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Silverstein's take on the Packers resurgence

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by weeds, Jan 10, 2010.

  1. weeds

    weeds Cheesehead

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    Rant ’n’ roll

    Road to playoffs began with a tirade, emotional meeting

    By Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel
    Posted: Jan. 9, 2010







    Green Bay — Want to know why the Green Bay Packers went from dangerously dormant to fabulously flourishing in a matter of weeks?
    It’s not that difficult to figure out.
    The offensive line started blocking better. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers stopped holding onto the ball so long. Tight end Jermichael Finley found his passage toward stardom. The new 3-4 defense melded together just the way first-year defensive coordinator Dom Capers predicted it would.
    Want to know how the Packers did it — going from being a doormat for the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a winner of seven of their last eight games?
    That’s a bit more complicated.
    Shifting course so dramatically that they earned the right to play the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday in an NFC wild-card game at University of Phoenix Stadium required something more personal than blocking or tackling.
    It took conflict.
    The day after their humbling 38-28 loss to the previously winless Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on Nov. 8, an irate coach Mike McCarthy entered a meeting of offensive players and coaches and tore into them like there was no tomorrow. He did so because there was no tomorrow; either they stop giving up sacks at a record pace, stop dropping passes at an alarming rate and start running the ball with a purpose, or the gig was up.
    His job, along with general manager Ted Thompson’s, was on the line coming off a 6-10 season in 2008.
    McCarthy had scaled back his offense as far as he could to account for the poor pass protection and unwillingness of Rodgers to get rid of the ball to avoid a sack. Simplify the offense any more and he’d practically be telling the defense what play was coming.
    “We were cutting back, cutting back, cutting back, cutting back,” McCarthy said. “And I said, ‘Now, enough’s enough. Thirty-something sacks. I mean, that’s just ridiculous.’ I had never been around anything like that in my whole career. Ever, ever. Any level.”
    After McCarthy’s rant, the room was quiet.
    Eventually, Rodgers broke the silence. He stood up and accepted blame for holding the ball too long.
    Then he went around the room pointing out where the Packers had to play better.
    Offensive line, you have to block better.
    Receivers, catch the ball.
    Running backs, break some tackles.
    Tight ends, block somebody.
    “When you start with yourself, it kind of disarms guys a little bit who are upset,” Rodgers said. “But at the same time, it forces a mirror in their face. If this guy is looking at himself first, I need to look at myself first before I start pointing the blame at someone else.”
    When Rodgers was drafted by the Packers in 2005, he turned some people off with his cockiness and unwillingness to take blame. He had been described by some scouts as a guy who was in love with his own statistics.
    But after realizing he would never be a leader going down that path, he changed his approach and began concentrating on being more humble. At times, the cocky kid who’d rather get sacked than have an interception on his record still shows through. But he has worked hard on being an exemplary leader.
    This was one of those times where he was.
    After Rodgers spoke, one by one players got up and started speaking, often critically of their teammates. Receivers Donald Driver and Greg Jennings told the players that if this went on, some of them would be gone next year. Running back Ahman Green, a veteran who had returned to the team at midseason after a two-year stint in Houston, appealed to their competitive spirit.
    “I think that Tampa Bay game, we got back here and everybody was (ticked) off,” Driver said. “Everyone was in there frustrated and mad at the world. One guy said something, the next guy jumped in, the next guy jumped in. It was all veteran guys saying what they had to say.”
    Much of the focus was on the 37 sacks the Packers had allowed, and you didn’t have to connect the dots to figure out where the blame had shifted. If the offensive line didn’t improve, Rodgers wouldn’t have time to throw, the receivers wouldn’t have time to get open and the running game would remain in park.
    Then came the blowback.
    Offensive linemen, like guard Daryn Colledge, who had been forced to play out of position because of other injuries on the line, began stating their case. We can’t give up so many sacks, but you have to stop holding the ball so long, they told Rodgers. The rest of you, don’t single out us for all of the team’s problems.
