Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The 53 - Packers lose to Bears at Lambeau Field on MNF

The Green Bay Packers were favored by 11 points over the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football at Lambeau Field mostly because the Bears were without their starting quarterback Jay Cutler due to a groin injury.  Coming to the game the Bears were a mere 2-10 without Cutler under center since 2010, unfortunately the Packers lost their starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the game and most likely longer on a sack by defensive end Shea McClellin on their first offensive series of the game.  That meant both teams were without their starting quarterbacks for essentially the entire game so fans were treated to Seneca Wallace v. Josh McCown instead of Rodgers v. Cutler.

Some quick stats on the longest rivalry in NFL history.  Heading into the game the Bears lead the all-time series 92-88-6 but the Packers have won their last six meetings. including winning the NFC Championship Game in Chicago en route to winning Super Bowl XLV.  This was the 11th time the teams met on Monday Night Football with each team previously winning five times.

The inactives for the Packers against the Bears were: Josh Boyd (DE, healthy scratch), Jermichael Finley (TE, spinal injury), Chris Harper (WR, healthy scratch), Clay Matthews (OLB, thumb), James Nixon (CB, healthy scratch), Nick Perry (OLB, foot), and C.J. Wilson (DE, healthy scratch).  Besides losing Rodgers, the Packers also lost starting right guard T.J. Lang to a concussion so they were forced to move starting right tackle Don Barclay to right guard and backup tackle Marshall Newhouse to right tackle.

With their first home divisional loss since 2009 the Packers snapped their 10-game home winning streak, which was the 3rd longest active streak in the NFL, in their loss to the Bears in at Lambeau Field for the first time since 2007.  Here are my thoughts on the game along with my updated rankings to The 53:

 The 53
1. Aaron Rodgers (QB, LR 1)
2. Clay Matthews (OLB, LR 2)
3. Morgan Burnett (S, LR 3)
4. Jordy Nelson (WR, LR 4)
5. Josh Sitton (G, LR 5)
6. B.J. Raji (DL, LR 6)
7. Eddie Lacy (RB, LR 12)
8. James Jones (WR, LR 9)
9. T.J. Lang (G, LR 8) 
10. Sam Shields (CB, LR 7)
11. David Bakhtiari (T, LR 11)
12. Evan Dietrich-Smith (C, LR 13)
13. Brad Jones (MLB, LR 15)
14. Tramon Williams (CB, LR 10)
15. Mike Daniels (DL, LR 16)
16. Jermichael Finley (TE, LR 14)
17. A.J. Hawk (MLB, LR 17)
18. Micah Hyde (CB, LR 18)
19. Casey Hayward (CB, LR 19)
20. Don Barclay (T, LR 21)
21. Datone Jones (DL, LR 23)
22. Nick Perry (OLB, LR 20)
23. Tim Masthay (P, LR 22)
24. Jamari Lattimore (LB, LR 26)
25. Davon House (CB, LR 24)
26. Mason Crosby (K, LR 29)
27. Ryan Pickett (DL, LR 25)
28. Jarrett Boykin (WR, LR 28)
29. Johnny Jolly (DL, LR 27) 
30. Mike Neal (DL/OLB, LR 30)
31. Jarrett Bush (CB, LR 31)
32. James Starks (RB, LR 32)
33. M.D. Jennings (S, LR 33)
34. Andrew Quarless (TE, LR 35)
35. Marshall Newhouse (T, LR 39)
36. Brett Goode (LS, LR 34)
37. Ryan Taylor (TE, LR 43)
38. Chris Banjo (S, LR 36)
39. C.J. Wilson (DL, LR 37)
40. Andy Mulamba (LB, LR 40)
41. Jerron McMillian (S, LR 42)
42. Jonathan Franklin (RB, LR 38)
43. John Kuhn (FB, LR 41)
44. Sam Barrington (LB, LR 44)
45. Seneca Wallace (QB, LR 45)
46. Nate Palmer (LB, LR 46)
47. Myles White (WR, LR 48)
48. Brandon Bostick (TE, LR 47)
49. Lane Taylor (G, LR 49)
50. Jake Stoneburner (TE, LR 51)
51. Chris Harper (WR, LR 50)
52. Josh Boyd (DL, LR 52)
53. James Nixon (CB, LR 53) 
Physically Unable to Perform
1. Jerel Worthy (DE)
2. Derek Sherrod (T)
3. JC Tretter (T)
4. Sean Richardson (S)
IR, Designated for Return
1. Randall Cobb (WR)
Injured Reserve
1. Bryan Bulaga (T)
2. DuJuan Harris (RB)
3. Robert Francois (MLB)
4. Greg Van Roten (C/G)
5. Kevin Dorsey (WR)
6. Sederrik Cunningham (WR)
1. Jeremy Ross (WR, Lions)
2. Michael Hill (RB, FA)
#1) Aaron Rodgers (QB, LR 1): I actually wanted the Packers to consider drafting McClellin in the 2012 NFL Draft when the Bears took him 19th overall.  With McClellin off the board, the Packers added outside linebacker Nick Perry with the 28th pick.  So far McClellin and Perry have been mild disappointments in the NFL but McClellin sure made a name for himself against the Packers.  Losing your quarterback is usually a big loss but in the case of Rodgers it is even more pronounced because he has absolutely owned the Bears going 9-2 against while completing 68.1% of his passes en route to throwing for 19 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.  It looks like Rodgers will be out at least a few weeks so they will be paying him a ton of money to rehab because according to ESPN's Darren Rovell, the Packers owe Rodgers $40 million over the next 245 days, which is $163,26.30 per day.

