Monday, December 28, 2015

That Was Very Bad

  • Look, I knew things were going to be ugly when the Green Bay Packers were playing against the number one offense in the league and a top-five defense, but that was way worse than what I was fearing. The Arizona Cardinals had twice as many yards, and the Packers managed just 2.8 yards per play and were a dreadful 5-for-17 on third down conversions. The Arizona defense outscored the Green Bay offense.
You can tell by Aaron's expression that he saw this
coming pre-snap and had just resigned himself to it.

  • Worst of all was the turnovers. Previously one of the best teams in the league at protecting the ball, Green Bay turned it over four times. In the first 14 games of the season, the Packers allowed just 24 points off of their turnovers; on Sunday, they allowed 28 points.

  • Aaron Rodgers took eight sacks in the game behind a woeful offensive line. Green Bay’s line has been dealing with injuries all year. Left tackle David Bakhtiari was out for the game, meaning Don Barclay was in, so Rodgers should have known he was in for a beating. (Barclay was responsible for four of the sacks and God knows how many quarterback hits.)
"Hmm, it's funny that I don't have anyone to block. Maybe they
dropped extra guys into coverage. I'll keep my post, though. After all,
it's my job to protect Aaron, and he's counting on me."

  • Things got a lot worse when right tackle Bryan Bulaga left the game with an injury. Backup/turnstile Josh Walker replaced Bulaga, but he was so bad that they had to play their backup center JC Tretter at right tackle. For 90% of the game, coach Mike McCarthy refused to give his offensive line help. By the time he eventually did put a tight end on the line, it had all the effect of bailing water on the Titanic.
"Heh heh, oops. My bad. Again."

  • In McCarthy’s defense, when much of the problem is your receivers’ inability to get open, I can understand not wanting to take a receiving option out of the field of play.
"Please, Mr. Freeney, sir, don't hurt me. I promise
I won't try to stop you; just don't hurt me!"

  • With the game quickly out of reach and Rodgers was getting assaulted nearly every snap, I kept on praying that McCarthy would pull Rodgers and put in backup Scott Tolzien. It then occurred to me that it must kind of suck to be a backup quarterback: “Hey, our starting quarterback is getting creamed by defenders every single play. He’s too valuable; you go take the hits instead.
"Uhhh, this doesn't seem very fair, guys."

  • James Starks shouldn’t be allowed to touch the ball again, not after he fumbled yet again on Sunday. Davante Adams, too, should be black-balled. I just have no faith left in him. The only thing he’s consistent at is dropping touchdowns.

  • Captains Josh Sitton and Casey Hayward look like they somehow looked into the future and saw exactly how the game was going to go.
They don't seem to have shared their knowledge with Joe Thomas, though.

  • There’s not much to say about the defense. They seemed to have played fairly well against the top offense in the league. You can’t really judge their play when they’re put in a 28-0 hole by turnovers. Right guard Josh Sitton put it best when he said, “I’d be pissed off at us if I was our defense.”

  • I’m worried about cornerback Sam Shields. He was inactive again this week, meaning he still hasn’t recovered from his concussion two weeks ago. It was a nasty concussion -- he slammed his head against the concrete ground on the sidelines -- and it’s always scary when they linger. I hope he’s okay.

  • The best part of the game, by far, was the impressive and impressively loyal Packers fans at the game. Arizona was practicing a silent count at home prior to kickoff because of the amount of Green Bay fans. Even very, very late in the game, you could hear (drunken, I assume) “Go Pack Go” chants. Way to represent, fans.

  • 95% of Joe Buck says, “Hey, I’m super cool. You can tell because I dress just like the super cool kids do.” But then his clear plastic old lady glasses say, “Excuse me, dear, could you read this for me? They make the writing so small on everything nowadays...”

  • The Atlanta Falcons won their first division game of the year on Sunday … against the previously undefeated Carolina Panthers. I’m pleased that Carolina lost. One, because I think it’s always more fun and interesting when the top teams lose. Two, because I hold them responsible for this idiotic dabbing trend that won’t go away.

