Championship Weekend Recap: Packers and Colts Drop the Ball

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and I’m definitely due for a post. I think about Football all the time and quite often have something to say, but posts take a while and unfortunately, this stuff is time sensitive. Nonetheless, here we go. Since it’s been almost a week since the games I’ve had some time to settle down and won’t be quite as emotional and angry as I would have been had I written this directly after the games. But I’m not going to sugarcoat it; I was rooting for the Packers and Colts and I’m going to write this from that perspective. I’ll try to be somewhat objective and give credit where credit is due, as I try to always do, but if it seems like I’m focusing more on the failures of the Packers and Colts than the achievements of the Patriots and Seahawks, then now you know why.

Ever since the Pats and Seahawks got home field advantage it was looking pretty bleak for any teams standing in the way. Those are two of the best home field advantages in the NFL. And once the Ravens and Cowboys were eliminated, who in my opinion were really the only teams that had a decent shot at beating either of those two, a Seahawks Pats Superbowl seemed pretty certain. Nonetheless, I was still looking forward to the games and it’s not quite the fact that these teams lost that bothers me, but rather how they lost.

Let’s start with the Packers and Seahawks.I’m sure Seahawks fans will disagree, but I truly do see this as more of a game that the Packers blew rather than a great comeback by the Seahawks (although it was that too). I know that’s usually just something that fans of losing teams say, but I feel like I usually give credit where credit is due, and this was a game that the Packers, being in the position that they were for most of the game, had no business losing.

Seeing how the Packers have played good defenses like the 49ers and Seahawks over the past few years (including the playoffs), I really did not expect the Packers to look competent on either side of the ball, especially on offense. They would often look unable to do anything in these matchups; they just looked like the worse team. But in this game they were actually more competitive than I expected on both sides of the ball. The Seahawks did not start out very well at all and I was enjoying watching them seem to be blowing up in this big game, as they’re usually so on point. But the Packers did not take advantage of the Seahawks mistakes, often settling for field goals or turning the ball over when they should have been scoring. Against good teams and especially on the road, you can’t do that. But more on that later. Let’s go through the big plays. (Btw just going through the nfl.com highlights here so feel free to watch along while you read this)

The Packers looked good on the opening drive but it ended with a Rodgers pick by Sherman. I can sort of see why Rodgers threw that. On 3rd down he was buying time and needed to get rid of the ball, and Adams was in front of Sherman and he thought he could squeeze it in the back of the endzone. He needed to get rid of it and he saw it and figured it was open so he fired into a tight space; you can’t hesitate on those types of throws. Overall though I’d say it was a poor decision. Sherman wasn’t trailing by that much, and at that part of the field you can’t put the ball too far out in front because you don’t have much field to work with. So the hope is you beat Sherman with the throw but there’s not much room to do that; Adams really wasn’t open. Additionally, Sherman has long arms; he’ll make up that ground easily. So there’s one missed opportunity, and I’m always a believer in the importance of opening drives, especially while the defense is still loose and especially if you know it’s a good defense and/or is going to be a tight game.

But like I said, the Seahawks weren’t really themselves and Wilson gave it right back. The DB (think it was Tramon Williams…) played it very well, staying to the inside and not going for the outside release. That struck me as a study play; they might have known that Seattle’s offense likes to throw the quick slants on 3rd down and that’s why the corner played to the inside. For a DB clearly playing inside release before the snap I thought the initial strong outside move by Kearse didn’t really help, but that’s probably the route and timing that’s called; not sure if he’s allowed to run that route differently. Williams had good position, but I thought Kearse could have broken inside a little harder, and he definitely could have caught the ball, but it was thrown too far out in front by Wilson while it should have been on his body. Ha-Ha Clinton Dix got the pick off the tip.

