Green Bay Packers: Saturday Scoop

Normally this is where I'd give a last look at the Green Bay Packers and their upcoming opponent for a Sunday game.  With this week's contest already in the books and with the last play of said game having been shown eleventy hundred times, I thought I'd ramble on about the state of the team.

Their record is 8-4, which isn't bad at this point in the season.  It's not great, however, when you remind yourself that they started out 6-0 and in doing so, they played some dominant football.  Heading into this past game against the Detroit Lions, the Packers were one loss away from falling two games behind the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC North lead and having their playoff chances reduced to a wild card, if any.  With the win over Detroit, Green Bay at least puts themselves in position to win the division on their own, should they accept the challenge of doing just that.  The Packers face the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings at home and have road games at the Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals.  They should at the very least split those four games and finish 10-6 at worst but crazier things have happened.  After watching this year's team lose two straight home games to divisional opponents that they have dominated for several years running, it would seem that no game is a gimme.  And that's true in today's NFL, regardless.

I don't know what to make of this year's team.  In my heart, I want to believe that they'll go on a late run and still accomplish all that I aspired for them back in August.  My head says they can certainly do it, but have anything but an easy path.  The Carolina Panthers are 11-0 and in complete control for home field advantage throughout the post season.  With a head-to-head win over the Packers, the Panthers would have to lose out and Green Bay would have to win all remaining games just to have a chance at the number one seed.  And that doesn't account for what the Cardinals might do themselves, which could give them the top spot, even if Green Bay can win them all.  We've seen this Packers team, guided by head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers and what they've done both at home and on the road in the postseason.  Home sweet home hasn't been so sweet for the Packers and so not playing at Lambeau Field may not turn out to be a bad thing.  Having to return to Arizona or Carolina, however, may be very hazardous to their health.  Both teams are playing extremely well and getting the job done week after week.  Carolina has appeared in the playoffs the last two seasons and appear poised to finally take a step forward after getting run off the field.  The Cardinals ironically were having one of the best in franchise history last season when they lost starting quarterback Carson Palmer and were bounced from the January tournament by. . the Carolina Panthers.  Those two teams could be on a collision course for the NFC.

Or, the Packers may step in and remind everyone who they are and that they may have more to say about this season before it's over.  

Defensively, the Packers are playing well enough to give themselves a chance to win most any week, minus the game against the Denver Broncos.  This is a turn from past seasons where the defense always seemed to falter just enough and at the worst time.  The defensive line is getting a good push, thanks to the likes of Mike Daniels and Datone Jones.  When B.J. Raji shows up big, that front is nearly impossible to stymie.  We rarely see Packers general manager Ted Thompson extend a player's deal in the middle of a season, but Daniels appears to be getting richer and richer with each passing game.  Thank goodness the Packers have good cap space and that the cap will likely increase, yet again, in 2016.  

The secondary has played much better despite the loss of two good veteran cornerbacks.  Rookies Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins are playing above expectations and appear to have the corner position in good shape for years to come.  And in the middle of the defense, Clay Matthews is making plays and shoring up this troublesome area.  Finally, we saw Jake Ryan replacing Nate Palmer and Ryan promptly led the team in tackles against the Lions and had a fumble recovery.  Had to feel good to play well in front of many fans who likely cheered Ryan on at Michigan.  

Offensively, well, that's not as simple.  Yes, it was a miraculous and magical Hail Mary play to end the game against the Lions.  That's not something any team can rely on time and time again.  I'd like to think that a win like that can catapult this team to a big run to end the season, but then I remember the first half.  Zero points and not a hint of rhythm or momentum to speak of.  Rodgers missing receivers, receivers dropping balls and running backs getting stuffed in the backfield was the theme and with that, it's hard to get ahead in games, especially on the road.  

Speaking of running backs, it was beyond disappointing to learn on Friday that Eddie Lacy had been benched for the first part of the Lions game because he missed team curfew the night before the game.  His running mate, Alonzo Harris, wasn't so lucky as he also missed curfew and was promptly cut just hours before game time.  That's something totally controllable and it shows how unbelievably lazy Lacy can be.  It's not like he can't afford a clock and after two-straight 100-yard games, you'd think even Lacy, who admittedly doesn't watch football when he's not playing, would be more fired up and ready to do it again to the next opponent.  He had one yard against the Lions.  One.  Yard.  He was completely ineffective and while the offensive line was patch worked together, Lacy showed no burst nor desire when running with the rock.  Perhaps someone should remind him of how much better this offense was last year when both Rodgers and Lacy were playing well at the same time.  They only helped guide the Packers to the NFC Championship game in Seattle, a game they should have won easily.  The sad part about that thought is, I don't think Lacy would really care right now.  Maybe he would and he's just misunderstood.  Either way, Lacy, who is still dealing with an ankle injury, isn't himself and the Packers need more, a lot more, in the backfield.  So much so that they worked out former Wisconsin Badger and Denver Bronco running back Montee Ball on Friday.  They didn't sign Ball and perhaps the move was just for show, but there's something amiss in Packerland and as it relates to Eddie Lacy's standing with the team.

