It’s always hard to know how much to read into a head coach’s words; lying is simply part of the job description. You learn to judge a coach’s intent by his actions on the field, not by what he says in his press conferences.
Head coach Mike McCarthy has stated many times that he wants the Green Bay Packers to be a defensive-minded team. But in 2009 and again in 2011, Green Bay didn’t look like a team that cared at all about defense, and it’s no coincidence that both years, they were one and done in the playoffs. In 2010, though, it was the defense that help cement that Super Bowl-winning team’s place in history. And on Saturday, at least, it seems McCarthy got his wish:
“Playoff victories are always ones that are very special,” he said after the game. “Tonight’s win definitely starts and ends with our defense.”
The performance of quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been stellar the past few weeks and the rushing attack finally seems to have found its footing, but if this team is to get back to the big dance, it will be because the defense dug in its heels and refused to budge.
They took an important first step on Wild Card weekend, atoning for their mistakes of the previous week by rendering backup quarterback Joe Webb utterly ineffective and holding running back Adrian Peterson to 99 yards on 22 carries en route to a convincing 24-10 win against a divisional opponent they played three times in less than six weeks.
This is the first in a two-part series looking at that game. Today we’ll examine the offense.
As a fan, I like to think that Mike McCarthy has forgotten more about football than I’ll ever know. I like to think he must have solid tactical and strategic reasons for the decisions he makes. But sometimes, no matter how hard I try to give him the benefit of the doubt, he leaves me scratching my head.
What bewilders me the most about McCarthy is his tendency to call off the dogs when his opponent is down. The idealist in me likes to think that McCarthy lives by a sense of nobility that prevents him from humiliating a vanquished opponent. The strategist in me thinks he wants to show faith in the rest of his squad by proving to the defense and the running backs that they can carry this team on their backs without the help of the passing game. The medic in me speculates that he is trying to reduce the risk of injury to his star players.
And all of that is well and good. It’s entirely possible that McCarthy does this with the best of intentions and not, as the cynic in me often whispers, because he’s cocky or complacent. But I question the wisdom of allowing a roster that is consistently one of the youngest in the league to take quarters off. Sure, the battle-hardened and grizzled veterans probably get what McCarthy is up to, but do the young guys? Or are they gleaning a different message — that they’re somehow invincible and can get by with not giving their all every single game?
It’s McCarthy’s job to keep his players from thinking that way, of course, but I’m not convinced that message is always being conveyed adequately. We’ve all seen games in which Green Bay backed off in the third quarter, only to find themselves scrambling to make a stand when the opponent caught up. They haven’t been able to flip the switch back on every time.
It might make him one of the less-liked coaches in the league, but instilling a sense of urgency into his players could prevent the embarrassing collapses like we saw against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5 and the Minnesota Vikings in Week 17. This is especially important in the playoffs, when every game is a win-or-go-home scenario.
The phrase “diamond in the rough” is overused when describing unheralded players, but it certainly fits running back DuJuan Harris, who has accomplished something no one else has been able to do this season: give the offense a consistent and credible threat out of the backfield. It’s been well over 40 games since the Packers last had a 100-yard rusher, but McCarthy doesn’t care. All he needs is a back who can provide enough of a rush to force the defensive backs out of their zones, take the strain off his offensive line by cooling the pass rush, and opening up play action.
Harris has fit the bill perfectly. His final rushing numbers weren’t spectacular — he only rushed for 47 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries — but he gave Aaron Rodgers another receiving threat, catching five passes for 53 yards to lead all receivers. It’s worth noting, too, that Harris leads all Green Bay backs with his three touchdowns in only three starts. If he can manage to stay healthy, he may prove a bigger story than James Starks did in 2010.
Speaking of the passing game, it was the first game in many weeks that Rodgers had his full complement of receivers available to him, and he took full advantage. He tied his own NFL playoff record (set in the 2009 Wild Card round against the Arizona Cardinals) by connecting with 10 different receiving targets on 33 attempts for 279 yards and a touchdown (104.9 passer rating).
Before the game, we said it would be critical for Rodgers to get the backs and tight ends involved in the passing game, and he certainly did that. He got the ball twice to fullback John Kuhn for 15 yards and a touchdown (Kuhn also ran for another), halfback Ryan Grant once for 16 yards, tight ends Tom Crabtree and Jermichael Finley once each for 10 yards apiece, and tight end Ryan Taylor once for no gain.
There are only so many balls to go around, though, so no one in the receiving corps had spectacular numbers. Greg Jennings finished with 61 yards on four catches; James Jones with 51 yards on four catches; and Jordy Nelson with 51 yards on three catches. Ironically, 2012 hero Randall Cobb played only a minor role, catching one pass for seven yards.
With so many pass catchers at hand, if the Packers can continue to rush the ball and give Rodgers time to throw, it is difficult to see another NFC team keeping up with them.
JWoude, I think you'll like this one:
Water Cooler Analyst @WaterCoolerQB
@TheFakeESPN Rob Parker calls Kevin Garnett a "Corn-Flakes Brother"
Welp, I have a Safety Review Committee meeting in ~ 30 mins.
Looks like I'll have to recommend no one visit this site before breakfast...
... or after if Captain Scatologist niemerg1 is on
@SDL oh come on now...will one bad picture ruin our friendship forever? *sadface*
naaahhh... you're perverted, twisted and sick...
Typical fan of Da Bearss and you definitely fit in well, here
@SDL Tell your "Safety Committee" I said to go Fuck Themselves.
Silly moustachioed one... it's well known that fucking yourself can result in all kinds of safety hazards and potential injuries
@Maized and Confused Good question
PS I don't know the answer
@Maized and Confused I could only see that if he can't land any of the HC jobs.
Wouldn't fit well there, though. They run a 3-4 (have the perfect personnel for it), and he only has ever done 4-3.
@Maized and Confused I would think he would take a year off before that.
Rob Ryan says he'll be unemployed for about 5 minutes.
Golden Corral reported it's highest profits ever for that 5 minute span.
@Maized and Confused eating contest between him and Alshon Jeffery... GO!!!
@Maized and Confused "YOU GO NOW!!! YOU BEEN HERE 4 HOUR!!
Next time one of you sick motherfuckers feels like sharing a gif of some bitch taking a dump in her panties:
Do us all a favor: DON'T
(not mentioning any names, niemerg1)
Hey, J Wood... beautify the blog and moderate the shit out of that pooping girl gif, below (pun intended)
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@niemerg1 LOL... You damn keed you no work!! you no pay rent all you do is pway sirry video games arr day wrong!!! I hire hitmen and kirr your character that show you!! that make you want job!!
@WCSN Postseason Pick'em Contest . . . It's on! ACL and MCL reconstructive surgery... any bets if he comes back as good as AP did?