Sunday, November 20, 2011

Packers win ugly over Buccaneers, 35-26

Oh, the woes of a 10-0 team. The only 10-0 team, by the way, in the NFL this season. And only the third 10-0 team in the proud history of the Green Bay Packers. Yes, the Packers won today even playing at a mediocre least by the standards they have set this season. They beat a Buccaneers team that wasn't phased by playing the top team in the league, 35-26.

On a day when the Packers defense reverted to their play of the first eight games of the season -- in others words, porous and sloppy -- and on day in which QB Aaron Rodgers was a bit off, at least by his standards (he threw 11 incompletions, had an interception, and achieved a QB rating of 112-ish), not to mention a day in which the heretofore perfect Mason Crosby misses a chip shot 29-yard (?) field goal attempt, the Packers somehow overcame themselves and beat the Bucs.

The Packers defense once again couldn't tackle, once again couldn't seem to cover receivers and, yet, Tramon Williams got two interceptions, including the one that helped seal the Packers' victory. During a post-game interview with Larry McCarren on 620WTMJ radio, Williams was asked about the performance of the defense which once again gave up more than 400 yards on the day. Williams admitted the problems, but said that as long as they get the takeaways and make the critical stops "who cares" how many yards they give up. Hmmm...that's an interesting insight. Now, on one hand, you have to agree with him. As long as the team gets the "W" it doesn't really matter how many yards the other team racks up. Still, I can't imagine that same statement being made by the likes of a Ray Nitschke, for example. Or Willie Davis or Herb Adderly...or any of Lombardi's players. For that matter, can you imagine what Lombardi would have done had he heard that statement by Williams? At best, the two would have a genteel conversation about Mr. Williams' attitude. At worst, Mr. Williams may have found himself playing elsewhere very soon.

I don't mean to get off on a tangent about this. But perhaps it does reveal something about what we're seeing on the field. And it's been noted nationally. Some of the halftime TV punditry today about the game said there was no sense of urgency on the part of the Packers' defense because they know the offense can always score. That kind of attitude shouldn't be condoned by any defensive player or coach. There should be pride on the part of every player in stopping the opposing team from gaining a single yard. Remember that game back in...whenever it was...when the Packers held Barry Sanders to minus yardage for the entire game? Minus yardage. Barry Sanders. Not Colonel Sanders, Barry Sanders. Clearly, there was a different attitude present on the part of that defense that manifested itself big time.

The players on this Packers defense -- including Tramon Williams -- are quality players, some even Pro Bowlers. But really: get a better attitude, please, so there is better performance on the field.

As to the offense, the offensive line play continues to be a concern. QB Aaron Rodgers was under pressure a good part of the day from a defense that is near the bottom of the rankings in just about every category. They are not known as pass rushing demons. And yet...Rodgers seemed to be scrambling for his life most of the afternoon. Guard Josh Sitton had another bad game, including several penalties. He's had a couple uncharacteristically sloppy games in a row. Whatever is going on with him better get figured out. The Packers need him -- and the entire O-line -- to perform at a higher level than they are now. It seemed that the running backs -- who gained 91 yards total on the day -- had to create their own holes most of the time. Their line didn't do them many favors.

And speaking of running backs, the emerging star that is James Starks had to be helped off the field late in the game after reportedly spraining his right knee. Head coach Mike McCarthy called it a sprain, but said he'd know more Monday. Let us pray.

So, yes, the Packers are 10-0. The only other two times they were 10-0 to start the season they won Championships: in 1929 and 1962. This team has now set a new franchise record of 12 straight regular season wins dating back to last season and 16 consecutive wins overall including the playoffs. Hard to complain. But even in the midst of seeming perfection there is imperfection. And nowhere is that more evident than on the playing field.

The Packers have only a few days to prepare for their Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit. If they don't play like they are capable of playing, Detroit could serve a loss to the Pack on Turkey Day. Detroit beat Carolina today, 49-35.

Let's hope today was a bit of a wake up call for this team. Hard to say they need it at 10-0. But they do.