Four Downs: Packers-Eagles preview
Four Downs usually looks mostly at the Packers’ next opponent, in this case the Oregon Ducks Philadelphia Eagles. This week we’re looking inward, for reasons that are obvious and sad. If you want, leave your comments here or at our Facebook page.
1. Look, we’re not sure why it happens either, why it so often comes back to Jurassic Park for us, we just know that it does. When trying to think of a way to think about the nightmare scenario that is losing Aaron Rodgers for the Green Bay Packers, this is what we thought of: power.
Not the type over-cologne-ed, saggy politicians can wield for fun. The kind that, well, powers stuff. The kind you can’t possibly think about enough during a given day in comparison to how important it is, and, finally, the kind that, when lost, is impossible not to think about. In Jurassic Park’s case, losing power and the electricity on the island meant losing the protection of very-high fences and cages. Their loss of power meant a loss of control, and, during a tropical mega-storm, they had to deal with un-caged Velociraptors and a Tyrannosaurus Rex – and by “deal with” we mean had to try and avoid being eaten by or otherwise destroyed at the claws of these things.
Of course, nobody is in any danger of that sort, here. Rodgers has a broken collarbone and by many accounts should be eligible to return sometime this season. But this idea of power and having it, then suddenly not, is just something that one doesn’t concern themselves with, not really, until it becomes absolutely and abruptly vital to one’s survival.
Were the Packers prepared for the loss of Rodgers, you’ll hear asked, or should they bring in someone else to play quarterback, which is possible, and both valid-enough questions. This is, again, the doomsday device for Green Bay somehow getting tripped over and set off. As fans, we need to scramble a bit to try making sense of this oncoming, unforeseen reality by discussing things other than broken, medical truths.
So were the Packers prepared to play without Rodgers? Who could be, and why? Why would Seneca Wallace be getting more than four-or-however-many snaps in practice when he’s not starting? Were John Hammond and his merry group of dinosaur-interested folks (and the blood-sucking lawyer) in JP prepared for the loss of power and the ensuing fight for their lives? Of course not, because what can anyone do other than practice for the hypothetical, at best?
And maybe they could’ve practiced with Wallace more, sure, but until power is actually lost, there’s no way to prepare for an oncoming startled and hungry T-Rex. There’s no way to go on without Rodgers now that he’s gone, other than to simply begin figuring things out from here, until the power’s back.
(It also means that, as far as reflection goes, losing Rodgers hurts as much as we knew it would, and that while it’s difficult not to sometimes, as he came out for start after start, he just can’t be taken for granted.)
2. The only other option is to be eaten. By their schedule we mean, which, although doesn’t look incredibly difficult until that Thanksgiving meeting with the Detroit Lions, certainly looks more treacherous now because what doesn’t? The Packers may need to resort to some strange evolution of Big Ten football, the kind Wisconsin smushes into their opponents’ collective faces week after week, season after season and coach after coach. Running a lot, relatively simple throws at the right times and good-enough defense – it’s certainly not an exact comparison, but the Badgers do this thing always to aid the quarterback, and it doesn’t take a smart person to surmise that Green Bay, with Wallace, could aim to do something sort of the same to help their own.
And while we’re here, on Wallace: it’s as Rodgers said in his heartfelt and must-listen-to interview with Jason Wilde this Tuesday – fans need to throw their support behind the journeyman signal-caller. This is not what anyone wants, but outward negativity and a quick trigger with it will not help the already-uncomfortable, scrambled proceedings in Green Bay. It might not – hell, probably won’t – be pretty all the time or even often, but Sunday’s game against Philadelphia will at least see Wallace going in with a full week of first-team practice, and a little less surprise, before his first snap.
3. Because the other thing about the aforementioned Rodgers interview: his emotional response, saying returning to the sidelines on Monday night to the reception he got was one of the top five moments of his career, beautifully shows what fan support can mean to a player. A player, mind you, that’s as important as anyone to the city and knows this despite his modesty. If anyone is used to, or has gotten used to, being cheered for essentially any and all the things he’s given Packers fans over these years, Aaron Rodgers is on that short list. So for him to say what we said, the way he said it, again highlights the meaning of fans, Packers fans especially, and the potential impact we can have on these other humans we treat as heroes, but are regular humans (with not-regular talents) nonetheless.
That’s the nutshell. This is uncharted territory. It is the last, outermost island in the chain, as far off the coast of an ideal situation as possible, and of course Wallace knows this. That’s why Wallace first, and if anyone comes after, needs our support as fans in doing a job nobody wants them to be doing.
4. There’s also another professional team mixed up in this, we’ve heard. Chip Kelly runs his take on an offense – when going full-bore, essentially the equivalent of freebasing lightning – mastered at the University of Oregon with the Ducks, now with the Eagles. They’re third in the league in rushing yards – behind the no-this-is-not-a-typo No. 2 Packers – getting 147.9 yards on the ground per game. LeSean McCoy is shiftier and faster than Matt Forte, meaning whatever didn’t work (tackling, for one) against the Bears run game certainly won’t work here, either. Against our old friend Charles Woodson and the Oakland Raiders, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles threw seven touchdowns passes, and our brain cannot analyze this number further without risking blindness.
Green Bay’s defense has been different this season. Less turnovers forced, less reliance on that or bust, better against the run – just more stout in general, really, according to our un-scientific eyeballs. Against Chicago they were decent in spots but ultimately couldn’t get off the field or make a play to give themselves a chance to win the game. For the season, though, Green Bay has been solid on third downs (allowing conversions 36.7 percent of the time) and against the run, though it’d be good to see their current yards allowed per carry average (4.0) dip under four. It’s the pass defense, giving up 7.5 yards per attempt, that needs to find ways to disrupt route-runners. They could be aided with the addition of Clay Matthews and/or Nick Perry on Sunday, which of course would be huge.
Lastly, Philadelphia statistically has the worst pass defense in the NFL, surrendering 307.6 yards through the air per game. We’re just saying: statistically-speaking, Wallace isn’t starting against a defensive juggernaut, here, though he’ll need better protection than he got Monday.
But really, it’s about the Eagles in that every opponent until Rodgers returns looks like a more beautiful, deadlier addition to the regular season schedule. The threat to the long-term health of the Packers’ 2013 season is, as it always goes in this game, the season itself.
(On the following scale: Ted Thompson is a tough guy to read. In an attempt to pay homage to his flat style of delivery, we will couple our pick with a 1-5 rating scale of our confidence translated into Thompson Confidence, which, we feel, is just as ultimately silly and tough to derive meaning from as choosing a score.)
Honorary Ted Thompson ‘I feel confident’ scale of confidence: 2.01 ‘I feel confident’-s out of 5.