2009 December : Packers Insider

Holmgren may Raid Green Bay again

December 23, 2009 by  
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Dec 23, 2009, By Peter Dougherty, Press-Gazette

~Mike Holmgren is running an NFL team again, so don’t be surprised if he raids the personnel department of the Green Bay Packers like he did when he went to the Seattle Seahawks in 1999. 

Hired this week as president of the Cleveland Browns, Holmgren is looking for a general manager and almost surely a new coach. The Packers have two men whom Holmgren surely will consider for GM: John Schneider and Reggie McKenzie, their co-directors of football operations. 

Look for Holmgren to steal away John Schneider, if John is willing to move to Cleveland.

Look for Holmgren to steal away John Schneider, if John is willing to move to Cleveland.

 Holmgren no doubt is thinking through other candidates as well. One excellent possibility is Lake Dawson, a former Seahawks scout who is the Tennessee Titans’ director of pro personnel. A fourth possibility is Will Lewis, Seattle’s director of player personnel. 

Both Schneider and McKenzie make a lot of sense – they have histories with Holmgren, and Holmgren is known to think well of them. Once source who knows Holmgren considered Schneider and Dawson the top candidates; another thought it would be McKenzie. 

Schneider’s history with Holmgren goes back to 1992, when he was a summer intern for former GM Ron Wolf in Holmgren’s first year as Packers coach. It also includes one season working for Holmgren in Seattle in 2000, when current Packers GM Ted Thompson hired him as the Seahawks’ director of player personnel, before Schneider took a promotion with Washington in 2001. 

One of Schneider’s greatest assets is his deep involvement in both pro and college personnel starting in 2000. Since that time, he’s been heavily involved in the scouting and administrative duties that go with evaluating college players. Also, he’s headed up an NFL personnel department, as vice president of player personnel for Marty Schottenheimer in Washington, though that was only for the 2001 season because owner Dan Snyder fired Schottenheimer and his football staff after one year. 

McKenzie has less history with Holmgren and never has worked for him but is as likely to receive serious consideration. He’s worked for the Packers since 1994 – Holmgren left in 1999 – and has moved up the Packers’ chain of command, to director of pro personnel in 1997 and to a director of football operations last year. His bosses have been Wolf and Thompson, both of whom know Holmgren well.   Full article here

Don’t give up on Crosby Yet

December 23, 2009 by  
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Dec 23, 2009, by Mike Vandermause, Press-Gazette

~ He couldn’t buy a successful field goal, with cash or credit. His ranking plummeted to the depths among NFL kickers. His accuracy hit an all-time low. 

The year was 2001, and the kicker was Ryan Longwell, the Green Bay Packers’ all-time career leader in field-goal accuracy and scoring.

Kicker Mason Crosby's problems are similar to Phil Mickelson's tee-shots trying to close out majors on Sundays. You never know which way they are going to go.

Kicker Mason Crosby's problems are similar to Phil Mickelson's tee-shots trying to close out majors on Sundays. You never know which way they are going to go.

How soon we forget that Longwell, who turned out to be the greatest field-goal kicker in Packers history, endured a terrible season in which he made just 64.5 percent of his field-goal attempts. 

The growing mob that is ready to run current Packers kicker Mason Crosby out of town on a rail needs to remember that and cut him some slack. 

Crosby has missed a field goal in each of the Packers’ last four games, including a first-half 34-yarder at Pittsburgh Sunday that arguably was the difference in the Steelers’ 37-36 victory. 

Crosby has converted just 72.7 percent of his field goals (24 of 33) and ranks a lowly 31st among NFL kickers this season. That’s not good enough, and Crosby will be the first to admit it. 

But now isn’t the time for the Packers to hang their struggling kicker out to dry. To his credit, coach Mike McCarthy stood firmly behind Crosby on Monday and said he has “zero interest” in bringing another kicker to town. 

It’s not likely that anyone available this late in the season would perform any better than Crosby.                  Full article here

Patchwork CB’s Develop a case of Airsickness

December 21, 2009 by  
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Dec 21, 2009 ~ By Tom Silverstein, Journal-Sentinel

~Pittsburgh — The kind of ground the Green Bay Packers gave up Sunday at Heinz Field Sunday could have paved a swath all the way from here to New Orleans or Minnesota or Arizona or Philadelphia – all places the defense is clearly not ready to go.

Not after the aerial assault Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger commanded in a stunning 37-36 victory.

The formerly No. 2-ranked Packers defense showed exactly where it’s vulnerable and where it will be exposed if its lucky enough to play one of the aforementioned offensive juggernauts in the playoffs. 

Bush was exposed for his poor play on the ball and lack of natural instincts playing corner. He gave up the 60-yard touchdown to Wallace, a 54-yard deep ball to receiver Hines Ward and a crucial 20-yard completion to tight end Heath Miller on the game-winning drive.

Bush was exposed for his poor play on the ball and lack of natural instincts playing corner. He gave up the 60-yard touchdown to Wallace, a 54-yard deep ball to receiver Hines Ward and a crucial 20-yard completion to tight end Heath Miller on the game-winning drive.

A secondary that once was the strength of defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ defense is now a big cushy soft spot that big-time quarterbacks like Roethlisberger can complete 29 of 46 passes for 503 yards and three touchdowns. You can only imagine how many playoff quarterbacks are drooling over an opportunity to play against the Packers.

“At this point, we have to make the playoffs,” said cornerback Charles Woodson, when asked if this was the kind of game the defense might face in the playoffs. “Our postseason is not solidified. This was a tough loss for us. We have another opportunity to get back work. We took our lumps today.”

The Packers have been able to hold up against the likes of Tony Romo, Alex Smith, Matthew Stafford, Joe Flacco and Jay Cutler, but Roethlisberger is a two-time Super Bowl winner and though the Steelers were on a five-game losing streak, he can still take advantage of mismatches when he sees them.

In passing for the most yards in a game in Steelers history, Roethlisberger completed 10 passes of 20 or more yards, which didn’t include his best one, a 19-yard strike to Mike Wallace with no time left on the clock. Once Jeff Reed kicked the extra point, the Steelers had a one-point victory.

“We gave up a big play to the start the game and that got the crowd going,” Capers said, referring to a 60-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Wallace on the Steelers’ first play from scrimmage. “We gave up too many big plays and we didn’t make enough plays. We’re going to have to take a look at it, correct our mistakes and then put it behind us.”

It might be hard to do that.

The secondary can’t blame this on not enough pressure on the quarterback. Roethlisberger was sacked five times, although he continually kept plays alive with his feet and gave his receivers time to get open. But there were too many times the Packers just got beat in the secondary.

It was finally evident how much the defense is feeling the loss of veteran cornerback Al Harris. His departure meant nickel back Tramon Williams has moved up to starter and dime back Jarrett Bush has moved into the nickel.

On this day, Bush was exposed for his poor play on the ball and lack of natural instincts playing corner. He gave up the 60-yard touchdown to Wallace, a 54-yard deep ball to receiver Hines Ward and a crucial 20-yard completion to tight end Heath Miller on the game-winning drive.

“One of the things you have to keep doing is coming back,” Bush said. “No matter what happens, you have to do that. As a defense we have to have a short memory. They made the last play and that was the difference.”

Bush’s day got off to a horrible start when he looked back for the ball way too early as Wallace ran a go route down the right sideline. When he looked up, he slowed down and Wallace ran right past him for an easy touchdown.    Full story here

Defensive Collapse: Packers Lose to Pittsburgh Steelers 37-36 on Final Play

December 21, 2009 by  
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Dec 21, 2009 ~ By Pete Dougherty, Press-Gazette

~PITTSBURGH – This was hardly a shameful loss for the Green Bay Packers, dropping a highly competitive thriller to the defending Super Bowl champions on their home turf, and on the last play of the game at that. 

Practically speaking, even after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit rookie Mike Wallace with a 19-yard touchdown pass that gave the Pittsburgh Steelers their 37-36 win in front of an ecstatic crowd of 57,542 spectators at Heinz Field, the Packers remain an almost sure bet to make the playoffs.

In addition to breaking the all-time Steelers record, Roethlisberger’s 503 yards passing was the most the Packers have allowed any quarterback in team history.

In addition to breaking the all-time Steelers record, Roethlisberger’s 503 yards passing was the most the Packers have allowed any quarterback in team history.

The bigger issue is whether Roethlisberger’s 503-yard game was an anomaly, or whether it exposed flaws in the Packers’ pass defense that could be a major problem the next time they face an elite quarterback surrounded by some good weapons. That’s inevitable in the NFL playoffs.

“Expose anything?” inside linebacker Nick Barnett said. “I don’t know if they exposed anything. But 500 yards, that’s a lot. We’ve definitely got some work to do.”

The Packers finished this day at 9-5 and no worse off than last week as the No. 5-seeded team in the NFC playoff race with two weeks left in the regular season. If the playoffs started today, they’d be traveling to 9-5 Arizona for a wild-card playoff game.

A home win over 5-9 Seattle next Sunday gets the Packers to the magical 10-win mark. Though it wouldn’t necessarily clinch a playoff spot, depending on whether the 8-6 New York Giants defeat Washington on Monday night, it would put the Packers in great shape for postseason play with only one game remaining.

“You’re mad and upset because you felt like you should have won the game,” Packers receiver Donald Driver said. “You felt like if you win this game you’ve got 10 wins, you can talk a little playoff action. But right now we’re not, we can’t talk until we get that 10th win.”
Full story here

Packers Know this Loss was a Gut-Check

December 21, 2009 by  
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Dec 21, 2009 ~ Mike Vandermause, Press-Gazette

~ Brandon Chillar summed it up best. “Losing like that makes you sick,” the Green Bay Packers linebacker said following his team’s gut-wrenching 37-36 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at Heinz Field.

Who could blame the Packers for wanting to throw up after allowing the Steelers to march 86 yards and score the winning touchdown on the final play?

Youngster Josh Bell tries to make up for his terrible positioning, but to no avail as Steelers rookie WR Mike Wallace makes a miraculous catch with no time on the clock to steal the game away from the Packers

Youngster Josh Bell tries to make up for his terrible positioning, but to no avail as Steelers rookie WR Mike Wallace makes a miraculous catch with no time on the clock to steal the game away from the Packers

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was brilliant in passing for a staggering 503 yards, but he saved the best for last when he threw a picture perfect 19-yard scoring strike to Mike Wallace to break the Packers’ hearts as well as their five-game winning streak.

“Any time you lose one on a last-second play, with a miraculous throw and catch, it definitely hurts,” linebacker Clay Matthews said in the somber Packers locker room.

Matthews is too young to remember, but it’s as if the Steelers finally received payback for Yancey Thigpen’s infamously dropped touchdown catch almost 14 years ago to the day against the Packers.

Thigpen, a Steelers receiver at the time, was wide open but dropped an easy pass at Lambeau Field in the waning seconds of the final game of the 1995 season to send the Packers to victory and their first division title in 23 years.

The tables were turned on Sunday, with Wallace producing a miracle catch and somehow keeping his feet inbounds, which enabled the Steelers to stay alive in the playoff race.

“We just lost by a play, bottom line,” Matthews said with a sigh. “They beat us by a play, it just comes down to that.”

Packers cornerback Josh Bell gave up the game-winning pass, but the Packers defense had numerous opportunities on the final drive to bury the Steelers. They couldn’t do it.

Roethlisberger converted a do-or-die fourth-down pass from his own 22 to Santonio Holmes. Jarrett Bush’s potential game-clinching interception was nullified by a penalty on Chillar. Cullen Jenkins missed a sack on Roethlisberger that would have run out the clock. Even Charles Woodson lamented a pass he felt he could have intercepted.

Jarrett Bush set the tone on the Steelers first play, blowing his coverage and allowing bomb to Mike Wallace for a quick TD. Besides the bad coverage, he whiffed on the tackle at the 5-yard line.

Jarrett Bush set the tone on the Steelers first play, blowing his coverage and allowing bomb to Mike Wallace for a quick TD. Besides the bad coverage, he whiffed on the tackle at the 5-yard line.

