A failure on ALL fronts--one more Packers post-mortem
Packers fans can't be surprised that the 49ers beat Green Bay Saturday night, but no one likes the way it happened.
What a beat-down. Ye Gods.
Did anyone see a rout coming? Did anyone think the defense would surrender so many yards and make Colin Kaepernick look like a combination of Y.A. Tittle, John Brodie, Joe Montana and Steve Young?
It's amazing how fast a season goes from "New Orleans, here we come!" to, "off with his head!", especially if it's the melon of defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
His critics point out that the Pack, under his watch, has made three rather ugly postseason exits, surrendering gobs of points in losses to the Cardinals, Giants and, most recently, the Niners. They wonder where the adjustments were against San Francisco as Kaepernick and running back Frank Gore kept gashing Green Bay's D. Coach Mike McCarthy insists they DID tweak their approach, but the results suggest that whatever they tried didn't work.
Was it a bad game plan? Was it poor play? To my untrained eye, it's both. If I counted right, I head Clay Matthews' name twice all night during the TV broadcast. And, I can't ever remember seeing so many Packers defenders wandering around as if they were dumped in downtown Waukesha with the street lights out and no Garmin. Shameful. It didn't help that Kaepernick had the night of his life, both on the ground AND in the air. No Packers fan ever wants to see his 56 yard TD scamper (or biceps-macking post-game BS) again, but don't forget some of his surgical air strikes. After the opening pick-six, it was Kaepernick's evening.
Voice of the Packers Wayne Larrivee reminds us all of the improvements made to the Green Bay defense in the season just passed--a team once near the bottom statistically in 2011 came in 11th this year, accomplished amid a rash of injuries. One bad night shouldn't pre-destine Capers for a walk down the plank.
Sure, the defense faltered but the Packers' failure was complete and without prejudice, as they sucked out loud in all three phases of the game. Special teams miscues, including a fumbled punt and several muffs, reversed the tone or gave Green Bay crap field position. The offense? Take away the final, garbage-time TD and it mustered all of 17 points, which isn't enough when your defense is getting lit up the way the Pack's was.
For all of the first half failings, Green Bay trailed by just 3 at the intermission, using a balanced attack (12 passing plays, 11 runs including Dujuan Harris' TD scamper) to give Packers fans hope. We get the opening kick, we thought, so this is where Aaron Rodgers engineers a nice long drive that puts points on the board and eats up clock, keeping Kaepernick and Co. on the bench. What happened?
A three-and-out: two runs and a sack.
Still, the Packers were able to tie the game at 24 midway through the third period. Kaepernick's epic scramble followed, and the Packers would never run the ball again--the next series after the S.F. TD featured five pass plays and a Rodgers scramble. And, it would be passes the rest of the night when the hole got seven points deeper a short time later.
Here are the facts: the 49ers are the better team. They beat Green Bay twice, and the victories were convincing. San Francisco is fast, well-coached, well-schemed and relatively healthy. What happened Saturday night was no fluke, and Green Bay fans can actually take heart that their team was in it as late as it was despite the chasm in talent/execution/game plan.
Faces will certainly change in the days, weeks and months ahead. The Packers' financial math screams that fact. Donald Driver, Jermichael Finley, Greg Jennings and A.J. Hawk might've very well played their last games in Green Bay colors. Sad, but that's the modern game. No time for sentiment. Salary triage is a must with Rogers, B.J. Raji and others need to be paid. And, plenty of talented players are due back off of injured reserve including Desmond Bishop, D.J. Smith, Nick Perry and Bryan Bulaga. Plus, there's always the wonder of a Ted Thompson draft.
New Orleans would've been nice but it's not going to happen. Super Bowl XLVIII is in the New Jersey Meadowlands which could be a very chilly place come kickoff time on February 2nd, 2014. It's a cold that would feel like home to thousands of Klondike-ready Packers fans, especially after spending a second straight winter watching someone else play for the Lombardi Trophy.
Let the blame-game end. Let the work begin.