  • In a 7-7 game against the Carolina Panthers, the Atlanta Falcons got the ball back with 1:38 left before halftime, 99 yards to go, three timeouts. They started with a quick first down to Julio Jones ... and didn’t take a timeout. Then they picked up six yards over the middle ... and didn’t take a timeout. Then they had a three-yard run … and didn’t take a timeout … and let the clock run out. Are we sure Mike Smith isn’t still coaching from the shadows? I mean, isn’t that exactly the situation for which a two-minute drill is designed?

  • I guess those kind of decisions don’t matter much when you have JULIO JONES!!

  • Look at the effort!

  • I’m not really sure how, but the Kansas City Chiefs clinched a playoff berth on Sunday, even though the Denver Broncos -- who had not yet clinched a berth (they played on Monday) -- led the division.
The "x" denotes that the team has made the playoffs. I only
took this screenshot to prove that I'm not crazy.

  • As I’ve mentioned, I’m a big Ryan Fitzpatrick fan, so even though I don’t like the New York Jets, I was really, really pleased to see them defeat the New England Patriots in overtime. (So was Fitzpatrick.) After winning the coin toss to begin overtime, New England chose to kick off rather than receive the ball, and watched the Jets march down field for the game-winning touchdown.

  • Philadelphia Eagles left tackle Jason Peters took himself out of Saturday’s game against the Washington Redskins as soon as it was clear the Eagles were not going to win. While everyone can understand not wanting to get hurt for nothing, this is not a good look. It just seems like a guaranteed way make your teammates hate you.  

  • My sorta-kinda-maybe belief in Kirk Cousins was validated when he threw for 365 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions against the Eagles to secure a spot in the playoffs for the Redskins. My sorta-kinda-maybe faith in him was shaken, however, when, with six seconds left before halftime, up six, on the six-yard line, he knelt down and ran out the clock when Washington could have kicked a gimme field goal. He seems to have thought the clock was still running (it wasn’t) and that he needed to spike the ball (he didn’t), but instead knelt and then tried to spike it after he kneeled. Not his finest moment.
No, no, Kirk! Put your thumb down!

  • In Sunday night’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants, Minnesota had two more first downs that Giants, five more total yards than the Giants, and one yard fewer per play than the Giants, yet the won 49-17. Three Eli Manning interceptions will do that to you.

  • The Oakland Raiders pulled out an overtime win against the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night, but it was ugly -- barely competent -- all around. This quote from the recap pretty much sums it up: “The Raiders won despite 16 penalties, including five on their overtime drive, and despite getting their only first down of the second half on a 3-yard touchdown drive.” Ew.

  • I didn't watch the Detroit Lions-San Francisco game, so I have absolutely no idea what is going on here, but how did this play even happen? It hasn't even started...

  • Miko Grimes, the, uh, outspoken wife of Miami Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes was, once again, talking a lot of trash on Twitter about her husband’s teammates. Best known for her foul-mouthed Twitter rants and getting arrested before a game for headbutting a police officer, she is not one to shy away from expressing herself. Apparently, she is not a fan of quarterback Ryan Tannehill: “How many people does ryan tannehill have to get fired before you realize he’s the problem,” read one tweet. Another: “yall do realize that no legitimate coach will come here if he’s our qb, right? we’re screwed as long as he’s under center!” I’m sure her husband had a lot of fun walking into the locker room the next day. Thanks, babe!

  • The Arizona Cardinals have a little weekly competition among the quarterbacks each week, and the loser has to wear something ridiculous, and, apparently, Carson Palmer was this week’s loser.

  • The San Diego Chargers and safety Eric Weddle are going to part ways after nine years on a very sour note. Weddle and the Chargers have been unable to come to a contract agreement this season, setting up Weddle’s likely, but not guaranteed, exit. Two weeks ago, however, in San Diego’s final game in their stadium, Weddle skipped halftime (without informing his coaches) to watch his daughter dance in a special halftime performance. Weddle was fined $10,000 for this, but did not say anything because he didn’t want to air dirty laundry in public. This week, the Chargers put Weddle on the injured reserve list against Weddle’s wishes. Not only does that essentially end Weddle’s career with the Chargers, but they then told him there was no room for him on the team plane for next week’s game against the Denver Broncos -- Weddle’s last game with the team he has played with for nine years. It was after that move that Weddle’s agent tweeted about the halftime fine. It’s very sad for Weddle, and kind of ridiculous that the Chargers are ending his time with the team like this.

