Although it might not have been the most entertaining win Green Bay fans have ever witnessed, the Packers thorough domination of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers provided a rare demonstration of discipline by the Packers offense and another smothering defensive effort… against a really bad offense. So with that, here are the top 10 things that stood out in the Packers 20-3 win over Tampa Bay.
1. Defer or not Defer
Apparently Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s philosophy has changed in regards to how he handles winning the opening coin toss. Once upon a time, when the Packers were making their Super Bowl run in 2010, it was a foregone conclusion that after winning the toss the Packers would defer to the second half.
It was a strategy that proved effective all season as the Packers often “doubled-up” on opponents by scoring at the end of the first half and then again on the first possession of the third quarter. Often times, these back-to-back scores proved too difficult for opponents to overcome and was a recurring theme in the Packers’ success that championship season.
That’s not the case anymore. It appears that Mike McCarthy and company now believe that the Packers offense is so lethal that it behooves them to get the ball in Aaron Rodgers’ hands immediately, hopefully build a quick and powerful lead, force your opponent to become one dimensional, whereby the Packers pass rushers can pin their ears back and terrorize the opposing quarterback.
I get it.
Still, the effect of minimizing a team’s offensive arsenal doesn’t really become relevant until the second half anyway. So even if taking the ball proves successful and the Packers roll out to a 21-0 lead in the first half, that hasn’t minimized the opponent’s playbook. There is still plenty of time in the game and running the ball is still very much an option. In fact, if the team trailing 21-0 happens to get a touchdown to pull within two scores, they can feel pretty damn good about themselves knowing they get the ball in the second half and are very much in the game.
At the end of the day, I contend that regardless of the type of team you have, you defer every time unless there are extreme circumstances to consider. When you receive first, that decision loses all value immediately following the conclusion of the first offensive possession. But when you defer, the value of that decision stays with the team until the end of its first possession in the second half. I don’t know if it can possibly be quantified, but there simply HAS to be a psychological edge in deferring the decision to the second half.
Put it this way… Bill Belichick defers just about every time.
2. Respect for the Game
Any notion that Tampa Bay had nothing to play for was dismissed pretty quickly by watching their defense. Although Eddie Lacy gashed them in the first quarter, which is when he tends to do the bulk of his gashing, the Buccaneers defense held the Packers’ running game to 1 yard or less on 13 of their 28 total carries. In fact Lacy, who ended up with 99 yards rushing on 17 carries, gained 76 of those yards on his first seven carries, culminating in his 44-yard touchdown run.
I couldn’t help but notice how the Bucs’ players were flying to the ball and punishing Packers at every opportunity. They showed the qualities of a tough, physical defense and certainly didn’t let their record dictate the manner in which they performed. Tampa Bay’s defense came to play for Lovie Smith. Thankfully for the Packers, the Buccaneers offense was as inept as their defense was proud.
3. “That’s Kuhn!”
In the loss to Buffalo, Packers fans had to deal with David Diehl, the sorriest excuse for a color commentator this writer has ever heard. This week the Packers viewing audience got a major improvement, which is to say, another human being other than David Diehl. That person was none other than Ronde Barber, looking like he just smoked a pinkie-sized doobie five minutes before going on air. I know, I know. He and his twin brother always look a little sleepy. Still, he’s under suspicion.
I don’t like it when the networks assign a guy who used to play for one of the teams he’s announcing for. Inevitably that announcer is going to be biased toward his former team. More times than not, even though the broadcaster has theoretically half as much work because he’s still close enough to his former team to know all those guys, said announcer seems to be lazy and butchers the players’ names for the “other team.”
Maybe I’m being a little tough on Ronde, who really wasn’t all that annoying and was a major improvement over David Diehl. However, Barber did drop the ball for a moment when instead of announcing Kuhn like “coon,” he said it more like “kin.”
That was when something happened that you won’t often see in broadcasting. The play-by-play man Chris Myers immediately jumped in and corrected Barber’s blunder right on the spot, a rarity.
After David Diehl’s butchery of half the Packers roster last week and the subsequent barrage of comments on Twitter, perhaps a mandate came down at Fox that if someone botches a name and the other guy knows it, he should immediately correct his partner. I feel like that almost had to be the case because you never see one partner call out the other’s mistake like that.
Usually etiquette dictates that the other announcer will quickly find a way to say that player’s name, sometimes with slight emphasis, using the correct pronunciation. This makes amends for the screw up while not pointing out that an error was made to those who missed it. And of course it allows the announcer in the know to discretely point out to his dumbass partner that he made a mistake.
There was no discretion here.
4. Davante Knotts
There are certain things in life that make no sense. Namely, how can Tim Conway and Don Knott’s masterpiece “The Private Eyes” never be shown on any movie channels? It’s baffling. I’m so dead set on getting that movie on my TiVo that I record anything with Don Knotts, in hopes I get lucky and eventually it shows up.
Time after time, I take a few seconds out of my busy week to delete the episodes of Andy Griffith and Three’s Company that have accumulated. And for some reason Matlock gets recorded, too. It’s as if Barney Fife and Don Knotts are so irrevocably attached to Andy Griffith that I get every episode of Matlock via some sort of strange TiVo osmosis.
Hmm. Maybe there’s a way for me to set the TiVo to record JUST “The Private Eyes” and not everything with Don Knotts… or remotely connected to Don Knotts via Andy Griffith.
I digress. What’s this got to do with Packers football you ask?
