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Point of Veau: Packers Shed "Soft" Label for One Week, Must Continue

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Point of Veau: Packers Shed "Soft" Label for One Week, Must Continue

Criticized all offseason for being "soft," the Green Bay Packers proved for at least one week, they're far from a feather pillow, albeit in a losing effort to the San Francisco 49ers in the season opener.

Perpetuated up by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Bob McGinn in the aftermath of last season's playoff loss to the very same opponent, the Packers were every bit as tough as the Niners this past Sunday, just not as talented.

It was easy for Green Bay, however, to play inspired football against the team that caused their postseason demise. The challenge ahead of the Packers is to continue to play a rugged style of play––all season long.

If there's one player on the Packers roster who could never be stereotyped as being soft, even in previous seasons, it's linebacker Clay Matthews. But it was as if Matthews took the label personally, trying to make up for the entire team in Week 1.

Criticize all you want for Matthews playing overzealous, getting penalized for a late hit and getting away with what should have been an unsportsmanlike penalty, Matthews played at a high level all game long, making a pair of seven-yard tackles for a loss and sack of quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Last year, Matthews would be the only one making those types of plays, but on Sunday, the rest of the team took his lead, particularly the front seven of the Packers defense.

Almost to a man, the entire defensive line brought a blue-collar attitude and helped to stuff the Niners to the tune of 2.6 yards per rush.

B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett held their ground and strung out plays to the sideline. Johnny Jolly picked up where he left off in 2009. Datone Jones and Mike Neal hustled to make tackles downfield.

And say what you will about the job of the linebackers in coverage, but Nick Perry, A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones all did their jobs in helping to shut down the San Francisco ground game.

Even on offense, the Packers stuck with the running the football despite minimal success.

Had it not been for typical rookie mistakes by Eddie Lacy and three penalties by Josh Sitton, the results would not have been so bad. In the second half, when faux pas were fewer and farther between, they started to move the ball.

Now the Packers have to maintain this fire-breathing, nail-spitting image, which isn't to say they can't play finesse football in the passing game and in trying to stop aerial attacks, where speed and not grit is of utmost importance.

The quest continues on Sunday in the home opener against that team in Washington. Despite a lackluster effort from Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris and company on Monday Night Football, the enemy can't be overlooked.

But it doesn't stop there. The Packers must remain physical through January, not just for one fleeting moment in September.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (46) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Evan's picture

For what little it may be worth - I thought the starters played with a similar nastiness in the Seattle pre-season game.

Omar's picture

I agree.

Idiot Fan's picture

Agreed. I hope they keep it for opponents who are not Seattle and SF.

Evan's picture

Yeah, that'll be the big test - getting up for a game when "revenge" isn't such a big story-line.

VApackerfan's picture

If we keep the same intensity for the Redskins game, it could spell disaster for RGIII and company. They looked very bad on offense. I'm not sure how many mistakes can be cleared up in one week for Washington.

jake (State Farm)'s picture

I think they looked very rusty on offense at the start but got things going quite nicely in the second half and I was surprised they didn't pull it out.
The Pack will not have an easy time with these guys. I think if the Skins get out in front, it spells trouble for us.

Beep's picture

I love this attitude too, but its a fine line not playing dirty. Like Greg Bedard said last night on Cheesehead Transplants, the Packers don't want to start looking like the Lions.

packsmack25's picture

Can we stop with the "Packers aren't as talented as the Niners" crap? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills. They're just as good, if not better. How is it so hard to admit that? They lost because they played a bad game on the road. That's what happens when you play a bad game on the road. Stop pretending 2012 has any bearing on the current NFL season and realize the Packers can beat anyone. They're going to lose 4 or 5 more games, too, but it doesn't mean all of the teams they lose to are in some other stratosphere that is unachievable by the Packers. You know who else is probably going to lose at least 5 games, starting with the game this weekend where they get HAMMERED? The Niners. And then everyone will crown Seattle the champions until they get beat by the Rams or Cardinals or Texans or whoever. This is all so stupid. It's week one. We know NOTHING about the rosters of any team until they've played at least 4 games. Every story doesn't have to be about the freaking Niners being unbeatable. They're not unbeatable. Not even close.

