I have been searching for a way to describe the Packers' season so far. I found it this morninig while reading the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Columnist Mike Woods authored the following line:
"For they are part good, part lucky and most assuredly blessed."
It is assuredly the best summation of the Packers season so far. As long as it continues, do we really care?
October 14, 2007
Redskins Game Recap
Near the end of the Packer-Redskins broadcast, Troy Aikman asked, "does anyone want to win this game?"
Here are the stats:
- The Redskins dropped at least six passes, most of them important.
- The Redskins threw an interception and lost two fumbles (they fumbled four times), one of which was returned for a TD by Charles Woodson.
- Brett Favre threw two picks and actually could have been intercepted two to three more times. The Packers fumbled four times, but recovered all of them.
- As usual, the Packers could not generate a ground attack. 19 carries for 57 yards.
- Packer kicker Mason Crosby missed two field goals.
- 16 drives ended in a punt, eight by each team. The Skins had 15 total drives, same as the Packers.
The Packers did just enough and got enough breaks to hang on for the win. This is becoming the theme of the season. When they need a play, they make one. The game was not pretty, it was not a classic for the ages. With ten games left in the season, they can go .500 and still win 10 games. Since the Lions, idle this week, are 3-2, Vikings are 2-3, and Bears are 2-4, the Packers are in the driver's seat. Win out in the NFC North and their record is 9-7 at worst.
Unless the Patriots and Cowboys tie, Green Bay will be tied for the second best record in the league behind the Colts (off this weekend) and the winner of the match-up in Dallas. And if the Cowboys lose, the Pack will be tied for the best record in the Conference. Everyone knows how much of an advantage playing a playoff game at home in January could be for Green Bay. Home field advantage is something to play for. The other division leaders in the NFC besides the Packers are all warm weather teams - Dallas, Tampa and Arizona. None of the early candidates for a wild card could be considered cold weather teams - Seattle, Carolina or Detroit. The Packers would have a big advantage at home. I do not want to get ahead of the game, but it is something to shoot for.
With the bye week, Green Bay can rest up, heal up and prepare for the stretch run.
Green Bay spent a lot of time and money this off-season upgrading the surface to Lambeau Field. The Packers installed some new fangled synthetic weave into the grass. Early indications from the wet conditions on Sunday were underwhelming. Guys were slipping all over the place. Maybe it takes some time to break in, but it did not look like a success this first time out.
October 12, 2007
Redskins Tight Ends
The Packers have had trouble covering opponents' tight ends for a year or so. The Redskins have a good tight end in Chris Cooley. He has some crazy hair but will be a challenge for the defense.
I hope Washington goes with two tight ends, though. Their backup TE is Todd Yoder. He went to Vanderbilt and I was one of the folks who recruited him. He came to Vandy for his visit and nobody was around, so Eric Johnson, who is now a coach at Iowa and I had to host Yoder. Not much was going on, so we took him to a Women's Basketball game against the USA national team. He was a high school running back his senior year, came to Vandy as a wide receiver and has now bulked up to play tight end. This is his seventh year and he has played for the Bucs and Jaguars in prior years. He is a special teams guy mostly but he has good hands. As a freshman, he was Vandy's only offensive weapon. They would just throw it up for him and hope he caught it.
Probably the most coincidental part is that he married a young lady who also went to Vanderbilt. After I finished my graduate degree at Vanderbilt, I was an assistant coach of the women's lacrosse team (it is a long story) for about six months and his wife Sue was the team's best player. Todd is about 6-5 and Sue is close to 5-foot so they are a contrast in styles. She was as fast as they come though and a fierce competitor.
The world is a small place.
October 10, 2007
Apparently James Jones is getting a lot of heat for his two fumbles in the Bears game. It was not a great game for the young man, but it happens. He had a great training camp and a good couple of games, including catching what turned out to be the winning TD in the Vikings game. The man is second on the team behind Donald Driver with 18 receptions. Give the kid a break. It was not like he just fumbled in space. He was getting hit at the time and hit hard.
I will take the good with the bad when it comes to him. If he keeps it up, I will have to reevaluate that stance though. Donald Driver is as soild as they come. Greg Jennings has shown signs of greatness, but struggles to stay healthy. Hopefully Jones does not have a problem holding onto the ball. If the young guys can stay on the field and hold on to the ball, the Packers will have a very good receiving corps for the present and future.