The Packers next missed opportunity was settling for three after the pick. It looked like Kuhn got in on second down but it was ruled just short. At that point I said just run it twice, Kuhn or Lacy, preferably Kuhn but doesn’t matter. On 3rd down they gave it to Lacy who seemed to have a hole initially but he couldn’t get in. Looked like either the handoff took too long or Lacy needed to hit the hole harder, not sure. I’m not usually a fan of going for it on 4th down at the goal line because those are tough yards to get, but in that situation I thought they should have. Kuhn was so close to getting in the first time and they run short yardage plays with him all the time and he’s great at it; just give it to him. But they kicked the field goal and got only 3 out of it. But no worries, Doug Baldwin fumbled the next kickoff and it looked like this just could be a game the Seahawks were ready to all out blow. But again, just a field goal by Green Bay in the redzone. Another missed opportunity.

Wilson got sacked by Peppers on the next drive who, after a big forced fumble of murray in the divisonal round, looked like he was re-energized and ready for a ring. The Packers would finally find the endzone as Rodgers hit Cobb to go up 16-0. Cue next Seattle mistake: Russell Wilson was picked by Clinton Dix again and this one was a ridiculous play by Ha-Ha. It was a basic play action cross/post combo and I can’t say for sure but it looked like Clinton Dix was playing the crosser and then somehow knew to come off it to cut off the post on the other side of the receiver. He was already running to the post by the time Wilson threw the ball, so he somehow knew that’s where Wilson as going even though he didn’t get a good look at Wilson until the ball was already gone. Maybe he was supposed to play the post the whole way, but even so it was still a ridiculous interception. He had very little time to locate the ball and at the last second he changed direction, ran right under it, and caught it in his right elbow while running left. You could see why this guy was a first round pick.

At this point we’re laughing watching this game. Nerves were clearly affecting both teams, which is not uncommon for the championship round. Rodgers then threw it straight to Seattle on an awful looking interception. My guess is he was expecting the slot receiver to run a quick out and the receiver stopped on a sort of hitch, so likely a miscommunication. Still bad though, and still a missed opportunity.

But what came next? You guessed it. Russell Wilson lobbed a ball to Kearse in the endzone on what was I guess a fade and Sam Shields picked it off. Those lobs are the type of balls that the no-name Seattle receivers have been winning in man to man all season, but Shields had Kearse entirely shielded off and there was no way Kearse was getting it. That’s on Wilson.

Wilson had 12 yards passing at the half with 3 INTs and no TDs. Pretty sure he started 0-5 with 3 INT and I don’t think he had a passing yard in the first half. That’s not good.

Third quarter we go. On a 3rd and 19 Dom Capers rushes 3 except the DT looks like he’s spying so he basically rushes two. I don’t like to second guess calls, but that’s a bad call. Even if Wilson runs there, you have to trust that someone will come up and make the tackle. Wilson found Doug Baldwin after all day in the pocket. Then after stalling in the redzone (shocker) Pete Carroll made a great call as the Seahawks busted out some trickeration on a fake punt pass to the endzone. John Ryan made what was actually a tougher throw than it looked across his body. Maybe he should play QB in the Superbowl against Julian Edelman at QB for the Patriots.

Still only a fg on the next Green Bay drive, as the Packers seemed to be pretty conservative with the lead and Rodgers really didn’t have that good a day. It was 19-7 and it felt like the Packers should have been leading by so much more. Still, when Russell Wilson threw his 4th pick of the day with 5 minutes left in the fourth as the ball went off of Kearse’s hands once again, you figured it had to be over. After the way Wilson had played most of the day, I didn’t have much confidence in him anyway, even though this one was on Kearse. Burnett slid to go down instead of trying to score, which I actually didn’t notice until I watched the highlights after the game. I think I read somewhere that Peppers told him to go down, which is weird since Peppers is a vet.

