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Green Bay Packers’ End of the Year Grades: Offensive line and special teams

The Green Bay Packers are World Champs! It still sounds as amazing as it did when Ben Roethlisberger threw an incomplete pass on fourth down with under a minute to go. With the season over, it’s time to give out grades to the 53-man roster. Injured players will get their own section later, but for now it’s about the 53 players who suited up in Dallas (OK, only 45 suited up but you know what I mean). Here’s the Packers’ offensive line and special teams in review.

LT- Chad Clifton: There were plenty of reasons the Packers won the Super Bowl, but right up there at the top of the list was Clifton’s play. Aaron Rodgers was surgical in the playoffs but only because he was able to stand upright. Clifton officially allowed 8.5 sacks but played his best football toward the end of the season, also helping out in the run game. He had four false starts but was not called for holding all year long. Grade: B+

LG- Daryn Colledge: For as much heat as Colledge takes, he wasn’t all that bad in 2010. The run game seemed to pick up steam later in the year, with the Packers running to Colledge’s side quite a bit. There’s a chance he is replaced in 2011 but him staying healthy and playing solid was big for the Packers. He allowed three sacks, had four false starts, and was called for holding once. Grade: C+

C- Scott Wells:

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February 23, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Green Bay Packers’ End of the Year Grades: Offensive Skill

The Green Bay Packers are World Champs! 11 days later and it still sounds as amazing as it did when Ben Roethlisberger threw an incomplete pass on fourth down with under a minute to go. With the season over, it’s time to give out grades to the 53-man roster. Injured players will get their own section later, but for now it’s about the 53 players who suited up in Dallas (OK, only 45 suited up but you know what I mean). Here’s the Packers’ offense year in review.

QB- Aaron Rodgers: Many expected an MVP-type season out of Rodgers, but Packers’ fans will have no problem living with a Super Bowl-type season. The numbers weren’t always there for Rodgers, who missed a game and a half, but he was near impeccable in the playoffs and was named the Super Bowl MVP, a fitting end to a “belt” of a season. GRADE: A

QB- Matt Flynn: Many laughed when an unnamed NFC scout said Flynn was the back-up in football, and Flynn’s pre-season did little to help that case. But an incredible showing against New England on Monday night, 24-of-37, 251 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception, made everyone believers. If the Packers don’t trade him, they have a more than serviceable back-up should Rodgers miss any time in 2011. GRADE: B+

QB- Graham Harrell: Thankfully for Packers’ fans everywhere, we didn’t get to see what Harrell could do this season. He didn’t see any action this season. GRADE: INC

RB- James Starks:

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February 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Same Old Story: Packers Use Reserves To Find Success

In every sense of the word, the Packers’ 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV was a microcosm of how the season had played out up until that point.

When Packers’ fans saw wide receiver Donald Driver and cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Sam Shields exit the game in the second quarter, it was as if they didn’t blink an eye.

OK, maybe one blink.

But the truth was fans had been there and done that with injuries. Over the course of the regular season head coach Mike McCarthy had lost 15 players to Injured Reserve, including starters Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley, Nick Barnett, and rookie Morgan Burnett.

Packers’ starters lost 83 games to injuries, and that doesn’t even include players like Brandon Chillar and Justin Harrell, who weren’t starters but important nonetheless. That number also doesn’t include Al Harris and Atari Bigby, who began the year on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

The Packers struggled to begin the season, going 3-3 and not knowing who would fill roles left by the injury bug. But just like they did Sunday, lesser-known players stepped up in huge roles and it culminated with the Lombardi Trophy coming home.

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February 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Four Plays That Won Super Bowl XLV For the Packers

It’s day two of the Green Bay Packers’ reign as world champions and to most fans it feels just as good as it did last night. As it should have, the game came down to the final minutes and could have gone in either team’s favor. But as it usually is in close games, there were a handful of plays that went the Packers’ way which ultimately helped them take down the Steelers.

Here’s a look at five plays in which the ball bounced in Green Bay’s favor, helping them pick up their fourth Super Bowl title and 13th world championship.

1. Clay Matthews’ forced fumble on Rashard Mendenhall, recovered by Desmond Bishop

The set-up: 21-17 Packers, 4th quarter, 15:00 remaining, Steelers with the ball on the Packers’ 33

The breakdown: At this point in the game, the momentum had completely swung in the Steelers’ favor. The Packers had just punted after a three-and-out, and an 8-yard run by Mendenall to begin the drive had the Steelers looking at the go-ahead score. But on the second play of the drive, Mendenhall took a handoff and attempted to bounce outside, but was met by Matthews, who popped the ball free with a huge hit. Desmond Bishop recovered the fumble and the Packers scored on their next possession, an 8-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings.

