Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Funday - The Story of the 2009 Green Bay Packers...12 Days to Contenders

The Green Bay Packers are on the verge of opening the 2010 training camp. In order to prime the football pump, I thought I would give a little blow-by-blow of the NFL Films production "The Story of the 2009 Green Bay Packers...12 Days to Contenders".

The Green Bay Packers 2009 season opened with the Packers hosting the Chicago Bears and their new quarterback Jay Cutler. The Packers intercepted Cutler four times with now suspended defensive lineman Johnny Jolly getting a crucial interception on a screen pass as the Bears were about to score a touchdown...welcome to Lambeau Field Cutler. By the way, how happy are Packer fans to have Aaron Rodgers instead of Jay Cutler? As a Cheesehead in Chicago, I sometimes have blinders on, but Cutler can't hold Rodgers' jock...look at the 2009 stats:
- Cutler: 336 of 555 for 3,666 years, 27 TDs, and 26 INTs for a passer rating of 76.8.
- Rodgers: 350 for 541 for 4,434 yards, 30 TDs, and 7 INTs for a passer rating of 103.2.
Cutler's body language alone would kill me if I was a Bears fan. Back to the game. Despite four interceptions by Cutler, the Packers still trailed 15 to 13 with 1:18 remaining in the game. Facing a 3rd and 1, instead of trying to pick up a yard on the ground (which they would not have because the offensive line was horrible at that point), Rodgers went deep to Greg Jennings for the winning touchdown. The Packers beat the Bears 21-15 to start the season off with a win.

In week 2 the Packer fell to 1-1, losing to the Cincinnati Bengals at home. The only positive thing from that game was Charles Woodson picking off 2 balls (1 returned for a touchdown), which started Woodson's momentum towards his NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award.

In week 3 the Packers traveled to St. Louis. Woodson picked off another ball and Greg Jennings had a huge game as the Packers pounded the Rams 36-17 to improve their record to 2-1.

Skipping ahead to week 6, the Packers faced the lowly Detroit Lions lead by Dante "Small Hands" Culpepper. Two things came out of the Lions game. First, the 3-4 defense really started to take hold. Second, in one of the best moments of season, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver became the Packers all-time receptions leader. Driver got the game ball and it couldn't go to a better guy. Whenever people talk about how professional athletes are prima donnas (think Jay Cutler), Driver should be Exhibit #1 of why that titled doesn't apply to every professional athlete.

In week 7 the Packers offense lead by Rodgers, Driver, Grant, and company picked up where left off against the Lions and out gained the Browns by more than 300 years on the road. The Packers went on to win 31-3 and improved their record to 4-2.

The Packers looked like a team on the charge until Week 8 when the Brett Favre lead Minnesota Vikings came to Green Bay. I was at that game and can say it was one of the weirdest sports moments in my life. Millions of words have been written about Favre's return to Green Bay so I won't belabor the point, but it was one of the craziest things in the world seeing Favre charge out on the field for the Vikings as opposed to the Packers. Favre is an adult, he can make his own decision. What Favre will have to deal with is the backlash from those decisions. Anyhow, Rodgers and Company fell to Favre and Company 38-26. This game produced one great moment caught on film when Rodgers said to Woodson: "we got a pretty good squad, what do you think?" As calm as ever, Woodson turned to Rodgers and said "I'm thinking Super Bowl, and your gonna take me there." Gotta love the confidence out of Chuck. Unfortunately that didn't happen in 2009 but there is a good chance that it will happen in 2010.

In Week 9 the Packers lost 38-28 to the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Nothing good happened in Tampa Bay so with all the positives that came from 2009, let's just move on and forget that the Packers ever lost to rookie quarterback Josh Freeman.

