The Worst Laid Plans Of Timid Little Mice
No one thought this would be an easy game for the Packers, and most people probably had this chalked up as a loss in their preseason predictions. I know I did. That said, the way that the Packers went about this game was infuriating.
Dallas has struggled mightily against the pass, and in particular, against the big play. And in fact when the Packers did go down the field they were often successful, as on the deep ball to Driver. This play was, unfortunately, the exception.
The Packers fell in love with the run on first down (generally for less than 4 yards) and the short pass. They were predictable to a fault, and played right into the Cowboys hands. The lack of offense allowed the Cowboys to stick with the run, and allowed Marion Barber to continue to gash away, continually putting the Cowboys in manageable third-and-short situations. The run also opened up the deep pass for Miles Austin as the game progressed.
Had the Packers capitalized on the early interception by Nick Collins and the bomb to driver rather than settling for field goals, the Cowboys likely would not have been able to stick with the run for so long, and with Woodson completely shutting down TO (and Kudos to the Packer coaching staff for going with the Woodson-Owens matchup over the Harris-Owens matchup) the Cowboys probably would have been manageable. The Cowboys, like all teams, have problems in third-and-long situations, and the few times they found themselves in such situations, they made mistakes.
Instead the Packers played from behind much of the night (from Felix Jones’ TD run), and played with almost no urgency. A few observations…
1. Ryan Grant was ineffective, especially compared to Brandon Jackson, who showed good explosiveness by pushing the pile on several occasions for big extra yards. Yet Jackson only had 4 touches all game (for 36 yards). Why?
2. James Jones had a bad game, with two drops.
3. One criticism of Rodgers that I’ve read repeatedly from scouts is that he holds the ball too long, and this was really on display last night. DeMarcus Ware is very good, but Rodgers did himself no favors by waiting and waiting and waiting. This secondary hasn’t exactly been blanketing receivers this year, and the lack of quick decision-making was troubling. I suspect this situation is exacerbated by Rodgers nimbleness in the pocket. He can escape much of the time, but this leads to bad habits.
4. Was Donald Drivers' “illegal forward pass” really forward? I’ll never know for sure because NBC refused to show a replay. To me it looked very much like the Music City Miracle. The “forwardness” of the pass was caused by Jordy Nelson being on one side of the ball while Driver was on the other. Maybe it was forward, but I wish I could have seen it. Even though it really didn’t matter.
5. Penalties are still a problem.
The Packers didn’t really make mistakes as much as they didn’t put themselves in a position where they could make mistakes. Against most of the league that strategy may work OK, but not against an offensive powerhouse like the Cowboys. That said, keep this in mind (from the Acme Packing Co.):
Like I read in the open thread comments, it didn't help Dallas in the playoffs that they had beaten the NY Giants twice in the regular season. It didn't help the Packers in the playoffs that they smoked the Giants in the regular season either. Just secure winning the division and get into the playoffs. The lesson that Mike McCarthy and the Packers have to learn is how did Dallas shut them down during that awful six drive sequence.
Here are the PFT one-liners.
Around the NFL
The entire Eagle offense except for DeSean Jackson will be shoved into an MRI machine today. (And taps gently plays for my fantasy football team.)
Matt Cassel isn’t as good a QB as Ronnie Brown.
How did the Giants require overtime to defeat the Bengals? Not enough Bradshaw!
There are some really terrible NFL teams this year. St. Louis was blown out by a Seattle team with no WRs. Cleveland gave up 28 points to a Baltimore team with a Baltimore offense. Detroit got absolutely smoked by San Francisco. I mean, these are bad teams getting annihilated by other bad-to-mediocre teams.
The Bears were defeated by their former QB in a game in which he threw 67 passes for over 400 yards.
Related Recurring Feature: Kyle Orton: Game Manager
Kyle Orton “managed the game” to the tune of 2 interceptions
They’re Not Quite Dead
The Brewers are 1.5 games in back of the Mets after an 8-1 win yesterday. That half game will cease to exist today, for good or ill, as the Mets take on the Cubs. It’s not looking good, but it could be worse.
Today’s HOTD is brought to you by the delicious Sawtooth Ale, which goes very well with the Led Zeppelin.