Then there's the injuries.  The Packers aren't dealing with many new injuries, but the ones they have continue to linger.  Receiver Ty Montgomery has missed the last seven weeks with a high ankle sprain.  His return is a complete question mark.  And with Jared Abbrederis once again shelved with an injury the Packers brought in former Raiders receiver Denarius Moore for a workout earlier in the week.  Abbrederis is back, but had minimal impact in the Lions game.  Jeff Janis was back to running sloppy routes and despite his speed, still can't become a legitimate deep option for the passing game.  As Phil Simms pointed out during the Detroit game, the Packers receiving corps are a mess.  Not always, but often enough that it sticks out like a sore thumb.  Against very good teams and in playoff games, this current set of pass catchers is going to have to play out of their minds every week if this team wants to succeed on offense and win games.  

Adding to the issues are all of the injuries on the offensive line.  It's causing protection issues for Rodgers and the run game is inconsistent as well.  Both Bryan Bulaga and T.J. Lang missed Thursday's game and center Corey Linsley and left tackle David Bakhtiari both had to come out at one point against the Lions.  It's no secret, every one of those guys are playing hurt.  Josh Sitton, the team's best offensive linemen for years running has also had one of his tougher seasons.  Injuries can't always be controlled, but the Packers are paper thin on the line.  When Bakhtiari went out, Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah promptly blew by Josh Walker and laid a hit on Rodgers that could be heard all the way up in the U.P.  If the Packers are going to get by these last four games with superior results, the line is going to have to come together and somehow avoid more bumps and bruises.  With 10 days off before their next game, I am hoping to see the original starting five back together when they take the field against the Cowboys.

Lastly is the offensive coaching staff.  Tom Clements, Edgar Bennett, Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers.  Who's calling plays?  The answer is: they all are.  Let's not fool ourselves into thinking McCarthy doesn't jump in during games.  Bennett seemingly helps game plan, as an offensive coordinator would.  Clements is labeled the play caller but we still don't know to what extent.  What I do know is that in week 13, for an offense to be so predictable at times is pretty deflating when this was a team capable of greatness just a month ago.  They ran the ball more against the Lions and stuck with it longer, but the toss, stretch and sweep runs have got to go.  Have to.  This offense is not good enough for backs to be running east/west.  In the passing game, the slant has reappeared and went for a touchdown to Adams, his first of the season.  While the calls may be predictable at times, I won't say they need to overhaul the scheme.  But with the skill level of the receivers at about a 6 out of 10 right now, they all are having to play their best every week just to make the offense go.  That's a lot to ask.

I'm looking forward to a stress-free Sunday with the Packers having already played and won their game this week.  With a loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Vikings would drop out of first place in the NFC North and the Packers would be back in.  At that point, the Packers would control their destiny in the race for a division title and at least one home playoff game.  Right now, that's all we can ask for given how they've played.  And that may be all they need to bring back some of that old magic.

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Comments (35)

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Since'61's picture

December 05, 2015 at 10:09 am

Jason - thanks for an excellent analysis and article. I agree on all your points. You did not specifically mention the TEs and I'm thinking that the return of Quarless could help this receiving group, at least slightly, in terms of adding some 2 TE looks and another set of hands. Since Ty Montgomery has not been placed on IR we have to believe that he will get back on the field at some point this season and he could still make a significant contribution to this offense. Another area of concern is T. Masthay. During this part of the season and the playoffs field position is critical. If Masthay's punting does not improve the Packers may often lose the field position battle and that could be fatal given the current state of our execution on offense. Hopefully, after this mini-bye our Packers will actually return since it seems like they never returned from the 1st bye before the Denver game until the second half in Detroit Thursday night. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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Bohj's picture

December 05, 2015 at 10:51 am

The TE position is pretty critical not just in receiving, but for blocking as well. I've noticed that blitz pickups have been attrocious this year. I wonder how much Quarless going down hurt that.
The guy isn't flashy, but he rarely loses his one on ones in blocking or receiving. He just can't stay healthy.

