Monday, January 21, 2008

Let's try anger

The Giants beat the Packers soundly. But why?

1 Al Harris - Plaxico Burress owned him. If that doesn't happen, it's a different game.

2 The Packers O line - The pass protection was OK, but the run blocking looked like it did at the beginning of the season. Grant had nowhere to go.

3. Poor play calling - This is the hardest thing for amateurs to judge, but it seemed like they could throw down the middle and needed to exploit that until the Giants stopped it. The sideline stuff and the wide receiver screens were never there. Even over the middle, I wonder why they didn't throw more slants and short stuff. One thing that may have made the playcalling look bad is that the Giants tackled better than I have seen all year.

4. Favre got cold - People are saying that he looked cold and old, but that was just at the end. He had a great game for two and a half quarters. They were moving even without a running game. Maybe the weather finally got to him. There's a reason we tend to move south when we retire.

5. Jarrett Bush - fall on the damn ball! - He may have thought he didn't have the room for it, but why do people who play professional football for a living have so much trouble remembering this?

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why? Good question. How's about: the Giants are a better team (including, better-coached).

Burress owned Harris? You bet. Any sport is about match-ups, your strength against their weakness. This one was glaring. Harris is aging and (certainly compared to Burress) undersized. Neither is his fault. But the coaching decision to leave him out on an island against Burress much too long was ... what, exactly? Hubris? Or plain stupidity?

Favre got cold? He's got a consistent track record of falling short in the playoffs, regardless of temperature. Fitting that he sealed the Packers' fate with an interception. But he could barely move the team the whole game, and if Tauscher hadn't bailed him out earlier on a fumble recovery (after yet another interception on an ill-advised pass well downfield into heavy coverage) we'd be talking about that interception.

Yes, Bush looked like he wanted to pick up the ball and run; and we can debate whether he's guilty of poor decision-making or the victim of poor coaching. But why isolate that one play? What about Collins' much worse error in judgment -- roughing the passer -- that led to a score.

In the final analysis, though, the accretion of individually awful plays leads to but one conclusion: the Giants are the better team. The more interesting question is whether this season is just an aberration before a slide back into mediocrity (think: Bears). I'm betting it's so; as usual, we'll have to wait and see.

PaulNoonan said...

In the final analysis, though, the accretion of individually awful plays leads to but one conclusion: the Giants are the better team. The more interesting question is whether this season is just an aberration before a slide back into mediocrity (think: Bears). I'm betting it's so; as usual, we'll have to wait and see.

This is unlikely Mr. Anon. The Bears regression to the mean was quite predictable, as one of the better modern statistical predictors is that teams will not maintain elite defense and special teams play for more than 2 consecutive years a trend discovered when analyzing the Baltimore Ravens and applied successfully to the Bears this season by FootballOutsiders.com)

http://www.slate.com/id/2173233/entry/2173269/

And, of course, the Packers are the youngest team in football with good talent where it needs to be: On the offensive and defensive lines.

Rarely will you see a large decline in a team that is solid in these areas.

It's possible of course, football is more subject to random variability than the sports with longer seasons, but it is unlikely.

The Giants are definitely a better team given the conditions, however it is worth noting that they are one Burress injury away from the NFL's worst receiving corps. Running is a huge strength for the Giants and the conditions negated GBs natural advantage by making passing difficult.

(Don't bother stating that the wind did not bother Eli. It did. He completed a lower percentage than did Favre, and Al Harris dropped what should have been a sure pick in the end zone. They actually played very similar games.)

Anonymous said...

And, of course, the Packers are the youngest team in football with good talent where it needs to be: On the offensive and defensive lines.

Rarely will you see a large decline in a team that is solid in these areas.

The O line didn't open holes for Grant, nor could it execute on multiple screen plays. Young? Sure. Remains to be seen just how good they are. The D line generated little in the way of pass rush, which was a constant much of the year. As to whether there is a large decline: that, I think, misstates the nature of the problem, which is whether they're going to get appreciably better (necessary to advance) or remain static (recipe for mediocrity). If your goal is to get to the playoffs then the Packers are probably OK. If your goal is something more (which should be a given: re-read Shark's wonderfully evocative title to this post), then we're talking about something else.

