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An Ugly Win is Still a Win Right?

By: John Linn

Sorry for the hiatus folks!

The Packers (8-4) continue on a hot streak as they have won four straight and have set themselves up for a nice push to the playoffs. The physical, punishing game of the Ravens (6-6) came to town on Monday Night Football and the Packers were ready winning 27-14. The offense dominated and the run defense held the explosive Ray Rice. However, the game showed the 2nd most combined penalty yards in history.

Game Review: The offense dominated through most of the game, but had a hard time finishing drives at times. Several long drives ended with field goals when they could have been touchdowns and one even resulted in no points as Matt Flynn botched the hold on a Mason Crosby field goal. Rodgers was commanding as always (even though his rating did not show it), hitting receivers well and reading a strong (albeit without Ed Reed) Ravens defense. Rodgers did however throw two interceptions. One was an overthrow that he obviously wanted back. The other was slightly odd as the ball was batted into the air off of Donald Driver’s foot as he fell. Even with the two interceptions Rodgers looked outstanding effectively using tight end Jermichael Finley for two scores and 7 receptions. Rodgers spread the ball around well and audibled when necessary.

The running game however, stuttered. In cold weather it is usually expected to be a running based game but that definitely did not happen. Ryan Grant was absolutely horrible, one of his worst of the year in my opinion. He looked far to tentative hitting his holes and making his cuts. Brandon Jackson did a great job on blocks and receptions but wasn’t really used as a runner. The ground game only really showed life when Ahman Green came in at the end of the game to run it out and busted through the line for a few decent gains.

The defense was strong up front as the incredibly explosive Ray Rice was held entirely in check. The line rarely allowed Rice anything and the backers swarmed all over. Clay Matthews was a terror off the edge, and Brad Jones got his first NFL sack. Woodson dominated as always getting into the backfield and making a shoestring tackle in the red-zone no less. He is on his way to a defensive MVP at this rate. The play of the man opposite him however was horrendous. Tramon Williams had looked strong filling in for the injured Al Harris, but he faltered horribly last night. He committed numerous pass interference penalties, most of which were so blatantly obvious that it was almost disgusting. Something went terribly wrong in his game. He was saved by the horrible play of the Ravens secondary as they too committed massive pass interference numbers. Nick Collins picked off Joe Flacco early on as did Williams later on when Flacco was pressured and tossed one to the end zone in desperation. AJ Hawk (who also led in tackles and was in the backfield on a few occasions) picked Flacco off late that essentially ended the Ravens hope.

What I saw:
-The penalties were atrocious. It was like watching little kids play. No one could keep their hands to themselves in the passing game. Second most combined yards in history? Not what a playoff contender should have
-Brad Jones filled in well for the injured Aaron Kampman and recorded his first ever sack
-Clay Matthews has showed no signs of any rookie wall as he seems to be getting stronger game by game
-Neither team was careful with the ball as Rice fumbled early, Grant fumbled (which was overturned, but he had a problem holding on nonetheless) Driver fumbled, Evan Dietrich-Smith (who should not have touched the ball at all) fumbled a kickoff that was luckily recovered, both QBs has problems with interceptions
-The O-Line gave Rodgers time and even had a reception as Mark Tauchers caught a tipped pass
-Woodson is making a strong case for defensive MVP
-With this win and the Vikings Sunday night loss, all is not lost in the central as was once though, but a Wild card berth is more likely

Ratings (out of 5)
QB: 4. This may seem high when Rodgers threw two interceptions, but he commanded that game. He knew what he wanted to do and did it. He led the offense like the leader he is.

Receivers: 3. This was hard to rate as Driver fumbled and there were numerous dropped balls, but the receiving core helped out Rodgers and was able to break open when necessary. Jermichael Finley was dominating, absolutely unstoppable at points. However, drops are still a problem.

Running Backs: 2. Ryan Grant was non-existent as his average yards-per-carry was 2.3 with a long of only 8. He really contributed nothing to the offense at all. However, Jackson did a good job of blocking, fullback Korey Hall had a reception that helped save a drive, and Ahman Green controlled the clock well.

O-Line: 3.5. Strong play from a beleaguered line. The defense of the Ravens is highly aggressive, but they kept Rodgers clean for the most part. They however, could not open a hole for Grant.

D-Line: 4.5. Outstanding play from the line. They were all over Ray Rice and Joe Flacco. Ryan Pickett went down with a hamstring injury late in the game, but the line lost no steam as they were forced to double team BJ Raji.

Linebackers: 4.5. Apart from one or two bad drives the backers were all over the place. Matthews was unstoppable off the edge and his sack in the final minute put the game to an end. Brad Jones was strong from the other side as well. Hawk and Barnett were stout up the middle and it was good to see Brandon Chillar back in the mix.

Secondary: 2.5. This was hard to rate, as Charles Woodson was dominating and there were two interceptions by the secondary, but the play of Tramon Williams was some of the worst I’ve ever seen. He was all over his receivers and wondered what he did. It was horrible to watch. The rest of the secondary played very well, especially Woodson, but Williams drags down the whole core.
Special Teams: 2.5 Nothing special from the special teams. Crosby hit a few, including one that gave the Pack a 13 point lead, but missed from short on a botched snap. Jordy Nelson had a good couple of returns, but the coverage units on kickoffs were nothing special. They also fumbled one of the kickoffs. If not for a good opening return by Nelson and a good punt by Kapinos they would have scored worse.

Coaching: 1.5. While the team won and there weren’t any stupid calls, the penalties reflect poorly on the coaches. They are not coaching the fundamentals at all. I realize that they players are making the mistakes, but the coaches have to do something about it and they haven’t. If McCarthy had not won a challenge early on the staff would have been even worse.

Team as a whole: 3. Yes the team won, but it was sloppy and poorly executed. Nothing about that game said “play-off contender” except for the play of Aaron Rodgers, and the run defense.

MVP: Clay Matthews. This came down to a toss-up between Matthews, Rodgers, and Finley. Rodgers interception (the overthrown one) hurt him, and Finley wasn’t as big of a threat as he could’ve been. Matthews however, was all over the field getting pressure. He got two sacks, giving him 7 on the season and he came up big when needed.

Final Thoughts: A win is a win, I guess, even one as ugly as this. But, the penalty numbers and sloppy play don’t scream “playoffs”. The Packers don’t look quite ready for a playoff hunt. Penalties need to be better, and the pass defense has to learn to adapt better. They are close, but it’s not quite right

Packers Mix blog featured writers John Linn, Zach Letter
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