Paul Zimmerman of Sports Illustrated had a column online Tuesday that accused the Packers (and Bills) of not being tough. That lack of toughness led to both teams losing. His thesis was that both teams were up and were not tough enough to pound the ball and close out the game. The Bears were tougher and that allowed them to crawl back into the game and eventually win. I do not think he is only talking about physical toughness, but mental toughness.
I think it is a little more complicated than that, but I cannot argue with him. A team that purports to be one of the best in the NFL has to be able to close out a game when it has a double-digit lead.
Many of my peers have been ripping Mike McCarthy for getting out-coached. The Packers had 341 yards total offense in the first half, including 102 yards rushing. In the second half, they were held to 98 total yards with 19 of those coming on the ground. On the final drive, the Packers picked up 41 yards against the Bears' prevent defense. Do the math. On the previous six drives in the second half they gained 57 yards. They were penalized for 25 yards on those drives so they actually only gained 32 yards on those six drives.
And as for the final drive ... am I the only guy who was surprised at how chaotic it was? The snap count seemed to take forever and all those dinks and dunks. I was sitting next to a reporter from out of town and he was flabbergasted as to how bad it was run. I have been trying to recall something I heard earlier in the year. On the TV game broadcast, the announcers said that Favre told them that the Packers did not work on the two-minute drill all that much. If that is true it is unforgivable.
Like I said earlier, this Sunday's game against Washington is a test for this team and for the coaches. How they bounce back could make or break their season and for some of them, their careers.
October 2, 2007
Stats, Run Rates, Trends and History
As I was drivng home last night, I started to wonder how many passes Brett Favre had thrown so far this year and if that pace continues, how many will he have thrown by the end of the season. So I looked it up.
After four games, he has attempted 170 passes. That averages out to 42.5 attempts a game. Over a 16 game season, that works out to 680 pass attempts. The most passes thrown by a team in a season was by the Vikings in 1981. Tommy Kramer (593 tosses), Steve Dils (102 tosses), Wade Wilson (13 attempts) and Ted Brown (with one) all added up to 709 passes attempted. The Patriots in 1994 tried 699 passes, including 70 in one game which went into overtime. The following year, 1995, the Patriots tried to pass 686 times. Drew Bledsoe was the QB both of those years. He currently holds the record for most passes thrown in a season. According to NFL.com, here are the top three seasons for pass attempts:
691 Drew Bledsoe, New England, 1994
655 Warren Moon, Houston, 1991
636 Drew Bledsoe, New England, 1995
If Favre stays on this pace, he will end up second on the all time list. The Patriots played in a playoff game that year, so I wonder if that game is included in Bledsoe's totals. If the answer is yes, then I think it would be safe to say that Favre is on track to throw more passes in a season than any other QB, playoffs or not. Either way, it is a lot of passes.
One side note to this. Bledsoe's coach in those years, Bill Parcells. Not a pass-happy guy to say the least.
As for the running game, it is a completely different story. The Packers have rushed the ball 79 times in four games. That averages out to 19.75 rushes per game. The season run rate would works out to be 316 rushes for the year. According to NFL.com, the lowest rushing total in a season for a team is 211 rushes for the year by the Eagles in 1982. Second place goes to the 49ers with 218 rushing attempts again in 1982. The Oilers round out the bottom three with 225 attempts. Can you guess the year? 1982. That was a strike year and the league only played nine games. The Eagles still ran the ball 23.4 times per game. Last year the Packers rushed the ball 431 times or 26.94 per game. In 2004, the last time the Packers made the playoffs, they rushed the ball 441 times or 27.56 times per game.
October 1, 2007
I do not know the timeline pertaining to the possible reinstatement of Koren Robinson. He could be eligible pretty soon. The question is, should the Packers care? With Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and James Jones, do the Packers need him? He can return kicks and might be an upgrade there, but do the potential negatives outweigh what little upside he might bring?
Packer fans know how a good kick returner, like Desmond Howard or Travis WIlliams, can make a big difference in a championship run. But with the potential for Robinson to become a big distraction if he were to fail in his rehab effort, it is worth it?
He would be about the fourth receiver off the bench and has not played organized football in about a year. Even then he did not get a lot of time. Right now everything is going great for the Packers. Could bringing Robinson back upset that karma?
Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.