Well Davante Adams is looking more like Ralph Furley than a confident rookie deserving of more opportunities. If you watch Adams on both of his drops on Sunday, he appears to be bracing, his hands shifting around right before the ball hits him. It’s as if he is unsure if his placement is correct and wants to adjust last second. I don’t know if it’s his vision, a possible hand injury, a lack of confidence or if he’s fighting the ball.
It could be I’m seeing something that isn’t there, but Davante Adams does not appear sure of himself or his hands. Maybe Aaron Rodgers should take the rookie down to the Regal Beagle and help arrange a slumpbuster. I hear Janet is a wild one once she gets a few drinks in her. Just don’t let her drive.
5. Pants on the Ground
Think of the ways in which Aaron Rodgers is superior to all those that have come before him. His use of hard snap counts to create zero-risk scenarios is unmatched. No one has ever done it with such success, let alone such purpose.
Oh. You’re feeling good about your team’s discipline on the hard count and confident you’ll go a whole game without jumping offsides? Good for you. Just don’t think about taking your sweet time while substituting personnel. Ever. The moment you take that simple act for granted, Rodgers will create another no-risk opportunity to make your defense look ridiculous.
Not only is Rodgers the master at creating these opportunities, he capitalizes and converts them into big plays an extraordinary amount of the time. Sunday was no exception, when after a failed pass on 2nd and 13, Rodgers sensed his chance to strike. He hustled the troops up to the line, caught the Bucs with too many men on the field, and for good measure forced a laser to Jordy Nelson in traffic for 24 yards that he likely wouldn’t have thrown without it being a freebie.
We must never forget how spoiled we are having QB1 at the helm.
6. Underneath is the “In” Thing
Rather than being the high-flying, deep-ball-throwing, big-play-having team we are accustomed to seeing on game days, the Packers offense we were treated to on this particular Sunday was a little less electric, and more like the one a lot of us have been calling for to attack the cover-2. Rodgers peppered the Bucs defense with short passes and check downs, constantly making great decisions and the most of the few deep balls he threw.
Other than a couple early hits, which are not to be dismissed entirely, as they were legitimate shots, the Packers’ offensive line again did a great job of keeping Rodgers clean. Even after he strained his calf, which limited his mobility, Rodgers had time and more times than not, a very clean pocket with good throwing lanes. And on the rare occasion that the offensive line didn’t hold up their end of the bargain, Rodgers used his feet just enough to create the type of magic he creates so well.
7. Mr. Almost
I’m not sure how many snaps Jayrone Elliott is getting, but I tend to see him flash almost every game. The undrafted rookie free agent out of Toledo can be seen showing tremendous turn of foot off the edge, but the big man just hasn’t gotten home yet. However, I predict that’s going to change sometime soon.
The Cleveland product made his name and the Packers’ final roster, on the strength of very limited preseason snaps that yielded numerous sacks. In fact, it was Elliott’s three-sack effort in an eight-play stint versus the St. Louis Rams that pushed him over the top and assured his spot on the team.
Although he currently has a big goose egg in the sacks column, that’s going to change. Mark my words. Jayrone Elliott is going to make an impact play for this Packers team. Watch out!
8. Make a Statement
As previously stated, I liked the disciplined offensive game plan that Mike McCarthy and Tom Clements put together to attack Tampa’s cover-2 on Sunday. However, I absolutely hated the Packers’ decision to go five-wide and throw the ball on 4th and goal just outside the 1. Yes, of course I also hated the John Kuhn inside handoff on third down that appeared to be designed to go sideways. If that was the goal, it was tremendously successful.
After failing with the run on downs one through three, spreading out and going five wide felt like quitting to me. It felt like an admission of failure. Instead of lining up with power and announcing to the world that the Packers believe their guys are tougher and will go right through you for that yard even though you know they’re coming, Mike McCarthy and company relented.
I think you run the ball there every time. Not just because you have Eddie Lacy either, but because it’s a statement and a mindset. You might have stopped us three in a row, but you’re not doing it again. We’re coming right at you one more time and based upon the formation and personnel we’re showing, you know what’s coming. Try and stop us.
Perhaps it’s all meaningless symbolism, but I hated the decision. Regardless of success or failure, I will never endorse a call on 4th and goal from the 1-yard line that does not at least hint at the possibility of a running play. And when you get stoned on the run three straight times by a team you’ve had success running on, you line them right back up and run it again.
9. Kuhn Supplants Hawk
I think John Kuhn misplaced his chin strap and A.J. Hawk loaned him his spare. How else can one explain the numerous times that Kuhn’s helmet was rolling around on the field? When the big fullback wasn’t busting off 11-yard runs or going sideways on crap play calls on 3rd and goal, he was bending over to pick up his bonnet. Time for a new strap there, Johnny boy!
10. Feel Better Now?
There’s nothing less attractive than desperation.
But that’s exactly what the Packers offense looked like in the closing minutes of the game on Sunday in Tampa. Leading 13-3 with the ball and time winding down, the Packers threw three times from 1st and goal at the 1-yard line in order to get Aaron Rodgers his first touchdown pass in nearly two full games. Really though, the only goal should have been running time off the clock.
I guess wittle Aa-win needs his wittle touchdown pass to have high-wer self-esteem. Whatever. Lame-o. If the Packers feel that little display of stupidity solved the entire season’s red zone woes, I would have to believe they are mistaken. Hopefully I’m dead wrong and the floodgates open.
Everything is still in front of this team. Could the Rams knock off the Seahawks? It’s highly unlikely, but not impossible.
It’s all a moot point if the Packers don’t beat Detroit. Speaking of which, I’ll be in Green Bay for the game. Who has an extra ticket? I’ll make you number one on the list next week. ;)