The Giants are definitely a better team given the conditions, however it is worth noting that they are one Burress injury away from the NFL's worst receiving corps.

A) Football is necessarily played according to the conditions. It's a meaningless qualifier. If the Packers lost to the Cowboys in Dallas, you'd say, The Cowboys are definitely better given the conditions because the Packers are built for grass in cold weather and the 'Boys for turf. Besides, what about the natural advantage that any home team has? The Packers frittered that away ... because they were the lesser team. B) As to Burress: All the more reason for the Packers' braintrust to take him out of the flow. Instead, they chose to believe the press-clipping nonsense about Harris being a lock-down corner.

PaulNoonan said...

The O line didn't open holes for Grant, nor could it execute on multiple screen plays.

They are a bad screen team and have been all year. This may be a case of the talent not matching up with the play call. There is no rule that says you have to run screens.

The Giants have a good run defense, and it is not surprising that the Packers struggled to run. The Packer O-line was the best in the league at pass-protecting according to the Outsiders offensive line stats, and pass-blocking is worth a few deficiencies elsewhere.

Young? Sure. Remains to be seen just how good they are.

Over 17 games they were quite good. Looking at just one game in lousy weather is a bad way to judge anything.

The D line generated little in the way of pass rush, which was a constant much of the year.

A bit of a down year, but Kampman is still a force and they had also suffered a bunch of injuries on the interior of that line. These are the guys who benefit from doubles on Kampman and KGB. When they were healthy, they were quite good, and when they were not, they were still pretty good.

As to whether there is a large decline: that, I think, misstates the nature of the problem, which is whether they're going to get appreciably better (necessary to advance) or remain static (recipe for mediocrity).

Younger teams can get better by maintaining the status quo as their younger guys develop. There are no glaring weaknesses on the Packers, they can really just shore up on depth and if they happen to hit a draft home run, so much the better. There is no reason to panic with this team. They played one of their worst games of the year and still went to OT with the Super Bowl representative.

If your goal is to get to the playoffs then the Packers are probably OK. If your goal is something more (which should be a given: re-read Shark's wonderfully evocative title to this post), then we're talking about something else.

The NFL's postseason is highly variable due to it's one-and-done nature, and due to the fact that weather plays a bigger role as it gets later in the year. The Packers are built to make the Super Bowl now, and were a few lucky plays away from doing so. Nothing you can do about that except try again next year.

A) Football is necessarily played according to the conditions. It's a meaningless qualifier. If the Packers lost to the Cowboys in Dallas, you'd say, The Cowboys are definitely better given the conditions because the Packers are built for grass in cold weather and the 'Boys for turf.

That's idiotic. The Packers are not built for bad weather right now, especially strong winds, as is evidenced by their Bear loss late in the year. They run a precision passing game that excels in climate-control, or nice weather.

Besides, what about the natural advantage that any home team has? The Packers frittered that away ... because they were the lesser team.

Climate is a bigger deal than the small psychological homefield advantage. Especially when you end up penalized more. Which is not a slap at the refs as they deserved to be penalized more.

B) As to Burress: All the more reason for the Packers' braintrust to take him out of the flow. Instead, they chose to believe the press-clipping nonsense about Harris being a lock-down corner.

Harris was mediocre this year, however he had been one of the league's best 3 CBs over the last 4 years, and he had been better in the second half, especially against Torry Holt in the Rams game. The time to adjust was at half time, which they did, and Burress has a more quiet second half. The problem was that he was such a monster for the first 25 minutes of the game that even shutting him out completely from that point on would have left him with a good day.

I believe Burress had 4 second half catches for about 48 yards or so. Fine, but not dominating.

Anonymous said...

That's idiotic. The Packers are not built for bad weather right now, especially strong winds, as is evidenced by their Bear loss late in the year. They run a precision passing game that excels in climate-control, or nice weather.

So, what are the implications? They would've been better off playing in Dallas? (And I'm the idiot? Let's assume, as 99% of Packer fans do, that the title game ought to be played in Green Bay. If "precision passing" won't do the job, how about screens? Oh, that's right, "They are a bad screen team and have been all year." Hmm. How about a running attack? Oh, that's right, "The Giants have a good run defense, and it is not surprising that the Packers struggled to run" -- not so good against a competent run defense, in other words.