#7) Eddie Lacy (RB, LR 12):  I wanted the Packers to draft Lacy in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft so when Lacy fell into their lap after they traded back in the second round I was almost positive that if I bought a jersey this season it was going to be a Lacy jersey.  Lacy amassed the most rushing yards of any running back in October so it should come as no surprise that Lacy was named the NFL offensive rookie of the month for October.  With Rodgers out, Lacy had his best performance of the season carrying the ball 22 times for 150 yards and a touchdown.  I talked about unsuccessfully buying a Lacy jersey in my review of attending the Packers/Browns game.  There is a good chance that I am going to the Packers/Eagles game next weekend with Sug.  If I go to the game, I will 100% be wearing a Lacy jersey.

#21) Datone Jones (DL, LR 23): The Packers finally got some production out of their rookie defensive end with his first ever sack in the NFL against the Bears.  What was particularly impressive about the sack by Jones is that the Packers dropped him into coverage to spy Bears quarterback Josh McCown.  Thanks to good coverage by the secondary, which was a rarity against the Bears, Jones was able to spy and close on McCown to register a spy sack.  The Packers were expecting more plays like that spy sack out of Jones when they drafted him in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.  Unfortunately that was the only sack of the game for the Packers, which shows you how much they miss the pass rush tandem of outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry.  After holding the Browns and Vikings without a 20-yard gain on offense for consecutive weeks for the first time since the mid-1990's, the Packers gave up a number of big plays to the Bears' offense.  Despite being without Matthews and Perry, defensive coordinator Dom Capers still should have been able to put together a game plan to contain McCown.  Unfortunately the lack of consistent pass rush meant that McCown had all day to pick apart the Packer secondary.

#24) Jamari Lattimore (LB, LR 26): With A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones the starters at middle linebacker heading into training camp, I thought Desmond Bishop and Terrell Manning would win the backup middle linebacker spots.  Instead the Packers kept middle linebackers Robert Francois (currently on injured reserve) and Lattimore ahead of Bishop and Manning.  So far Lattimore has shown that he deserves a spot on The 53.  Lattimore registered a blocked punt and recovered an onside kick against the Bears so at the very least he gives the Packers a core special teams player.  Add in that Lattimore played well at middle linebacker in the base 3-4 defense when Jones was out with a hamstring injury and I can see Lattimore being a quality starting middle linebacker in the NFL down the road.  Speaking of middle linebackers, it is worth noting that last night the Packers faced a Bears defense sans Brian Urlacher for the first time since 1999.