Entering Week 10 the Packers were 4-4 at home facing the 6-2 Dallas Cowboys. Juxtapose Tony Romo and Jay Cutler. Romo is a nice guy, while Cutler is prick. Cheesehead Chick doesn't like when I use the word prick so I save it for proper times...Cutler is just that...a prick. Back to the Packers/Cowboys game. After 3 quarters, the Packers lead 3-0. Woodson might have cemented the clubhouse lead for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award by forcing three turnovers against the Cowboys. The first came on a strip of Mrs. Roy Williams. The second came on a strip of Romo, which Rodgers converted for a touchdown to Spencer Havner. Finally with the Cowboys threatening to score, Charles Woodson made one of the best intercepts I have ever seen when he stepped in front of Jason Witten at the goal line to intercept Tony Romo. The Packers beat the Cowboys 17 to 7, check out my review of the 5 biggest plays from the Packers/Cowboys game.

Coming off a an important win over the Cowboys, the Packers faced the San Francisco 49ers in Week 11 in a classic trap game. Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy knows the 49ers well, he was the offensive coordinator when the 49ers selected Alex Smith instead of Aaron Rodgers with the 1st pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. McCarthy has addressed the issue a number of times so I am going to stop making the association since the Packers do owe a debt of gratitude for the 49ers picking the wrong guy. What NFL Films didn't cover for some reason is that the Packers lost Aaron Kampman and Al Harris in that game to season ending knee surgeries. The loss of Kampman was not considered that big because he was a bad fit for the 3-4 defense, but in an uncapped year, the Packers could have franchised Kampman to work out a trade with a 4-3 team if he was healthy. Or here is an even more novel idea, the Packers could have brought Kampman back. The Packers play a sub defense more then the 3-4 defense so Kampman could work at his usual defensive lineman position but for some reason the packers didn't like that idea. Al Harris is still working his way back from the knee injury suffered against the 49ers, which leaves the 2010 Green Bay Packers' secondary with a huge hole until he returns. The Packers beat the 49ers 30-24, check out my review of the 5 biggest plays from the Packers/49ers game.

In week 12 the Packers went to Detroit for a Thanksgiving showdown. That day marked our first "shared" holiday since Cheesehead Chick and I got married last summer. We spent Thanksgiving at Cheesehead Chick's parent's house. I got to watch the Packers in the comfort of their basement, while a tasty meal was being cooked upstairs. I even got to wear my kids XL Aaron Rodgers jersey to Thanksgiving dinner...awesome day all around. Rodgers was dialed in on Thanksgiving with Donald "Dropsies McGee" Lee even showing some flashes of talent. Speaking of flashes of talent, Collins and Woodson both had impressive interceptions against the Lions to propel the Packers to a Turkey Day triumph. The Packers beat the Lions 34-12, check out my review of the 5 biggest plays from the Packers/Lions game.

After facing the lowly Lions, the Packers faced a true test in week 13 when they squared off on Monday Night Football against the Baltimore Ravens at Lambeau Field. The Packers answered the challenge and held the Ravens to 185 yards on offense, their lowest output of the season. Nick Collins and even A.J. Hawk had an interception. Besides that, Jermichael Finley started to show why he is going to be a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses for the rest of his career. The Packers beat the Ravens 27-14, check out my review of the 10 biggest plays from the Packers/Ravens game.

In week 14 the Packers went to Chicago with Cheesehead Sports Nut and Sugawitz in attendance. My extended family is from Chicago and had Bears season tickets. Usually they are nice enough to give me the tickets because they know how much I enjoy seeing Rodgers and company live. Just to show how much my family loves the Chicago Bears, my Uncle Tony (who graciously gave us the tickets) told me to make sure Ryan Grant had a good game because he had Grant going for his fantasy team...classic. I play fantasy but not only do I think it is essentially a crap shot if you don't do an auction draft, a good fantasy team is not a panacea for a bad Packers season. When the Packers went 4-12 in 2005 my fantasy football team finished second in the league but it was no consolation; 2005 still goes down as one of the most painful NFL seasons in recent memory despite my strong fantasy football year. Back to the game, Grant responded for my Uncle Tony racking up 137 yards on the ground. Woodson got his 8th interception of season and Collins got yet another pick as well. The Packers improved to 9-4 in 2009 with a 21 to 14 victory over the Bears, check out my review of the 5 biggest plays from the Packers/Bears game.

