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Sunday, September 26, 2004
Game Review: Packers vs Colts
by Mark Lawrence
The Packers visited the Indianapolis Colts. This had all the makings of a horror story - dome, noisy, carpet, fast scoring opposition, opposing defense plays cover-2. If there is a Hell, this is what it looks like for Brett Favre. Yup, the way to bet was to take the Colts and the "over."
As a rule, I believe games are won or lost by the players - it's execution, or as Ron Wolf said, "this is a game of blocking and tackling." Often there is a lot of second-guessing over coaches decisions, but I don't really think the coach is typically all that critical a component during the game.
That said, I see this game as different. In my opinion, the Packers new, young defensive coordinator Bob Slowik lost this game. Did the best team win today? I honestly don't know. The Colts are an excellent team, and obviously a super bowl contender right now, but so are the Packers. If we had had a defensive scheme that was anything other than the most ill-conceived hair-brained obstinate stupidity ever hoisted on a set of Green Bay players, it's very possible we would have won this game.
The Colts came out firing on all barrels, and the Packers came out blitzing from all directions. Generally speaking, the case for blitzing rests on a few assumptions: 1) the offensive line is marginal and you will be able to get to the quarterback in 2 seconds or less. 2) You have cornerbacks that are good in man coverage for 2.5 seconds. 3) You're facing a young, inexperienced quarterback who will, if rushed, make mistakes. Well, Sur-Prize, Sur-Prize, Sur-Prize!!! (Quote from Gomer Pile, played by Jim Nabors, who sings Back Home Again in Indiana at the speedway every year). The Colts have one of the best O-Lines in the NFL. The Colts WRs are among the fastest and crispest in the NFL. The Packers were missing arguably their best cover corner, Mike McKenzie, and their fastest cornerback, Ahmad Carroll. And Peyton Manning is possibly the best quarterback in the NFL at reacting to a blitz. Overall, this was the time to sit back in a soft zone and wait for Payton to get impatient. So, we blitzed. We got burned. We blitzed some more. We got burned some more. We blitzed again, and again, and again, and got burned, burned, burned. At the half, the Colts had run up 35 points, and the only time we touched Payton we got a penalty for roughing the passer.
Brett Favre, well known to be impatient, over the hill, and downright undependable, had a marvelous game. His passer rating was over 120. He threw beautiful strikes all over the field. He put 31 points on the board for us. When your offense puts up 31 points and you lose, it's not the offense that lost the game.
In the second half, the Packers came out in a soft zone, rushing 3 or 4. The colts finished up the game with 2 touchdowns, one on a turnover when Javon Walker was stripped of the ball.
In the first half, our beat up secondary had the best seats in the house for watching the Payton show. Al Harris, our #1 cornerback, shadowed Marvin Harrison all day long, and did a decent job of taking him out of the game. So, the Colts #2 WR, Reggie Wayne, stepped up and had a career day. Interestingly, we Packer fans have heard for months now about our new, aggressive, in your face cornerback play. Well, I didn't see much of that. If the Packers cornerbacks had played with wet yellow paint on their hands, the Colts WRs would not have had to change their jerseys.
In our secondary, Michael Hawthorne was again exposed as lacking speed and maneuverability as compared to top-level WRs, and our #3 cornerback, Jason Horton, was exposed as being very young and very raw. At least for the first half. In the second half, when we finally (about 20 points too late) came to our coaching senses and gave these guys the support they so obviously needed, they played a perfectly creditable game.
As a Packers fan, I must say it's simply heart-breaking when Favre has nearly a career day, our WRs and OL do a great job, and our defense shows up and plays hard, and then we lose.