Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The 53 - Packers lose to Eagles at Lambeau Field

After missing the Packers/Lions and Packers/Ravens games while I was in South America with Cheesehead Chick, I made up for lost time seeing the Packer beat the Browns at Lambeau Field and the Vikings at The Humpty in-person.  After watching the Packers lose to the Bears on television,  I topped off my crazy run of seeing the Packers play in-person three times in four weeks by going to the Packers/Eagles game with Brad, Sug, and Sug's father aka The Governator.

Brad, Sug, and I did not leave Chicago till after 7 am so by the time we picked up The Governator in Hubertus and hit a little traffic just south of Green Bay, we didn't even get to the parking lot until a little after 11 am.  That left us less than an hour to tailgate and get to our seats.  The Governator made the judgment call to buy all the fixings for steak sandwiches instead of brats.  Although it seemed odd to eat steak sandwiches instead of brats before a Packer game, it was absolutely the right call.  Not only do the steaks cook much faster than brats, they were super tasty topped off with some grilled onions and mustard.  Despite having a decent walk from the parking lot to Lambeau Field and a long security line once we reached the stadium, we still got to our seats right as the game started.

The inactives for the Packers against the Eagles were: Josh Boyd (DE, healthy scratch), Chris Harper (WR, healthy scratch), Andy Mulumba (LB, ankle), James Nixon (CB, healthy scratch), Aaron Rodgers (QB, broken collarbone), Derek Sherrod (T, healthy scratch), and C.J. Wilson (DE, healthy scratch).  I would estimate that I've seen at least 25 Packer games at Lambeau Field.  The Packers/Eagles game had the most injury timeouts of any game I've ever attended at Lambeau Field, so I expect to see some names added to the inactive list for next week on the road against the Giants.

The beginning and end of the last two games for the Packers were carbon copies of each other.  In each of the last two weeks the first offensive series saw the Packers lose their starting quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers against the Chicago Bears and Seneca Wallace against the Philadelphia Eagles.  Wallace didn't play very well against the Bears in place of Rodgers so losing Wallace against the Eagles was mitigated by a decent performance by former Wisconsin Badger quarterback Scott Tolzien in his first regular season action of his NFL career.

Home loses are always a bummer but the way the games were salted away by the Bears and Eagles made them downright painful to watch.  Last week the Bears got the ball on their own 20-yard line with 9 minutes and 48 seconds left in the game leading the Packers 24-20.  An 18-play drive resulted in a field goal that put the Bears up 27-20 with 50 seconds left in the game.  On the following possession the Packers took more sacks than positive plays as the game ended in a whimper.

Before the last drive of the Packers/Eagles game the Packers dominated time of possession (26:04 for the Eagles v. 34:24 for the Packers) and total yards (340 yards for the Eagles v. 396 yards for the Packers) but still trailed by 14 points due to leaving at least 20 points on the field: Tolzien's interception in the red zone, a turnover on downs in the red zone, and two missed field goals by Mason Crosby.

The Eagles got the ball with 9 minutes and 32 seconds left in the game and managed to gain 70 yards on 15 plays to seal a 27-13 victory without the Packers ever touching the ball again.  I hate to leave games early but with a few minutes left in the game I knew that the Eagles were going to continue to pound the ball en route to victory.  Given the long drive back, I am sad to say we (gulp) actually left the game early.

What made the loss even more of a bummer was the number of serious injuries the Packers suffered against the Eagles: Wallace (groin injury), center Evan Dietrich-Smith (knee injury), right tackle Don Barclay (knee injury), defensive lineman Ryan Pickett (knee), defensive lineman Johnny Jolly (groin), outside linebacker Nick Perry (foot), and cornerback Casey Hayward (hamstring).  Apparently Wallace's groin injury was the worst of the bunch because Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson placed Wallace on injured reserve.  At this point we do not know the severity of any of the other injuries.