2. Nick Collins’ interception returned for a touchdown

The set-up: 7-0 Packers, 1st quarter,  3:34 remaining, Steelers with the ball on their own 7

The breakdown: On the heels of a Jordy Nelson touchdown reception to get the scoring going, the Steelers found themselves backed up to the 7-yard line after an illegal block in the back call. On the first play of the drive, Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked for Mike Wallace on a deep fade down the left sideline. However, defensive lineman Howard Green had snuck into the backfield and hit Big Ben’s arm as soon as he released it, causing the ball to be severely underthrown. Waiting for the pass attempt was Nick Collins, who swooped in and caught the ball at the 37, dodging Steelers’ defenders all the way to the endzone. The play gave the Packers’ an early 14-0 lead that they were able to work with the remainder of the game. They never trailed.

3. Aaron Rodgers throws a 31-yard bullet to Greg Jennings

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February 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Packers Take Down Steelers 31-25 to Win Super Bowl XLV

The Vince Lombardi trophy is coming home.

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers fulfilled its season-long goals Sunday night by taking down the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV.

The Packers jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead and led by as many as 18 in the first half, and managed to hang on in the second half despite injuries to key players to nab the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl and 13th World Championship.

Certainly more to come, but here are five quick game balls to hand out in the Packers’ monumental victory in Super Bowl XLV.

Aaron Rodgers: The Packers’ signal caller capped off one of the best post-seasons ever by dissecting the Steelers’ secondary all night long. Rodgers passed for 304 yards and three touchdowns and, most importantly, did not turn the ball over. He took sacks when he needed to instead of forcing anything and also converted key third downs late in the game. Rodgers’ numbers would have been even more impressive had it not been for four or five drops by Green Bay receivers. The Super Bowl MVP seems to have finally ended any negative comparisons to Brett Favre and is a bonafide star in the NFL. He will enter 2011 as arguably the game’s best quarterback.

Jordy Nelson: If anyone was wondering whether or not Nelson could get the job done if Donald Driver were to retire or James Jones left via free agency, those people are now silent. Nelson finished with nine catches for 140 yards, breaking the Packers’ team record for receiving yards, previously set by Max McGee’s 138 yards set in Super Bowl I. He scored the first touchdown of the game and made big catch after big catch, and he also picked up two MVP votes in the process. Nelson should enter 2011 as the Packers’ No. 2 receiver, regardless of what happens with Driver or Jones.

Greg Jennings:

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February 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Packers-Steelers Super Bowl XLV Preview: Wide receivers and tight ends

With just six days remaining until Super Bowl XLV, it’s time to start comparing both teams to see where advantage lie on the rosters. The Pittsburgh Steelers come into the Super Bowl after taking down the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets as the AFC’s No. 2 seed. They used a balanced attack on offense and a swarming defense to get where they are, as they look for their third Super Bowl title in the last six seasons under head coach Mike Tomlin.

Answering for the NFC are the Green Bay Packers, who enter the Super Bowl as the hotter of the two teams. Road wins over the Eagles, Falcons, and Bears as the No. 6 seed has proved they can play with anyone. That’s exactly what Mike McCarthy and the Packers will have to do when they face Pittsburgh. Just two players have Super Bowl experience, Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett, while John Kuhn holds the lone S.B. ring, when he was a practice squad member with the Steelers back in 2005.

Here’s a comparison breakdown of each offensive position and which team will hold the edge come Super Bowl Sunday. Teams will either have a neutral edge, a slight edge, or a substantial edge.

Wide Receiver: Pittsburgh’s Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antwaan Randle El vs. Green Bay’s Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson

While the Steelers may hold a slight advantage at quarterback Sunday, the guys catching the ball will have a substantial advantage when Green Bay has the ball on offense. As much of a storied career as Hines Ward has had, Greg Jennings comes into Sunday’s game as the best receiver on either team, and maybe the league. After catching just one ball for eight yards against the Eagles, Jennings has gone for 101 and 130 yards through the air the last two games. While he hasn’t found the endzone in the playoffs this year, his big play capability is undeniable.

Answering in the big play department will be Mike Wallace, who has exploded onto the scene for the Steelers. Wallace averaged a ridiculous 21 yards per catch in 2010 and had 26 catches of 20+ yards. To put that in perspective, that’s five more than Jennings had, who averaged 16.6 yards per catch.

Ward has been on the big stage before, picking up MVP honors in Super Bowl XL. Emmanuel Sanders has become a deep threat as well and Antwaan Randle El is versatile, but the quality and depth the Packers’ receivers have gives them a huge advantage. While Donald Driver has slowed some, James Jones and Jordy Nelson are both No. 2 receivers from a skill standpoint, meaning Aaron Rodgers will have plenty of open targets to throw at. Pittsburgh’s receivers aren’t bad in any sense, but the Packers’ receivers are tops in the league and playing very well right now.

