Gregor’s Packer Analysis
Week 15 Recap
In this issue
View from the recliner
The Saints rout the Vikings
The Seahawks crush the Bears
The Lions come back to beat the Raiders
The Packers fall from the unbeaten
VIEW FROM THE RECLINER:
The playoff picture is coming into focus. The Lions found a way to come back on the road and stay in the wild card race. Caleb Hanie went from promising in the NFC Championship game last year to deer in the headlights a few weeks ago to over-matched by Tarvaris Jackson. Yeah, it’s only been a few starts, but look at Andy Dalton and Cam Newton after a few starts. I know the Bears offense doesn’t have much at receiver, but now they have nothing at quarterback and are essentially eliminated. Tebow Time only happens when the Broncos are close in the 4th quarter, and against the Pats, they weren’t close enough.
Most playoff teams, including Dallas and Atlanta, turned it up a notch in Week 15. Which makes Houston’s loss to Carolina so hard to figure (they are still playing for home field advantage). TJ Yates had been playing well and the Panther’s defense isn’t good, but he looked like a 3rd string rookie on Sunday. He is a third string rookie, but hadn’t looked like it before Sunday. Rex Ryan usually has the Jets ready to make a playoff run in December, but not this year. Norv Turner’s Chargers usually struggle early and come on late, but this year they started strong, lost 6 in a row, and have stormed back the last two weeks, including an easy win over Baltimore. This isn’t the same Ravens as the last few seasons—they can beat the Steelers twice, and then lose to nobody the next week. This time they lost to a team that’s playing well.
AFC Division leaders Houston, Baltimore and Denver all lost, with New England controlling it’s own destiny for home field advantage with a win. NFC Division Leaders New Orleans, San Francisco and Dallas all won, but the Packers still control their own destiny even with a loss.
While the Packers fell from the ranks of the unbeaten the Colts rose from the winless. Kind of a strange symmetry with playoff contenders looking good in some cases and not so much in others, and an unbeaten team and a winless team putting their first game in the other column. Two weeks left, then the playoffs. Can’t wait.
The Saints put points on the board and the Vikings couldn’t keep up as New Orleans beat Minnesota 42-20. Drew Brees threw for 412 yards and 5 TDs in leading the Saints to 573 total net yards to just 207 for the Vikings. The Saints lost 2 fumbles, Christian Ponder was intercepted once. But even at home plus one in turnovers couldn’t keep Minnesota close. Adrian Peterson had 10 carries for 60 yards in his first game back from an ankle injury.
It’s official. When Tarvaris Jackson outplays you, you just aren’t good. That’s what happened Sunday when the Jackson and the Seattle Seahawks beat Caleb Hanie and the Chicago Bears 38-14. The numbers for Jackson were solid, not great. He ended up 19 of 31 for 227 yards, 1 TD and no picks. Hanie was 10 of 23 for 111 yards and 3 picks (two returned for touchdowns). On the day, the Bears threw four picks.
Part of the problem with Chicago’s passing game is average receivers. One of the best of the group, Johnny Knox, was injured and will be out the rest of the season, needing back surgery. The protection isn’t as good as some quarterbacks get, but Jay Cutler was having much better games than 111 yards passing. Missing Matt Forte is part of it, but Hanie hasn’t shown any improvement in the games he started since Cutler’s been out. The Bears went from playoff contenders to no shot. At the beginning of the season they said they were set at quarterback. They might have been a little off in that assessment.
The Detroit Lions were trailing by 13 with under 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter. But 2 touchdowns and 2 extra points is 14 points, and the Lions rallied to beat the Oakland Raiders 28-27. Detroit put up 432 total net yards, and were gashed for 477 by the Raiders. It was a 17-14 game at halftime, and a 27-14 game in the 4th quarter. But Matthew Stafford found Titus Young on a 3 yard TD pass and Calvin Johnson on a 6 yard pass that was the game winner. Sebastian Janikowski had a chance to win it for Oakland as time expired, but his 65 yard field goal attempt was blocked by Ndamukong Suh.
