A Golden-Gate Opportunity

By now you’ve either seen the infamous “Golden-Gate” play, you don’t care or you’re too upset to talk about it and would rather focus on something else.  If not, there are a couple of people here whose opinion you could value (or not.)  Our Governor, Mr. Scott Walker tweeted this morning that: “I just got a wink of sleep last night” because of the Packer game.  Wow.  What does that say about you when that’s the thing keeping you up at night?  But I digress.  In our heart of hearts we know that the Green Bay Packers won the game on Monday night, so lets move on to the heart of the matter and that is the issue with the referees.  I think that on Sunday night there were some points to be made against these replacement refs.  They’re throwing too many flags, they don’t call obvious fouls and try to make up for it by throwing more flags than is necessary.  Those are the complaints against the refs, but I would argue – as most reasonable people would, that something more sacred is at stake here and that is the integrity of the game of football.

Last night, I wrote about what my grandpa taught me about getting up after you’ve been beaten down and I think that’s exactly what the Packers need to do this week.  They need to go out and obliterate the Saints defense, if they don’t do that and somehow New Orleans gets their first win of the season at Lambeau Field then I think you’ve got to hit that panic button pretty darn hard.  But let me vent a little before moving on because that’s what most commentators do and I feel as though I deserve to go off on a tirade because it was my Packers that have suffered for the incredibly poor judgment (that’s putting it mildly) of a few bad refs that somehow weren’t deemed competent to ref a lingerie football league game, but are somehow competent to ensure the safety of tens of millions of dollars of quality football players.  And don’t kid yourself because that’s exactly what they’re supposed to be doing and by the way that is exactly what they are failing miserably at.  Did you see Darius Heyward-Bey get carted off the field after a totally illegal hit this week?  Yeah, he just left the hospital yesterday.  There was no flag thrown on the play because the ref was watching the play unfold.  Apparently the only things these refs call are the plays they don’t see.  But Greg Jennings got absolutely nailed on a hit in the end zone when the ball was way down on the other side of the field.  The player that did that should have been ejected and fined, it was illegal and Jennings was playing hurt so it could have ended his season.  This is where we get into the “there but for the grace of God go I” mode.  This is what every NFL player is saying every time that they set foot on a football field that is officiated by these refs.  That’s not how any sport is supposed to be played and Roger Goodell, my God man, I like Aaron Rodgers and I’d like him to be able to finish the season, so just give the refs what they want.  It’s already effected the season.

My other takeaways from last night aren’t nearly as basic as that, but man watch Herm Edwards just lose his shit on TV earlier today.  As they like to say on ESPN: “C’mon man!”  All of that being said, what you do when you’re in a hail mary situation as a defensive back is knock the goddam football down.  Earth to M.D. Jennings: Knock the football down!  This is what they teach you in practice.  Knock the football down!  Don’t make a play.  Knock the football down!  That is your only job in that situation.  You gain absolutely nothing by intercepting that pass,  NOTHING!  Jennings should be benched from the next game in recognition of his error, but then again I’m talking about the Packers who do not have another Free Safety on their roster.  Way to go Ted Thompson!  Speaking of Ted Thompson lets talk about this whole running back situation.  Cedric Benson has 46 carries for 144 yards this season and one touchdown (which was a gimme from two yards out.)  That averages out to 3.1 yards per carry.  He is the only running back getting the ball.  I know everyone loves to love Cedric Benson because he has knocked down barriers in the past, but he is not your answer at running back.  James Starks (who has stayed on the field about as much as I would if I were employed as an NFL running back) is not your option either.  In order to play football you need to suit up for the game and that is something that Starks has yet to do for the Packers this season.  His line last year – 133 carries for 578 yards and one touchdown – not so good.  This was the starting running back for the Green Bay Packers last year.  He averaged 4.3 yards per carry, but he’s not an every down back.  He carried the ball 133 times last year and last year he was relatively (relative being the operant word here) healthy.

Let’s talk about that Seattle offense.  I want to give Russell Wilson as much credit as the next guy, but he had a horrific game last night.  He is the new Tim Tebow this year.  The line on Russell Wilson this year: 434 yards, 4 touchdowns and one pick.  He’s got a 57% completion percentage and a passer rating of 86.2.  That’s like Tony Romo level (meaning bad.  Sorry Cowboys fans, but I’ve hated you for some time now.)  People jump on his bandwagon because the guy is on a team that is winning games, but listen Matt Flynn is a much better match for this offense.  He’s a good game manager with solid experience in a winning environment.  I know Russell Wilson works hard, but so does the Packers’ offensive line and you don’t see anyone talking them up lately.  All fairness to the Packers’ offensive line, they have gone up against three solid defenses so far this year.  The test will be the Saints, who are just horrific on defense.  They couldn’t generate a pass rush even if their coach put a bounty out on the…nevermind.

