Monday, January 16, 2017

No Time to Gloat; On to Atlanta!

  • Totally kidding. Of course there's time to gloat. That's what this entire post is going to be.

  • When asked what he was thinking when the Dallas Cowboys tied the game with 35 seconds left, Aaron Rodgers responded: “A little too much time on the clock.” Hahahahahahaha! Sorry, Cowboys, not this year!
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  • AAAAAAHHHHHHH that was so stressful! And awesome! Any last-second Green Bay Packers victory in a playoff game is incredible, but it’s just so much sweeter that it came against the Cowboys
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  • I don’t even know where to start! Let’s start at the very end, with Mason Crosby nailing a 51-yarder for the victory. And just a few minutes after kicking a 56-yarder to take the lead. He actually had to kick the 51-yard field goal twice, as Dallas stupidly tried to ice him. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you don’t ice Mason Crosby. 
"I play games on the field, not up here."

  • Here’s the kick set to “My Heart Will Go On.” Some funny people have realized that every sports moment sounds epic with this score in the background, and they’re right.

  • Let’s backtrack to that 35-second mark. Dallas has just tied it up, the Packers have the ball and two timeouts. I had been horribly nervous and upset in the fourth quarter as the Packers squandered their lead (I knew the Dallas comeback was coming, and I knew the Packers defense wasn’t going to be able to do much about it), but the crazy thing when Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback is that situations like these seem eminently doable. I knew we weren’t going to overtime. It was nice to have overtime as a fallback, but I knew we weren’t going to overtime. Even after the first incompletion. Even after Rodgers was sacked with 23 seconds left. Even after another incompletion. Then, with the clock down to 12 (COINCIDENCE? I THINK NOT), Rodgers takes the snap, almost immediately spins left out of the pocket, buys time, buys time, and then hits tight end Jared Cook on this insane throw and catch!! This is about when I lost my mind. (Look at Rodgers on the replay trying to will Cook into keeping his toes in.)

  • Cook has really been huge for the Packers. Having that big target really changes the way defenses have been covering the Packers, and it’s clear to see how Rodgers relies on him. On that last drive, every attempt was to Cook. Crazy what having an actual tight end can do, huh?

  • Now that I’ve taken a veiled swipe at Richard Rodgers, I do have to give him props for his nice play on Green Bay’s first touchdown. On a free play, the ball actually went through the defender’s arms and Rodgers was still able to keep focus on it for the catch. Nice job.

  • One of the thing that bothers me about R. Rodgers -- besides being super slow and klutzy and an embarrassingly bad blocker -- is that he always has a dopey grin on his face, even if he’s just messed up a huge play. He’s always smiling this odd dreamy smile. And I do mean always. Here he is on his touchdown reception:
Yep, still smiling.

  • The Packers defense had a few rough spots -- and losing Morgan Burnett to a quad injury didn’t help (seriously, that’s bad news. We need him for Atlanta.) -- but they also had a bright spot or two. Defensive MVP of the game was clearly Micah Hyde, who had an early sack and a beautiful pass break-up in the first half. His best play, though, was this textbook read and interception off of Dak Prescott. He anticipated this so quickly that the ball’s almost behind him when he picks it off!

  • It was fun to hear Hyde break down the play afterwards. He knew what was coming pre-snap, but didn’t want to leave the corner, LaDarius Gunter, out to dry if the Cowboys ended up adjusting -- Gunter would have been left to cover two receivers by himself. Gunter, however, saw the same thing pre-snap and knew what Hyde was thinking. He told Hyde, “Go get it.” And Micah did.

  • I desperately missed my Jordy during the game, of course, but I was pleased to see his sideline prowess alive and well not only on Cook’s game-saving play, but with Green Eyes, too. (The full highlight is even more impressive.)