In week 15 the Packers went to Yinztown (Pittsburgh for those who don't know what "Yinzers" are and the city where I attended college), which is actually an underrated city. The rivers and mountains make Yinztown one of the coolest cities to drive into through the hills from the airport at night. Okay enough advertising for Yinztown, back to the shoot out, I mean game. A ton of points were scored between two teams that are supposedly know for defense. With the Packers leading the Steelers 36-30, the Steelers had the ball facing a 3rd and 10 on the Green Bay 19 yard line with 3 seconds left in the game. Ben Roethlisberger threw deep left to Mike Wallace for 19 yards, touchdown. The replay assistant challenged the pass completion ruling, but the play was upheld. Much like 2009, the Packers have the same secondary issues that were exposed on that play. The Packers lost to the Steelers 37 to 36, check out my review of the 5 biggest plays from the Packers/Steelers game.

Going into week 16, despite sitting at 9-5, the Packers still needed a victory to clinch a playoff birth. The Packers running backs scored 6 TDs (3 by Brandon Jackson, 2 by Ryan Grant, and 1 by Ahman Green). Besides running all over the Seahawks, B.J. Raji showed some push along the defensive line and A.J. Hawk even got another interception. The Packers punched their playoff ticket with a victory over the Seahawks 48 to 10, check out my review of the 5 biggest plays from the Packers/Seahawks game.

Week 17 the Packers made their second trip of the season to Arizona knowing they were going to have a return trip in a week for the opening round of the playoffs. That has to be one of the only times in NFL history that a non-divisional opponent played a team on the road three times (counting pre-season). Coach Mike McCarthy decided to play the game like it mattered at the start, which allowed Charles Woodson to pick off another ball for a TD to lock down the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. The Packers beat the Cardinals 33-7, check out my review of the 5 biggest plays from the Packers/Cardinals game.

As we all know by now, the Packers opened the 2010 NFL Playoffs on the road against the Arizona Cardinals. The Packers struggled to start the game, going down 17-0 with 34 seconds remaining in the first quarter...yikes. The Packers were down by 21 in the 2nd half, yet they still fought back. It was 31-17 with 7:20 remaining in the 3rd quarter when Mike McCarthy took a risk trying an onside kick and it paid off. The Packers settled in and with 4:07 remaining in the 3rd quarter the Packers were only down 31-24 thanks to recovering the onside kick. On 4th and 5, Rodgers hit James Jones for a touchdown. Later in the game, Driver and Kuhn scored to pull the Packers to within 7 points (45-38) with 4:55 remaining in the 4th quarter. Havner scored a touchdown to tie the game and after 60 minutes, the highest scoring playoff game went to overtime. Quick side note, Aaron Rodgers and Jermichael Finley set Packers playoff records for passing yards (423 yards) and receiving yards (159 yards) in a playoff game. Finley's 159 receiving yards was the 2nd most receiving yards by a tight end in NFL playoff history. We all know how it ended, the Packers lost to the Cardinals 51-45 on a face mask penalty, check out my review of the 5 biggest plays from the Packers/Cardinals playoff game.

Season Nuggets:
- The Packers lead the NFL with 40 turnovers.
- The Packers lead the NFL in run defense (first time in franchise history).
- The Packers had the fewest giveaways in the NFL with 16.
- Rodgers threw touchdowns to 9 different Packers.
- Donald Driver became the Packers all-time leading receptions leader (Week 6 against the Detroit Lions).
- Clay Matthews set a Packer rookie record with 10 sacks.
- The offense scored the most points in franchise history.

Check back throughout the preseason to see my predictions for the 53 guys that will make the 2010 Green Bay Packers opening day roster.

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