Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Packers Playoff Loss To The Cardinals and Kurt Warner: Who to Blame?



Kurt Warner came into the Cardinals - Packers playoff game with the second-best lifetime QB rating in NFL history. Only Bart Starr is better. Did everyone forget about that?

During the Sunday pregame shows on CBS, NBC and ESPN, only one football analyst picked the Cardinals to defeat the Packers (Bill Cowher). Everyone else picked the Packers. 14 out of 15 of the so-called experts were swayed. Swayed by what? The Packers meaningless win the week before against Arizona? The Cardinals lackluster play over the last four meaningless games of their season?

And a host of Packer fans were wrong. The prevailing sentiment in the week leading up to the game was that the Packers would win going away. I kept scratching my head at that. When I predicted the Packers pulling out a close victory (31-27), I was putting on a brave face, but inside, I feared Kurt Warner. In my mind, a close win would be the best case scenario. Packer fans kept telling me it wouldn't be that close. I wanted to believe, I really did.

Yet I feared that Warner would pick apart the Packers secondary like he did the Vikings secondary in week 13, the last meaningful game the Cardinals had played. Although his numbers in that game came nowhere near those from this past weekend's spectacle, I gained a healthy respect for his decision-making and timing. Kurt Warner delivers the ball to the right receiver, at the right time and in the right spot.

Enter the Packers secondary, an injury-depleted and seemingly easily-confused mish-mosh of over-rated players and waiver-wire pickups. There, I said it. Excluding, of course, NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Charles Woodson. Can you picture the Packers secondary without him?

Certainly, Kurt Warner and Ken Wisenhunt's eyes must have popped out like Marty Feldman's when they studied Packers game films. There was plenty there for them to like. From a supposed All-Pro safety that will make the occasional big play but struggles with consistency to the infamous Jarret Bush, helplessly chasing after his man while trying to locate the ball. Throw in the suspiciously disappearing Atari Bigby, athletic but mentally unprepared Brandon Underwood, and just not NFL-caliber Matt Giordano, and there was bound to be a Cardinal party in the Packers defensive backfield.

The only hope for the Packers, of course, would be to make Kurt Warner uncomfortable. But it had to happen from the base defense, which the Packers have not been able to do against quality opponents. With the 4-5 receiver sets the Cardinals dialed up, blitzing a DB was not a good option. Blitzing another linebacker may have helped, if the Packers had a linebacker besides Clay Matthews that can get to the quarterback. Unfortunately, they don't.

Career Stats:
Barnett 15 sacks - 7 years
Hawk 8.5 sacks - 4 years
Chillar 7.5 sacks - 6 years

WIthout the ability to put real pressure on Warner, the Packers were forced to mostly play their nickel and dime packages, putting the defense's fate in the hands of the secondary. It was a lose-lose proposition.

I expected the Packers offense to be able to put up enough points to win the game, and certainly 45 points would normally qualify. And yet, it wasn't enough. Plenty of fingers are being pointed. The fault lies with Dom Capers, Aaron Rodgers turnovers, the referees, Nick Barnett, Jarret Bush, etc.

But there's really only one man to blame for this loss; The man who once before threw 5 TDs in a playoff game, the man with a 9-3 playoff record, the man with the second best playoff QB rating in NFL history; Kurt Warner, the quiet desert assassin who always saves his best for the big games.

And yes, his bust will one day reside in Canton.

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You can find more of Jersey Al Bracco’s articles on several sports websites: Jersey Al’s Blog, Packer Chatters , Packers Lounge, NFL Touchdown and Bleacher Report. Al is the Green Bay Packers Draft Correspondent for Drafttek.com

You can also follow Jersey Al on facebook and twitter.

16 comments:

  1. Great site. I just found it. I have my own blog on here as well.

    http://www.cheeseheadhq.blogspot.com

    It amazes me that with all this talk about the Packers needing to improve the offensive line, or the special teams, no one has ever discussed the secondary. It's easily one of the shakiest units on the team. I think they should definitely bring competition into TC, and Bush should not be starting next year. Keeping Woodson should be the highest priority, as he will need to keep some kind of veteran presence in the unit.

    ReplyDelete
  2. OL, LB, DB are the 3 top positional concerns, with Special teams factoring into all personnel moves, as well.

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  3. Why do you put LBs in there, above DBs. The linebackers played pretty solidly this year. Matthews was great, Barnett had a better season than I thought he would, and Brad Jones turned out to be pretty solid also. The only real dissapointment was Hawk. He didn't really play at the level everyone expected.

    Go Pack Go!

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  4. Well, they're intertwined. Another pass rushing demon like Matthews, and the DBs would have to cover receivers all day. I wouldn't necessarily say I'm putting LBs over DBs. I would be happy with a big improvement at either position with our round 2 pick.

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  5. That is a good point. It would be nice to have a LB or two who could cover receivers. Then Capers could do more of his safety and CB blitzes. Make the defense a little more unpredictable.

    Go Pack Go!

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  6. Great article. I am a huge Kurt Warner fan and it's nice to see when fans of opposing teams give him the credit he deserves. Actually, I was fearing the Packers leading up to the game, and despite the loss, I think they have a very bright future with Aaron Rodgers. To me, with the way Rodgers was playing, he should have been regarded as the most feared quarterback during the second half of the season. Anyway, back to Warner. Though the Cardinals were blown out 45-14, what most people don't realize is, is that in the 10 playoff games the Saints have had in their franchise history, Warner's completion percentage against them that day(65.4) is by far the best of any other opposing QB. And when you compare his performance to Favre's a week later vs. the same Saints team, Warner had a better passer rating and yards per attempt than Favre too. When it comes to crunch time in the playoffs, Warner is so underrated that it's sad.
    In the hisory of the NFL PLAYOFFS, here is the list of most 4th Quarter/Overtime touchdown passes by QBs to give their team the lead:
    1. Kurt Warner - 5
    2. Joe Montana - 4
    3. Terry Bradshaw - 3
    Roger Staubach - 3
    Ken Stabler - 3
    Matt Hasselbeck - 3

    Warner finished his career ranked at #1 in the PLAYOFFS in passing yards per game, completion percentage and yards per attempt (2nd in passer rating behind Bart Starr) - a lethal combination. His final win in Arizona that day also extended his mark of being undefeated at home in the playoffs (7-0) - an NFL record.

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