As a Packers fan I am a bit concerned about their offense.  Like I said, Cedric Benson isn’t your answer at running back and neither is James Starks, Alex Green, or Brandon Saine (who can’t even get it done on special teams.)  As one astute commentator noted earlier today, the person that would have made the most sense for the Packers was the law firm of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who is representing Cincinatti this year.  He’s been solid for them.  Back-to-back one hundred yard games now with touchdowns in each game this season, that’s pretty good.  He is playing behind the Bengals offensive line though.  The biggest disappointment this season has to be the Green Bay Packers’ receiving corps.  For a group that is supposed to be the most solid in the league, they sure haven’t played like it.  Of course it helps when your quarterback is standing upright, but as I’ve said they’ve played some tough defenses and who knows?  Maybe the secondary on all three of those teams is outstanding too.  The difference is that the Packers’ receivers get paid a lot of money to get open and if they don’t do that soon and these replacement refs keep calling the games the way they have been then they may be seeing a whole lot of Graham Harrell.

I’m not that down on the Packers though.  If there offense heats up then look out because the Packers defense has been the only thing that has kept them in games this year.  Think about it: when was the last time 12 points won a football game?  Cardinals v. Patriots.  The Cardinals have an outstanding defense this year, if they had a quarterback like I don’t know…Kurt Warner, then they might be a real force to be reckoned with.  The real amazing part of this season for me has been just how little has been sorted out in the first couple of weeks.  I think you can say that there are a couple of reliably good football teams in the league, but just a few.  I could make a case for the Patriots, the Ravens, the 49ers, the Texans (who may be the best team in the league right now,) and the Falcons.  Other than that, I really don’t know what’s been settled other than the fact that we probably shouldn’t use the same refs in pro football games that we use in our kids’ soccer games.

You could make a case for the Giants, but they lost a tight one to the Cowboys and I’m not buying the Cowboys as a legitimate contender as long as Tony Romo is under center.  That guy finds more ways to blow a football game this side of a Kardashian.  San Francisco is going to be a powerhouse as long as they keep their secondary together.  They play old-fashioned football and yes, I believe in that team.  The Falcons have looked solid this year, but they’ve played San Diego, Denver and Kansas City, those aren’t exactly powerhouse franchises.  While I’m slightly on topic, let me talk about Peyton Manning for a second.  This is a guy whose comeback is looking worse than Brett Favre’s as each week progresses.  He can’t throw the ball vertically anymore and it’s not like he doesn’t have outstanding talent at the wide receiver position (Demaryius Thomas, Erik Decker, Jacob Tamme, et al.)  It’s just sort of sad watching those deep threats run down the field and then watch Peyton underthrow the receiver by ten yards.  I mean Russ Osweiller was actually warming up at the end of the last game they played.  Yeah, I don’t know who that guy is either, but they were considering putting him in the game to launch the ball downfield.

Now the Patriots and Ravens provided one of the best football games I’ve watched this year.  I’m not sure that there is a corner that is playing better football right now (save Tramon Williams, who has been lights out) than Lardarius Webb.  This kid is a third year player who is just relentless as a blitzer and solid as a pass defender.  He’s always up around the line of scrimmage and he’s the reason that Ed Reed is allowed to sit back and play the true safety position this season.  That being said, their pass rush is laughable.  Then again, so is New Englands.  But, the New England Patriots have Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Brandon Llyod, a fantastic young back in Stevan Ridley and an offensive line that is playing as good as any line in football.  This brings us to the Falcons and Texans, who are playing the best football of any teams in their respective conferences.  Matt Ryan just has way too many options on offense.  Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner, a young kid named Jacquizz Jones who is faster than anybody else on the team (and smaller too, he’s just 5′ 6″.)  I’m not sold on their defense however.  I should be, they have the number four defense in football, but I’ve seen people tear them apart late in the season and a big part of why they’re undefeated has been who they’ve played.  That being said I honestly don’t believe they’ll lose a game until week 15 when they play the New York Giants.  Just tell me who on their schedule is going to beat them.  Carolina?  Washington?  Oakland?  Philly?  Dallas?  New Orleans?  Arizona?  Tampa?  Don’t expect the Cardinals to stay this good all year, folks.

This brings me to the team that I’m excited about right now and that is the Houston Texans.  Matt Schaub, if he stays healthy (HUGE IF) could be one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league.  He threw for five thousand yards two seasons ago.  The adjustments that the Texans have made on defense after losing Mario Williams have been outstanding and their young corners have handled the pressure about as well as you could expect them to.  Do you want me to talk about their front seven?  I have a feeling you do because they’ve got J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed, Brian Cushing, Amobi Akoye, what more do you really need?  Okay, a safety would be nice, but they’re pretty good already and if Arian Foster and Matt Schaub keep lighting up defenses it won’t matter who they play because they’ll be like the Packers were last season.  All of that being said, if I had to pick a team to win the Super Bowl right now I don’t know who I’d pick.  Maybe San Francisco?  New England always looks good.  I’ve been really impressed with Joe Flacco this year, so I’m tempted to say Ravens.  I don’t think that the Texans will be there because their coach is Gary Kubiak and he just finds ways to lose important games.  I would not be surprised to see the Falcons in the Super Bowl nor would I be surprised to see the Giants, the 49ers, or the Packers for that matter.  You just can’t really rule anyone out at this point and as poorly as the Packers have played, you’ve got to admit that they’re still in this thing.

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