  • St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long was caught on camera saying what looked to be some naughty words to the Seattle Seahawks crowd.

  • But Long was able to explain what was really going on after the game.

  • Awww here’s a sweet video about James Jones’ journey back to the Packers.  He and Jordy Nelson and their families are such good friends, that Jones’ wife felt bad that Jones was benefiting from Jordy’s injury, and Jordy told her, “If there had to be someone brought in because I’m hurt, who better to bring in than James?”

And he looks very, very good.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Double-Digit Wins!

  • In their victory over the Oakland Raiders, the Green Bay Packers reached the double-digit mark in the win column and secured a ticket to the playoffs. Yay!

  • As for how the Packers are feeling, that depends whom you ask. Coach Mike McCarthy got snippy with reporters focusing too much on the negative: “The style points, you can flush that. I'm sick and tired of talking about the negativities. We've won 10 games. We lost three games on the last play of the game and Denver beat us. That's the overview of our season, and we've got a chance to win 11 next week."

  • Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the locker room, however, weren’t overjoyed at their play. Rodgers said they were ineffective, while TJ Lang acknowledged that “we feel like we’re not playing up to our talent level.”

  • Lang also pointed out 14 of their 30 points came from the defense -- well, essentially. Micah Hyde returned an interception inside the 20-yard line, and Demarious Randall recorded a pick-six. Those two lost possessions skewed the numbers against the offense a bit, but if you take away those, the offense managed one touchdown and three field goals against a sub-.500 team.

  • There wasn’t a lot to love about the offensive game, but I’m sick of typing the exact same thing every week, so let’s focus on the goods: James Jones had a nice game! Back in Oakland, Jones had six catches for 82 yards and a touchdown. Reporters wanted to hype up Jones before and after the game about playing against the team that cut him, but JJ wasn’t having any of it: “I don’t hold no grudges on nobody. I just go out every game and try to play well. It wasn’t trying to get back at the Raiders. I love the dudes over there.” I love how chill and good-natured he is about everything.
Cali cool. The hoodie helps.

  • Randall Cobb also had a nice game. His effort doesn’t necessarily show up in the box score -- 40 yards receiving, 18 yards rushing -- but he had some crucial catches, and his runs opened up the field a bit more. Second-year receiver Jared Abbrederis also played well, catching all three targets that came his way.
It probably easy to be so good when you have huge, strong, sculpted biceps.

  • I insist on watching Green Bay games all the way till the clock hits zeros, even if the outcome is decided, but ooohhh mmyyy goooosshh this was the game that wouldn’t end! It felt like the third Lord of the Rings movie! The teams were just trading timeouts and penalties! I thought it was maybe just in my head, so I went back and checked: the last three game minutes took 25 real-life minutes!!! TWENTY-FIVE.

  • Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has serial killer eyes.
And face.

  • Injuries continue to be a problem for the Packers. Left tackle David Bakhtieri left the game with an ankle injury (Ahh! No! Please, not Don Barclay!!), and center JC Tretter was limping heavily near the end of the game. Kinda stinks considering how banged up the offensive line has been all season. This is how they came into the game:
This might have something to do with why the
Packers couldn't run anything this week.

  • A few days after announcing yet another “setback” for Ty Montgomery on what must be the worst ankle sprain in history, Green Bay put the receiver on IR, ending his season. To take his place, the Packers activated tight end Andrew Quarless. Yay!! Andrew Quarless!! Oh no. I’m actually hoping Andrew Quarless is going to save the day.
Reaction GIF: sad, uncomfortable, Jim Carrey, Dumb & Dumber

  • The best part of a rather boring game was seeing Charles Woodson. IloveyouCharlescomeback. I, of course, was not happy to see James Starks fumble (again), but I appreciated that Charles was the one who forced it. He also almost intercepted Rodgers, but his teammate grabbed it away from him. Watching Woodson go around and hug all the Packers after the game was, to me, the most interesting part. I won’t admit how hard I was scouring the screen for Woodson talking to Jordy. (I didn’t find them, obviously. Otherwise, that's all that this week's blog would be.)
Awww they all love each other so much.