The Packers milked the clock then punted, and here’s where the collapse/comeback begins. Wilson started making some throws, including a nice lob to Lynch on a wheel route that Lynch took down to the goal line. It looked like there was some defensive confusion/breakdown on the play. It was a 3×1 set with 3 receivers to Wilson’s left, one to his right, and Lynch in the backfield to the right of Wilson. Corners were playing press. The receiver to the right started to the inside and then kind of stopped while Lynch ran the wheel route. The LB (or maybe it was a DB, I don’t know) closest to the corner was playing pretty close to the line of scrimmage and was already in bad position and mismatched for Lynch’s route. The LB had his eyes on Lynch and in order to chase him went in front of the corner and receiver–who had created some traffic due to the short inside slant–instead of behind them; this would give the LB no angle if Lynch went anywhere up the field. Lynch did just that and the defender chased him hopelessly from behind. At the same time that Lynch starts to turn upfield, the corner leaves the receiver and starts to run with Lynch for a second. He probably would have still been beat if he kept running but he might have been able to stay with Lynch. Instead he just turns around and stops after running with him for like a second. The LB who has no chance is still running behind Lynch. And there’s no safety around. So I have absolutely no idea what was going on there. RW ran it in on a read option. Now this is why it really hurts that the Packers didn’t put the game away. 19-7 isn’t really that big a lead. One drive, now its 19-14, and all of a sudden that’s a one score game and doesn’t feel that far away at all.

The Seahawks still had to recover an onside kick, and somehow they pulled that off. Hauschka kicked a beautiful ball. I have no idea how they do those by the way, they have to lob it to the side so it seems like it would have to be kicked off the side of the kicker’s foot. That requires big time precision and skill. But it was a perfect kick, lobbed up to the right and just past the 10 yard mark. Brandon Bostick was all like, “Back up Jordy Nelson, I got this”. He jumped, it bounced off his helmet, and the Seahawks recovered. Unbelievable. The Seahawks then whipped out the read option at the perfect time. I don’t recall them using it all game and if they did, RW wasn’t keeping it. But that’s the thing about the read option: it catches you so off guard. I can’t stand watching Wilson run it. It drives me crazy watching him deceive the defense and squirrel his way down the field untouched. But it’s worked for them, clearly. A few plays later Lynch took it in on a clearly tired GB defense.

Now if you haven’t already, this is the play where you throw your remote at the TV and say wtf Green Bay. The Seahawks needed 2 to make it a three point lead. RW rolled right and was under pressure right away. Now before I shit on the Packers I will give him some credit. This is the part of Wilson’s game that is so strong: When he’s improvising, he knows where the defenders that are chasing him are and makes the exact right moves to deceive them. It’s what a lot of people think Johnny Manziel is good at (he isn’t). This looked like a madden play. He spun around backwards–which, by the way, I also hate watching him do. He’s such a sneaky deceptive little fucker. He’s like the Wes Welker (think back to the NE days people) of Quarterbacks.–to his left, then as soon as it looked like he would go that way, he planted and went back to his right and tossed up a prayer all the way across the field as he was getting hit. Ha Ha Clinton Dix somehow missed the ball and Luke Wilson, who found the endzone. Now look, it’s a crazy play, yes, but that’s absolutely unacceptable by Green Bay. Wilson literally just tossed it up. That ball should not be completed. Clinton Dix has to make that play. He’s right there. What’s most upsetting is that he blew this one after having such a good day up to that point.

And just like that, Seahawks have the lead. What??!?!?!!! The same Seahawks who were doing nothing all game?? Talk about momentum shift. At this point I wasn’t even sure if GB would score again. But they only needed a fg and Rodgers did a good job on this drive. The play where he ran for the first down was interesting, as the injury was clearly limiting him. A fully healthy Rodgers would have gained at least ten more yards. On the 3rd and 10 six yard pass to Jordy, it was a good throw and Rodgers did a good job getting the ball out, but he kind of ran right into the pressure. He seemed to have more room had he moved to the right, and it would be interesting to see who was open on that side, if anyone. Crosby made a clutch 48 yarder, and OT here we go.