    “Nobody wants to sit there and be attacked,” Colledge said. “So everybody had something they wanted to say better. The struggles weren’t just the offensive line. Every position has had its moments where it’s struggled this year.”
    Rodgers had to take his medicine in the meeting, too. He said it was all part of the process of the team reaching common ground on what had gone wrong. He said he did not become defensive when he was being criticized.
    “I wanted to see some emotion from those guys, from anybody in that room,” Rodgers said. “That was the best part, there was emotion in there. There was emotion when I spoke, there was emotion when Donald spoke, there was emotion when Ahman spoke, there was emotion when Greg spoke.
    “Then when the O-line spoke, there was emotion. ‘Back off a little bit. This isn’t all our fault. You have to get the ball out quicker.’ We hadn’t had that (emotion). It was like we were going through the motions. After that week, we played like it meant more to us and we started to win games.”
    Rodgers and Driver both said nobody walked out of the meeting arm in arm, together like brothers. It was a Monday, and with a day off Tuesday, everyone went back to the locker room and then home to process it all. When the players came back Wednesday, Rodgers said he felt something special was going to happen.
    “I remember saying to the media, ‘This is our week. I can’t explain it, but something is different,’” Rodgers said.
    The team that had lost twice to the Vikings and their revenge-driven quarterback, Brett Favre, beat 6-2 Dallas, a team that was coming off an enormous road victory against division rival Philadelphia. The defense, energized by Capers’ aggressive game plan, held the Cowboys scoreless for 59 minutes and 22 seconds, giving up only a meaningless touchdown late in a 17-7 victory.
    Capers’ unit had had its own crisis of discontent earlier. Some players were having problems adjusting from a four-defensive linemen, three-linebacker scheme to Capers’ 3-4, and a frustrated Charles Woodson and Cullen Jenkins both challenged publicly the way Capers was using his players.
    Behind the scenes, Capers never wavered because of the confidence he had in his scheme and signs things were starting to come together. In fact, he started seeing encouraging signs in that loss to the lowly Buccaneers.
    “We didn’t feel good because we lost to a team we shouldn’t have lost to, but I’ll say this: I thought we pressured the quarterback well that day,” Capers said. “It was a tough field position day for us. They had 28 points on 24 yards. There was a blocked kick for a touchdown and an interception for a touchdown.
    “I knew it wasn’t that bad. It looked a lot worse than it was.”
    As the defense began to progress — becoming a run-stopping force and a turnover-making machine — the offense got its act together. Replacing young tackle Allen Barbre with re-signed veteran Mark Tauscher stabilized the line. Keeping the starting five healthy paid dividends as the season wore on. Finley came back from a knee injury and started to blossom.
    In the final eight games, Rodgers was sacked just 13 times and intercepted just twice. The victories started piling up: Dallas. San Francisco. Detroit. Baltimore. Chicago.
    After a last-second loss to defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh, the Packers beat Seattle and Arizona to close out the season 11-5. They became the first team in NFL history to have a 4,000-yard passer, a 1,200-yard rusher (Ryan Grant) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Driver and Jennings).
    The defense finished ranked No. 2 overall, and its No. 1 ranking against the run marked the first time in franchise history it had finished at the top. The Packers also finished first in turnover margin and first in penalties committed.
    The big question still facing the Packers is whether they’re really as good as their record. The only teams they beat this season that finished with a winning record were Dallas, Baltimore and Arizona. But that’s why they have playoffs, to see who’s for real and who isn’t
    Let the games begin.
     
  2. Ted's Zombie Army

    Ted's Zombie Army Cheesehead

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  3. weeds

    weeds Cheesehead

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    Hell, I've been subjected to Silverstein's gurgling for years - but he does offer a different perspective. There's another Silverstein article that I posted separately whereby his style is almost flowery and creepy at the same time. hahaa
     
  4. longtimefan

    longtimefan Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator

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    He also picked the Eagles
     
  5. Ted's Zombie Army

    Ted's Zombie Army Cheesehead

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    Good point.
     
  6. Murgen

    Murgen MechaPackzilla

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    He may write a good story and it was an interesting read, but he sucks at picks. lol
     

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