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Each game turned on one play

Posted Jan 22, 2018

Be careful of sweeping generalizations


Graham from Green Bay, WI

So much for "Team of Destiny." Couldn't have happened to a nicer team.

I wondered last Monday if the play against the Saints made the Vikings a team of destiny. As my dad texted me after the game, turns out they just got lucky.

Kenton from Rochester, MN

Insiders, I was somewhat stunned how subpar the Vikings’ D was looking in the NFC Championship Game. Then I saw a statistic that showed that in championship games, dome teams playing outside against outdoor teams are 0-13. Suddenly it all made sense: the Vikings just looked uncomfortable and out of their element against the Eagles. Is that what you saw?

Not really. I saw a team that never really recovered from the pick-six in the first quarter, and a defense that wasn’t the same without its top corner. Xavier Rhodes’ absence through the mid-portion of the game changed all the matchups, and Harrison Smith’s impact was neutralized without Rhodes locking down one side. Smith looked borderline lost at times without Rhodes out there. Philadelphia’s pass protection was outstanding, too. The Vikings couldn’t bother Foles unless they sent extra rushers, and Foles beat the blitzes with hot reads.

Amara from Coon Rapids, MN

Jacksonville’s defense gets lit up, so does the Vikings’ defense. Does defense really win championships?

Everyone wants to make sweeping generalizations based on the outcome of the biggest games. I don’t go there. It’s the playoffs. It’s football. As I said last week, without one fluke play the league’s No. 1 defense doesn’t get past the divisional round, and the Jags gave up 42 points in a postseason win. Every team builds around what it has and takes its best shot. That’s the game.

Steveo from Scranton, PA

Wes/Mike, I can't help but think the Vikings' arrow is pointing down, not only because of being dominated in a championship game, but with the OC leaving and an obvious QB controversy looming, not to mention a recent first-round bust (Treadwell) and another first-rounder dealt for a backup QB (Bradford). With new HCs in Detroit and Chicago, the opportunity to reclaim a stranglehold on the division is there for the taking.

I agree the division is there for the taking, but I’m not going to say the Vikings’ arrow is pointing down based on one bad day. They will have their challenges with their draft position, expiring contracts, etc., like any successful team. Let’s see how they handle them.

James from Durango, CO

Hey Spoff, Viking fans didn’t believe me when I said that dunk-pass Keenum could only take them so far. My one-and-done prediction was only thwarted by a fluke play. This is what happens to a team that only won by luck over skill. If there is a lesson to be learned this weekend it would have to be that defenses alone can’t carry a team. Do you agree with that assessment?

Again, I’m not into sweeping generalizations. The Broncos won a Super Bowl a few years back with a dominant defense and a Hall of Fame QB playing like a shell of himself. I think the lesson to be learned was sent by the Eagles, who proved how valuable it is to have a backup QB who has played and won games. Foles didn’t come cheap, but he was obviously worth every penny. He just made experienced backup QBs a lot of money.

James from Valley Center, CA

Can you better explain what happened to the Vikings in their last six quarters? I just don't get it.

Football happened. The playoffs happened.

Scott from Salem, OR

I think there is a very good chance that the Vikings play in the 2018 NFL season opener. But it will be at New England or at Philadelphia!

Touche.

Collin from Kirkwood, MO

Mike McCarthy’s comment about defense needing to be better than offense was on display Sunday afternoon. Brady will be showered with the credit, and the Hall of Famer deserves a ton of credit. That said, there is a difference between a HOF QB dragging a team along and a HOF QB adding to a complete team. Two years in a row their defense has been top five in scoring. When the Patriots do happen to fall behind, what ensues is stranglehold-level defense, lots of punts, and minimal points allowed. Look no further than last year’s Super Bowl or Sunday’s AFC title game. Give a HOF QB that many opportunities to come back and see what happens. I hope McCarthy gets what he wants.

I thought Sunday’s AFC title game was a classic case of a team that had been there before against a team that hadn’t, much like last year’s Super Bowl, only not as large a deficit. The penalties on Jacksonville’s defenders at the end of the second and fourth quarters on downfield throws reeked of panic. They had chances to play the ball and didn’t.