/End rant

Good write-up though Brian. I agree that the defensive toughness will be a huge upgrade this season. The real test will be whether the offense can gel into a tough offense, as well. Lacy certainly helps. Sunday was the first time I've EVER seen Patrick Willis knocked backward by a RB.

jeremy's picture

"the first time I’ve EVER seen Patrick Willis knocked backward by a RB"

That was awesome, I've seen Starks do that to in the 2010 game.

PackerBacker's picture

I agree.

The only comment I'll make is that the Pack won't be as good as the 49ers until they stop making the mistakes. That's the one thing I admire about the 49ers. They make very few mistakes. When I saw the fumble and interception I knew we were in trouble. Not impossible, but much more difficult. You CAN'T lose the turnover battle with the 49ers.

mudduckcheesehead's picture

/slow clap

Archie's picture

THE SECONDARY LOOKED SOFT TO ME. The ILB did too. And so did the OLine. Just because the pack stopped the run by over-committing to it doesn't mean they are no longer soft. Jolly isn't soft and neither is Neal, perry of the Clay-maker but the rest of that defense is soft as cream cheese. Pickett isn't soft but Raji is. Most of the time, the Pack had 7 soft guys on the field on defense. Last I checked stopping the run but being a sieve vs the pass is still soft. Let's see the Pack physically dominate someone or see them not be dominated in any phases of the game before we pronounce them cured. Except for Matthews, TT tends to draft soft and/or injury prone defensive players. That's just a fact. But, "they're good kids and we like them". Puke.

C's picture

Raji is soft? We apparently watched 2 completely different games Sunday. You know he's #90, right?

Evan's picture

He is pretty soft around the middle...

I honestly don't even know what we're talking about when we say players are "soft."

C's picture

He's basically saying he watched Raji get pushed around on Sunday

Evan's picture

Complete nonsense.

He doesn't look tough or mean or whatever. He looks like an Ewok...he can't help it. But, yeah, he is not soft.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Completely agree...

Raji played his best game in a long time. If anyone says the defense was soft didn't watch the game.

Also the OL was soft? going against arguably the 'toughest' front 7, the Packers didn't dominate them, but they weren't torn to shreds either... If they were soft, Rodgers would have been sacked 7 times and they would have less then 40 rushing yards.

I am with you Evan. I want to see this list of soft and injured players? The only player that I can remember that had an injury history prior to the draft was Justin Harrell. So he had one bad draft pick.

Evan's picture

The odds of you just being another troll are high, but I'm going to take a chance.

"Except for Matthews, TT tends to draft soft and/or injury prone defensive players."

Two things.

1. I await your list of said players and their college injury histories. I'm sure you have such a list handy, otherwise it would be foolish to make such a statement.

2. It's funny you say "except Matthews" when he has, in fact, struggled with hamstring injuries his entire pro career thus far.

RC Packer Fan's picture

any chance Archie is Cow's real name?

Calabasa's picture

Holy rose-tinted glasses! Yes I agree that CMIII et al took the "soft" label personally and busted ass, and I am feeling pretty good about the game despite the loss, but you have to accept that the 9ers are the cream of the crop and we, along with the rest of the NFC, are looking up at them.

As for our run game, if Sitton doesn't hold, there is no hole for Lacy. I don't know what rookie mistakes you're talking about, but you have to admit that it was 't Lacy's fault we had no run game.

And Packsmack- i agree it's early in the season, but the 9ers have more individual talent on their team. Lots of high picks. Dline looked sweet. Arod and Jordy too. Not much else.

That said, we might beat everybody else with this level of play!

C's picture

Coaching staff said Lacy was partially at fault, Bob McGinn graded it the same way. Talented, but still a rookie.

PackerBacker's picture

First game in the pros versus arguably one of the best front 7's in the league. I'll give him the benefit of a few mistakes under those circumstances. As long as he learns from his mistakes and improves over the season.

Lucky953's picture

There's more than enough talent on this team to win the SB. If we don't, it will have absolutely nothing to do with being "soft". A tough physical game against a quality opponent on the road-- no major injuries and real chances to win it in the 4th. If we had won the turnovers, we would have won that game.

packsmack25's picture

Thank you. Finally, someone that realizes what really happened.

Calabasa's picture

I agree with Lucky too, but I don't think we're "as good if not better than the Niners." That's 3 solid losses to them in a row, 2 of which were whuppings. They are a better team than us.

