What a weird friggin' game. I went from resignation when I heard that Woodson and KGB were out, to fury at the bizarre play-calls and deep passes in the first half, to delight at Grant's big run, to despair and more fury, to resignation, to pleasure that Rodgers was making Cowboy fans squirm, to a somewhat satisfied conclusion.
Which is-- this game proved that the Cowboys are eminently beatable. Look at all the things that went wrong for the Packers:
- We were missing three defensive stalwarts: Woodson (a huge, huge loss), KGB (another huge loss), and Jolly (a big cog in the D-line rotation). Plus, key backups like safety Aaron Rouse and tight end Bubba Franks weren't available. Dallas had little to no key injuries coming in.
- Favre played his worst half of football so far this season. The ridiculous and incessant bombing in the first twenty minutes (mostly thrown when there were people open underneath)-- those were his decisions. McCarthy calls the plays, but there are multiple options on each play. I don't think one of those guys was open. Thus, at least one interception (couldn't tell if he was going long when he gave up the other) and multiple stalled drives.
- Generally bizarre and ineffectual playcalling for the first half. I kind of liked the unexpected onsides kick, but the flea-flicker? If Favre's making crappy, overaggressive decisions, McCarthy should call plays where the passing options are conservative.
- Favre had to leave the game with an injury after getting whacked on the throwing arm by a blitzing Dallas defensive back. Rodgers then had to play the rest of the game.
- The secondary was mostly terrible. On several plays, Al Harris was too preoccupied with Terrell Owens to even notice the ball coming in his direction. He generally played with his head up his ass all game-- not getting the call on that early strip seemed to throw him off for the rest of the night. Two bombs to a marginal Cowboys' wideout led to two huge PI calls (though the second call was iffy). Bigby and Collins got exposed. Jarrett Bush got benched. The guys who replaced him didn't do much. The end result-- guys were running around open for the majority of the game.
- The secondary got exposed because there was basically no pass rush until the second half. Even then, the team got zero sacks. Linebacker blitzes, led by Hawk, never got home, and just left the secondary more exposed. (Why the hell did we rush five on 3rd and 19 from the Cowboys five? We hadn't gotten home all day.) The defense suffers when it isn't getting at least some pressure from four. KGB and Jolly were missed dearly.
- Generally terrible special teams coverage. Especially on kickoffs. What the hell happened there? Dallas seemed to start every drive on their 40 or better. And Montgomery should have been called for roughing the punter.
- The offensive line played pretty poorly. Tauscher was gimping around ineffectively, they had to bench Colledge for terribleness (that first Favre interception was partly Colledge's fault), and guys weren't picking up blitzers well (see the play Favre got hurt). Several runs and screen plays gained little or nothing because of crappy blocks. Rodgers is far worse than Favre in terms of avoiding sacks, but still, he was sacked repeatedly in less than three quarters.
- All this amounted to a seventeen point lead in the second quarter for Dallas.
But even with all this, STILL the Packers were only down three with less than ten minutes left. Despite all of those screw ups, and being on the road, and having their back-up quarterback playing. That was remarkable.
The Packers are a young team. The younger guys should be improving as the season goes along, so if they manage to meet the Cowboys in the playoffs, I think certain guys (like the guards and the dime and nickel backs) should perform better. And if they win two of their next four, they should definitely have a first round buy in the playoffs. This will allow the older guys to heal up. I like our chances on a rematch.
But that's only IF, Favre stops making stupid decisions, and sticks with what got him here-- getting the ball out quickly to Driver, Jennings (didn't he look great when we got him the ball?), Jones, Robinson and Lee, and mixing it up with runs to Grant (that fourth and one run was brillant). What the hell happened, Brett? It's really simple-- throw to guys that are open.
Speaking of Brett, despite my irritation with him, obviously I hope he's ok. It looked like he whacked the inside bone of his elbow on that blitzing defensive back's helmet. That has to hurt a lot. But the paper today said that he separated his shoulder, apparently his non-throwing one. That sounds far more serious than a severely whacked funny bone, but no one immediately ruled him out for the net game. Thankfully, since this terrible string of Thursday games has come to an end, the Packers have some extra rest before playing at home against the Raiders on Sunday, December 9th. And given Rodgers' play in the second half, I'd feel pretty good about the Packers' chances against the Raiders at home in December even if Brett couldn't suit up.
Anyhow, that's my take. An absolutely atrocious performance in many respects where things went wrong again and again, but still a close game that the Packer's had a chance to win. Like the Bear game earlier in the season, it's a loss that actually bodes pretty well.
Packer fans should be confident in their team's chances.