As this week has progressed, it seems like the Packers, as an organization overall, are searching for an identity. There’s been change, but just enough to talk about, not really a ton to shake things up…so it feels. There’s the uber-talented aging Quarterback that’s under-accomplished. The Head Coach whose stubbornness allowed him to achieve success, and since has only held team away from accomplishing further. A fan base that’s torn between appreciation of “success.” Maybe this is a bigger/different topic for another day, but with the trades of Ty Montgomery and HaHa Clinton-Dix this week (both needed for different reasons) it seems like there’s a partial commitment to something, I’m just not sure as to what it is. Anyway, let’s carry on.
Review—cripes!!!!!!! For as much as I gripe about the Quarterback (mainly postseason stuff), it seemed like the Rams left too much time for Rodgers and the Packers to score. What I mean by that is with 2:04 and a timeout left, I believe the Packers could’ve scored a TD and left too much time for LA to respond with another score of their own, no joke. Again, for as critical as I am of Rodgers, all he does is dominate situations like these in the regular season. Two minutes, 4 seconds, with the 2-minute warning and a timeout at his disposal…we’ve seen Rodgers lead late-game drives, twice this season (week 2 v Min & week 6 v SF), with one resulting in a missed GW field goal attempt and another resulting in a made GW field goal attempt. I believe in week 2, there were 0:32 with no timeouts and in week 6 a little over a minute with ZERO timeouts. Either way, that would’ve been a win to swing the lost feeling this team currently holds.
It seemed like the Packers played a pretty complete game, however they didn’t win any of the key stat departments: yards; red zone efficiency; turnovers. With all of that, if you eliminate the bonehead kick return by Montgomery, it’s likely the Packers win, or at least drive down and score to take the lead. Frustrating doesn’t begin to describe. The positive is there’s room for improvement, a lot, and the Packers can absolutely play with the best of the best, on the road. Better start winning those games, now!
HaHa Clinton-Dix: The other bright side is General Manager, Brian Gutekunst. There have been mumblings of HaHa Clinton-Dix not wanting to be here, also showed by his lack of effort in weeks 16 and 17 last year, and he’s just not the player the national media plays him out to be. My guess is he’ll kind of vanish into the mold of Washington…which begs the question: Was he regarded as a high-quality safety because he was surrounded by trash in Green Bay? Answer: very possible. Either way, he didn’t want to be here, so see ya! Might as well get something for him. The question of who will be taking his reps has already been answered, veteran CB Tramon Williams. I’d like to see Josh Jones (Gutey’s guy) get as many reps as possible, it seems this is the safest play since Tramon knows the playbook and when trying to win now, you want players that know where to be, especially at safety. I still want to find out if Josh Jones is the real deal, which we may not find out.
Ty Montgomery: I’ve been a Monty guy, not a hard advocate, ‘nor a strict defender of his…but he struck me as a bright kid, well-spoken, and wanted to put the team first (move from WR to HB). However, regardless for the reason he took the kickoff out of the end zone (none, absolutely none), the Packers actually showed balls by sending him packing and again, got something in return for a guy they likely weren’t resigning. Two birds actually- the packers got a return for someone they normally wouldn’t have AND on a more important note, were able to send a message. Actions > words. Bravo! As for taking Monty’s reps, hopefully all go to Aaron Jones. He keeps putting up great numbers and yet everyone still questions why he doesn’t get more touches. Incredible.
Preview—ok, so where to go from here? I heard on a sports radio show earlier this week, Michael Cohen (writer for the Athletic) stated, “This team could go in one of 2 directions after a loss like that. This could galvanize them, they could come together and really build off it and accomplish something. Or they could think ‘Wow, we played a great game and lost.’ Then come out flat as can be.” I thought that was spot on. The Patriots are 5 ½ point favorites as of Thursday, and while I think the Packers could come together from this experience – not to mention eliminating two players that seemed to be messing up the locker room and weren’t wanted – I think Tom and the Patriots might be too much to handle.
McCarthy vs Belicheck: Mac turned around an aging QB (Favre) to play, possibly, his best football. Belicheck is arguably, if not easily, the best coach of all-time- let’s take a look at their head-to-head matchups.
- November 19th, 2006: Patriots W 35-0. I believe Favre got hurt that game (aka didn’t want to return) and Rodgers even came in, and looked just as bad as Brett was. Outclassed, outmanned, outplayed.
- December 19th, 2010: Patriots W 31-27. This was Matt Flynn’s coming-out party. Flynn actually had Green Bay up 10 midway through the 2nd quarter, however the long kick return by the Patriots’ OL completely swung momentum and the Packers fell.
- November 30th, 2014: Packers W 26-21. The only matchup between Brady and Rodgers. What a game it was. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance and it had a playoff-type feel to it. Both 12s played well, but Rodgers outdueled Brady and closed the game with the ball, after running out the final 2:40. What stood out to me was the amount of red zone trips that resulted in field goals, ALL OF THEM!
If the Packers come out and win this game, which feels like a must-win, then they’ll actually have to start scoring TDs on red zone trips, ideally more than the 50% clip they’ve shown all year—or find a way to hang 34+ points on the board.
Matchup—let’s take a look at the stat rankings.
|GB||412.1 (5)||340.9 (12)||25.0 (13)||24.7 (17)|
|NE||381.9 (11)||382.8 (25)||29.9 (4)||23.1 (12)|
See the above rankings show the Packers have no issue moving the ball up and down the field, however have an issue converting that movement into points, ala red zone struggles. The same was the case in 2014 when these teams met. For example, if the Packers make 5 trips to the red zone, they’ll have to find a way to settle, and I truly mean settle for 3 TDs on those trips. On the other side, the Patriots are very efficient when they move the ball. Holding them to field goals upon reaching the red zone will be absolutely crucial.
Prediction—I think the Packers come out and play strong, pretty much all game, but the Packers embarrassing pass rush eventually costs them by letting Brady dictate the game down the stretch.
36-23: sadly I was right; again hoping I’m wrong, GO PACK GO!