So yesterday the Packers played a football game; the Oakland Raiders did not.
I think I speak for all of us, that while ecstatic with the undefeated record, yesterday’s game was the kind of game that we’ve been waiting for.
I mean, on the surface there’s so many things to be excited about:
A 31-0 half time lead.
The fact that AJ Hawk was active, but not NEEDED and got more rest and time to heal.
Tim Masthay had 1, ONE, punt!
The Packers rushed for over 100 yards! They out rushed a team with Michael Bush, who was supposed to run similarly to Blount and just barrel through guys. Think about it, Ryan Grant had more rushing yards that Michael Bush. Ryan. Grant.
4 Interceptions by 4 different people.
For all those people concerned with yardage, the Packers did outgain their opponent. The total yards were close, but if you look at the stat by the half: the Packers had nearly double the Raiders yardage in the first half. Most of the Raiders yardage came in “garbage” time.
The Packers had more single player tackles on defense, than the Raiders had in total tackles!
Matt Flynn came in, not due to injury, in the THIRD quarter.
You basically didn’t even have to watch the fourth quarter. Frankly, I have NO idea what happened during it :).
It would have been the most relaxing Packers game in a long time. But it wasn’t. The realization of late season, cold weather football, became apparent as player after player seemed to walk away from yesterday’s game with an injury. The most substantial being that of Greg Jennings. Jennings left the game after making a catch where he possibly twisted his ankle, having to be helped to the sideline. Fellow receivers Randall Cobb and Donald Driver helped move him to the trainer’s table. After initial workups, the doctor’s sent for the cart. And in perhaps the most heart wrenching scene, Jennings sat alone on the bench, towel over his head, his head clearly down. Jennings tried to cheer up the shaken crowd with the token thumbs up on the way to the locker room, but few good things happen when a player leaves the field on a cart.
Speculation has since run rampant. We won’t know the official diagnosis, or whatever McCarthy chooses to share, until the Packers press conference at 4 Lambeau time today. Yet, doctors, real and imaginary, have diagnosed Jennings with anything from a minor bruise to a completely ruptured MCL. Will he be back next week? Will he be back this regular season? Will he be back into for the Packers first playoff game? Will he be back for the Super Bowl?
Once all the M.D.s have decided that, even though they’re not sure how long he’ll be out, Jennings will indeed miss time, the discussion has morphed into two separate discussions. 1. Will the Packers be okay without Jennings? And 2. How long should Packers starters play?
First off, the Packers will most certainly “be okay” without Jennings, but their offense will change. As fans, and I think it has been sold to us this way all year, we tend to believe that all the receivers are almost equal; they guy who gets the ball is simply the guy who’s open. No one’s the favorite and no one’s more special. While yeah I’m pretty sure the open guy gets the ball more often than not, there are favorites. There is a level of trust, of unspoken communication and understanding that Rodgers has with each of his receivers, and to think that this level is the same for all of them is unrealistic. In a tight situation, who do you think Rodgers looks for more? Donald and Greg? Or James and Randall? (we’re on a first name basis here). And in a tight situation, who do you think the defense focuses more on? If it’s a must convert 3rd and 18, the defense figures that Rodgers will go to his veterans and they double or play those players closer. That in turn, occasionally leaves receivers like Nelson, Jones and Cobb open. With Jennings gone, Rodgers is losing a valuable safety net, the Packers are losing a weapon, and the opposing defense is losing someone that they have to double cover.
Also, think back to the Super Bowl. I’m sure by now most of us have seen it (and if you haven’t, fly to Cincinnati, and we’ll have a viewing party), Greg Jennings on the sideline, telling his coaches what he’s seeing on the field. He’s there, pumped with emotion and adrenaline, not only cheering his team on, but helping to tailor the offense to catch the weaknesses that the opposing defense is showing. Nelson, Jones and Cobb are all great receivers in their own right, but I don’t think any of them have Jennings knowledge of the game.
Will the team die without Jennings, no. But I do think they will miss him. We will simply have to wait and see how long we’ll miss him for and how the team adjusts. Luckily this weekend the Packers are playing a team without a coach, so it looks like it will be a rest week either way. :)
But that brings me to my next point. Resting players. We’re getting to that point in the season, with the Packers having nearly everything locked up, when do they start resting their players? Do they rest them at all? Yesterday, Rodgers played long into the game. Many people, my best friend included, were screaming for MM to sit Rodgers. I was not one of those people. It was the third quarter, and while the Packers had been dominating, I still felt it was too early to sit him. I thought Flynn came into the game at the perfect time. But my heart did stop with every hit that Rodgers took. When, if ever, do we sit players? I have many thoughts on this. And hope to post them later this week. So if you read this whole article and have an opinion, post it below, I will include in my post later this week.