“Hindsight is always 20-20,” said Matthews. “It’s hard. Woulda, shoulda, coulda.”
Full story here

Mix of crafty veterans, talented youth power Packers’ potent D

December 17, 2009 by  
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Dec 17, 2009 ~ US A Today, by Jim Corbett ~

Green Bay Packers ball-hawk cornerback Charles Woodson and pass-rushing rookie outside linebacker Clay Matthews are in the running for a rare defensive double.Woodson and Matthews are among the leading candidates for league defensive MVP and defensive rookie of the year honors. The 2003 Baltimore Ravens boasted defensive MVP Ray Lewis and defensive rookie Terrell Suggs.   Full Story Here

Woodson and Matthews are big-play catalysts for a defensive coordinator Dom Capers 3-4 scheme. 

"It's definitely been my best year," Woodson said. I love this defense."

"It's definitely been my best year," Woodson said. I love this defense."

Both are taking turns erasing tight ends, bringing heat and helping set the standard of attention to detail needed to overcome the Nov. 22 losses of cornerback Al Harris and linebacker Aaron Kampman to season-ending knee injuries. The second-ranked Packers defense has held quarterbacks to a 53.3 completion percentage and intercepted them 23 times.

Beyond his eight interceptions, two returned for touchdowns, four forced fumbles and 57 tackles, Woodson leads pre- and post-practice film study among defensive backs for the NFC’s leading wild-card contender.  

“It’s definitely been my best year,” Woodson said. “I’ve been in position to make a lot of plays. I love this defense.” 

Woodson is driven to get that Super Bowl ring he felt was denied when the then Oakland Raiders corner stripped New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady of the football in the controversial “Tuck rule game.” The Raiders season was cut short by New England’s 16-13, 2001 divisional win when referee Walt Coleman ruled Brady’s throwing arm was moving forward. 

“Charles Woodson is the league’s defensive MVP,” said Greg Cosell, NFL Films analyst and veteran producer of ESPN’s NFL Matchup show. 

“He lines up at corner, as their slot corner in nickel and dime. He plays safety in their base 3-4. He’s a great blitzer, physical with great ball skills.”

Matthews, once a walk-on at the University of Southern California, is competing for defensive rookie against former Trojan teammate and current Houston Texan Brian Cushing (112 tackles, 2½ sacks, two interceptions); Washington Redskins defensive end Brian Orakpo (11 sacks) and Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd (league-best nine interceptions). 

Despite not starting until Week 4, Matthews has eight sacks, four forced fumbles, 19 quarterback hits and six passes defensed. 

“Clay has a skill set I have not previously seen in an outside linebacker in a 3-4. And I played with the Lawrence Taylors, Pat Swillings and Derrick Thomases,” says five-time Pro Bowler and Packers outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene. “Clay covers like a big athletic strong safety. 

“He rushes the quarterback with a violence and changes that up with speed and quickness. He has the ability to be one of the best outside linebackers to ever play.” 

Said his father, Clay Matthews Jr., a four-time Pro Bowler during 19 seasons: “You have a guy who scratched and clawed to get where he’s at. 

“Clay’s much faster and stronger than I was. I’m happy I can say that. He must have got that from his mom.”

Of Green Bay’s four touchdown passes surrendered to tight ends only one was longer than 12 yards, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith’s 24-yard scoring strike to Vernon Davis against Matthews in Week 11.

LeRoy Butler analyzes the Packers-Bears game

December 15, 2009 by  
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Dec 15, 2009 ~ By LeRoy Butler ~

Q: Given what a struggle it was against the Chicago Bears on Sunday and the way they’ve been grinding through games during their five-game winning streak, do you think the Packers are playing like a playoff team right now?

A: I think they’re playing very well – good enough to get away with an average kicker; good enough to overcome some penalties; good enough that they’re winning with injuries. This shows a good team. I’m excited because they’re finding ways to win instead of finding ways to lose. And right now, in the NFC, New Orleans probably should have lost a couple of games, but they found ways to win. No team in the NFC scares me. I think this team is healthy, they’re younger than everybody, so endurance isn’t a problem. They’re very well-coached and they know who they are on offense and defense. Special teams is hurting them, but they’re good enough to get away with it. Everybody wants to win games 55-0 or 48-14, but when you can win the ones on the road, 21-14, ugly wins – Aaron Rodgers, 180 yards throwing – that’s important.