  • AAHHH Charles Woodson just announced he’s retiring at the end of the season! Even after 18 years, he’s going out on top. Woodson’s career highlights include the Heisman, a Super Bowl, Defensive Player of the Year, 65 interceptions, 11 interception returns, and 33 forced fumbles. I’m going to miss him! Mostly I’m sad because I’m not going to get to use this picture much anymore:
Also I NEED him to get a pick-six in the next two games.
He's only one away from tying the record!
PLEEAASSE Philip Rivers  or Alex Smith, throw him a pick-six!

  • I always cheer for Ryan Fitzpatrick because the guy scored a 1580 on his SAT, has an economics degree from Harvard, has had a four-touchdown game with four different teams, has five kids -- at least one of whom is a budding math genius -- and is known for never taking off his wedding ring. Naturally, I enjoyed watching Fitzpatrick and the New York Jets mathematically eliminate the Dallas Cowboys from the playoffs on Saturday night. I especially enjoyed how the Jets waited until there were 36 seconds left in the game to kick a field goal to go up three points. Just enough time for Cowboys’ fans to think, “Hey, maybe this is possible. We have one of the best kickers in the league, after all. We just need to get into field goal range. Plus, we finally benched Matt Cassel. That guy’s awful. Now we have Kellen Moore. And I don’t want to jinx us, but our division’s so bad, that there’s still a tiny sliver of hope that something crazy could happen. I mean, if we win this game, then win our last two and get some help from other teams… but it all starts with tonight. Maybe, just maybe, Kellen can pull this off.” And then Moore threw his third interception of the night.

  • Before Matt Cassel was benched, he achieved a truly spectacular feat. He threw an interception (surprise), but even though the ball was intercepted, Cassel was still called for intentional grounding! The penalty came because there was not a Dallas receiver in the area. There was another flag for having an ineligible receiver downfield. The whole play was like the Cowboys’ season in a nutshell.

  • Maybe it’s because I’ve watched this Vine dozens of time, or maybe because in the last six games he’s completed 75% of his passes, has 12 touchdowns, two interceptions, and an average passer rating of 120, but I think I’m becoming a believer in Kirk Cousins.

  • Detroit Lions defensive end Devin Taylor’s shoes really clash with his suit.

  • The New York Giants were so close to beating the now 14-0 Carolina Panthers. Carolina’s final two opponents are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons, so New York was pretty much the last chance to defeat the Panthers in the regular season. Carolina was up 35-7 with five minutes left in the third quarter before New York began mounting an improbable comeback. They scored a touchdown, forced a three-and-out, scored a touchdown, and blocked a field goal! All of a sudden, it’s a two-score game! But then Eli Manning, in a very Eli Manning-y way (JK it actually wasn't his fault), threw an interception in the endzone, thus taking all the wind out of the Giants’ sails. BUT THEN, Carolina fumbled the ball, New York scored a touchdown, forced another three-and-out, and scored another touchdown! Oh my gosh! It’s 35-35 with 1:46 left. Carolina goes into we’ve-won-13-games-thank-you-very-much mode and, after returning the kickoff 26 yards, completes passes of nine, two, 16, and 12 yards, just like that. The Panthers are at the 35-yard line with 32 seconds left. That would be about a 52-yard field goal; doable, but tough. The Panthers decide to go for one more play … and the Giants decide not to cover Cam Newton, ya know, the quarterback who has more rushing yards than James Starks. Newton picks up an extra 10 yards, and the Panthers kick a field goal to stay perfect.

