Packers Win…Barely

For the first time in Aaron Rodgers’ career as a starting quarterback, the Green Bay Packers overcame a 15 point or greater deficit yesterday to beat the New York Jets. Before yesterday, neither Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers had overcome such a deficit, in fact the only quarterback for Green Bay to accomplish that was Matt Flynn (last year vs the Cowboys).

For as bad as the start of the game was, the Green Bay Packers were able to show some resilience and pull out the win. The Jets made a couple of huge mistakes, one being calling a timeout on a in which they scored a touchdown, that allowed the Packers to get back in the game and ultimately get the victory.

While the result is what we had all hoped for, through two games this team does not look like the Super Bowl contender many had thought they were. Seattle was always going to be difficult, but the effort at the start of yesterday’s game was alarming. The offense looked lost and the defense porous. With that being said, the 97 yard drive before halftime seemed to ignite the team. Everything seemed to change on that drive and the Packers looked sharp and efficient on both sides of the ball in the second half.

The season is only two games old and we cannot jump to any conclusions, but I am encouraged by the way the team bounced back from a very rocky start. It would be easy to be 0-2, but the Packers were able to win an important game early on the schedule. Two divisional road games loom and entering those at .500 as opposed to 0-2 is a big deal. I wouldn’t term the 97 yard drive as “season defining,” but I do think it was important.

Let’s see if the Packers can take the momentum and get a win in Detroit this Sunday.

Brewers Season Hits Rock Bottom

Well, the feared West Coast Road Trip seemed to have completely taken the life out of the Milwaukee Brewers this season. After losing two of three in San Diego, then getting swept out of San Francisco, the team has entered a tailspin that does not seem to have an end.

With only a couple of weeks left in the season, the Brewers find themselves in a hole. After being in the Division/Wild Card position for months, the Brewers are on the outside looking in. Normally, being a couple games out of the wild card with about 20 left to go in the season would not be that bad, but given the way the Brewers are playing, it seems like am insurmountable deficit.

Unfortunately for Milwaukee, the pitching has completely fallen apart. Aside from Mike Fiers, this starting rotation seems lost. Last night, K-Rod gave up some of the most important runs of the year and at this point it does not seem like there is a pitcher on the team with any confidence.

As has been the case since early August, timely hitting has been a huge issue. However, given the deficits that this team has faced in the last 12 games, it is unlikely that one or two big hits would have had much of an impact. Still, the inability for the Brewers to score last night with the bases loaded and nobody out in the eighth is a microcosm of this season.

I think the most disappointing aspect of this September slide is the fact that no player has emerged as a genuine leader. Even the manager has seemed content to toss out meaningless statements such as, “there is a lot of time left,” and “every team has these cycles.” At some point, somebody needs to stand up and rally the team. After Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals, Roenicke indicated that nobody on the team is a vocal leader. That is not a good thing.

I think that if the Brewers miss the post season, a serious evaluation of the managing staff and the front office needs to take place. The Brewers were 19 games over .500 at one point this season, and to miss the playoffs is borderline unacceptable. I am not saying it is a fireable offense, but it is damn close.

Every team will have a rough stretch or two in the season. Playoff teams are able to minimize the damage and turn it around. The Brewers have not been able to minimize the damage and there is no sign that they are anywhere close to turning this around. As a result, it would not be shocking if this team did not make the playoffs, at this point staying above .500 seems like a 50/50 shot.

Brewers Win Game One on the West Coast Trip

As we discussed yesterday, one of the most frustrating issues with this Brewers team is their inconsistency. The fact that they scored ten runs last night, after scoring eight in the entire Pirate series, just proves that point. Regardless, it was nice to see the offense click once again. Apparently this team likes the West Coast. They have played some of their best baseball on the road against NL West opponents. I am not sure what to make of that. This may be the only team from Wisconsin that plays well in the Pacific time zone.

It was great to see Kyle Lohse back and healthy once again. After tweaking his ankle, the Brewers game him some time off and he appeared to pick up right where he left off. He will be a big part of this rotation as we move toward the playoffs.

The Time is Now for the Milwaukee Brewers

If at the start of the season, somebody would have told me the Brewers would have a 1.5 game lead on August 25th, I would have been ecstatic. However, given the tremendous start to the season, this lead feels almost disappointing. The Brewers were cruising through the first half of the season, with the Cardinals trailing fairly far behind. The division lead was at a comfortable number, five or so for most of the time, and the pitching staff was throwing the ball really well. It seemed as though the Brewers had this on cruise control, and for a while, an chance to play in October seemed very likely.