Q: Aren’t you concerned that without cornerback Al Harris they’re thin in the secondary, and probably not as good, their offense can’t seem to score in the red zone, and their kicker is in a slump? Aren’t those areas going to be exposed when they hit the playoffs?

A: Not at all, and let me tell you why….  Full story here        leroybutler5_91x64

Swarm of Linebackers stings Bears

December 15, 2009 by  
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Dec 15, 2009 ~ By Tom Silverstein, Journal-Sentinel ~ 

It makes a good story to say that Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers was in his lab all last week conjuring up his so-called “psycho” defense.

The truth is that necessity was his mother of invention. 

Now that "psycho" is on tape for the Packers' next opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Capers will need to magically come up with something new

Now that "psycho" is on tape for the Packers' next opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Capers will need to magically come up with something new

The one-lineman, five-linebacker look that Capers unveiled against the Chicago Bears on Sunday has an Alfred Hitchcock-themed name and is designed to create chaos. But it really came about because he had so few defensive linemen available in practice last week because of injury.

Though only nose tackle Ryan Pickett (hamstring) missed the game, ends Cullen Jenkins (hamstring) and Johnny Jolly (knee) couldn’t play as much as they normally do, so Capers pulled out a defensive look he had used years ago and fit it to his squad. He used it about a half-dozen times on passing downs against Chicago.

The difficulty for the Bears – with one lineman over the center and a bunch of linebackers moving all around – was figuring out which players were going to blitz and how to account for them.

“For what we hoped it would do going in, I think it served its purpose,” said Capers, whose defense ranks No. 2 overall this week. “We were able to create a little indecision in identification early in the game. You saw the first time they ran the draw, we had two guys come free.

Full story here

Chillar re-signs with Packers for $21M

December 14, 2009 by  
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Dec 14, 2009 ~ By Adam Schefter, ESPN

When he was a free agent, linebacker Brandon Chillar had to be talked into going to Green Bay. Now he doesn’t want to leave.

With his contract set to expire after this season, Chillar signed a four-year, $21 million contract extension with the Packers that includes $7 million in guaranteed money, according to a close to the situation.

Packers linebacker Brandon Chillar celebrates after sacking Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in the team's week one meeting. Chillar now has 21 million more reasons to celebrate.

Packers linebacker Brandon Chillar celebrates after sacking Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in the team's week one meeting. Chillar now has 21 million more reasons to celebrate.

Chillar’s deal is rare in that, these days, teams have proceeded cautiously in terms of signing players to long-term contracts with the league’s uncertain financial future ahead.

Chillar has started four games this season and has been a dependable contributor on Green Bay’s special teams.

Packers Replay: 21-14 win at Chicago

December 14, 2009 by  
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Dec 14, 2009 ~ By Tom Silverstein, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

PLAYER OF THE GAME

This one is shared between safeties Nick Collins and Atari Bigby. As big as Ryan Grant’s 62-yard run was, these two played a huge role in saving the Packers the embarrassment of losing a game they once led, 13-0. The Packers trailed, 14-13, with 13 minutes 39 seconds left when Collins stepped in front of Jay Cutler’s pass to Johnny Knox and picked it off. Collins returned the ball 31 yards to the 11 and two plays later Grant scored from 1 yard out to account for the final touchdown.

"Nick couldn't play it any better, and the quarterback forces the throw," coach Mike McCarthy said

"Nick couldn't play it any better, and the quarterback forces the throw," coach Mike McCarthy said

“Nick couldn’t play it any better, and the quarterback forces the throw,” coach Mike McCarthy said. Collins also had a strip of tight end Greg Olsen that broke up a long pass down the middle. While Collins was patrolling the middle, Bigby was handling business at the line of scrimmage. He had seven tackles, including a huge stop of Bears running back Matt Forte on third and 1 at the Packers 45 late in the third quarter. The rough-and-tumble game was Bigby’s cup of tea.

Full story here

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