By Michael Felger
A few thoughts from Conference Championship Sunday.
Drive to Nowhere Part II (courtesy Bob Neumeier)
Do you think Rex Ryan and the Jets actually realized that the Patriots endless, fruitless fourth-quarter drive last week was a bad thing? Hard to tell, since they nearly did the exact same thing in Pittsburgh.
First came an eight-minute drive that started in the third quarter and ended midway through the fourth when LaDainian Tomlinson was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the Steelers 1-yard line. Next came a 10-play, 58-yard drive that took 4 minutes and 32 seconds off the clock. The second drive netted a touchdown, but the pace of the Jets offense was still maddeningly slow. They huddled. They ran. They bled the play clock. It was curious, especially after the Pats did the same thing the week before to the chagrin of everyone in New England.
That won't be the only second guess the Jets coaches will be facing today. Another will be the usage of Tomlinson. Why were they slamming him into the line in short-yardage situations late when they had Shonn Greene? And how could the Jets come out so flat in the first half with the Super Bowl on the line?
And not that it mattered, but it was interesting to see Ryan celebrate the Roethlisberger safety in the fourth quarter when it meant absolutely nothing. The Jets still needed two touchdowns.
The real hero in Green Bay, in my opinion, is general manager Ted Thompson -- and the role he played in building the roster since he was hired in 2005 is only secondary to his greatest accomplishment.
He's the one who finally said "no'' to Brett Favre.
It seems like a simple decision now, especially given Aaron Rodgers' development and how it's ended for Favre. But it was no small feat at the time. Slaying a sacred cow never is. Favre was a God in Wisconsin. He had just taken the Packers to the 2007 NFC championship game. He was considered as untouchable as anyone in sports, a guy who was allowed to hold his franchise hostage and routinely put himself above his teammates because it was HIS team.
That's how they had operated in Green Bay for years, anyway. And Thompson was the one who finally said, "enough.''
That said, I consider the Packers a dumb football team. Talented, yes. Well-schemed, absolutely. But dumb. Here are some examples from Sunday:
It's hard to overstate how bad Rodgers' interception into the arms of Brian Urlacher in the third quarter was. The Packers were leading 14-0 at the time, facing a third-and-goal from the Bears' 6-yard line. Rodgers was pressured, and a simple throw-away would have resulted in a chip-shot field goal and what would have been a virtually insurmountable 17-0 lead. Instead, Rodgers tried to force it over the middle and paid the price. Dumb.
At that point of the game, with Jay Cutler about to go out (by the way, did anyone see when he got hurt?) and the Bears relegated to Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie at quarterback, all the Packers had to do was not turn the ball over and kick it away from Devin Hester.
So what did they do? They got careless with the ball (Tramon Williams fumbled a punt late in the third quarter, which the Packers luckily recovered) and they continued to kick the ball to Hester, who got his hands on a kickoff and three punts, one of which was nullified by penalty, in the second half. Hester never hurt the Packers on any of his returns, and punter Tim Masthay nailed some beauties in this game, but the fact that Hester ever got his hands on a single ball was just dumb.
Do we even need to mention BJ Raji's Leon Lett impersonation? Or the fact that running back James Starkes inexplicably ran out of bounds with under four minutes remaining and the Bears needing to call timeouts to stop the clock? Or corner Sam Shields running with his last-second interception and nearly fumbling it away? Or the Packers inability to stop a no-name, third-year, third-string undrafted quarterback?
We won't bother. Take our word for it. The Packers do dumb things. Consistently. If they lose to Pittsburgh in two weeks it won't be because they lack talent. Or good schemes. It will because, on an individual level, they're sloppy.
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