Sydney Speaks! An expected win by the bay

Former Packers fullback and assistant coach Harry Sydney offers his thoughts on the Packers' coaching, offense and defense in the wake of their victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Monster Park.

They went into what seems like their home away from home. It's like the Green Bay Packers own the San Francisco 49ers, and they played that way Sunday. The Packers played good enough to win, just like the 49ers played bad enough to lose, but what did we really think would happen?

Usually I go into the different things the coaches and players do to win or lose the game, but I'm not going there today because sometimes I get tired of saying the same old things. Week after week I can talk about the mistakes that this staff has made that all of us that watched the games that understand football have seen over and over, but why?

Mike McCarthy did a better job of coaching because he stuck with the run, which he hasn't done on a regular basis until after the fumble by Frank Gore. Then what does he do but throw three straight passes. So did anything really change?

Also, they did throw a wrinkle with the rushing formation by having an offensive set with both fullbacks and Ahman Green in the backfield at the same time, but they did it once last week and that fell under the radar. Another coaching move that everyone anticipated was the benching of Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila on run downs, which was about time.

It was said that last week that Mike McCarthy spent the majority of his time in the defensive meeting rooms to help the defense figure out what was going on with all the breakdowns and based on the results of the game you'd want to think that was time well spent.

And if you think about it, Bob Sanders did a pretty good job with his defensive play-calling. He realized that Alex Smith was bad enough that he didn't need to blitz because Smith couldn't beat the team with his arm. Smith just looks terrible and out of his league.

I don't have many complaints with what this coaching staff did against the 49ers, but I do have a few. If this offensive staff never calls another reverse again I will be all right with that. Let me explain: A reverse works when teams are over-pursuing and that usually happens later in the game, not early in the game like the first series or so because defenses are usually playing too cautious and staying home. And if I never see another shuffle pass that would be fine by me as well.

As I go to the players their job is to play and some of them are really earning their money. As I say that I want to say that for all of those that wanted to not like Charles Woodson, my question is why not? What more can this guy do? I know everyone wants to say it's all about the money. I say, so what? He is doing his job. He's getting paid great money to cover the opposing team's receivers and he is doing it better than most in the league. He is a legit shutdown corner. And for that fact he has done a better than average job as a punt returner. Notice, I didn't say anything about tackling because when it comes to that he is looking for a place to get out of the way. But then again they paid him to cover not tackle.

Besides Charles Woodson I think the effort by Al Harris running down Gore early in the game was outstanding because he could have slowed down or gave up, but he didn't which to me shows his willingness to compete and not give up.

Another guy that has excelled on the defensive side of the ball has been the first pick A.J. Hawk I am running out of words to describe how this rookie is playing. He has lived up to all the hype. He has shown that his ability to fill the hole against the run with impact and leverage knocking the ballcarrier back which we all thought he could do, but his pass coverage skills are what have impressed me. It was fun to see him matching up with Vernon Davis, the 49ers' pick whom many thought might have been selected by the Packers. He showed just how much he has improved as he got his first interception in the National Football League covering Davis on a deep seam route down the middle of the field. He showed great awareness and good hands.

I was very pleased with the amount of time the offensive line gave Brett Favre to throw. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't like they were going against some stud defensive line, but I'm not going to downgrade them for doing their jobs. On the long touchdown to Donald Driver, Brett had time to pump it 3 times on a three-step drop which means the offensive line stoned the 49ers defensive line in their tracks and allowed absolutely no penetration whatsoever.

I know I should say how great Brett looked for managing the game and for not throwing any interceptions, but I'm not because that's what he's supposed to do against a team like the 49ers.

I will talk about Donald Driver because he won't talk about himself. He goes out every week and just plays his butt off. He gets everything he can out of every play. He has been the go-to guy all year and some teams have taken him away, but when they haven't he has made them pay just like he did on Sunday having 9 catches for 160 yards. When I think about the Packers most valuable player this year it has to be Donald Driver. Like I said earlier, Donald will never talk about himself; he will give credit to everyone else and not himself. I'm here to give him the true credit he deserves because as great as everyone wants to say Brett Favre is, I believe it has been guys like Donald Driver that have built Brett's legacy. No disrespect to Brett, but I just want Donald Driver to finally start getting his just dues.

As I said earlier this was a win that they needed and should have gotten. Does it really mean anything other than that they already have more wins than last year which for me they should have. Do I think they are going in the right direction? I can't tell because they still only beat the teams they are supposed to beat, but they did get AN EXPECTED WIN BY THE BAY.

Harry Sydney

Editor's note: Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at

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