Look, this is no science so I’m not really bragging on this one, but I do feel it necessary to say that I said out loud before the toss that the Packers should pick heads. When I was young I liked tails as it’s better looking (a bird vs a head), but my dad advised me to always pick heads. Something about it being the top of the coin. I don’t know. So I usually go heads now. And that would have worked here. Then again, it seems to never work when I’m playing Madden. But I digress…

Not looking good at this point. Home team usually holds the advantage in OT, although I don’t have the numbers to prove it. At home you have crowd support and confidence. These types of comebacks don’t usually happen on the road, especially not in the playoffs. Plus the Seahawks had the momentum. If you’re the Packers, you wanna get the ball and get outta here quick and end it. But naturally, the Seahawks chose to receive. RW made a nice lob to an open Doug Baldwin on 3rd and 6. A couple plays later, it’s over. From the 40, RW has Kearse on a deep post one on one. Caught. TD. Game.

If you’re the Green Bay Packers, HOW ON EARTH DO YOU LOSE THIS GAME????? It’s the fucking playoffs. The other team did not show up for the first 55 minutes. You have so many chances to put it away. Not only do you not take advantage to go up more, not only are you flat on offense, but you have complete meltdowns at the worst times to do so. Not only do you let them score twice in the last five minutes, but you also give up onside kick, have multiple coverage breakdowns during the final drives, and give up a walk off TD in OT.

Again, I don’t like questioning play calls. It’s understandable that you want to be aggressive on defense, as Seattle has gone on these long drives in OT before (’12 at Chicago and this year vs Denver come to mind), and because of Lynch especially late in the game when the defense is worn down, Seattle can sustain drives. But then again, it’s OT. You hold them to a fg and you get another shot. And you let Kearse get behind you? It’s just an upsetting situation. I don’t think it’s really the fault of the play call. It was a great throw in a tight window, and it was redemption for Kearse after the two balls he failed to catch that led to INT’s. I also heard (courtesy of Greg Cosell and RW might have mentioned it after the game) that this was a look on D they had seen before early in the game and had ran something else on it, and this particular play was a check at the line. So I think credit mostly goes to the offense here, but I figured that it is worth at least bringing up the defensive play call.

As for Russell Wilson, do I give him credit for the end of the game? Yes. Of course I do. He made some great throws. But let’s be real here. He was shit for the first 55 minutes of the game. He finished 14/29 for 209, a TD pass, a TD run, and 4 picks. Even if not all the picks were his fault, it’s still pathetic production, especially at home in the playoffs. Pretty sure he didn’t complete a pass in the first quarter. At one point very late in the game, and I’m not sure when, he only had 75 yards passing. That’s hard to do. He should not be bowed down to for this win. This was GB’s game to win, and they blew it in epic proportions.

Let’s talk about Green Bay for a sec, shall we? Every year, everyone fawns over them in the regular season. They are usually a super bowl pick, and Aaron Rodgers is the subject of praise all over the place. But what have they done since the 2010 SB win vs the Steelers? It’s been letdowns for four years in a row now. 2011: Lose to the Giants 37-20. Offense is not sharp, defense is non existent. Oh, and did I mention the Giants completed a hail mary before halftime in that game? 2012: After watching Kaepernick run all over them in the first half, Green bay does a great job of making absolutely no adjustments whatsoever in the second half. Lose, 45-31. Next year: Beat Joe Webb at home in the divisional round 24-10. Wow. Then lose to the same niners who they haven’t beat in the Jim Harbaugh era. This time they’re at home. Offense is weak, and the defense of Dom Capers (who still has a job for some reason) lets Kaepernick drive down the field in the final minutes as the niners milk the clock and kick a fg with no time left. Rodgers has been average at best in all those games, but seeing as there have been bigger problems, he does not get the focus. Again this year, Rodgers didn’t play well and was held under 200 yards for the second straight year. Overall, this year might have been the worst GB playoff collapse yet. I said it before and I’ll say it again. Given the position they were in, Green Bay had no business losing this game. They should be ashamed and embarrassed. While Mike McCarthy surely isn’t going anywhere, someone needs to be held accountable. What has been one of the most successful franchises in the league continues to underperform when it matters most. You may respond that Seattle is a tough place to play and a great team and that I am being too harsh. But like I said, in this particular game, GB had plenty of opportunities to close the deal, and let plenty of plays happen that shouldn’t have happened. The loss is on them.