Tim from Los Angeles, CA

The Stephon Gilmore deflection in the clutch is a great supplement to the free-agent argument. He had a sub-par regular season, but it only takes one play.

It’s also a great supplement to the playing-the-ball argument.

Jack from Chicago, IL

Insiders, I am sick of the Packers wasting Rodgers' window. Why can't we get full consistency on defense, like the Vikings? Sign free agents, fire staff, go 19-0. It’s so simple.

On paper, it looked like everything was lining up perfectly for the Vikings, but every opportunity is just that – an opportunity. The other team has one, too.

Joe from Asbury, IA

Thank goodness I don't have to root for the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Thank you Eagles. That was my favorite game of the season since the Packers beat Dallas. What's your prediction for the Super Bowl?

I’m going to think about it for a couple weeks, but I hope the game comes down to one possession – Brady against that Philly defense.

James from Chicago, IL

As it turns out, spending a bunch of money on free agents and spending a bunch of money on the defense doesn't guarantee a Super Bowl.

Nothing does, because individual games take on a character all their own. I thought each game turned on one play. Philly was doing nothing right until the pick-six, and then it seemingly could do nothing wrong. The Jaguars, up 20-10 in the fourth, had the Patriots in third-and-18, and Brady converted. That’s where the comeback began. A stop there and perhaps there’s no rally at all. Jacksonville will forever rue third-and-18.

Steven from St. Cloud, MN

Watching Barr drive Foles into the ground straight on a shoulder a step after he released the ball made me sick go my stomach. Thankfully he was able to get up from his. Couldn't stomach Barr doing that again. I can't be alone here right?

No, no you’re not.

Andrew from Huxley, IA

It’s almost like Brady never blinks in crunch time.

Don’t underestimate home-field advantage. He’s now 19-3 in home postseason games. He’s 3-6 in his last nine away from Foxboro, including last year’s Super Bowl comeback.

Matt from Minneapolis, MN

If the whistle wasn’t blown when Myles Jack recovered that fumble, he could have returned it for a touchdown. I don’t think he was touched after he obtained possession. Do you think the Jaguars are in the Super Bowl if not for this call?

Probably, and considering the officials’ penchant these days for letting things play out and allowing replay to fix mistakes, it was bad timing for the Jaguars that one official didn’t follow the trend. That said, it was a bang-bang play and I don’t consider that whistle an egregiously bad call. Just a horribly unfortunate one for Jacksonville.

Greg from Marquette, MI

Hi guys, love your honest perspective. Although we tried the last two years, I think Mr. Rodgers still needs a top-tier tight end in his tool bag. What do you think?

His 2011 MVP with Finley and 2016 stretch run with Cook indicate that. His 2014 MVP came with the help of a powerful, productive running game. If both is too much to ask, one or the other can get Green Bay’s offense close to its best.

Dave from Stoughton, WI

Hi, love the Inbox. Why is a tight end so important to stretch the defense in the middle of the field? Why wouldn't a wide receiver be able to do the same thing? Is it because a tight end could mean the play is a running play, and instead of DBs there is now a linebacker?

Bingo. It’s about personnel and how defenses decide to match up.

Eric from Kenosha, WI

We all just knew the Patriots were coming back when it was within two scores entering the fourth quarter, didn't we?

The Jaguars were counting on their time-of-possession advantage to allow them to run the ball against a tired defense in the fourth quarter, but New England’s defense just didn’t give in. You could argue Jacksonville executed the perfect plan, and it still didn’t work.

Keith from Lincoln, IL

Just watched the helmet-to-helmet hit on Gronkowski by Barry Church. I think you can argue from the player safety angle that the NFL must change its rules to remove the offender from the game until the player he hit returns. If Gronk shows signs of a concussion, how do we know Church hasn’t also suffered some form of concussion? Both players ought to be removed from the game and assessed, and neither of them should be allowed to play until both can play. Your thoughts?