Nonetheless: There are no glaring weaknesses on the Packers, they can really just shore up on depth and if they happen to hit a draft home run, so much the better. But I'm the one who's idiotic.

billie said...

Anon.

I suppose it's true that the Packers could slide into mediocrity next year. I doubt anyone looking at it objectively, with presently available information, would think so, but it's all academic. And, the same could easily be said of the Giants.

But the bottom line is the Giants won, and you've earned your bragging rights. Enjoy it.

You're so intent on minimizing the Packers, but if they're as bad as you say, the G-Men are in for a real thumping in a couple weeks.

I'll actually be pulling for the Giants, but let's just say I won't bet the farm on them.

Rick Esenberg said...

Since this stage is anger, I am glad you brought up the roughing call. What kind of garbage was that in a championship game in bad weather? Particularly since the ball was batted back at Manning. That was a momentum changer and its on the ref.

PaulNoonan said...

If the conditions had been better, the Packers would probably have won. Had the Packers played the Giants in Dallas for some strange reason, the Packers probably would have played better.

Do you think that conditions have no effect on a game? Do you view teams as "good" or "bad" only? If a passing team palys in windy conditions, they will not score as much. That seams so obvious as to not require explanation.

If the Packers play the Giants in a battle of RBs, the Giants will win most of the time, as they would against almost any team. If the Packers play the Giants in a shootout in good conditions, the Packers will win most of the time, as they did in week 2.

Brandon Jacobs averages 5 yards a carry. Ahmad Bradshaw averages 8.3 yards per carry.

You cannot construct a team to be great in every facet (unless you are the Patriots, apprently.

What is a glaring weakness on the Packers, exactly? Al Harris isn't exactly bad. To improve upon him would take a big chunk of change which could be better spent elsewhere, and probably would not be worth it.

But let's take a look at the Giants. First of all, they were a very lucky team, surviving in Dallas despite, what, 52 yards of offense in the second half? Their offense is, overall, pretty lousy. A running game is sufficient in bad weather, or against other teams that are struggling on offense, but passing is necessary for good offensive production, and the Giant passing game is still below average.

According to Footballoutsiders.com, the Giants ranked 24th in passing offense (GB was 5th):

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/teamoff.php

Amani Toomer had a fairly abysmal 57% catch rate:

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/wr.php

Burress played very well yesterday, but that was an anamoly, as during the regular season he caught only 50% of balls thrown his way. Burress is injury prone adn tends to slack off in certain games. It's nice he showed up for the playoffs though.

(Driver and Jennings caught 67 and 63%, respectively. Lest you think QB plays a major part in this stat, Burress was also outperformed by Dwayne Bowe, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Jericho Cotchery, Brandon Marshall, the immortal Justin Gage, and a bunch of other guys.)

Catch rate isn't everything, of course, but it's good at picking out lazy malcontents.

There is definitely room for improvement there.

The Giants are historically similar to the 2003 Carolina Panthers, a team with a great defensive line, shaky QB, good RB-by-committee, and one great receiver.

They played OK that year and qualified as the 3 seed in the NFC, at which point they knocked won their wild card game, knocked off the higher seeded Dallas at Dallas, and then the higher seeded Eagles at Philly.

Sometimes teams get hot, and sometimes other teams play bad games. Judging too much off of one game played in bad weather just isn't smart. Over the entire season the Packers were a much more well-rounded, and a much better team than the Giants, but that does not guarantee playoff success.

Marcus Aurelius said...

The Packer's screen play is vastly improved over the previous season where the linemen would frequently trip over each other.

On almost every screen we setup the Giants sniffed it out and reacted very well to it. This was not so much due to poor execution on the Packer's part but more likely due to superior execution on the Giant's part.

Al Harris a weakness? What is the Pro Bowl stuff?

That last pass was ill-advised? I hardly think so, I think the ball was not thrown to the proper place or the receiver was not in the correct location, but if Brett throws that ball to the sideline side of Driver (IIRC that was Driver) rather than to the field side it would have been a reception or an incomplete pass. What happened? I don't know, perhaps Brett's hands were numb and the ball flew on him, perhaps him and Driver were not completely together on the plans. However, I wouldn't characterize it as forcing a pass (not to say Brett wasn't forcing it from time to time, I recall one incompletion in 3x coverage).