Side note-What if the Cowboys hadn’t got screwed by that call in the Packers game? (Not only is the rule awful, but in this case Dez’s hand was underneath the ball the whole time and the ball didn’t even squirt out onto the ground, and even when it popped out into the air as he rolled into the endzone, it fell right back into his hands.) What if they go on to win, and then go to Seattle for the NFC Championship instead of Green Bay? Well I’ll tell you this much: If Seattle plays as poorly as they did for most of the game, Dallas definitely takes advantage and dominates the game. Are those the type of big games that the Cowboys usually blow? Yes, but the Cowboys were different this year. They didn’t blow those games this year. That’s why they got as far as they did. Not to mention Romo was money on the road this year, and Dallas already beat and ran all over Seattle during week 6. Green Bay hasn’t beat Seattle in the Russell Wilson era. This is one that without a doubt haunts Dallas for a long time. They could have been going to the Superbowl. But I digress.

Now what about Russell Wilson? I mentioned that for the most part he did not play well, but if you look at last year in the playoffs, he did not play well either. Against the Saints, he did nothing to help them Seattle win and totaled just 103 passing yards on the day. Against the 49ers he was clearly uncomfortable from the very start, fumbling on the first play of the game. He did make 2 big time throws: the long throw to Baldwin and the 4th down TD to Kearse, but outside of those, he was not sharp. In the SB he played well, but the Broncos were out of the game before he really had to do much. His best playoff game was actually the loss to Atlanta, in which he threw for 300+ yards and scored 4 TD’s (passing + rushing combined) to bring Seattle back from down 27-7 to 28-27, only to watch Matt Ryan drive down the field and set up Matt Bryant to kick the GW FG with very little time left. What is my point? Russell Wilson is a good quarterback, but the Seahawks are not winning in the playoffs because of him, and he’s certainly not as good as all the credit he’s likely going to receive. You may respond that, well, all teams have good defenses in the playoffs, no one wins the SB as a one man show. While this is true, most QBs, while not lighting up the scoreboard or throwing for 300+ yards all the time, have decent and efficient games in the playoffs. Russell Wilson is not hitting that standard. He was below fifty percent, threw 4 picks, and was awful for most of the game.

Okay, on to New England! (Belichick: We’re on to Cincinnati.) No no no Bill, I said New England! I’ll try to make this one short, seeing as no one’s probably going to read this far, and also seeing as I’ve been writing for 2 1/2 hours (this is why I don’t post that often) and have a 9 AM tomorrow.

Basically, I’ll say the same thing to the Colts that I essentially said to the Packers but in shorter terms: You suck. In the last three meetings against the Patriots, the Colts have given up the following rushing numbers: 166 yards (6.9 ypc) and 4 TDs to Blount + 57 yards (3.7 ypc) and 2 TDS to Ridley in last year’s divisional round, 201 yards and 4 TDs (5.4 ypc) to Jonas f&#king! Gray in this year’s regular season matchup, and 148 yards and 3 TDs (4.9 ypc) to Blount in this year’s AFC Championship Game. The Patriots have scored 43, 42, and 45 points in those matchups. I don’t even know what to say to that. There are no words that will do it justice. I guess all I will say, which seems to be a common theme on this post is, How do you let that happen? Seriously. It’s the playoffs. 3 games in a row. You don’t see those kind of rushing numbers in today’s league. And the Patriots have not really been a good rushing team this year.

Watching this, I found myself thinking, “It’s been ten years and nothing has changed between these teams”. The Peyton-led colts lost in Foxborough in the playoffs in back to back years in 2003 and 2004. I was watching the 2004 highlights recently, and Corey Dillon was running all over the Colts. There were plays where he literally could have ran in any direction and there would have been a hole. The same thing could be said of this game. We know Blount played well, but the plays were blocked up so well that all he had to do was wait and pick the hole.

In the same sense, Luck’s Colts are similar to Peyton’s in that both players were asked to carry the team, although you could certainly make the argument that this applies to Luck even moreso. Look, we know Luck’s numbers weren’t good. We know he was not comfortable. Honestly, it means close to nothing to me. He could have thrown 5 picks and I wouldn’t have cared. The narrative will probably be centered around him as we go forward (you already hear talk about “Luck can’t beat the Patriots” and “Luck throws so many picks against the Patriots” and all that shit), but the truth is, we don’t need to worry about Luck. Luck is set. He knows how to play quarterback. He’s been nothing short of spectacular for this team and he has the demeanor, skills, and mentality of playing Quarterback that many veterans don’t and will never have. He’s fine. We don’t need to worry about him. What the Colts organization does need to do is get some more pieces around him and not consistently display performances that make the Colts look like a college team. They need to find a way to not give up 150+ rushing and 40+ points playing the same opponent three times in a row. If you want more about Luck, go to . Occasionally he posts some mind blowing stats about some of the historically bad situations the Colts have put luck in.

And look. I know the Colts aren’t good on defense. I know New England is the better team. And I know it’s hard to cover everyone when so much of the focus is on Gronk. But please. Try to show some awareness of the opponent and situation! Please! And like I said, I don’t like second guessing play calls. I really don’t. But these coaches supposedly spend hours a day game planning and preparing for opponents. I’m a college student. I’ve watched a lot of NFL and a lot of Patriots offense over the years, but it’s not like I do this for a living. So how come you make it look like you don’t know team tendencies at all? When you play the Pats, you have to defend Edelman. Plus, he’s especially played well against the Colts in the past. You have to be able to recognize the routes based on down/distance, formation/stacks, and motion. How come I can guess the routes but the Colts can’t? Two examples stand out. 3rd and 9 with 2:46 left in the first. Gronk goes in motion inside Edelman. I’m thinking, watch Edelman over the middle. He runs a clear crossing route with no sticks to the outside or stutters or anything. Yet the Colts just backpedal and Edelman finds a soft spot, sits down close to the sticks, and runs forward and gets the first down. It’s pitch and catch. This is what the Pats do. You have to press. Why are you backing up so far and giving him an easy release and open space to catch it? Another example. 13:57 left in the third. Pats ball 3rd and 2. Brady in the gun, receivers tight to the formation with two of them stacked to the right and a back to the left. Edelman is wide right and motions inside to form an almost trips stack look. As soon as he settles Brady is going to snap it, as usual. I’m thinking, Edelman goes to the outside here. Sure enough, he does, and he’s wide open, no Colts in sight. The Pats scheme their route concepts and vary formation and motions better than anyone in the league, but if you watch them enough, you get a sense of their route concepts and staples. Plus, Tom Brady is primarily a short, inside the numbers passer. They’ve been dipping and dunking on opponents to slot receivers for years. Very few defenses seem to realize this.

Look, I know it’s not as easy as I make it sound. And Colts, I don’t expect you to go into Foxborough and win. But you need to give me more.

Wow that took a while. Superbowl here we come! If this gets some likes then maybe I’ll do a preview. If it really gets some likes and you’d like me to add the pictures of the plays I was talking about I’ll consider that as well. Until then, Happy Football!

EDIT: I just listened to a Greg Cosell podcast and he said watching the tape that on Rodgers’ first INT there was a blatant offsides that wasn’t called and that’s why Rodgers threw it, so I guess let him off the hook there.

Advertisements

One thought on “Championship Weekend Recap: Packers and Colts Drop the Ball

  1. Pingback: Will anyone ever challenge the Patriots? | CK's Football Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s