Tight End: Pittsburgh’s Heath Miller vs. Green Bay’s Andrew Quarless

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February 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Packers-Steelers Super Bowl XLV Breakdown: QB, RB Advantages

With just six days remaining until Super Bowl XLV, it’s time to start comparing both teams to see where advantage lie on the rosters. The Pittsburgh Steelers come into the Super Bowl after taking down the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets as the AFC’s No. 2 seed. They used a balanced attack on offense and a swarming defense to get where they are, as they look for their third Super Bowl title in the last six seasons under head coach Mike Tomlin.

Answering for the NFC are the Green Bay Packers, who enter the Super Bowl as the hotter of the two teams. Road wins over the Eagles, Falcons, and Bears as the No. 6 seed has proved they can play with anyone. That’s exactly what Mike McCarthy and the Packers will have to do when they face Pittsburgh. Just two players have Super Bowl experience, Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett, while John Kuhn holds the lone S.B. ring, when he was a practice squad member with the Steelers back in 2005.

Here’s a comparison breakdown of each offensive position and which team will hold the edge come Super Bowl Sunday. Teams will either have a neutral edge, a slight edge, or a substantial edge.

Quarterback: Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger vs. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers

One of the biggest themes over the past week has been the experience factor, and how the Steelers blow the Packers out of the water in that department. While that may or may not be the case, it’s surely worth noting at this position. The fact is Roethlisberger has been on this stage, the biggest in all of football, twice in his career, something few quarterbacks can put on their resume. Rodgers, on the other hand, has played just four playoff games.

While nothing can compare to playing in the Super Bowl, the fact that all four of Rodgers’ playoff games have been on the road gives some hope that he won’t miss a beat come Sunday. Rodgers has been surgical this post-season and will have a nice, fast, warm dome to play under in Dallas, so those elements won’t factor into his play. There may be a jitter or two from the Packers’ signal caller to begin the game, but expect Rodgers to come through Sunday like he has all season.

At the same time, experience isn’t the only thing Roethlisberger has going for him. He’s one of the elite quarterbacks in the league, is near-impossible to take down in the pocket, and excels running to his right outside the pocket. A balanced run game and three legitimate receivers (to go with the experience) gives him the slight edge over Rodgers, but this is about as close to neutral without being neutral as possible.

Running Backs: Pittsburgh’s Rashard Mendenhall and Issac Redman vs. Green Bay’s James Starks and Brandon Jackson

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February 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Slow” Finish Dooms Matthews, Finishes Second in DPOY Voting

Super Bowl XLV got itself another storyline Monday night when it was announced that Steelers’ safety Troy Polamalu, and not Packers’ linebacker Clay Matthews, was awarded with the AP Defensive Player of the Year Award.

Polamalu received 17 of the 50 nationwide votes, two more than Matthews, to take home the award.

The eighth year safety played in 14 games this season, racking up seven interceptions and 63 tackles in the process. Polamalu has long been considered the engine that makes the high-powered Pittsburgh defense run. The Steelers ranked first in the league in points per game allowed this season (14.5), first in rushing yards allowed (62.8), and 12th in passing yards allowed (214.1).

Much like the Packers’ Charles Woodson, who won the award a season ago, Polamalu can be found anywhere and everywhere on the field over the course of a game, making him one of the most versatile players in the league.

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February 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Guess I was wrong on this prediction!

I’m almost out of sugar.

That’s about all I can think of to describe the first six weeks of the Packers’ 2010 campaign, which I have admittedly sugar-coated and near-“homered” when addressing the team. But after a 3-3 performance, including another uninspiring loss, this time at the hands of the Dolphins, it’s becoming more and more difficult to come up with excuses for why the Packers are not performing to the standards many thought they would.

There’s no question things could be worse, just ask Wade Phillips and the 1-4 Cowboys or Norv Turner and the 2-4 Chargers. And it’s true the Packers are just one game out of the NFC North lead and still have four division games left.

So while there’s certainly optimism the Packers can right the ship and still contend in the uninspiring NFC and even less impressive NFC North, there comes a time when expectations need to change, and that time is now: the 2010 Green Bay Packers are no longer Super Bowl contenders.

I have been as optimistic as anyone in finding positives to take from two-point wins over the Lions and three point losses in overtime and on the road, and even last week I told my readers to take a step back and assess the team in a positive light. But the weaknesses and injuries the team have sustained less than half way through the season have become too much to overcome, and what was once thought to be “the year” where all the pieces fell right into place has become a scattered jigsaw puzzle and no one to put them back in place.

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February 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment