Let me just tell you, this week has been a little bit of a struggle, writing wise, for me. Why? Because I keep waiting for this warm, happy feeling that has taken over me to decrease even just a little bit. Every time I’d sit down to write all that would come out is “YAY!” But the happiness, the elation, refuses to die. I’ve been “accused” this past week of being too rosy, of agreeing with everyone – which I definitely disagreed with that guy on – and basically being overly chipper when it comes to the Packers. Right now, can you blame me?
The Packers are playoff bound. I spent most of yesterday trying to let that sink in. I also wore green to work and emailed my Bears fan co-worker a pic of me decked out for the game, but that was just to be annoying and smug. The game on Sunday was not the prettiest in any fashion. And while at moments it was close, I for one will strongly admit to not being scared. Because while I saw our offense struggle, and brief flashes of Detroit danced in my head, I also saw the defense and special teams units playing like players possessed. They would not let us lose. And while our defense has been our back bone all season, most times our special teams has been the Achilles heel. So I’m left wondering, where on God’s green earth did this performance come from?
Special Teams. It’s been the talk of the town this week and rightfully so. So many miscues, missed kicks, horrible return blocking, so many moments this season where it seemed special teams might do us in – and in many cases did. Shawn Slocum was a fan favorite to hate. Week in and week out it seemed someone on my twitter feed was calling for his job or his neck. And then week 17 happens. And I’m, to put it bluntly, confused. It wasn’t just the monster day by punter Tim Masthay, perfecting the directional punt and dropping the ball repeatedly inside the 20. But it was an all-around solid performance by the special teams. Mason Crosby remembered how to kick the ball into the end zone, gunners remembered how to stay in their lanes, and by the grace of god people remembered how to tackle. Out of the 8 punts by Masthay, only two were returned by the Bears. Considering that pregame most of us thought the game would come down to special teams, that stat is impressive. And while the Bears punting game is nothing to write home about, the fact that the Packers averaged nearly the same net yardage on punts (36.8 to 36.6- Bears to Packers), speaks volumes to not only Masthay’s ability to kick the ball with a decent hang time but also to the rest of the players on special teams.
So great, we’re all happy about that. But it’s become the trend lately – or maybe it was always I just didn’t seem to notice – who gets the credit? This type of special teams performance can help carry the Packers through the playoffs, specifically when it comes to this weekend’s match up against Philly and DeSean Jackson, so it seems a little important to figure out how we can recreate it. Did Shawn Slocum finally have the right game plan? Can’t be, we hate him. Did the special team players finally decide to remember their job titles and execute the game plan properly? Can’t be, again we hate Slocum and Bush et. al. at times seem to be a misfit bunch at best. Is it Mike McCarthy, finally motivating his players and assistant coaches to rise up? Can’t be, we hate him too. Does it have something to do with McCarthy’s offensive game plan that helped shift the field position that prevented punting from deep within Packers territory? Can’t be, McCarthy sucks at game planning. So then what the deuce happened?
Obviously I’m being sarcastic here. (And yes, I feel the need to add that in, because if I don’t I know the first comment will be from someone saying “No one ever said McCarthy sucks…blah blah blah). But while we do sit here and wonder why the offense seemed to struggle and wonder if the Packers staff can get any group to step up and preform when they absolutely have to, let’s not only look at the defense, this performance by the special teams was just as clutch. And, in my opinion, evidence that somewhere in that locker room lies a group of players and coaches who really do have the right answers and the ability, it’s just a matter of getting all the pieces to fit together.
Can they do it again? That question is probably the only thing that I’m truly a skeptic about regarding the Packers. But dear football gods, I hope so.
Filed Under: Jayme Joers