  • The game wasn’t even where the real drama was between the Panthers and Giants. New York’s fabulous receiver Odell Beckham Jr was matched up with one of the best corners in the league in Carolina’s Josh Norman, and the two struggled to get along. Seriously, it got really ugly. Beckham was called for three unnecessary roughness penalties (Norman was not an innocent bystander in all of this), plus should have been flagged for at least a couple more, like when he grabbed Norman’s ankle as he was walking away, or when he threw a punch at Cortland Finnegan, and Finnegan was called for the penalty. The most egregious instance -- and one that should have led to Beckham’s immediate ejection -- was when Beckham, doubling back on a play, came charging at Norman and blindsided him with a dangerous hit to the helmet. Beckham was rightly suspended for a game.

  • The gangrenous NFC East has captured everyone’s disgust as a division, but let’s not overlook the AFC South, which is actually somehow worse (maybe we’re just used to that?). Just when you thought the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans couldn’t be more terrible, both their quarterbacks get injured. Or, to be more accurate, both their backup quarterbacks get injured. So in came the Colts’ third-string QB, Charlie Whitehurst (though Matt Hasselbeck would return) and fourth-stringer Brandon Weeden for the Texans. If Hasselbeck isn’t ready to go next week, the Colts are in some trouble. Whitehurst is the backup, and the emergency quarterback -- receiver Griff Whalen -- was placed on IR on Monday. Things might actually be more dire for Houston, who lost quarterback TJ Yates to a torn ACL. Their season now lies in the hands of Weeden.

  • The net gain in the box score on this play is -3, but the ball travels about 100 yards before being recovered by the quarterback who threw it in the first place.

  • Poor Justin Blackmon; the kid obviously needs help. The talented wide receiver has a very long history of off-field troubles. He was arrested for a DUI in college, then again his rookie year. The next offseason, he was suspended for testing positive for marijuana. He missed the first four games of the next season serving that suspension, then a few weeks after he came back, he failed another drug test, leading to an indefinite suspension. Several months into that indefinite suspension, Blackmon was arrested for marijuana possession, and went through a rehab program. The league denied his request for reinstatement early this offseason. Then, on Saturday, the 25-year-old was arrested for yet another DUI. I hope he has someone in his circle who cares enough about him to try to get him help.

  • Watch #76 on the Chicago Bears in this video. All the way through.

  • Next week, the Packers play the Arizona Cardinals and I’M SCARED. If only we still had these two.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

America's Team 28, Dallas Cowboys 7

  • My brother always says his two favorite teams each week are the Green Bay Packers and whoever is playing the Dallas Cowboys, so Sunday was a good day for him. It was a good day for America, really.

  • Head coach Mike McCarthy was back on play-calling and the results were … fairly good. If you cut out the third quarter -- in which the Packers punted four times and allowed the Cowboys’ only score -- Green Bay had a great game! That third quarter, however, was a replay loop of the Packers’ persistent problems this season: third-down failures, inability of the receivers to get open, Aaron Rodgers looking hesitant, &c.

  • McCarthy didn’t do anything radically different with the calls, but I liked that he did just enough to mix things up a bit. Randall Cobb spent some time in the backfield, I saw receivers in motion on occasion, and at least a couple of instances of stacked receivers sets -- nothing wildly exotic or surprising, but enough that it didn’t feel like Green Bay was trotting out the exact same plays every single series.
James' lucky hoodie probably helped, too.

  • Green Eyes had eight catches for 81 yards, but more than that, found ways to get open for important plays, particularly third downs. He also got more than one shout-out on the broadcast for his blocking, which is not something you hear slot receivers praised for a lot.
No, sir -- thumbs up to you.

  • Little-used but fan favorite wide receiver Jeff Janis was a beast on special teams coverage, blasting Cowboys’ returner Lucky Whitehead on all three of his punt returns, giving Whitehead a total of -6 yards in those situations.

  • But the game really belonged to Eddie Lacy and the Packers’ running game. Lacy had a season-high 24 carries for 124 yards and a touchdown. James Starks provided a nice complement to Lacy with 71 yards and a touchdown of his own. (I like Starks well enough as a change-of-pace back; it’s just when he’s the featured back that I tear out my hair.) It was nice to see Lacy back in Hulk form.

