Style over Substance
If you live and work in the upper Midwest, you know what winter is all about. Having lived in SEC country, I am well aware of the advantage those teams have on Big Ten Teams come Bowl season. Northern teams have to contend with the possibility of bad weather and are designed to play in those conditions. The majority of their players are recruited from states where the high schools have to also contend with bad weather and their style is conducive to winning in the cold.
Southern teams are not concerned with cold and come Bowl season, the inherent design of their team is an advantage in the sun, warmth or dome where these games are played.
I bring this up because the Green Bay Packers are not designed to play in cold weather. As much as we would like romaticize the Packers and their history, this team struggled in two of the three bad weather games it played. The zone blocking scheme is designed for movement up front. The lineman tend to be smaller, quicker and faster. The backs need to be patient, looking for the cutback. The wealth at wideout lead to the five reciever set that Favre exploited so well.
Against Chicago and New York, this style of play was not up to the elements. Against the Seahawks, a small, quick defense, it was successful.
Was it a miscalculation on the Packers' part to build a team designed for warmer climates, knowing that they might have to win in the elements of Northern Wisconsin?
January 21, 2008
The Deal is Over
Fans can point to whatever excuse they want to explain this loss away:
-- Favre's failing in the clutch with that interception
-- The total lack of a running game - Ryan Grant's numbers - 13 carries for 29 yards - his longest run was 13 yards so he had 16 yards on the other 12
-- A bunch of penalties, most on them at critical time - they had seven total penalties, six of them in the second half
-- The cold - I think the Packers, especially Favre, had a harder time with the cold than the Giants
-- A complete lack of a pass rush - Eli Manning had time to find the open receiver and he used it to convert four of eight third-down conversions after halftime - when it counted
-- Outside of Donald Driver's 90-yard TD catch and run, the Packers only generated 174 yards of offense on those other 12 possessions
The bottom line is that the Giants outplayed the Packers and deserved to win. If the Packers had won, it would have been great for Green Bay, but they would not have earned it.
The Packers lost because all of their flaws and problems came home to roost during this game. They struggled to run the ball many times this season. This happened mostly in the early part of the year, but it surfaced when it mattered most. Taking into account one rush by Favre, the Packers ran the ball 14 times - 14 times in sub-zero weather. In the 1962 NFL Championship, in bitter cold (13 degrees) and wind (40 mph) Jim Taylor ran the ball 31 times himself. In the Ice Bowl, the Packers ran the ball more than 14 times to be sure. Donny Anderson carried it 18 times. Chuck Mercein another six. And Bart Starr had that famous sneak. (These are stats gleaned from press reports at the time.)
Penalties, specifically by the defensive backs and personal fouls, kept Giants drives alive. Al Harris had two penalties, one on third down. Charles Woodson committed pass interferance on fourth down. Nick Collins roughed Eli Manning on third down. The Packers played this way all year and got away with it. Unfortunately, not this day.
And as much as I hate to say it, Brett Favre looked old. The cold seemed to bother him. When I was in college and in my early 20's, the cold did not bother me. I could play a game in the cold or practice with little regard for the elements. I was a lacrosse player and we started practicing in January, so we dealt with the weather.
As a coach or scout, I wore shorts every day, even when it was in the low single digits. I thought I was a tough guy. Now that I am a bit older, I suffer the effects of the weather much quicker, especially in the hands. I do not know if the same goes for Favre, but we are only two years apart. I would still never trade him for anyone short of Tom Brady, but I think the weather affected him more than Eli. The play calling seemed to reflect that as the game wore on.
The sad part is the Packers had a season to be proud of. No one expected that they would get this far. It is unfortunate that the season ended on such a downer. My high school football coach used to say that you were only as good as your last game. Only one team in the NFL ends the season on a high note, but the Packers had a heck of a season and assuming Brett Favre comes back, things look up. If Aaron Rodgers takes over, he has shown enough to make fans hopeful.
Hold your heads high this offseason. The Packers and their fans have earned that.
John Lombardi is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at email@example.com.