I agree both players should be assessed, but I’ll continue my objection to the eye-for-an-eye sentiment that permeates the Inbox. Please understand it has so much potential for abuse. Instituting review of hits like Church’s for potential ejection is the step the league needs to take.

Dan from Twin Lakes, WI

Mike, Aaron Rodgers could always make plays on the move but it seems it used to be much more rarely. He'd take what was there and scramble only when absolutely necessary. The scramble was the exception rather than the rule. Over time, it seems as if that changed. Do you see it the same way and if so, do you think the return of Joe Philbin will mark a return to the earlier style of Aaron's play?

Everyone used to complain Rodgers took too many sacks. Now the complaint is he scrambles too much. I don’t know. What I do know is Philbin teaches a numbers game. “If we have more guys over here than they do, let’s keep the ball over here.” If that’s going to simplify Rodgers’ world, we’ll know.

Eric from Greenville, WI

I like how you brought up sustaining success. I wish more people would pay attention. They act like GB and MN were on similar paths, and as much as I dislike the Vikings, I wish for none of the following to actually happen, but (what if) they have to replace Harrison Smith because he had a career-ending neck injury. Then they also have to replace Rhodes, who will retire because of concussions, and Barr will sign a monster contract and then miss various amounts of time with shoulder and hamstring problems, and then we can see how superior their coaching, drafting, and players are over the next 10 years.

It’s not easy to win year after year in this league. As has been pointed out, the Vikings had less than a handful of games missed by defensive starters all season long. The continuity of their unit was its biggest strength, and we all saw what happened when Rhodes wasn’t at his best, Sendejo was out, etc. It can happen to anyone.

Jon from Rochester, MN

As things played out, if the Packers had won the last three games, would they have made the playoffs?

I believe so, yes. Green Bay would have gotten in over Carolina.

Gary from Davenport, IA

If Nate Poole had a charity back in 2003 and fans donated to it like they're doing today, how much money would the charity have made?

Great question. The mayor of Green Bay gave him a key to the city. I find the charity trend and the use of social media for good much more meaningful.

Rishit from Clarington, Ontario

Blake Martinez had a great season but he still didn't really get better against the pass. Do you think he will make that leap in the third year and become a good pass stopper as well as a run stopper?

I thought he made tremendous strides against the pass. His 11 deflected passes were second on the entire defense. He can still improve in that area but he made significant progress.

Jessi from Sterling, KS

Love this new "tradition" of Evan sharing the moments behind the photos with us! It's definitely something I look forward to reading. Thank you for keeping the Packers site so interesting 365 days a year.

Evan’s Through the Lens offseason series is a must-see, no doubt.

George from Sturgeon Bay, WI

In discussions of the Packers' future needs, one of the areas of concern is wide receiver and Jordy Nelson's age of 32 is an oft-cited reason for this concern. However, Larry Fitzgerald at the age of 34 had over 1,100 yards and 100 receptions this past season. He is admittedly a gifted receiver, but so is Jordy and Carson Palmer is no Aaron Rodgers. Can you think of any reason why Jordy's career can't follow a similar trajectory?

No offense to Nelson, but I put Fitzgerald in a different class of receiver. Wes and I have talked about how Nelson’s career, should he desire, could potentially follow a path like that of a former teammate of Fitzgerald’s, Anquan Boldin, who had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in the years he turned 33 and 34. Boldin became a big-bodied, tough matchup in the slot who could move the chains and beat you for a big play on occasion.

Courtney from Butte, MT

Loved the picture of the ref with Rodgers photobombed in the background.

Our intern, Kim, knows how to pick ’em.

Justin from Atlanta, GA

When will the Packers announce who they have hired as DC and OC?

Everyone is wondering if something’s wrong because no official announcement has been made. McCarthy is simply waiting to have his entire coaching staff in place before making anything official. I would anticipate it could be any day now.

Eric from Denver, CO

Grew up in Milwaukee, live in Denver. Packer fan for life. I love who we are, what we are, and how we are. And I’m all for the change we’re currently going through. However, if there is one thing, and only one thing, that can make us great again, what would you say it is?

Winning? Happy Monday, everybody.


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