NFCN Report – Week 2

Near the end of the Packers 27-17 come from behind win against the Seahawks Sunday night it was announced that the attendance record of 78,431 at Lambeau Field was surpassed by two. Whether Packers officials counted Eddie Lacy and Josh Boyd as spectators isn’t something we can be too sure about. Both left the game with injuries and did not return. Lacy’s injury was of the ankle turning variety, perfectly captured by NBC’s cameras. Initial word is he’ll be out two to four weeks. Boyd’s injury was more of the get down on one knee and pray for the guy. It was not captured by cameras, but all of football America did catch Boyd in tears as he was carted off by a Packers vehicle probably in need of 3,000 mile tune-up with all the work it has had this season.

Eddie Lacy Cart

Lacy had three carries before his early game injury

Besides Lacy and Boyd, the cart took Davante Adams off the field with what looked like an ankle injury. Adams’s foot/ankle was mummified and he bravely returned to the game. He was clearly favoring the injury for the rest of the game and his status for next week will likely be day-to-day.

So, the question millions of Packers fans are asking themselves is clear:

WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?

The injury list of Packer players is becoming a concern. The last Super Bowl the Packers won was an injury riddled year. 16 players were on injured reserve and/or the PUP list that year. This team is on its way to that number, but are they on their way to a Super Bowl?

The answer lies in the team’s depth and Sunday there was an affirmative answer from a few replacements. One position that many, including this barkeeper, thought was going to be a negative – right tackle – came through positive results. Don Barclay took injured Bryan Bulaga’s place and those who had seen Barclay play in the preseason dropped to their knees in prayer. The last time Barclay was asked to protect the Wisconsin wonder Rodgers was sacked in the end zone by a Pittsburgh Steeler Barclay should have been blocking and Rodgers was immediately removed from the game with a bruise to his right arm.

Entering the Seahawks redemption game, thoughts of Rodgers riding the now infamous cart into the tunnel were fought off by the faithful fandom. But it was Barclay and the rest of the offensive lineman who were doing the real fighting, holding off the feisty Seahawk front four and occasional blitz to a respectable sack total of two. Although, the phenomenal footwork of Rodgers was as much, or more, of an asset in his protection.

After the game, Rodgers took a jab at Russell Wilson by saying God was on the Packers side Sunday night. Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

After the game, Rodgers took a jab at Russell Wilson by saying God was on the Packers side Sunday night. Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

The depth issue was tested at running back and unsurprisingly James Starks responded with 95 yards on 20 carries. And, it was tested again at wide receiver where a rookie named Ty Montgomery responded with four key catches in the second half to help sustain drives; tested at the linebacker position as Nate Palmer replaced Sam Barrington who was is out for the season after an opening week injury. Palmer is under no consideration for Green Bay’s Ring of Honor. He’s more of a square peg in a round hole. Moved into the inside linebacker position at the end of his rookie season in 2013, Palmer never got the chance to work on the ins and outs of the position because he was lost to the team after suffering a torn MCL in the 2014 preseason finale. Palmer is an experiment. One that, at least against Seattle, has a barely acceptable success rate.

Can the Packers team sustain division championship success if that dreaded cart continues to carry bodies off the field and into the infirmary?

We know that the Lions can not. The early season loss of DeAndre Levy is tormenting their defense. His absence helped the Vikings returned from exile running back, Adrian Peterson, look perfectly at home rushing for 134 of the team’s 199 rushing yards. Levy is this team’s defensive Aaron Rodgers. Some might say it was Ndamukong Suh. I would say the drop off from Suh to Haloti Ngata, while substantial, isn’t as steep as Levy to the trio of linebackers defensive coach Teryl Austin trotted out to replace him. It’s why in the offseason the Lions locked up Levy over the next five season for $37 million.

Trust me when I say this: I saw the Lions defensive line work against the Vikings rickety offensive line… it was not good. On one Peterson run – a 25 yard scamper – Jermelle Cudjo and Gabe Wright looked super-rickety. But, the key to this defense reaching respectability begins with the return of Levy.

Also trust me when I say, no improvement in the defense short of a shutting out opponents will win games with the offense the Lions have. And, while there are problems almost everywhere the finger-pointing starts at offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. There’s an NFL Films tribute to his world-famous grandfather that poetically begins:

Lombardi. A certain magic still lingers in the very name.

If a Detroit Lions fan were to film a Joe Lombardi tribute those words would be manipulated to say:

Lombardi. Get his fucking ass out of town. Now.

Lombardi might become Detroit's greatest flop since the Edsel

Lombardi might become Detroit’s greatest flop since the Edsel

There is a growing hatred of the man calling the plays in Detroit. The reason lies, in part, because the Lions had only 16 runs Sunday against the Vikings. Six of those runs belonged to Ameer Abdullah, a player deserving of much more love. Just six days earlier the 49ers ran for 230 yards on the Vikings. God created the universe in six days but the Vikings defense didn’t create a run defense that was 192 yards better in six days. Lombardi has a role which is why he’s becoming satan-like in Detroit.

Mathew Stafford was the team’s leading rusher, which is understandable since the quarterback was running for his precious life. Blame Lombardi all you want, Lions fans, but save some animosity for the team’s offensive line. Right tackle Cornelious Lucas and right guard Larry Warford were wrong all day. Both were equally bad at run and pass blocking. On the left side of the line, Riley Reiff’s pass blocking grade from ProFootballFocus.com (the player performance grading website) is – like all negative grades – in red, but his was a distinct blood red. Stafford was only sacked once. But at the end of the game he went in for X-rays of his ribs and chest an indication that the Vikings pass rush was penetrating like gamma rays.

Stafford was hit eight times, hurried 17 times and X-rayed at least twice

Stafford was hit eight times, hurried 17 times and X-rayed at least twice

The Lions team is in trouble and far from a threat to the Green Bay Packers NFCN dominance.

But, what of the Vikings? Can an almost perfectly healthy Minnesota Vikings team compete for the division title against a perfectly banged up Green Bay Packers team? (Consider Rodgers being healthy in this hypothetical.) That’s the emerging narrative of the 2015 NFCN season.

If you saw the Vikings’ first offering of the 2015 season, against the 49ers, then the answer is HELL NO.

If you saw the Vikings’ second offering of the season – the one with Adrian Peterson carrying the pig 29 times, Teddy Bridgewater playing efficiently and eliciting peace and love from Mike Zimmer, and a defense playing in a zone (and proper time zone) – then the answer is an unequivocal maybe.

Peterson had 192 of the Vikings' 350 offensive yards

Peterson had 192 of the Vikings’ 350 offensive yards

The Vikings still need to develop their confidence, their consistency, their championship timbre. The Packers, on the other hand, only need to develop safety precautions.

The Bears are out of the division championship consideration equation. Their most important and upcoming consideration is whom they will draft with the first, second, third or fourth pick of the 2016 draft. It looked that bad against the Cardinals on Sunday. For the gory details of Bruce Arians sticking it to the team that left him at the alter see the haunting details I captured here. 

The upstart Vikings and injury-prone Packers. The division race – appears – after two weeks to be about them.

 

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Aldo Gandia

Aldo Gandia

Among my career highlights I have produced two films while in high school that received nationwide attention; leaned out of a helicopter over the Gulf of Suez at the age of 20 to shoot movies of oil rigs; won an Emmy award for a sports special and another for a kid's fitness show; and led a team of very talented creative professionals to produce break-through corporate communications.


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