I seem to remember a time when teams were scared to blitz Rodgers, because he would burn them every time. Now it seems like every blitz is resulting in a sack or a big hit on our QB. The TEs and running backs have been pretty poor this year at making those crucial adjustments. And of course the "hot read" not getting open hasn't helped either.

I would certainly like to see more Kuhn or Rip in the game. They are made for blocking. Especially since our line is so injury riddled. Bring in more beef. Also: why aren't we throwing to our FB more. Most teams don't even carry a FB. We have freakin two......USE THEM!!! The one time we threw to Rip.....he busted out a big gain.

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Tundraboy's picture

December 05, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Yes please use the full backs. Please!

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Ferrari Driver's picture

December 05, 2015 at 10:21 am

You write like a true Packer fan; from the heart in common sense language designed to communicate and not impress. Good job.

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Tundraboy's picture

December 05, 2015 at 11:31 am

"Or, the Packers may step in and remind everyone who they are and that they may have more to say about this season before it's over. "

To me this is the key. The second half culminating in the Hail Mary may have just done that because the first half offense and first few defensive series were so abysmal. They clearly woke up and realized who they were. Hoping they sustain it. We should know in the next game.

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Tarynfor12's picture

December 05, 2015 at 01:31 pm

A well thought out and written article Cory. I cannot help but wonder if it is meant to offer solace with hope or as a precursory eulogy expected at seasons end. :)

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jasonperone's picture

December 05, 2015 at 02:56 pm

Is Cory my new nickname? Might get a bit confusing around here;)

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Tarynfor12's picture

December 05, 2015 at 03:51 pm

Sorry Jason, I came here via Cory tweeting it and did what one shouldn't...assume. :)

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jasonperone's picture

December 05, 2015 at 05:14 pm

It's all good, all in fun

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Razor's picture

December 05, 2015 at 05:10 pm

Good article - thanks!

Did anyone notice what happened after Rodgers scored? He went right past Cobb with no handshake or anything. In fact, Cobb moved toward AR and then stopped. AR went past several other players the same way - no contact. Maybe AR is unhappy with more than the "young players".

What's going on?

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4thand1's picture

December 05, 2015 at 05:33 pm

That's the most I've ever seen Rodgers jacked up. He said he blacked out for a moment.
it was the heat of the moment, had nothing to do with Cobb, Jones, or any other player. Seeing that raw emotion was fantastic, hope it continues.

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Razer's picture

December 06, 2015 at 08:16 am

Yes, I saw the same thing. Let's hope that Rodgers is above this because he needs to be. At any point during this season, he and his receivers have played poorly. There is enough blame to go around.

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4thand1's picture

December 06, 2015 at 09:55 am

The hail Mary proves one thing. There is nothing wrong with AR's shoulder. NOTHING! My niece was at the game and said she lost site of the ball because it was so high. The only real issue Rodgers has is not turning the ball over (ints). Especially when he can't trust his clubs for hands receivers. You don't see him pulling the trigger, he's hesitating. For good reason when you consider they led the NFL in drops for the month of Nov. Plus the fact the o-line hasn't been close to last year. The offense is totally out of sync with slew footed guys that can't get off the line and get separation. As usual, the QB gets most of the blame/credit. You hear it all the time during a game, the QB has found his rhythm. I guarantee you, you will see R. Rodgers targeted a lot more after the lolions game, and Adams targets going way down. He can catch the ball always could. If he starts demanding more attention, some of these other bums should get open. I'm giving Cobb a little slack because I believe his shoulder is an issue and he's playing through it.

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Jimmy Ryan's picture

December 06, 2015 at 10:11 am

Agreed

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NickPerry's picture

December 06, 2015 at 11:10 am

Abby will start taking some of Adams snaps, guarantee it as long as he can stay on the field anyways. Montgomery has been out 7 weeks now and they have no idea if/when he'll return. He was the one WR on the roster that could have REALLY done something.

Plus you hit it on the O-Line, makes you wonder how they were so great the last half of 2014. Age and injuries have just taken toll. Sitton has been on a injury report for what seems like 3 years and running. Bulaga doesn't seem to be able to hold up for a season. Bahkitieri isn't a "Great" LT, he's a Guard or maybe RT. The Packers suddenly have several needs going into the 2016 draft, a big FAST WR, one able to get off a jam should be towards the top of the list. The Packers seem to corner the market on WR who are about 6 feet tall and run 4.5 40's.