#26) Mason Crosby (K, LR 29): Avid readers of this space know that I am often critical of Crosby and head coach Mike McCarthy.  I am critical of Crosby because he has been so inconsistent the last two years.  Crosby was named NFC special teams player of the month for October.  Unfortunately I think that means we have some big misses coming up soon because Crosby has been almost perfect in 2013 so he will have to regress to the mean at some point.  For how inconsistent Crosby was as a place kicker in 2011 and 2012, he has always struck a great onside kick, which I actually think is a repeatable skill.  I am often critical of McCarthy's decision making process so let me be the first to give him credit for calling the perfect onside kick that Crosby executed it perfectly.  Even if the Packers did NOT recover the onside kick, I actually still would have complimented McCarthy and Crosby because I thought they both followed the right process.

#34) Andrew Quarless (TE, LR 35):  The Packers sorely miss tight end Jermichael Finley.  Case and point, the ball that Quarless bobbled but I think ultimately caught on the sideline for a first down was ruled incomplete on the field on a critical 3rd down in the first half.  Don't get me wrong, Quarless should have cleanly caught the pass but even with Finley's shaky hands he makes that catch in his sleep.  Leaving that aside, I still think McCarthy should have challenged the ruling on the field so despite all the praise I gave McCarthy in my recap of Crosby, that is somewhat mitigated by his decision not to challenge the ruling on Quarless's catch.

#45) Seneca Wallace (QB, LR 45): The Packers decided to sign Wallace as their backup quarterback at the end of training camp instead of keeping Vince Young or Graham Harrell because Wallace is supposed to be a veteran that can perform in a pinch.  Wallace is one of only three players along with Kuhn and Pickett on The 53 that played on The 53 of another team.  There is no other team in the NFL with more than 40 players that fit that bill.  Unfortunately Kuhn and Pickett have had a much better tenure than Wallace so far after he went 11 for 19 throwing for 114 yards and 1 interception in place of Rodgers.  Although those numbers look decent, I can;'t remember Wallace throwing a ball more than 15 yards down field against the Bears.  Plus Wallace's interception came when he checked out of a run to a pass on a 3rd down play.  The pass was tipped and intercepted by Bears defensive end Julius Peppers.  When the Packers cut wide receiver Jeremy Ross it opened a spot on The 53.  One of the ways I suggested the Packers should fill that spot on The 53 was to trade for former Packer quarterback Matt Flynn while he was still playing for the Oakland Raiders.  The Raiders subsequently cut Flynn and the Packers decided not to add Flynn to The 53.  Ultimately Flynn signed with the Buffalo Bills but was just released.  Before we kick Wallace to the curb, let's not forget that Flynn struggled when he first filled in after Rodgers suffered a concussion on the road against the Lions in 2010.  Flynn went 15 for 26 throwing for 177 yards and 1 interception in relief of Rodgers against the Lions before he played the game of his life in the 2011 NFL regular season finale against the Lions going 31 for 44 throwing for 480 yard, six touchdowns and 1 interception at Lambeau Field.  Assuming Rodgers is out for an extended period of time, I would not only sign Tolzien off the practice squad in place of cornerback James Nixon but I would claim Flynn off waivers in place of tight end Jake Stoneburner to add two new quarterbacks to The 53.

#53) James Nixon (CB, LR 53): I know I've beaten the backup quarterback position to death already but one thing I did not mention is that practice squad quarterback Scott Tolzien recently got a huge raise to stay on the 8-man practice squad.  I am not sure why the Packers didn't just add Tolzien to The 53 instead of keeping cornerback James Nixon on The 53.  I know it is easy to say that now given the fact that the Packers lost Rodgers for the game and possibly longer but even if Rodgers was healthy is a 7th cornerback back really more valuable than a 3rd quarterback?  Either way, I hope Nixon enjoyed his stay on The 53 because he is getting cut sooner rather than later.

As you can tell I would be shocked if the Packers did not make a move to The 53 to cover themselves in case Rodgers did in fact break his collarbone.  I would be equally shocked if Rodgers was able to play next week against the Philadelphia Eagles at home.  Either way, make sure to check back next Monday for my review of the Packers/Eagles because I plan to attend the game in-person with Sug and his family.  If the Packers make any other changes to The 53 before the Packers/Eagles game I will have the full breakdown in this space.  Let's hope the Packers receive some good news today on the Rodgers injury because if not, the Packers are in danger of missing the playoffs.

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