Monday, January 14, 2008

High Times in Packerland

So my old, almost unbelievably obnoxious, Patriot fan friend sent me a text after the Cowboys self-destructed against the Giants, saying "See you in the Super Bowl." As Packer fans, we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves, but man, you have to be optimistic about Green Bay's chances after this past weekend. The Packers spot the Ospreys a fourteen point lead, then outscore them 42 (!) to 6, setting franchise records for rushing yards and points in a playoff game. This coming against a team that had the 5th best rushing defense in the league, according to Football Outsiders. And then the Cowboys, the NFLs biggest showoffs, choke against the otherwise overmatched Giants, meaning Lambeau hosts the NFC championship game again. It'll be the first time the game's been in Green Bay since Dorsey Levens romped over the Carolina Panthers, ten years and two days ago. Hollaaa!

First, the Seahawk game. Was I alone in thinking "well, there goes the season" after the refs ruled that Bobby Engram was forced out of the endzone, following Grant's second fumble? I mean, the vast majority of teams in the league aren't 14 points better than each other. And turnovers, especially in important areas of the field almost always decide games, especially playoffs. (Consider the Colts' three red zone TOs against the 'Bolts yesterday.) And the woman kept worrying about the weather, and how it was going to mess up the Packers' offense. But the shook off that deficit and just kept rolling and rolling.

The much hyped Seattle LB duo of Peterson and Tatupu played well on several predictable runs, but when Grant cut back, hoo boy, were there running lanes. He looked like he had something to prove, and he definitely made his case -- juking guys, making hard, fast cuts, powering for yards after contact, and, when it was all said and done, setting team records for playoff rushing yards and touchdowns. As former nemesis Jimmy Johnson said, you think about all the former Packer greats like Donny Anderson, Ahman Green, Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, Dorsey Levens, Tony Canadeo, none of them have had a better day than Grant did on Saturday. Wow. And there were so many other impressive performances. Greg Jennings could only stop himself (one drop). The Packers didn't complete a pass longer than 20 yards, and it didn't matter. Bigby did a favorable Ronnie Lott impersonation. Pickett showed why he's so valuable, eating up double teams. Corey Williams looked he'll be a hot commodity on in free agency again. Cullen Jenkins rushed the passer like he did in the preseason. Tauscher blanked Patrick Kerney, though the slick conditions and the strong running game greatly helped matters. Colledge blew it a couple times (his blown block led to Favre's stumbling underhand toss to Lee), but the blocking was otherwise solid in both facets, especially in the run game. The team looked primed, unbothered by the snow, and committed. And though the victory was helped by Deion Branch gimping off the field early, wild weather (favoring the team with the stronger running game), and an awful performance from old pro Marcus Pollard (a fumble and two huge drops), mostly the Packers won this one.

And the poor, poor Cowboys. They should change their name to the Golden Geese, because they collectively laid a huge, shiny egg yesterday. The Giants have several good running backs, two very good defensive ends, a solid offensive line, a decent qb, and a great wideout who's running around with torn ligaments in his ankle. But their other guys (especially in the secondary and in the linebacking corps) are totally average, if not below average. So with Burress gimpy and no Jeremy Shockey, they have nowhere near the talent that the 'Boys have assembled-- Demarcus Ware, Terrence Newman, TO, a great o-line, Romo, Barber and Witten. Even with TO not completely himself, playing in Dallas, the Cowboys win that match-up 8 out of 10 times. The only was they lose it was aptly demonstrated yesterday-- a ton of unclutch penalties, dropped passes, going away from what was working (the run), poor tackling. But even with all that, I'm still totally confused as to how Dallas lost that game, and how they didn't score more than 17 points. They had the ball for 37 minutes, and all they got was 17 points? When the Giants failed to go for it on 4th and two feet on the Dallas 42, when the Giants were up 7 and had the 'Boys reeling, I figured they blew it. That was a pathetic coaching decision, and the Cowboys scored on their next drive, tying the game. And then when the Giants failed to get a first down twice in their last two possessions, again, I figured they blew it. But the New York d-line sort of stepped up in the last few minutes, and the Cowboys just shot themselves in the foot.

Consider the last real play-- the Cowboys have 4th and 11 at the Giants' 23 with 20 seconds left. They need 11 yards or the season's over. It's time to put it all on the line. So they call . . . a three man pattern? That's right, both Marion Barber and Jason Witten, the team's clutchest receiver, stayed in the backfield to block. A terrible playcall, the Giants have seven guys covering three targets, no one's open, interception to the completely marginal mortgage defaulter R.W. McQuarters, season over. Throwing a bad pick to a bad player (who's got bad credit) on a bad playcall-- that last play aptly encapsulated the Cowboys self-inflicted, and well-deserved, collapse. Hopefully we won't have to worry about those jerks for a while because it may be goodbye to this version of the Cowboys-- TO is only getting older, and offensive coaches Jason Garrett and Tony Sparano appear likely to head to bigger jobs. Plus, Jerry Jones, whom the woman began referring to as "Aaron Spelling" last night, can't be too confident in Wade Phillips' winless playoff record. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Now how do folks think los Gigantes match-up with the Pack? I know we beat them solidly in Week 2, but it was close into the fourth quarter (a one score game), their 260 pound RB didn't play, Eli was gimpy, and Strahan was out of shape. And did you see the weather forecast for next Sunday? Predicted highs in the high single digits. How will that effect things?

No comments: