What 2 Watch 4: Packers Versus Bucs

The Packers take on the Bucs at Raymond James stadium this Sunday and the stakes could not be Eddie Lacy vs Atlantahigher. Green Bay is a game behind the Lions with an epic match-up coming the following week against that same team. Packers fans will also be watching the Arizona Cardinals who need to drop a game but if they drop it to Seattle, the Packers would lose the tie breaker because of the head to head loss to Seattle. Best case scenario would be for the Cards to beat the Seahawks and then lose to the 49’ers, a scenario that seems highly unlikely. But a chance to avenge an ugly early season loss at Seattle seems likely but the Packers could still get a round one bye out of the deal.

The captains have been chosen, and while the poor showing against the Bills is in the rear-view mirror, that loss had a big impact on the Packers’ post season scenario as they are no longer in the driver’s seat. The Bucs, on the other hand, seem like the perfect tonic for a Packers team that was over-penalized, undisciplined, and mistake prone last Sunday. But we can’t fall asleep on this one. Here is what I will be watching for:

1. Take what the defense gives you

Lovie Smith runs a Tampa two…if he leaves two safeties high…run the ball! Eddie Lacy looked like he could have single handedly won last Sunday’s game but he was not given the chance. If the Bucs stack the box, the Packers need to take advantage of their 24 ranked pass defense and throw the ball. I know this sounds rudimentary but there are some who are calling for the Packers to “take what they want” and that is not how successful football is played. This is a match-up game and any game against Lovie Smith will be a chess match as much as a full-on brawl.

2. Defense…dominate

clayThe Packers defense has continued to improve this season and in point of fact had a great game against the Bills last Sunday. Kyle Orton and the Bills offense has been treated like the red-headed stepchild of the NFL but they are not. They are efficient and Sammy Watkins is one of the several great wideouts to come out of this year’s draft. The Bucs are not in the same league. This is a chance for the Packers defense to have a statement game going into the Detroit game and take with it the confidence that brings. Detroit’s offense has been barely beating teams and if the Packers can manhandle the Bucs, they will be happy to come back home to Lambeau and do the same to the Lions.

3. Offense…get back in sync

It was crazy to watch the Bills game and see Aaron Rodgers out of sync with his receivers. So many Aaroncowboydropped passes and so many miscues on the back-shoulder pass. The Packers beat themselves last Sunday and still had an opportunity to win the game at the very end. Playing the Buccaneers at Raymond James stadium gives the Pack the perfect opportunity to get back together away from Lambeau Field. This team, if it has to travel during the playoffs, cannot afford ONE dropped pass, much less the multiple drops and miscues of this past week. Look for Aaron Rodgers to get back in the saddle and make a statement in this game.

All in all, the Packers have every opportunity to secure a playoff spot and make a statement in this game. We need a dominant though unemotional performance in this game to set us up for the season finale versus Detroit. It feels like the playoffs are already here and the Packers are right in the mix!

Go Pack!

 

Let’s Hear It For: Sam Barrington

At the beginning of the season, the Packers were weak against the run. The Chicago game where sam barringtonMatt Forte tromped all over the Packers defense finally convinced the coaching staff that something had to be done. Since that time, the Packers have still given up yards in the running game, but there has been a different attitude. I know that the improvement is usually credited to moving Clay Matthews inside and yes, that was a big part of it. But Sam Barrington has made his presence known and I love how this kid is playing.

As a seventh round pick out of South Florida, Barrington had to climb the ladder the hard way on a team that has had AJ Hawk as a fixture, largely because he was a high draft pick and less because of his play. If the Packers needed an answer in a MLB that can hold down the middle of the field on his own, they may have found it in Barrington.

What he does right

Barrington is a LOT of what you want in the middle of the field. Against the Bills, Barrington led the team in tackles with 9 solo. But this is what you expect from a middle linebacker and AJ Hawk has led the team as well by virtue of position, but there is a difference. Barrington is an aggressive, nose-in tackler that can tackle through running backs. He has enough speed to close on the ball and punish the ball-carrier. While he can tackle from the trailing position, he as often as not ends up squared up with the ball carrier, delivering a rising blow and driving the RB back. This is a key difference.

But Barrington also has great instincts. He can sniff out the screen play and rotate over if the OLB gets sucked inside. Then he has the strength to bust the play up even if it is blocked up well.

What needs improvement

sam barrington 2I think Sam Barrington has added a dimension to this year’s Packers defense. I would like to see more of him in blitz situations, not getting caught up in traffic. He is largely untested on this point and if he needs to learn, he has a great teacher in Clay Matthews (see “UnPACK the Play: Clay Matthews Sacks Kyle Orton).

We also have not seen a lot of Barrington in coverage, largely due to the fact that he is in mostly for expected run plays. But eventually he will be tested and have to perform. From what I have seen he has done a good job and has good ball skills for a big guy. This aspect of his game may be important and if he shows ability, it may win him even more playing time

So the rise of Sam Barrington is a boon for the Packers defense even though it may mean the demise of AJ Hawk. It is telling that AJ himself mentioned “getting booted” more than once in a recent interview on packers.com. And while there is no telling what AJ’s future holds, the Packers future has brightened by Sam Barrington’s play in the middle of the field.

Go Pack!

What We Learned Against the Bills

imagesCAS0KA36It was going to be difficult for Mike McCarthy’s Packers to sustain the winning streak that they had carried since Week 10. Most thought that the Packers would stub their toes versus New England – and when that didn’t happen, running the table seemed plausible. But Green Bay caught Buffalo at the perfectly wrong time – with Doug Marrone’s Bills playing at home and in playoff desperation mode.

It’s obvious that the Packers weren’t themselves on Sunday. Rodgers and his receivers seemed to lack chemistry from start to finish, evidenced by many errant throws by Rodgers and general miscommunication on the bread-and-butter back shoulder pass. Rodgers was given little help, however, as his receivers dropped seven passes, including a painful drop by Jordy Nelson that would have surely changed the game’s momentum.

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UnPACK the Play: Clay Matthews’ Sacks Kyle Orton

The Packers defense did enough to win in this game, holding the Bills to just 19 points until yet clayanother safety (by rule) gave them 21. Funny…I said that I feared this game would be too similar to the Lions game and another safety…hmmm.

But let’s take a look at Clay Matthews’ sack up close. It all starts with down and distance. This is a 3rd and 17 which means Dom Capers can put on a high risk/high reward defensive play and try to get to Kyle Orton before a receiver gets far enough downfield. In case of a catch, the hope is that the receiver can be brought down in front of the sticks.  Continue reading

If I Told You Lacy Would Average 6.5 A Carry…

If somebody had told me Eddie Lacy would average 6.5 yards a carry and have a touchdown in the aordPackers versus Bills game, I would have guessed it was a win…period. We expected the Packers offense to be slowed by the Bills top five defense, but I don’t think anybody expected the torture of seeing Aaron go 17/42 and throw two interceptions (though one was tipped) and no touchdowns. I don’t think we expected to see Jordy Nelson short-arm an easy completion that would have gone big if not for a tochdown…one that would have allowed the Packers last series to require nothing more than grinding out a first down and running out the clock.  Continue reading