Last thought.... Why do I have a feeling Palmer will start ahead of Ryan against Dallas?

Last last thought... Sean Peyton might be fired after the season. If the Packers don't make the playoffs or are one and done AGAIN, I for one would LOVE to see Sean Peyton in Green Bay.

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4thand1's picture

December 06, 2015 at 10:30 am

I don't see Peyton coming to GB, especially when the Packers picked MM over him when they chose a HC. He'll get a HCing job somewhere else if he gets fired. If Jake Ryan doesn't start in place of Palmer , it's just plain insane. The propensity to stick with players that aren't producing on the field is mind boggling at times. Hawk, B Jones, M D Jennings, Mahstay, Palmer.

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NickPerry's picture

December 06, 2015 at 11:21 am

Exactly my point! You have to really wonder HOW a coaching staff and GM would pick MD Jennings over Woodson who's leadership have never been replaced, at least at Woods level.

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Dan Stodola's picture

December 06, 2015 at 04:11 pm

Not a chance in hell I want Peyton in GB. F'in loser who authorized the whole NO bounty thing. McCarthy is much superior to Peyton as a HC anyway!

Peyton has had his QB back for the past few years now and is struggling to even reach .500 winning %, but you want him over McCarthy? No F'in way!

Classic case of thinking the grass is greener elsewhere!

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Razor's picture

December 05, 2015 at 05:19 pm

This article accurately points out many issues that trouble this team.

My question is how could a good team have so many issues, especially at this point in the season?

Ok injuries - I get that. But beyond that I wonder about the overall team attitude.

What do you all think?

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Razer's picture

December 06, 2015 at 08:45 am

This is a great question. How did we even get to 8-4 with such disarray? I will offer that the loss of Jordy Nelson is at the root of the issues on offense. We saw what one man (Richard Rodgers) could do to minimize the sputter and he is somewhat of a bit player. Nelson brought the 'go-to' to Aaron Rodgers. Nelson brought the space for the other WRs. In a greater sense he gave all those around him confidence. Rodgers has the jitters because he is seeing no separation and doesn't have the Nelson fallback. Teams will continue to play press man coverage against us and we will keep hearing that we need to win the one-on-ones for the rest of the season. That is the problem that needs to be solved.

The deflation of this team comes primarily from the offense failing to do its job. The funk comes from the offense walking off after another 3 and out or ineffective drive. The defense has been the buoyancy for the team to this point but that will not win the day - it will only buy time.

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4thand1's picture

December 06, 2015 at 09:57 am

I hate reading long articles. You made me burn my pizza.

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NickPerry's picture

December 06, 2015 at 07:58 am

Out of that whole piece one word jumped out at me, predictable. You need not look futher than the Packers first series than to find the most predictable of plays. 3rd and 1and the Packers run wide left and don't come close, I believe they lose yards. WHEN will they stop running those plays that get strung out and lose yardage on 3rd down? If Rodgers has the freedom at the LOS we think he does, why not CHANGE the play? Then Masthay comes in and punts it 31 yards to give the Lions great field position. With 10 days, 7 or whatever with some days off, why not bring in a punter that can hold AND punt? Ginger's lost whatever he had a few years ago. He's been aweful for 2 years now, enough!!

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Razer's picture

December 06, 2015 at 08:24 am

I agree that MAsthay has been awful. Changing him now would be very risky. You potentially affect our china doll kicker on the hold for every field goal and we will need him going forward. Next training camp is the time to find a new punter.

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4thand1's picture

December 06, 2015 at 10:07 am

I think the only reason the Pack kept Missthay was because of pre-season. They had another punter but Crosby had a bad time kicking with a new holder. They are fortunate to not be giving up long punt returns with short line drive punts with no hang time. Credit to the rest of the ST's. He's costing the Packers a lot of field position and it's going to bite them in the ass, just like last years shitty ST's did when it mattered most. The Packers have brought in WR's and RB's to shake things up, but no other punters? They brought in a place kicker a couple of years ago and it worked with Crosby.

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NickPerry's picture

December 06, 2015 at 11:32 am

I like the idea of bringing in Monte Ball. He can catch, block, and hopefully run the ball. Maybe another chance could be exactly what is needed. I mean aren't we at the point of panic with this offense yet?