The July happened. The lead vanished and the Cardinals caught up. We should not be overly surprised. This type of fluctuation is what happens with a streaky team. Success can very easily be followed by a prolonged slump. Unfortunately for the Brewers, the high water mark of the season was in early May. Since then, the Brewers have retreated and the rest of the NL Central has caught up. Now the Brewers are in the midst of pennant race. Every game has playoff implications, and unfortunately for Milwaukee, last night they boarded a plane for the West Coast.

This upcoming road trip could be the turning point of the season. A nine game road trip with six on the West Coast and no days off will tell us a lot about the make up of this team. The dog days of summer are behind us and the playoff push has arrived. Three games in San Diego, San Francisco and another series in Chicago (weren’t we just there?) now loom large. For the Brewers, this could be the “make or break” road trip.

After this nine game road trip, the Brewers will face off in what will be a very important home series against the Cardinals. If the Brewers area able to play around .500 base ball on the road, that series could very well be for first place in the Central. That series against the Cards will be the first of seven games against them in a span of only two weeks. The point here is, it would be nice to maintain a lead in the division prior to entering that stretch. The Cardinals are the more seasoned team when it comes to post season baseball, and they will be ready for that stretch. I would much rather have a cushion than have to win those series to get back in the race. For that to happen, this road trip needs to be successful.

It has been a volatile season, but through the ups and downs, the Brewers remain in command of the Central. Their record also puts them comfortably ahead in the Wild Card standings should the Cardinals catch the Crew. Needless to say, nobody wants to play in a one game playoff, but that would be better than no post season baseball at all. The first step in avoiding that Wild Card situation is taking care of business on the road. The first month of the Brewers season was strong, let’s see if they can have bookend strong months in 2014.

Brewers Season on Brink

I am not an alarmist, especially when it comes to baseball. A lot can happen over 162 games, and so when a team hits a tough stretch, in my opinion, it is not something worth panicking over. The fact is, every team in the league will struggle this season will struggle at some point.

However, I am somewhat concerned with the fact that the Brewers have not been able to overcome this recent patch of adversity. It is unrealistic to envision a team not having a losing streak over four or five games for an entire season. Even a rough ten game stretch is to be expected. However, teams that make the playoffs stop the bleeding. At this point the Brewers have not been able to get out of this last 20 game tail spin.

That fact is concerning. This recent stretch of baseball has been very ugly. Sunday may have been a tipping point. A base running error in the top of the ninth, followed by a fielding error in the bottom of the ninth, and the Brewers lost the series to the Nationals. Ron Roenicke finally seemed to vent some frustration after the game, and maybe his message will be heard.

Again, these things (mistakes, losing streaks)happen during the course of a year. However, if the Brewers want to contend for the rest of the season, they need to stop soon. Fundamental mistakes, poor pitching, and terrible hitting; these are the necessary ingredients for a prolonged slump. Teams that struggle through prolonged slumps do not usually make the playoffs.

I am not jumping ship. The Brewers are still in first and are ten games over the .500 mark. For late July, those are quite the accomplishments. However, if they cannot improve quickly, our playoff run might be over by the first Packers game.

Good Defense Beats Good Offense

Last night was a great indication of what it takes to win a Super Bowl. The Seattle Seahawks won their first Super Bowl Championship on the back of their stifling defense. They made Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos look awful. That was not something many people expected to happen in this game. Many, including myself, thought this would be a close game. We were wrong.

It is evident that the key to winning a Super Bowl is a reliable defense. The Seattle offense was not overpowering by any means last night, but the fact is, they did not have to be. Their defense dominated, and essentially required the offense to score nine points. In reality, the defense and special teams covered that number. The offense did not have to actually produce one single point for the Seahawks to win. That is impressive.

As a Packer fan, it was abundantly clear that the Seahawks defense is on a different level. They have the ability to win games. That is something that the Packers needed their defense to do this season during Rodgers’ injury. Unfortunately for the Packers, they did not have the talent to accomplish that feat. That is where the Packers fall short. When comparing this team to the leaders in the NFC, namely the 49ers and Seahawks, the Pack are not in the same discussion when it comes to defense. That is why they continue to come up short despite a prolific offense.

Hopefully the organization watched the speed and talent on the defensive side of the ball last night. The Packers are close, and if they decide to make a move in the free agent market this off season, they may be playing in Arizona next February. If they choose to stand pat, they will watch the game just like the rest of us.