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Joined: 13 Jun 2012
Posts: 13518
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 11:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Letís temporarily ignore the giant pink elephant filling up the living room and talk about the other 99% of the football game that occurred Monday night. The expression in boxing is that ďyou never leave your fate in the hands of the judge.Ē That expression canít be emphasized enough when it comes out after the game that several officiating crews calling NFL games this season were fired from the Lingerie Football League.

Unfortunately for the Packers, they did leave their hands in the fate of the officials Monday night in Seattle, and they got burned for it. The refs arenít the only one whose gross incompetence cost the Packers the game. True, had the game been called correctly the Packers would have walked away with a win but in a league where taking advantage of the refs is becoming an art form, itís hard to not look towards the Packers when looking for a place to put some blame for Monday nightís debacle.

Mike McCarthyís offense has now performed poorly in 3 consecutive games. In the Packers opening three games last year they scored 99 points for an eye-popping average of 33 points per game. This year theyíve put 57 points on the board for a paltry 19 points per game average. That leaves them tied with three other teams for 26th in total points.

While it would be unfair to fail to mention the very impressive defenses theyíve gone up against (1st, 5th, and 11th in PPG allowed), one would expect an offense captained by the MVP of the NFL to not perform quite so poorly when facing a competent defense. In fairness to McCarthy, one doesnít gameplan for terrible drops and protection mistakes, but even when the execution has been there, the Packers have been disappointing with the ball.

When evaluating his team on Tuesday, McCarthy would do well to take a long hard look in the mirror. I donít think thereís a Packer fan that wouldnít like an explanation for his playcalling in the first half. The numbers really do tell the grisly story, showing that Aaron Rodgers was sacked 8 times in 30 minutes of football. In contrast, Cedric Benson was the only Packers Running Back to carry the ball and he had a whopping 2 carries.

The Seahawks failed to even acknowledge the run in the first half, and itís difficult to blame them for this decision when McCarthy also failed to acknowledge the existence of the Packers running game. Itís never acceptable to allow 8 sacks in a half but to say that McCarthy placed his Offensive Line in a terrible position is an understatement.

The worst victim of the Seahawks pass rush was Right Tackle, Brian Bulaga who faced the daunting task of blocking Seahawks rookie Bruce Irvin. Typically a team would feel pretty damn good about a man coming off an all-pro caliber season facing a rookie, but this shouldnít have been the case during the 11 days of preparation that the Packers had to get ready.

Bulaga has always been bothered by speed. Itís one of the reasons that he fell far enough for the Packers to draft him back in 2010. He was viewed by many teams as a Left Tackle prospect who lacked the feet to make it work on the blindside. The Packers picked Bulaga and plugged him in for Mark Tauscher on the right side and are very happy they did. Heís solid as a run blocker and rarely gives ground against the slower Ends he typically sees. The problem is that those red flags as a rookie still come back when he goes up against a guy with real speed. At least one former NFL scout has expressed the opinion that Bulagaís skill set is a better fit at Guard than Tackle, and games like this one adds validity to this belief.

When it was announced that Bruce Irvin was selected in the first round, the majority of the amateur scouting community did a double take. Bruce Irvin didnít even start at West Virginia, because he was considered too much of a liability against the run. He got picked because he has jaw-dropping speed and the ability to turn the corner and get to the QB.
This mismatch was exacerbated for a whole host of reasons. The first was that the Seahawks home field advantage was impressive. It was loud which limited what the Packers were able to do in terms of changing up the snap count. Irvin was consistently getting a great jump because he knew the snap count. NFL pass rushers are so fast that the built in split second advantage that a Tackle has based on knowing when the ball will be snapped is a huge deal.

The second problem was that the Packers were putting themselves in bad positions with 2nd and 3rd and longs. The Seahawks knew the Packers were going to pass on 2nd and 15 so Irvin could kick outside and get a much better rush. Itís way easier to get a sack if you donít have any run defense responsibilities, and Irvin clearly didnít based on down and distance, as well as Bensonís lack of carries.

An additional problem, and this one does have to do with the officials, was that there were several missed ďillegal hands to the faceĒ penalties by Irvin and the rest of the Seahawks Defensive Line. Irvin didnít move Bulaga back a step except when the refs missed these calls. Itís hard to blame Bulaga when there isnít a Tackle in the NFL who is standing his ground when one of the most explosive players in the league hits them full force in the facemask.

Every lineman on the Packers was dealing with similar struggles. The Seahawks pass rushers were way more effective than they actually are because of poor gameplanning by McCarthy. There arenít many lines in the NFL that wouldnít give up a lot of pressure in that situation. Even worse was that Aaron Rodgers was playing awful and allowing pressure to turn into sacks. He rarely threw the ball away and his movement in the pocket was poor, rather than his typical Houdinian maneuvering. Add in that McCarthy loathes to give help and didnít start helping out his Tackles with a Fullback or Tight End until the second quarter was almost over and you have the recipe for Mondayís disaster.

McCarthy deserves some credit for changing up his game plan going into the second half. Benson carried the ball 6 times on the first drive of the half and put the Packers in a bunch of third and manageables that prevented Irvin and the rest of the Seahawks from pinning their ears back and going after Rodgers with impunity.

Bulaga isnít an elite drive blocker but he certainly manhandled the undersized Irvin and opened up some nice holes for Benson. At one point Irvin was pulled from the game because he was such a liability. An old football proverb is that ďRun blocking is good for the soulĒ and never was that more true than in the second half. The Packers let their lineman punch Seattle in the mouth and the ball started to move and the Seahawks pass rush was mostly silent. The Packers went from averaging 16 yards per drive in the first half to 72 yards per drive in the second half. They final got the ball past midfield and finally put some points on the board, had they shown any signs of life in the first half, the game wouldnít have been close.

Itís a passing league and Aaron Rodgers is the best player, but teams still have to run the ball to keep the defense honest and McCarthy needs to keep that in mind when the Packers face off against the Saints next Sunday. The Saints donít have any pass rusher like Irvin, or Clemons who terrorized Marshall Newhouse on the opposite side, but there are lessons to be learned from this game that McCarthy would do well to take to heart. Football games are still won by big physical men defeating other big physical men; putting his lineman in such a hole to begin the game isnít a smart thing to do.

Hopefully, the refs wonít blow another game for the Packers. That it happened once was inexcusable and a disgrace to the league. Strangely, I find myself more upset with the entirety of the Packers offense for coming up small in a game that they should have won. Tip your hat to the Seahawks, they battled for 60 minutes and got just enough points on the board to get it done. It was a gutty win, and one that makes you feel bad for the Packers defense, which did more than enough to get the win as well. Mike McCarthy owes Dom Capers, Clay Matthews, and everyone else in that Defensive meeting room an apology.

Almost as much as the NFL owes the Packers an apology.
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