The Lions managed just 57 yards on 19 carries against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. Matthew Stafford was 29 of 52 for 391 yards, 4 TDs and no picks. Calvin Johnson had 9 receptions for 214 yards. Carson Palmer had a big game for the Raiders, going 32 of 40 for 367 yards, no picks and a touchdown pass. Janikowski’s made field goals were 46 and 51 yards.
The Green Bay Packers started slow and couldn’t stop the Chiefs with the game on the line as Kansas City knocked off the Packers 19-14. There were penalties, dropped passes, off-target passes, and a defense that gave up too many yards. But if you said the Chiefs would score 19 points, it would be almost a given that the Packers would win since their lowest point total of the season was 24 before Sunday. This time, the Packers were shut out in the first half for the first time this season.
The bigger concern is the injuries. Bryan Bulaga suffered a sprained knee and probably won’t play this week against Chicago. Backup Derrek Sherrod is out for the year with a broken leg. Left tackle Chad Clifton has missed most of the season with a hamstring problem. Add to the O line problems injuries to Greg Jennings, James Starks, Ryan Pickett and Desmond Bishop and the Packers have had some key injuries, not counting Nick Collins out for the season.
The Packers won the toss and deferred, and the Chiefs started at their own 20. Ryan Pickett and Desmond Bishop didn’t play. The guys that did bent for 79 yards, but didn’t break as the Chiefs had to settle for a field goal. Greg Jennings, James Starks and Brandon Saine were out for the offense. Chad Clifton was still out, but Josh Sitton was back. The Packers did nothing, but a roughing the kicker (punter) penalty gave the Packers a first down. Mason Crosby missed a 59 yard field goal wide right, but the Chiefs had 12 men on the field to give Crosby a second chance from 54 yards out, also missed wide right.
With the miss, the Chiefs started at their own 44. A screen pass was a big gainer on their first drive, and they got another big gain on this one. But the drive stalled in the red zone again, and Ryan Succop hit a 32 yarder to go with his 19 yarder to make it 6-0 Chiefs near the end of the 1st quarter. The Packers had chances in the first half, but Jordy Nelson was flagged for offensive pass interference—twice. Jermichael Finley had a few drops, and Donald Driver dropped a third down pass that would have kept the drive alive. Not a good pass by Rodgers, but still catchable.
On KC’s next possession, they again got into the red zone, but were stopped inches short on 3rd down just outside the 2. This time, they went for it on 4th down. Three red zone possessions, 2 field goals, and a turnover on downs. The definition of bend but don’t break kept the Packers within one score. BJ Raji got penetration and the play went nowhere. The half ended 6-0, the first time the Packers were shut out in a half this season.
The alarm went off at halftime, and the Packers took the kickoff, but had to punt. On the next possession they were able to take it in for a touchdown. Finley caught a 40 yard pass putting the ball on the 7. Rodgers scrambled to the 2 on second and goal, and found Donald Driver on 3rd and goal to go up 7-6. Bryan Bulaga was hurt on the drive and didn’t return. On the kickoff after the Packers took the 7-6 lead, the Arrowhead Stadium sound system played “don’t stop believing”. Nobody on Green Bay did. But apparently the Chiefs didn’t either, as they were able to take a 9-7 lead on Succop’s 3rd field goal of the game from 45 yards out.
It was 9-7 starting the 4th quarter, the first time the Packers trailed after 3 in 20 games. But hey, you can’t have a come from behind win in the 4th quarter if you’re not behind. The Chiefs had a first and goal at the 3, but had to settle for another field goal, this one a 20 yarder, to make it 12-7. Still a one possession game with 11:28 left. Derek Sherrod went down with 10:02 left in the 4th quarter. With 4:53 left, the Chiefs found the end zone to make it 19-7. But the Packers had time left. With 2:04 left Aaron Rodgers ran it in from 8 yards out and it was 19-14. The Packers tried an onside kick, but it went out of bounds and Nelson was penalized for illegal touching. It came down to a defensive stop. If the Packers force a punt, the Packers get the ball back. If not, the Chiefs run out the clock. The Chiefs get two first downs, run out the clock, and the quest for an undefeated season is over.