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Passing Perfection: San Francisco Defeats Green Bay

September 9, 2012

The San Francisco 49ers are better than the Green Bay Packers, but I do not know if they are better by a 62 yard record-tying field goal or if they are eight points better or a whopping two touchdowns and and two two-point conversions better.

I do not know this because the replacement refs are terrible, failing to call false starts, failing to call pass interference, failing to call blocks in the the back (both on Green Bay and on San Francisco), failing to call any penalty on time or with any consistency.

Now, I am not saying the refs won or lost the game for either team, but what I am saying is that the relationship between the NFL front office and its locked out referees has become as toxic and dangerous as the relationship between Gustavo Fring and Walter White and the rest of us are having to deal with an inferior product--yes, football is America's acceptable version of meth--until they work out their labor disagreement or Roger Goodell goes all Pollos Hermanos and slits someone's throat like a chicken to end the work stoppage and usher in a new era of "normalcy."

Roger Gooddell threatening the referees.
So in other (more sane) words, Goodell needs the experienced refs because otherwise his product suffers: the games lack rhythm and drag on forever, players are put in harm's way, coaches are left turning blue in the face, and fans are left clueless in a world where logic is a yellow flag floating existentially through the air minutes after the penalty that launched it into the air no longer has any relevance because it happened several plays prior, on another team's possession, perhaps even in another game, in another time zone, maybe not even this decade or on this continent.

As for the 49ers and the Packers and what can be said for each of them after today's game, San Francisco is the most well-rounded team in the NFC. Their defense does not intimidate the way an old Baltimore Ravens or Chicago Bears defense might, but it lacks any glaring weaknesses and appears to always achieve more than its individual parts. The Packers' defense on the other hand is the exact opposite. BJ Raji and Clay Matthews are featured in national commercials and Charles Woodson is revered by announcers everywhere but this unit is the equivalent of a solid gold piss pot that even mediocre offenses are unafraid to drop trow on.

But, as a Packer fan, the defense's lack of dramatic improvement is not what worries me. What worries me is Aaron Rodgers and the burden the defense has placed on the offense. Unlike San Francisco, whose offense more so than last year is well balanced and can dictate through its running game the overall length of the game, Green Bay relies strictly on the pass and has done so pretty much all of Mike McCarthy's tenure as head coach. So far, in six seasons, this strategy of running just enough has not posed many problems. The team has won a Super Bowl, reached two NFC championship games, and made four Playoff appearances. In terms of accomplishments McCarthy's first six seasons as head coach put him on a plane with both Lombardi and Holmgren, which is to say he might as well be canonized.

The problem, however, is that Green Bay's defense on a good or bad day from its offense is always exposed. If Green Bay scores, it's a lightning strike and the defense is immediately back on the field. If Green Bay does not score, then it's a three and out or a turnover and the defense is immediately back on the field. Last year, the former was the issue because Aaron Rodgers and his bevy of weapons were unstoppable, running bombing routes over other teams' secondaries as if they were countries without air forces. That is they did so until they ran into the New York Giants in the NFC Divisional round, were pushed around at the line of scrimmage, and suffered from a series of drops and timing issues. Replace "the New York Giants" in that last sentence with the San Francisco 49ers and you would have a summary of today's game minus the horrendous refereeing that affected both sides.

Green Bay will most likely have a very successful season. I still expect them to make the Playoffs and to be a contender in the NFC, but today made it very clear that a run such as last year's 15-1 regular season is not a realistic expectation for this team. The defense has not improved, although the possibility still exists that it could, and the offense appears to be slowing down, still telling time, but gradually, ever so gradually, winding down, losing the tics and tocs that once made it precise, until one day everything will just stop. After all, after two home losses to two NFC rivals, one has to wonder if a blueprint is developing on how to slow this team or if they are simply beating themselves.

Either way, the day when Aaron Rodgers and this offense are rendered completely ineffective is still a long ways off, but for the sake of honesty, it may be appropriate to confess, as a Packer fan, that while this group is still to be feared they may never reach the level of play that won 19 straight games, including a Super Bowl and three straight road games in the Playoffs, ever again, at least not for that extended period of time, when they made every possession look like a Madden highlight reel. And if that's so, now may be the time to recognize just how miraculous that stretch was, because only a few other offenses in history have ever rolled quite like that. And Aaron Rodgers and company did it with the added weight of knowing that if they did not score the other team surely would.

1 comments:

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February 19, 2013 at 4:48 PM

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