  • Aaron Rodgers threw his first interception in 318 passes on Sunday (only 17 passes off the record!), which is just madness. Another way to look at it? Aaron Rodgers threw 24 touchdowns in between interceptions. That’s as many touchdown passes as Dak Prescott threw all season. And that's no knock on Dak; just perspective on how good Rodgers has been.

  • There were some low-key MVPs I would like to recognize.
    • First, Aaron Rodgers not fumbling on that sack with 18 seconds left. No idea how he hung on. 
    • Second, the sideline judge who overruled the head judge on the Cook catch.
    • Finally, Jason Garrett/Dak Prescott for clocking the ball on a first down with 1:07 left, thereby wasting a down instead of using their timeout.
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  • I don’t like to kick a team when it’s down, but it’s the Dallas Cowboys we’re talking about, so you can sure bet I’m going to do it. The Cowboys played fantastic all season and should be credited for it. However, it seems that they benefitted from playing a lot of really bad teams, too. Below are the final season offensive rankings for all the teams the Cowboys played (by points scored). Aside from the Packers (who were certainly not #4 at the time they played) and the Steelers, none of the teams Dallas played are even in the top ten offensively. Just saying.
      • 11-5 Giants – 26th (played twice, lost twice)
      • 8-7-1 Redskins – 12th (played twice)
      • 3-13 Bears – 28th
      • 2-14 Niners – 27th
      • 6-9-1 Bengals – 24th
      • 10-6 Packers – 4th
      • 7-9 Eagles -16th (played twice, lost once)
      • 1-15 Browns – 31st
      • 11-5 Steelers – 10th
      • 8-8 Ravens – 21st 
      • 8-8 Vikings – 23rd
      • 9-7 Buccaneers – 18th
      • 9-7 Lions – 20th 

  • Man, what a game. It’s hard not to celebrate too much and revel in the salty, salty tears of all of the Cowboys’ bandwaggoning fans, but the Packers still have a lot of work to do. GO PACK GO!

  • This space was to be used to talk about the New England Patriots-Houston Texans game, but one team’s quarterback is Tom Brady and the other’s is Brock Osweiler. How do you think it went? 

  • The new Los Angeles Chargers’ logo is awful. It looks like a Chinese symbol meets an italicized hashtag meets a broken fence meets a corporation called “4A.”

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They shall henceforth be known as the "4A Chargers." (At least to me.)

  • Some people noticed a slight resmblance between the 4A Chargers’ logo and the Los Angeles Dodgers' logo.

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  • I’ve spoken up before for Troy Aikman and Joe Buck -- I really do not understand why so many people hate them! They are so much better than absolutely everyone except for the Sunday Night Football crew. The vitriol toward them is especially weird coming from Packers fan, tens of thousands of whom have signed a petition to get Aikman and Buck banned from calling Packers game. Fans apparently think that the two are biased when it comes to Green Bay, and they’re absolutely right, because Aikman and Buck don’t even try to hide how much they love the Packers. Have either of them said a bad word about Aaron Rodgers? I mean, ever? Have they ever gone an entire game without congratulating Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy for their success? How often to they bring up the fans and the town and how unique the Green Bay team’s relationship with the community is? If other teams’ fans were signing that petition, that’d make sense, because they’re probably sick of hearing Aikman and Buck gush over the Packers. So bizarre.

  • I really hate Pete Carroll. His teams are full of @$$holes and loudmouths. They’re dirty, cheap players and sore losers. The second the game gets out of hand for them, you can put money in the bank that they’re going to start taking cheapshots and trying to injure opponents. It’s one of their hallmarks, and given how consistent it is, I’ll lay the blame for that at the feet of the Robber Baron himself.
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  • Here’s Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett chewing out a reporter after the game who had the nerve to suggest that the Seahawks defense didn't get as much pressure on Atlanta QB Matt Ryan -- who threw for over 300 yards -- as they were perhaps hoping to:

  • And here’s injured Seattle safety Earl Thomas going after a team they weren’t even playing:

  • Keep in mind that the Seattle Seahawks play in the same division as the 2-14 San Francisco 49ers and the 4-12 Los Angeles Rams. Next best after Seattle was the 7-8 Arizona Cardinals. So why don’t you just focus on healing up, Earl?

