing of an old rival, and I have nothing to complain about regarding this week's performance.

Rest up Packers, this thing is just getting started.


Turtle said...

Do we have a balanced offense or is Dallas' defense THAT bad? Kuhn had more carries than Jackson. He MUST have naughty pictures of McCarthy.

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