Just two weeks ago it looked like the Packers were on their way to winning their third consecutive division title, my how things have changed.  After the Packers lost to the Bears and Eagles at home in consecutive weeks they fell to 5-4.  If the season were to end today, the Packers would miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.  There is a chance that Dietrich-Smith and/or Barclay might be out an extended period of time so the playoff may no longer be within reach even if Rodgers returns by the beginning of December.  Here are my updated player rankings and thoughts following the Packers/Eagles game:

 The 53
1. Aaron Rodgers (QB, LR 1)
2. Clay Matthews (OLB, LR 2) 
3. Jordy Nelson (WR, LR 4)
4. Josh Sitton (G, LR 5)
5. T.J. Lang (G, LR 9)
6. James Jones (WR, LR 8) 
7. Morgan Burnett (S, LR 3)
8. Eddie Lacy (RB, LR 7)
9. B.J. Raji (DL, LR 6)
10. David Bakhtiari (T, LR 11)
11. Sam Shields (CB, LR 10)
12. Evan Dietrich-Smith (C, LR 12)
13. Tramon Williams (CB, LR 14)
14. Brad Jones (MLB, LR 13)
15. Mike Daniels (DL, LR 15)
16. Casey Hayward (CB, LR 19)
17. A.J. Hawk (MLB, LR 17)
18. Davon House (CB, LR 25)
19. Datone Jones (DL, LR 21)
20. Micah Hyde (CB, LR 18)
21. Don Barclay (T, LR 20)
22. Nick Perry (OLB, LR 22)
23. Jamari Lattimore (LB, LR 24)
24. Tim Masthay (P, LR 23)
25. Mike Neal (DL/OLB, LR 30)
26. Jarrett Boykin (WR, LR 28)
27. Johnny Jolly (DL, LR 29) 
28. Ryan Pickett (DL, LR 27)
29. Andrew Quarless (TE, LR 34)
30. Jarrett Bush (CB, LR 31)
31. Derek Sherrod (T, LR N/A)
32. Mason Crosby (K, LR 26)
33. Brett Goode (LS, LR 36)
34. James Starks (RB, LR 32)
35. M.D. Jennings (S, LR 33)
36. Jonathan Franklin (RB, LR 42)
37. Ryan Taylor (TE, LR 37)
38. Scott Tolzien (QB, LR N/A)
39. John Kuhn (FB, LR 43)
40. Matt Flynn (QB, LR N/A)
41. Chris Banjo (S, LR 38)
42. Brandon Bostick (TE, LR 48)
43. Andy Mulamba (LB, LR 40)
44. Marshall Newhouse (T, LR 35)
45. C.J. Wilson (DL, LR 39)
46. Jerron McMillian (S, LR 41)
47. Nate Palmer (LB, LR 46)
48. Myles White (WR, LR 47)
49. Lane Taylor (G, LR 49)
50. Jake Stoneburner (TE, LR 50)
51. Chris Harper (WR, LR 51)
52. Josh Boyd (DL, LR 52)
53. James Nixon (CB, LR 53) 
Physically Unable to Perform
1. Jerel Worthy (DE)
2. JC Tretter (T)
3. Sean Richardson (S)
IR, Designated for Return
1. Randall Cobb (WR)
Injured Reserve
1. Jermichael Finley (TE)
2. Bryan Bulaga (T)
3. DuJuan Harris (RB)
4. Robert Francois (MLB)
5. Greg Van Roten (C/G)
6. Sam Barrington (LB)
7. Seneca Wallace (QB)
7. Kevin Dorsey (WR)
8. Sederrik Cunningham (WR)
1. Jeremy Ross (WR, Lions)
2. Michael Hill (RB, Practice Squad)
#3) Jordy Nelson (WR, LR 4): For the day Nelson had six catches for 56 yards and almost two touchdowns.  I say almost two touchdowns because at the end of the first half Nelson made an acrobatic catch that left him off-balance as he attempted to score a touchdown.  Ultimately the Packers settled for a field goal to go into halftime down 10-3.  The bigger almost touchdown came with the Packers facing a 4th down and four on the Eagles' 7-yard line with less than ten minutes to play. Tolzien found Nelson in the corner of the end zone right in front of where we were sitting.  On a close call the pass was ruled incomplete instead of a touchdown.  Given that the Packers were trailing by 14 points in the 4th quarter, head coach Mike McCarthy was almost forced to challenge the call.  None of the replays looked definitive till the last frame that they played over and over again on the new jumbotrons.  I know I am biased but the last replay made it look like Nelson kept his hand between the ball and ground for a touchdown catch.  Unfortunately the only person that matter, head referee Mike Carey disagreed.  Quick side note on automatic booth reviews.  All turnovers and scoring plays are automatically reviewed.  Unfortunately there is a carve out for "turnovers on downs" because McCarthy was forced to use his challenge to change a call on a play from a turnover to a touchdown.