I saw some bad passes from Brett and this is not atypical when the team has to rely on the pass or falls behind. Wayne Laravee sometime ago had an on air commentary about this and this is exactly what I have come to expect. Wayne noted how Brett's interceptions are way down this year and then he correlated Brett's interceptions to the team playing from behind, without doing a complete and rigorous statistical analysis I agree Wayne is exactly right.

The Giants did not prove a clear cut superiority over the Packers last night. They won the game, but given how the Giant's had stymied the Packer's running attack they were unable to win until overtime.

I don't think Bush was doing anything but trying to fall on the ball, most likely given his momentum simply falling down would have not done it, he HAD TO grab the ball or fall away from it.

Collins' roughing the passer call was one of those you get tagged with sometimes and sometimes you don't, even Joe & Troy noted the call was marginal.

I think this Packer team has a bright future, the core players are all back next year.

We have to remember the Packers went into this year with serious questions about the running game. I think those questions are pretty much answered for the better.

Anonymous said...

In a league where parity is exalted to the point that mediocrity is a measure of success, it's a pretty safe bet the Packers will have some success next year. Make the play-offs again? Sure. Win a game once there? Why not. But if you measure success by whether you get to (or, if you're the Pats, win) the Super Bowl, then if you're a Packer fan it's not too soon to despair.

Some things you can't control. The injury gods, for example, were fairly benign this year; next year, maybe not. That aside, Paul Noonan has done an admirable job of demonstrating that the Packers are a) a one-dimensional (that is, precision-passing) team that b) can't quite cut in adverse weather which means c) it's not a team constructed to take advantage of its home field during the play-offs.

All the rest is commentary.

Marcus Aurelius said...

A mediocre team shot up pretty fast, there is no reason to not expect the Packers to make a Super Bowl run again next year.

Paul Noonan's comments aside the Packers are not a one dimensional team. The Pack was going into the season but after a month or so the offense developed more threats than just #4 and those guys numbered up in the 80s.

I think our offensive line is going to be parsecs ahead of their current level and our defensive line is in need of some patching up. Manning had way too much time and Grant ran fairly freely.

I don't think the injury situation was quite as benign as its made out to be, a number of starters were out around the Dallas game.

Rick Esenberg said...

Paul Noonan is right in that the Packers are not built for cold weather anymore. There is a reason that they no longer fold in domes. They are much faster and they have more big play guys.

I am sure that the conditions mattered in the sense that, if it weren't so cold, Favre would have had a huge game. The Giants could be beat downfield but, as the game went on and the QB got colder, it was harder to get the ball down there.

Still I wonder if there wasn't a chance for shorter stuff in the middle of the field. Maybe not. The wide stuff was obviously designed to create opportunities for YAC and the Giants tackled like their lives depended on it.

I don't know that it is time to sit Harris but he's a head case who is capable of awful games. Backing him up with Jarret Bush was problematic since I don't think he is capable of playing cornerback in the NFL. They need depth in the secondary and they need more ability to create turnovers. The pass rush was a problem but it's hard to get a pass rush in that weather on a heated field. As Chris Carter says, its like running on loose dirt. The Giants had no sacks and, on the season, Kampmann and KGB were among the league leaders, although Cullen Jenkins was disappointing; perhaps due to injury.

The middle of the offensive line remains a problem. It may also be that they would benefit from another running back who is either a smash mouth type of guy or who can be a factor in the passing game. (They may have had that latter guy on IR this year in Noah Herron.)

But Paul Noonan also has a point that the team is likely to better with no huge changes because of their youth. Bigby, Blackmon, Jones, Martin, Lee, Harrell, Lee, Thompson, Rouse, Jackson and Wynn are all guys that might significantly step up their games next year. It is hard, moreover, to think that Thompson won't find some more gems.

The concern is that a team that will become more talented will not become better because, by age or retirement, it will lose its quarterback.


MA may be right about Bush and McQuarters fumble. He put it better than I did but still ....

Anonymous said...

No one like Reggie to make a game saving defensive play like White did time and time again in '96 and '97. McCarthy proved he's not a super bowl coach. Farve proved he's no longer capable of pulling a rabbit out of his hat. But there's always next year...

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JP