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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Report Card - Vikings vs Packers

by LR
for PackerChatters

Now that all resident Packer fans have had sufficient time to remove our communal hearts from our throats, it’s time to review the performance of the green-and-gold from Sunday’s nail-biter with the Vikes. Bear in mind that yours truly is not a certified, accredited educator - just a fan with a set of eyes. And no, we’re not grading on a curve.

Quarterback - A
Solid effort from the Legend, with a stellar QB rating, and most importantly, no picks. Forced a few throws, namely the first TD pass to Walker, but none came back to bite us in the rear.

Running Backs - A
Ahman has undergone his yearly cold-weather metamorphosis into a dominant back, and is now chewing up both clock and yardage like we need him to. Anyone else notice him switching the ball from left to right hand on that one long sprint as he neared Russell by the right sideline? Looked awkward for him, but maybe he’s learned most tacklers in the Big Dance tend to aim their helmets on the ball.
Fisher also had a decent game, fumble across the goal line notwithstanding, catching the ball out of the backfield well and spelling Ahman with little loss of quality.
Davenport, we hardly knew ye. He showed up for a moment, and was gone again with a bruised hammie. I’m starting to think he may be someone we’ll be able to keep around next season, since most teams looking to pay what Najeh will ask for will demand a durable, everydown back in return, not a giant with legs of glass.
Henderson continues to amaze with his heart, desire, and speed. Yeah, I said speed with no sarcasm. There’s still a lot of scoot in the codger, and the image of Hendu hurdling Winfield was my second favorite image of the game. The first? Hendu setting the ball gently on the ground after crossing the goal for his TD and trotting back to the huddle. Class personified.
Luchey? Robbed on that fourth-and-one, couple of big blocks otherwise. Can of corn for the lineman in the backfield.

Wide Recievers - B
Starting from worst to first, Fergie didn’t show me a whole lot yesterday catching the ball. I know he’s had a few injuries this season, which is uncommon for the man of steel (and there’s the sarcasm), but he’s making me look stupid for claiming 2004 would be his breakout year.
Chatman, one catch, skipped for a first down. Nothing to write home about, save for the fact that he’s making more plays in traffic. Still looks scared as hell to be hit, though. It’s not flag football, Toni. Sometimes you’ve gotta take a pop to get the crucial yards.
Driver is the one that’s making me shake my head in confusion, however. Good stats this season, but I never seem to see the same guy week to week. Some games he seems to be the go-to guy in the clutch, the next, Squirrelly McGatorarms. The fumble being beside the point, I just have a hard time trusting Driver to be our number one guy simply because I feel I can’t trust him to bring his “A” game.
Tight ends as a unit played decent. Bubba got some wheels (apparently from some sort of divine intervention) on his TD, and Dave Martin, if you’re only going to catch one ball a game, make them all like that 35-yarder. Great speed, and good concentration.
Walker. Three catches, all great snares. The talent was always there, the desire packed an overnight bag last year and showed up for good this season. I put Walker slightly behind Owens in terms of making plays after the catch, but for hands and speed, Walker wins my vote. That burner he caught from Brett on third and long when he crawled under the tackles for a first down would have ended up stuck between TO’s facebar. And of course, I’ll take the dual bicep flex over speed skating strides for a post-TD dance any day of the week.

Offensive Line - A+
No sacks, and 206 rushing yards. ‘Nuff said. Although Mike Wahle, you make that block on that screen pass to Ahman, and none of us would have had to hyperventilate into that paper bag at the end of the game. We would have brought Nall in to do his best Dougie P impression and take a few knees.

Defensive Line - B-
A mixed bag, to be sure. Grady played his usual quality game. Jenkins showed a lot for a young’un, as did Lee. KGB, how can you have so few sacks after playing the likes of Manning, Warner, Harrington et al, and then go out and collect two on Culpepper? Ah, such is the enigma that is KGB. Don’t try to understand it, you’ll just give yourself a migraine. Hunt, a travesty. I hope Washington and Williams render your presence obsolete next season. That lack of a sack on Culpepper when you had him dead to rights was inexcusable.

Linebackers - C
Being one of Barnett’s biggest fans, I was surprised to see such a lack of #56 all over the field. Aside from his pressure on Culpepper that should have resulted in a sack, Nick was nowhere to be found yesterday. Same goes for Diggs and Navies, although I did see a few glimpses of #50 failing to cover Wiggins all over the field. Can anyone else tell me why we have our slowest guy covering the opposing tight end, aside from the notion that we felt sorry for the Vikes loss of Moss that we felt we needed to give them another receiving option?

Defensive Backs - B
Yeah, this is a high grade for a unit that allowed 363 yards, but I argue that when your defensive line gives a gun like Culpepper five to eight seconds to throw the ball, he’s gonna make a few. Harris played like a champ, shutting Robinson down completely. Carroll pretty much did the same to Burleson when he took him one-on-one outside, despite the TD, and made a few jarring tackles to boot. Aided, of course, by a few nearsighted refs in the backfield that apparently didn’t see our corners manhandling receivers well past the five-yard chuck area. Good show, boys. If they’re not gonna call it, take whatever edge they give you.
Roman mystifies me. Great play, then he takes the next one off. Repeat till annoyed. Most of the receiving damage took place over the middle, when Burleson was the slot receiver and with Wiggins at TE, and boys, that’s safety territory, where a reception is supposed to be rewarded with shots that make birdies and stars revolve around a helmet.
Which brings me to Bhawoh Jue. Ahh, Jue. The team’s leading tackler yesterday, although bear in mind that getting trampled by Moe Williams on his way to a TD counts as a tackle. A couple decent tackles notwithstanding, I’m pining for Sharper to return. Jue makes that INT that hit him right in the chest, and I’m praising his efforts here today. Alas, he bumbled the toss on the route he so beautifully jumped, so he’s still on my crap list.

Special Teams - B
On one hand, we didn’t allow much in the way of punt and kickoff returns for the Vikes, made some good blocks on our side of the ball (Torrance Marshall, when will you make tackles like that block on Chatman’s return?), and had some decent kickoff return gains. On the other hand, Fergie’s cough-up almost cost us the game. One of my game balls has to go to Big Ben Steele, the man with the superhero name that made the superheroic play. Everyone with a working set of peepers saw Ross land atop that fumble, and Steele clawed it, and us, out for the win. A note for Derek Ross - if you’re wondering why you’ve been cut by so many teams over and over again in your career, there’s the reason why. The lack of desire to make a game-changing play.

Coaches - B+
Sherm had another good day at the helm, calling a good offensive game and managing the ship to a victory. Rossley, I’m sure he filled whatever role he was needed to fill adequately. Slowik had a good plan most of the game, with varied blitzes (though tackling the QB has to be the end result, boys) and leaving the corners out on islands, but lost a bit of face when he started to play more prevent zone coverages. We seem to play best when the boys are up on the line of scrimmage, jarring receivers off their routes. We play soft, and we get burned. Did we learn our lesson? Probably not.

Game balls
All in all, I was more than pleased with our offence, and surprisingly satisfied with most of our defensive efforts Sunday. Game balls go, unsurprisingly, to Brett for offence, Al Harris for defence, and Ben Steele for ST’s.

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