#5) T.J. Lang (G, LR 9): Suffered a concussion against the Bears, which put his status in doubt to play against the Eagles.  On a personal level I hope that the Packer did not rush Lang back given how much we are learning about the long-term ramifications of concussions, especially when players suffer multiple concussions in a short period of time.  If Lang did not play against the Eagles though, I am not sure the Packers would have been able to field five healthy offensive lineman at the end of the game.  Sherrod probably would have been active if Lang was inactive but after the Packers lost center EDS to a knee injury in the second quarter, the Packers would have been forced to move Don Barclay or Lane Taylor to center instead of Lang.  Despite never playing center before in his entire life, Lang moved from right guard to center when EDS went down with a knee injury.  Barclay moved to right guard and Marshall Newhouse was inserted at right tackle.  When Barclay went down early in the fourth quarter, the Packers were forced to use their last healthy offensive lineman, Lane Taylor.  Without the benefit of re-watching the game yet, it looks like Lang handled the center responsibilities pretty well given that he has never played that position in a live game at any level in his entire football career.  I wish the same could be said for Newhouse because for the second week in a row, Newhouse struggled at right tackle. Not sure the status of EDS and Barclay for next week but it is time to see if Sherrod can give the Packers anything.  Sure offensive lineman are going to give up sacks but Newhouse didn't even get a hand on Vinny Curry when he sacked Tolzien.

#7) Morgan Burnett (S, LR 3): Sure the Packers are not doing Burnett any favors by lining him up next to one of the trio of their sub par safeties (Chris Banjo, M.D. Jennings, and Jeron McMillian) but giving up two long touchdown catches and a long run is unacceptable for a player of Burnett's caliber.  The Packers currently have safety Sean Richardson on the PUP list.  As long as Richardson is healthy, they might as well elevate him to The 53 to see if they can get even decent play at safety opposite Burnett.  The lack of pass rush always has a waterfall effect that is felt most by the safeties.  Rookie defensive lineman Datone Jones had two sacks but they seemed like the quietest sacks in NFL history given how easily the Eagles were able to throw against the Packers.  When the Packers knew the Eagles wanted to run they moved an extra safety in the box but they were unable to hold Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (25 carries for 155 yards) in check.

#13) Tramon Williams (CB, LR 14): The Eagles lucked into the first score of the game when Williams and safety Morgan Burnett ran into each other going for an interception that fell right into Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson's hands for a 55-yard touchdown. Jackson showboated into the end zone and somehow avoided a personal foul for taunting all on a play that was gift wrapped by Burnett and Williams as opposed to a stellar play by Eagles quarterback Nick Foles or Jackson.  Later in the game Williams had a chance for a pick that he just missed that turned into a nice gain for the Eagles on their drive that put them up 27-10.  Both of the interceptions discussed are plays that Williams would have made in years past.  The Packers have an NFL low three interceptions so far in 2013 after averaging 26 per season since 2009.  In fairness to Williams, he did create and recover a fumble on a sack later in the game.  McCarthy had to challenge the play to give the Packers the ball with a little less than 11 minutes remaining in the game.  Unfortunately those types of players are few and far between for Williams and secondary this season, which is a big factor in their defensive woes the last few weeks.

#26) Jarrett Boykin (WR, LR 28): The Packers got another solid performance out of Boykin with 8 catches for 112 yards on 13 targets.  I like Boykin as a 3rd or 4th option but given how much he is targeted, some of his chances are coming at the expense of targets of wide receiver James Jones.  I know Boykin's role would increase with Cobb and Finley injured but I did not think it would come at the expense of Jones.  Although Boykin has played well in his expanded role, I would still like to see the Packers get Jones more involved.

#32) Mason Crosby (K, LR 26) : As I said last week, Crosby was going to regress to the mean after starting the season almost perfect (19 for 21) en route to being named NFC special teams player of the month for October.  Crosby hit the upright on his first attempt from 53 yards and was wide right from 43 yards on his second attempt.  Crosby finished 2 for 4 on the day converting ship shots from 26 and 35 yards out.  Crosby picked the absolute worst time to regress since the Packers had their 3rd string quarterback under center and a defense that could no longer stop the run.  Apparently Crosby is a cat or has blackmail worthy dirt on one of the high-ups for the Packers, otherwise how is he still on the roster?  Crosby used up one of his nine lives against the Eagles, let's just hope someone can destroy the dirt he has on the higher-ups so the Packers can move forward with a different placekicker.  This may seem like an irrational swing by me but kickers are like closers in baseball, once things start going sideways it is time to move on.

#38) Scott Tolzien (QB, LR N/A): Trailing 7-0, the Packers had the ball on the Eagles' 5-yards line facing a 3rd and three down 7-0 with eight minutes and 57 second left in the first half.  For some reason McCarthy called a pass instead of a run.  Tolzien under threw Nelson so Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin undercut the route, intercepted Tolzien's pass, and returned it 76 yards to the Packers 27 yard-line.  Rodgers threw a ball just past the defender's ear against the Vikings for a touchdown.  I don't expect Tolzien to be able to throw like Rodgers but I do expect that he puts the ball where either Nelson makes the catch or the ball falls incomplete instead of giving the defender a chance to undercut the route.  In his first regular season NFL action Tolzien went 24 for 39 throwing for 280 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions.  If healthy, Tolzien actually looks like he gives the Packers a chance to win next week on the road against the Giants.

#40) Matt Flynn (QB, LR N/A): Quarterback Seneca Wallace went from being the first ever African-American quarterback to start for the Packers to being placed on injured reserve in less than 48 hours. McCarthy named Tolzien the starter for next week in his post-game new conference and Thompson signed former Packer quarterback Matt Flynn to The 53 in place of Wallace.  I've been calling for this move since the end of September.  At that point Rodgers was the starter, Wallace was the backup, and Tolzien was a member of the practice squad.  In recent weeks there have been reports that Flynn has an elbow issue but his medical must have checked out because although Thompson waited a little over a month more than I wanted, he was able to sign Flynn off the street instead of giving the Raiders or Bills a conditional draft pick for Flynn.  Hopefully Flynn is fully healthy because he is the only backup to Tolzien this week.  If Tolzien gets injured, which seems very likely give than the Packers have lost their starting quarterback in consecutive games, some will question why the Packers did not bring Flynn back in the fold earlier to get him acclimated to the offense.

A big thanks to Sug for doing all the driving.  An even bigger thanks to The Governator for getting us tickets and running the most efficient tailgate I've been to in a long time.  I hate to sound like a spoiled brat because any day at Lambeau Field is a good day, especially a sunny one in early November, but a loss coupled with all the injuries that the Packers suffered made the Packers/Eagles the most frustrating game I've ever seen in-person at Lambeau Field.  I try to look for silver linings in demoralizing home loses like the Packers suffered in consecutive weeks at the hands of the Bears and the Eagles.  At this point my only solace was the steak sandwich.  My Father-In-Law loves to get steak sandwiches before Notre Dame home games so next time we go to a Packer game together I am going to grill some steak sandwiches along with brats.

I was going to buy a Lacy jersey at the Packers Pro Shop at Lambeau Field but I thought the jersey would be cursed if I bought it during/after a Packer loss.  Although Cheesehead Chick wanted me to agree that the Packers/Eagles game was my last Packer game at Lambeau Field in 2013, now I know I need to go to at least one more game to lock down the Lacy jersey.

No comments:

Post a Comment