  • It was also nice to see how much support Eddie had from his teammates and the fans. His teammates were clearly happy for him. He and Starks, in particular, are adorable in how much they support each other and obviously love each other. Awwwwwww!

  • The defense continued to play well, aside from allowing Cowboys running backs Darren McFadden and Robert Turbin to get loose on a couple of significant plays. Jason Witten led all Cowboys receivers with 40 yards, and Dez Bryant had only one catch for nine yards. Sam Shields (before he was lost to a concussion -- get better, Sammy!), Micah Hyde, and Demarious Randall played especially well, though all of this should be taken with a grain of salt when it comes against a Matt Cassel-led team. Sunday was a little rough for Matt (but then again, most Sundays are for him).

  • I was going to suggest that maybe Dallas needs to move away from Cassel, but then I Googled Kellen Moore. I kid you not, this is an actual picture of the Cowboys’ backup quarterback.

  • The Cowboys turnover differential is by far the worst in the league at -15!! NEGATIVE FIFTEEN.

  • The Oakland Raiders had -12 yards in the first half. They had 126 yards total. 80 of those yards came on a single drive; otherwise, they had 46 yards of offense. They didn’t even reach 100 yards in passing. They had eight first downs the entire game. Their quarterback only completed 41% of his throws. AND THEY WON!

  • The only stat in which the Raiders came out ahead of the Denver Broncos was sacks. Oakland sacked Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler five times. Well, actually, Khalil Mack sacked him five times. He’s pretty good.

  • Even with my beloved Matt Hasselbeck, the Indianapolis Colts are really, really terrible. What on earth happened to the team that went to the conference finals last year? On Sunday, the Colts lost 51-16 to the Jaguars -- the Jacksonville Jaguars!

  • You know who else is really awful? The Atlanta Falcons. Yes, they were playing the undefeated Carolina Panthers, but in a season-deciding, make-or-break game, the Falcons managed a grand total of zero points. Yeesh, guys. At least pretend to try.

  • Boy, I feel for the Cincinnati Bengals. They came into Sunday’s match against the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers at 10-2 and looking like they finally had the team to break their one-and-done recent history in the playoffs. And then quarterback Andy Dalton threw an interception. That's not the bad part. The bad part came when Andy tackled the interceptor and broke his thumb in the process, likely ending his season. The Bengals also lost tight end extraordinaire Tyler Eifert (concussion) and the game.

Tyler should have asked not to get injured instead. =(

  • This whole “dabbing” thing cannot die soon enough for me.

  • Holy wow, Odell Beckham Jr. You'd think we'd all eventually get bored with his weekly circus catch, but not yet. On Monday night, Beckham was so sick with a stomach bug that he needed three IVs to get through the New York Giants' game against the Miami Dolphins, but that didn't stop him from racking up 166 yards and two touchdowns. Near the end of the third quarter, on the Miami 6-yard line with the Dolphins up a touchdown, Eli Manning rolled out under pressure and threw to OBJ in the front right corner of the endzone. The refs called it incomplete, because there was obviously no way Beckham could have gotten his feet in bounds in that space. Beckham protested to the refs that he had gotten his feet in bounds, and they were all, "Yeah, right, buddy."

  • But the Giants challenged because he's Odell Beckham Jr, and sure enough -- INSANITY!

  • If the Packers make the playoffs, I hope we don’t have to play the Seattle Seahawks. They are on fire, particularly Russell Wilson. In the last four games, the Seahawks QB is completing 75% of his passes, and has thrown 16 touchdowns to zero interceptions.

  • What are the chances that Rob Gronkowski’s helmet is actually one of those beer hats and his chin straps are the straws? 10%? 25%? 75%?

  • The Detroit Lions lost. The Chicago Bears lost. The Minnesota Vikings lost. It was a good week in football.

  • No ugly sweater can diminish Jordy and Randall’s stunning good looks.
Davante Adams is just kinda taking up space that
could have gone to a closer up of Jordy and Randall.