we are not in possession of any alibi. And neither are the Vikings, although they have some fine defensive players. Yeesh. As most readers know, the Packers managed to squeak by an offensively pathetic Minnesota Vikings team, 9-7 on Thursday night, with both teams performing terribly on offense. But maybe I'm being overly harsh. As we all should know, when one side of the ball is dominating the other side, oftentimes it's hard to tell how it plays out-- is the dominator (the one doing the dominating) really outstanding, or is the dominatee (the one being dominated) just awful. It's tough to judge, at least for this non-professional talent evaluator. Let's think back over the last game (I know, you may not want to) and see how it plays out.
First, our defense on their offense. Was it our dominating, or their terribleness? The Vikings did almost nothing, gaining 104 yards on 42 plays, a bit over 2 yards a play. They only passed for 27(!?) yards on 20 attempts, but ran the ball with slightly more success, averaging a decent 3.5 yards on 22 carries. Plus, off the top of my head, I can think of several good cut back runs that Chester Tyalor broke for about ten yards a pop. Hmm... So the way it looks from the stats and through cloudy-hindsight, our run defense was ok, nothing spectacular. Now the Vikes' pass offense, with true rookie Tavaris Jackson at the helm, was certainly shut down. But was this all because of us? Al Harris and Chuckie Woodson played solid games, and Kampman and the other linemen did a fine job keeping pressure on the rookie. But how many drops did they have? I can't find a stat for it, but I do remember that bomb earlier in the game where Troy Williamson was behind all of our DBs, failed to adjust to a well thrown pass, and tried to catch it off his left shoulder pad. Instead of a 50 yard pass play, just a standard incompletion. The Saucer (Klein-whatever) had a drop that initially looked like a good play by Hawk. Hawk also blew a great chance for a pick. And lets not forget the 'Queens had 10 penalties for 68 yards. Remember that one that wiped out another deep completion in the third or fourth quarter? I think it was an illegal procedure penalty. Based on this, I think we were a little more lucky than good. That is, our "success" against the 'Queens was more their inability to execute than our domination. I don't want to take anything away from the defense, many Packers had excellent games or made excellent plays-- Kampman, Jenkins, et al getting good pressure; Pickett's fine run defense-- scrambling down the line to grab Taylor on several different plays; Collins' fine tackle of a scrambling Jackson that stopped him from picking up what looked like a sure first down; Poppinga's manhandling of Jackson on a similar play (speaking of which, those plays definitively convinced me that Tavaris is not going to take us back to Dante Culpepper days of yesteryear-- there's no way Culpepper would get handled by Poppinga like that; a rookie Dante Culpepper would have got the first down). All in all, however, it looks like the Pack played a decent game, but against a offense that was clearly struggling. More them being awful than us being great.
How about our offense against their defense? I know our offense wasn't completely awful. We did manage to gain 319 yards, and the O set us up to score 15 points in total. (Rayner hit a field goal off the uprights and his plant foot slipped on another). But we had three turnovers, including two interceptions that looked just terrible, an utterly inopportune fumble, and should have had another fumble lost (the 'Queens player had a toe on the line when he recovered a Franks' fumble). Plus, we were absolutely terrible in the red zone and were completely unable to run the ball. Now, as to the latter issue, I'm willing to give it to the Vikodins on this one. Pat Williams is an awesome force, or at least annihilates our interior offensive line. His second cousin, Kevin Williams, also made our attempts at blocking look silly. Their linebackers, like E.J. Henderson, did a fine job of flowing to the ball. We missed some blocks, and had a down or two where it looked like there was miscommunication about where the play was going. But their run defense is amazing this year. Football Outsiders (this is an informed statistical analysis) has the Vikes with the best run defense in the league by an enormous margin. Even with a leaky pass defense, because their run defense is so outstanding, they still rank as the 4th best D in the league. Given all of this, I'm willing to give it to the 'Queens. Our run offense isn't great, but they made us look bad on the ground; we didn't do that to ourselves.
I think our passing game's struggles were due to our terribleness, however. Jennings and Favre look completely out of sync, and Greg needs a hyperbaric chamber to go with his blessed oil. Except for a blip of positivity against Buffalo, Greg has been out of it since hurting his ankle. Both of Favre's interceptions were on passes to Greg, and the first, returned for a touchdown in the 'Queens only score, was clearly on him. It was an unblocked blitz--Greg has got to be aware of it, and get ready to catch the ball quickly. He kept running his route like it was a normal play. Mr. Double-Headed-Donger, Fred Smoot, kept his eyes on Favre, said thank you very much, and took the ball back all the way. Favre's next interception was just him being pissed off and throwing it up. Even if Jennings screwed up there by stopping on the route and sitting down in an open area of the zone, it was still a dumb throw. Jennings isn't going to outjump Sharper for a bomb. 95% of the time, that's an interception or an incompletion. Jennings also dropped a clear 15-yard gain in the first half. He jumped up, had the ball, and let the covering back jar it out of his hands when he came down with it. We haven't even got to Bubba. Dear God, he looked abysmal. Fumbling twice, dropping catchable balls, only showing good running after the catch on the play where he fumbled as he was about to score a touchdown! Can you get less clutch? Argh!!! Just awful. Only Driver did anything, and they kept an eye on him this game, allowing him to catch short passes, but not break anything long. (He had 9 catches for 99 yards, irritating fantasy owners anywhere). And, he got hurt, going to the locker room dragging his right arm. It was a miracle that Favre was able to lay that nice long pass into Ruvell Martin's arms in the fourth quarter. Without that play, we lose the game, despite only giving up 104 yards on defense. Eeesh. Now Sharper played a decent game, I thought, and that corner of theirs, Antoine Winfield is one feisty midget. Seriously, how good a football player do you have to be to be a starting corner at Ohio State, sorry Ohio A&M, (where Winfield went to college) when you're 5'8"? He's a fine defensive back, who played an excellent aggressive game, and I wish he was on the Packers. But all in all, our passing struggles were our own problems. No one gets open consistently but Driver. When guys do get open, they aren't catching balls. There has to be a defensive breakdown and Favre has to make perfect throws in order for us to get big gains. If David Martin were healthy, that would probably help. But he's not, and hardly ever is. In all, I put the blame for our offensive struggles on us. We knew going in we couldn't run against them-- no one can. We would have to pass well, and as proven previously were capable of doing that, but didn't. We gave them their only points in the passing game, and couldn't hold onto the ball, even though Favre got good time to throw.
Finally, its not even debatable that our special teams problems (missed field goals, lousy punts, dropping downable punts, good punt returns called back on penalites), were our own fault. Bottom line--although the defense has been decent, we have not looked good since the win against the Niners. Our poor performances the past two weeks are not making me enthusiastic for a sneak into the playoffs. Yes, and that's because we'd get killed. (We have yet to beat any winning team). I wonder-- can anyone think of a less-impressive two game winning streak by the Packers?