We all have to face it: The Packers are not a playoff-caliber team.
-Kevin Seifert, ESPN.com
There's already been enough discusion over the bad things that happened yesterday. The Packers sufferred a loss that dropped them to 5-8, and both the Bears and Vikings won (although the Vikings just barely made it past the woeful Detroit Lions). In giving up 400+ yards to Matt Schaub and 120+ to Steve Slaton, the Packers also gave up the little remaining hope at snagging the NFC North title.
(Yes, I know it's still mathematically possible. Trust me, I'm trying to convince myself that Green Bay can run the table and that both Chicago and Minnesota will fall off the face of the planet or get violent diarrhea or something, thus opening the door to yet another Green and Gold division championship.)
But you know what? I don't want to talk about the dismal run defense...or the offense's 1-for-10 3rd down conversion rate...or the suddenly staggering pass defense...or the positively putrid pass rush...or the fact that a fourth major defensive starter is probably going to be limited by an injury (Nick Collins)...or how Bob Sanders might lose his job...or Mark Tauscher's season-ending knee injury...or Aaron Rodgers' startling inconsistencies (including a boneheaded interception at the end of the first half)...and I certainly don't want to talk about the offensive drive in the 4th quarter that first managed to get to the Houston 22-yard line with 3:02 left and, with a holding penalty and a sack, ended up as a punt from the Houston 38-yard line with 2:00 left.
I don't wanna talk about any of that. Why? Because I'm positively delusional. I can't handle the negatives anymore. I need some positives, just like I did way back in October after the Tampa Bay loss. Let's get happy, people!
- Ryan Grant looks like Ryan Grant again. Yes, he's been sub-par this season and yes, he's been generally outplayed by Brandon Jackson whenever Jackson gets touches (a point made by Jarlsberg in the game thread). And yes, Houston is not a good defense. But it's encouraging to see Ryan Grant put up one of his old stat lines: 19 carries for 104 yards, a 5.5 ypc average, and a TD. Did you know he actually has 980 yards on the season? Neither did I, considering he's only got three 100-yard games this year. He just looks like he's running hard and finally seems in sync with the offensive line. Watch the game tape, and note how many times Korey Hall, John Kuhn, or an offensive lineman makes a great block to open a running lane. We have not seen nearly enough of this in 2008. Thanks to all this...
- Aaron Rodgers is killing off of playaction and rollouts. Seriously, check out the video. Almost half of his big completions were off playaction or rollouts. He's executing the ball fake as well as anyone can do it and more importantly, he's getting into his progressions as soon as he turns his field of vision back to the line of scrimmage. For those of you who are not quarterbacks, you have no idea how hard this is. Moving backwards and facing the opposite direction, faking a handoff, then turning around and trying to hit a moving target that's over 30 feet downrange within 3 seconds? No easy task, but Rodgers seems to have mastered it.
- The Rodgers-Jennings pass at the end of the third was sick. The Professor ran a great route where he managed to turn the defender to the sideline before breaking back to the middle. He didn't create a ton of seperation but managed to use his body as a shield so that neither the corner or safety could get an angle on the ball, which was perfectly thrown, by the way. This was one of the few big pass plays by either team that wasn't made by uncalled offensive pass interference. Great throw, great catch.
- The defense and special teams actually created some turnovers. Despite giving up more yards than was thought humanly possible, the defense and special teams came up with four turnovers. First, Desmond Bishop stripped Owen Daniels at the 3-yard line, and Tramon Williams was in great position to recover the fumble. Then, Tramon Williams continued his bid for a starting spot next season with a great jump on an out route and came up with an interception. Then Johnny Jolly got into the mix with a fumble recovery of his own. And finally, the special teams managed to come up with a muffed punt in the fourth quarter. All in all, a +3 turnover ratio is a great performance...if you can forget about all the other miscues.
- The new punter hasn't been shoved into a locker yet. And with a performance like this, Jeremy Kapinos should remain free from such hazing. The Pride of Penn State certainly got a workout yesterday, registering 8 punts for a net average of 34.5 yards. He had one kick out of bounds at the Houston 25, one touchback, kicks fielded at the 7 and 10 yard lines, and the 4th quarter punt downed at the Houston 3, a kick that made it what-should-have-been impossible for Houston to maintain a drive from. And oh yeah, Houston only had 20 yards off of 5 punt returns. All in all, he didn't mess up, which after the Derrick Frost experience, is a major plus.
- Tramon Williams is a budding star at corner. While he's still prone to blowing coverage (aided by a timely push in the back, courtesy of Kevin Walter), he is quite simply a playmaker in the defensive backfield. He has 48 tackles, 12 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, and 5 interceptions. He also had the fumble recovery I talked about earlier. But the most interesting thing I found is that 4 of his picks came when the Packers were behind. Compare this to Nick Collins and Charles Woodson, who each has five interceptions as well, but only 4 between them came when the Packers trailed. That's a sign of a clutch player, and it's something that helps Tramon in his bid for a starting gig.
There. I feel better already. And you should too, because if I managed to find five positive points about yesterday's loss, that means anything is possible. Did you hear me? Anything is possible! Care to add anything, Kevin Garnett?
Maybe the Packers should work out a trade with the Celtics. At least Kevin Garnett knows how to play defense.