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NickPerry's picture

December 06, 2015 at 11:29 am

I agree, but I'm sure there's a punter out there that's done both. Did Steve Weatherford ever get signed? I suppose 7 days aren't enough to get our kicker prepared for the final push to which I just shake my head. For the $3.55 MILLION he's getting paid this year you'd think he could kick with Brett Favre holding the ball!! We all know how Brett holds on kicks.

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Dan Stodola's picture

December 06, 2015 at 04:28 pm

Most punters in the NFL are holders for their teams. Its not about being able to hold. Its the whole process of snap, hold, kick that is the over-riding factor. Its a very precise procedure that has to happen instantly and smoothly. The 3 players involved in it pratice it alot more than you think so its perfect every time. Any little issue will likely result in a poor performance of the kick. You can't replace the trust and timing they have together in 7 days!

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Oppy's picture

December 06, 2015 at 11:47 am

Why are you making the assumption that the play wasn't changed at the LOS?

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Dan Stodola's picture

December 06, 2015 at 04:53 pm

Everybody likes to believe they know how to call plays better than the playcaller. Was the same when McCarthy was calling plays. People just assume that the play called and sent to Rodgers is the one they ran. In reality its probably more often not the play. In the Packers case, each play call sent to Rodgers has as many as 4-6 plays that Rodgers can automatically switch to w/ a jesture or word, depending on # of defenders in the box, overloads, coverages among other things. And that doesn't include going totally off script w/ a completely unrelated play. Of course this would mean they have to criticize Rodgers which they clearly aren't willing to do either. So its just easier to believe the play called is the one run and its the playcallers fault.

I bet the actual play that was sent to Rodgers is maybe used 40% of the time w/o any changes. Probably less than that honestly.

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NickPerry's picture

December 06, 2015 at 10:03 pm

So you're assuming the play sent in to Rodgers is used 40% of the time, is that an assumption and if so why is that okay for you . The reality is we all know that basic things you just mentioned, the changes that can be ,made and so on. Don't start on me Dan, if you disagree then disagree. Hell if I knew how to call plays BETTER, i'd be doing it. They make a shit load more $$$ than I do!!

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Dan Stodola's picture

December 06, 2015 at 11:17 pm

I said it was a guess didn't I? Even if I didn't say it specifically it was still clear. Am I OK w/ the 40% number? Damn right. Its impossible for the playcaller to know the exact D, coverages and number in the box before the D shows it. Given all that, I would say it makes prefect sense for Rodgers to be the person who ultimately decides on the play at the LOS. So yeah, I'm perfectly comfortable if thats the case.

Truth is none of us knows for sure, but I'll go out on a limb and say Rodgers has alot more control over the play being run than you seem to think. Sometimes, the Defense wins a down and you line up the next down to try again. Just cuz a play doesn't work, doesn't mean it wasn't the best call based on what the coaches guess the D might be and what Rodgers might check to.

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NickPerry's picture

December 06, 2015 at 09:57 pm

Because I don't think Rodgers checked to that play based on the number of times it's failed. To take it further they lose yardage more times than not on the play so I have a hard time believing a QB of Rodgers abilities would check into THAT play.

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pacman's picture

December 06, 2015 at 10:29 am

Quiet Sunday but I just wanted to put this out somewhere.

Has anyone else noticed that AR is keeps under-throwing Janis?

How come we don't see the deep receivers running hard straight back to AR when he's in trouble?

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Oppy's picture

December 06, 2015 at 11:51 am

If Janis is simply running straight towards the endzone, we can be sure it's an under throw.

If Janis is cutting, hitching, or running a post, it's entirely possible he's cutting, hitching, or running a post deeper than he's supposed to be.

Janis runs garbage routes with little precision. With timing routes especially, if you're not running your pattern exactly as it is supposed to be and you're missing your depth, that ball that gets tossed before the WR breaks is going to like mighty off target.

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Morgan Mundane's picture

December 09, 2015 at 05:45 pm

I think Mac is techincally calling the plays. Lets face it, the top echelon of the Packers took that job away, he didn't give it up freely. A genius he thinks he is.

Anyways he has the head set on and is conferring with Clements on each play. Clements may just be calling in the plays but Mac is deciding them.

I agree, our running backs cannot run east and west and never should be asked to. They are too slow and the run blocking is not good enough.

So why aren't we throwing over the middle on shorter pass routes rather than running straight down the field in a vain attempt to outrun the defender. Our receivers are way too dam slow for that but hey this is what Ted wanted.

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