Sunday, January 10, 2010

Packers v. Cardinals 2009 NFL Wild Card Playoff Game Analyzed

What an impressive offensive performance by the Green Bay Packers and the Arizona Cardinals? Notice I said nothing about defense. It begs the question, did any defender besides Karlos Dansby play today?

Just to drive home how horrible both defenses played, two post season offensive records were set today: most combined points scored (96) eclipsing the previous record (95 points: Eagles 58, Lions 37 in 1995) and most first downs (62).

We could look back at 25 plays but I don't want to subject Packer fans to any further pain or mental may result in further school absences. Here are the Top 5 plays that had the biggest impact on the outcome of the game:

#5) Game tied 0-0, Green Bay ball on their 21 yard line, 1st and 10 with 14:56 remaining in the first quarter:
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) threw short right intended for Jordy Nelson (Green Bay) TIPPED by Karlos Dansby (Arizona) and INTERCEPTED by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Arizona) at the Green Bay 34 yard line and returned -6 yards to the Green bay 40 yard line.

Was that Brett Favre circa 1993 that threw that pass? That pass might have been Aaron Rodgers' worst pass of the season. Luckily Rodgers rebounded and put together the best 3 quarter performance in Packers post season history. I say 3 quarters because Rodgers only passed for 2 yards and an interception in the 1st quarter.

The Packers are in good hands with Aaron Rodgers. Although Rodgers did not lead the Packers to victory, he played very well after an early misstep and gave the entire franchise hope for the next decade. Remember Peyton Manning started his playoff career 0-3 and now is considered one of the more clutch players in the NFL. Rodgers grew up today and probably vindicated Ted Thompson's decision to part ways with Brett Favre. Look for Rodgers to have a great offseason and come back even hungrier next season.

#4) Arizona leads 31-17, Green Bay kicked off with 7:20 remaining in the 3rd quarter:
Mason Crosby (Green Bay) kicked onside 13 yards from the Green Bay 30 yard line to the Green Bay 43 yard line, RECOVERED by Brandon Underwood (Green Bay).

What an amazing call by Mike McCarthy. I did a double take as Underwood recovered the kick. The Packers had to do something to shake things up since their defense clearly wasn't going to stop anyone. Mike McCarthy picked the perfect place to roll the dice. As all of my readers (The Cheesehead Gal, Mom, Dad, Mr. K, Mrs. K and may be a few of my friends) can attest, I have been less than impressed with McCarthy on a number of occasions this season but he made the absolute perfect call on this play. Credit Crosby and Underwood, they carried out McCarthy's orders perfectly.

#3) Game tied 45-45, Green Bay ball on their 20 yard line, 1st and 10 with 15:00 remaining in overtime:
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) threw incomplete deep middle to Greg Jennings (Green Bay).

For all of the plays that were executed on offense today, file this under "the one that got away"... As the ball left Rodgers' hand I thought the Packers stamped their ticket to New Orleans. As the ball sailed through the air I had flashes of Brett Farve's throw to Greg Jennings in overtime in Denver (video). Jennings had at least a step on the cornerback with no safety help over the top...oh dang.

#2) Game tied 45-45, Arizona ball on the Green Bay 16 yard line, 1st and 10 with 14 seconds left in the 4th quarter:
Neil Rackers (Arizona) 34 yard field goal is No Good, Wide Left.

Was that Mason Crosby taking the last kick for Arizona? Rackers definitely did not earn his $19,000 game check today. You could point to the fact that Rackers battled injuries this season which caused him to miss a few games but that miss almost cost the Cardinals the game. So often games are decided by special teams, which always makes me question why teams refuse to pay place kickers. Despite being arguably the most dependable kicker in Packers' history, Ted Thompson let Ryan Longwell trade Green and Gold for purple and puke...the Packers have not had a dependable place kick since.

#1) Game tied 45-45, Green Bay ball on their 24 yard line, 3rd and 6 with 13:50 left in overtime:
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) sacked at the Green Bay 17 yard line for -7 yards by Michael Adams (Arizona) FUMBLES and RECOVERED by Karlos Dansby (Arizona) at the Green Bay 17 yard line and returned it 17 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.

I know this seems like sour grapes but isn't this picture akin to frame 150 of the zapruder film? You are looking at the definition of illegal hands to the face and thanks to Tom Brady it is enforced very strongly in favor of quarterbacks...most of the time.

Just because I am going to miss watching Packer football for 7 months, I watched the replay a number of times. One of the angles shows the head referee looking directly at the action from less than 10 yards away, so how does he miss it? This is going to sound petty and crude but the ref didn't miss the infraction, he choose not to throw the flag.

The ref didn't throw the flag because he was holding in a dump the entire game. Every time they cut to the ref it looked like was holding in a deuce, I could not get over it.

Here is my theory, the ref wanted the game to end so instead of throwing a flag (which would have possibly given the Packers the ball back) he turned the blind eye and high tailed it to the nearest bathroom. That is my theory and I am sticking to it, to quote Bill Simmons: "Now I will now light myself on fire."

Check back later in the week for a number of year end articles including: a #1-53 ranking of the current roster and an open letter to Ted Thompson for how to proceed in the off-season.

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