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Fighting Til the End

by: John Linn

The end has come. The Packers lost to the Cardinals 51-45 in the highest scoring game in post-season history and one of the most exciting games I have ever seen. The Packers fell behind early, by as many as 17, but managed to come back to tie it up several times, but never able to take the lead from the Cards. Arizona looked the better-prepared team and even though it got close and very exciting the Packers never fully looked ready or even like a playoff team.

Game Review: The offense started out absolutely horrid. The first play of the game Rodgers looked jittery and through an interception that would set the tone for the whole first quarter and much of the first half. The Cardinals took the initiative and scored. The Packers then fumbled on their next possession as Driver fumbled as he turned after a nice reception. Rodgers was harassed and brought down numerous times early on and wasn’t comfortable until half way through the second quarter or so. Ryan Grant was powerful early on and pushed his way through the pile and found holes, but the Packers went into comeback mode at the very beginning, meaning the offense went away from the run, leaving Grant and the other rushers out in the cold. However as the second quarter got under way the Packers took some of the momentum back as they drove down and scored and then kicked a field goal before the half to cut the lead to 24-10. The Packers kept that momentum going into the second half, even though the Cardinals scored on their first possession of the second half. The game then became a shootout of epic proportions as it came down to who could score next. There were only two punts in the game as it was all offense. The Packers took almost all of the momentum back as they scored and then got an onside kick and scored again to tie it at 38. The Pack tied it at both 38 and 45 but were never able to hold the strong Kurt Warner led offense, even with the unstoppable force of Jermichael Finley. The game went to overtime tied 45-45 and the Packers even won the coin toss but Rodgers was under pressure and fumbled it to Karlos Dansby who ran it in to end the game.

On the other side of things Kurt Warner was as close to perfect as one can be. Only four of his passes fell incomplete. He threw for 5 touchdowns and no interceptions. He picked apart the Packers secondary with timing and precision. The Packers were unable to cover over the middle at all and could not get pressure on Warner consistently. Warner’s amazing game freed up Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower to run all over the normally stout defense as well. All around the defense was absolutely horrible and did not look like the number two defense in the NFL that they were coming in to this game. The defense really cost the Packers this game as the offense surged back after their struggles, but the defense could not come back from their struggles. It was in fact very ironic that the game with the most offense in the postseason was won on a defensive play.

What I Saw:
-Rodgers overcame his early jitters to lead the team well and in fact after the first quarter he looked nearly unstoppable
-Jermichael Finley was un-coverable. The Cardinals had no answer for the big man as he burned them over and over
-Charles Woodson had another epic battle with Larry Fitzgerald, but in the end Fitzgerald won along with his team
-The Packers looked as if they took this game lightly or were unprepared
-The offense lived and died on the big plays again and it ended up being a great weapon and possibly a downfall
-The defense once again tried to live by the turnover and failed at it. They managed one turnover and it cost them as they were not playing to their potential
-The running game was in fact very strong but rarely used with the early deficit
-Both teams came up with highlight reel catches for TD’s from Jennings and from Fitzgerald
-The team got both a year more seasoned and a year older in a bad way with players like Harris, Woodson, Tauscher, and Clifton getting older and nearing the end. But on the other hand players like Rodgers became much more seasoned and ready for more

Ratings (Out of 5):
QB: 4. A horrible start for Rodgers but an amazing comeback and second half. He ended with over 400 yards and 4 TDs but his fumble/interception at the end ended the game.

Receivers: 4. Jennings has a highlight reel TD and a great game overall. Driver overcame an early fumble to fight for some good after catch yards. Finley was a highlight reel in and of himself. Havner and Jones each had TDs. However they had drop problems early on and gave Rodgers no early help either.

Running Backs: 3.5. They were not given much of an opportunity to shine. Grant looked good in his sparing use. Green has a first down on a good fight. However there were times when they blew blocking assignments and did not protect Rodgers early on and in OT.

O-Line: 3. They had problems protecting Rodgers giving up 5 sacks (while some were Rodgers running poorly) and they did not have the chemistry they had at the end of season.

D-Line: 2.5. They had a hard time stopping Wells and Hightower and were having problems getting to Warner or freeing up linebackers to get to Warner.

Linebackers: 3. Matthews got a sack and had some pressure and got into the backfield, but he could never fully get to Warner, the same for Jones. Chillar laid a few good hits but none of the backers played outstandingly, along with the rest of the defense

Secondary: 2.5. Woodson and Fitzgerald had a good battle but when they weren’t matched up Fitzgerald got free to much as did all of the great receiving core even without Boldin. Atari Bigby went out and his replacement Matt Giordano had problems. Collins had some good stops and got his hand on a pass tipped by Woodson but couldn’t bring it in. Overall they got burned a lot.

Special Teams: 4. They held Larod Stevens-Howling, who is an absolute speed demon to minimal return yards and Crosby hit his only field goal and Kapinos had a good punt on his only attempt, however the return game was horrible.
Coaching: 3. Some great plays were called on offense, not so much on defense. Also, the onside kick was brilliant. However the team was unprepared, something just wasn’t set up right and the coaches didn’t seem to know how to help.

Team as a whole: 3.5. That does seem rather high but the offense had an outstanding game after the early jitters, but the defense couldn’t overcome their early demons.

MVP: for the game Kurt Warner, for the Packers Aaron Rodgers and Jermichael Finley as a pair. Warner was stellar and he deserves all the credit in the world for the way he played. Rodgers could not have played as well as he did without Finley. Rodgers gets most of the credit but Finley was great as a target.

Final thoughts: This was very disappointing to watch as a fan of the Packers, but very exciting as a football fan. The off-season will be interesting. Kampman is at the end of his contract and was injured so that will be interesting to see how it plays out after his unsuccessful year in the 3-4. Woodson and Harris are getting old as are Tauscher and Clifton. It will be interesting.

Packers Mix blog featured writers John Linn, Zach Letter
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