  • Despite the close 18-16 score in the Pittsburgh Steelers-Kansas City Chiefs game, the Steelers really controlled nearly the entire game by controlling the clock. The Chiefs had a 4:54 drive in the third quarter (resulted in a punt) and a final drive of 7:06 (resulted in a touchdown). Other than that, the Chiefs averaged less than two minutes per drive.

  • About that last touchdown. Down eight with 2:43 left in the game, the Chiefs scored and elected to go for the two-point attempt to tie the game. And they made it!! Buuuuuut, the play was called back by a hold on the left tackle. The re-attempt failed and that was your final score: 18-16 Pittsburgh.

  • As you might imagine, the Chiefs were not happy with the holding call. (I think it was the right call and no, I don’t think “a hold could be called on every play!” is a strong argument for not calling this one.) After the game, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce went off on the ref, saying the call was "horse$#!+, flat-out" and "ignorance." He said the ref "shouldn’t be able to wear a zebra jersey ever again. He shouldn’t even be able to work at $#^%ing Foot Locker.”

  • A couple of things for Kelce: 1) That was a hold, so quit complaining about the ref and saying James Harrison just fell down. The issue is you don’t think a hold should be called in that important of a situation. That’s different than saying the ref made up the call. 2) “We try to play this game with integrity,” Kelce says. Hmm, yes, tell me more about your integrity, Travis.

  • I really don’t care about the Steelers or the Chiefs, and I do think the hold was a good call, but I also kinda feel like you don’t deserve to win if you can’t manage a single touchdown. I certainly don’t want to run down kickers after what Mason Crosby just did for my life, but all 18 of Pittsburgh’s points came off the leg of kicker Chris Boswell.
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  • The NFL is all about player safety, you know. That’s why they have independent neurologists right on the field to examine players after big hits and evaluate them for concussions. It’s really great for the players, like Chris Conley, who was put back in the game one play after taking this hit:

  • I know that the Kansas City Chiefs were the technical favorites in the game, but c’mon, who’s afraid of the Kansas City Chiefs? They could go 16-0, and no one would ever even pick them to go to the Super Bowl.

  • You know who I used to feel that way about? The Atlanta Falcons. For so many years, I’d be really impressed with Matt Ryan and the Falcons, only to have them goose-egg in a huge game or miss the playoffs in a weak division. So somewhere about two or three seasons ago, I told myself I was going to stop falling for Atlanta’s hey-look-we’re-a-contender routine because I’d just seen it one too many times before. I genuinely have felt bad for their fans for a while because it must suck to have a super talented team that you have absolutely no faith in. Even earlier this season, as they got blazing hot once again, I had to remind myself not to forget that they always disappoint:

  • But now? Maybe now’s the season they finally figure it out? With Matt Ryan as the MVP frontrunner and an offense that scores more points than any other team, they’re looking, well, scary, to a team like Green Bay, whose glaring weakness is their pass defense. Matt Ryan’s probably looking at our defense like:
NFL football atlanta falcons falcons matt ryan

  • Not so fast, Matty Ice. This means your defense has to go up against Aaron Rodgers.

  • Atlanta may very well be the toughest matchup for Green Bay, but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the game. Reasons #1-19 all rhyme with Taron Todgers, but our defense has also had some good moments throughout the year and have come up with big stops with games on the line. The Packers played the Falcons very, very close this year, losing a heartbreaker by one point, and the Packers are a much better team now than they were in Week 8. (The Falcons, for their part, didn’t have their #1 receiver for much of the game, but never mind that.) Green Bay’s best defense will probably be keeping their own offense on the field and keeping Ryan & Co. sidelined. It’ll be a tough game, but I BEEELIIIEEEVE!

  • And there’s a chance we get this guy back.

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