Can we beat them? For sure! That's why they play the game...

packsmack25's picture

It's one loss, by essentially 2 points, on the road. This isn't the 2012 Packers or the 2012 Niners.

Calabasa's picture

2 points? Careful, carrying all those asterisks around will get heavy. Staley didn't do anything, and we're lucky CMIII didn't get ejected.

RC Packer Fan's picture

What about Boldin hitting the CB on that play? Full punch to the helmet. There were plenty of players that could have gotten ejected in the squirm.
The NFL can say what it wants. But the refs on the field threw the flag, and they did not enforce the rule right. The next play cost the packers a TD.
The game wasn't lost by that play, however that did have an impact on the game.

packsmack25's picture

Yes, 2 points, and Staley ran up and grabbed Matthews. That's a penalty. The NFL is bullshit.

PackerBacker's picture

Absolutely.

4thand1's picture

A team that plays outdoors is soft? Check the Packers record under MM in Nov and Dec in GB. Dome and warm weather teams always whine about coming to GB late in the season.

packsmack25's picture

Which is another reason they let Jennings go. He openly admitted that he hated the cold. Who does that?

KennyPayne's picture

The running game looked charm in-soft to me. Perhaps the D shed the soft label but the O, particularly the OLine, was its usual soft self.

Calabasa's picture

Agreed- I read something on Grantland today and the guy said that our O-line rocks back on run plays just like on pass plays. Huh?!

RC Packer Fan's picture

Give the running game time. They faced the 4th best run defense from last year. The O-line basically has 4 new starters from last year. It will take some time for them to gel.
Also, it will take a while for the RB's to get used to the line. The 2nd half the OL was opening a lot more holes then the first half. Give it time. They will be improved.

PackerBacker's picture

Agree. I see this running game being very different by game 6 than they were in game 1. They still need to gel.

RC Packer Fan's picture

And Lacy missed holes on a few plays where he could have had better runs. There was one I believe on bleacher report that showed that if he hit the whole right he would have been 1 on 1 with a safety.

Also, the run game would have looked better if it weren't for the 3 penalty's against them. The 10 yard run especially, they called Sitton on a hold, which I have seen a lot worse not get called, including in this game.

The running game will really improve as the season goes on.

Bull42's picture

Thank you Brian for courageously refusing to use the word #edskins. As a person of Norwegian heritage I am hopeful you might spearhead the effort to stop using the word #ikings when referring to our rivals in MN.

mudduckcheesehead's picture

And while we're at it, could we please stop calling that team from Chicago the #ears. It's offensive to large, hairy, gay men.

themasterfake's picture

I'll throw one more what if regarding Lacy. First quarter, second drive, third and long and Rodgers is flushed and overshoots a wide open Lacy with room to run. That one play really stuck with me, since Lacy would have developed confidence, Packers would have moved the chains early and........ ok, that's enough, I guess.

RC Packer Fan's picture

What stood out to me on that play was, if Rodgers gets him the ball, he had a lot of room to run. Easily would have had the first down and then some...

Also if they would have made that play work and if it would have resulted in a big play, that could have changed the way the defense played them. The linebackers probably wouldn't drop into coverage as often and would have opened up more passing lanes.

That play hurt a lot.

bomdad's picture

I don't like to call people soft. Its not a measureable thing like pad level. :)
I think pad level on Sunday was around 5 feet 6 inches, if you exclude Sitton.

Al Katraz's picture

Our corners are smallish by today's standards and are trying to tackle from the side rather than head on to avoid getting killed by the bigger receivers.
It is what it is. They are not making plays to date.
I suspect RGIII will have a fun day on Sunday.
There isn't one team that isn't preparing for the Pack with a passing attack extraordinaire.

C's picture

Packers depth chart at DB have almost identical height/weight as the 49ers and every other team in the NFL outside of Seattle. Could you be bothered to look it up yourself?

Lou's picture

Overall the defense showed toughness, Jolly is a key in that area, Perry holds the edge so much better than Walden did, Jones has one year as an inside LB under his belt, and Pickett is still immovable at 34, while Raji has that surprising quickness for his size. However, the safeties, particularly McMillon looked like "matadors" attempting to tackle WR's. As solid as the front seven played, the play at the back end was down right embarrasing.

9er fan's picture

packers org. used to be about PRIDE; now it's just about dirty players like Matthews.

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