Written by: Casey Mosich
Thank you to Matt Bishop for letting me log in as him to write this! If only we were technologically advanced enough to figure out how to create a new user that is able to post a blog. One day my friends…. one day.
Please take into account as you read this blog, I am a Vikings fan through thick and thin. I called out for Tavaris Jackson to play his rookie season as Brad Johnson couldn’t throw the ball more than 15 yards down field. I cried when Randy Moss was traded away for next to nothing. I also rejoiced when he was brought back (even got the Jersey this time around, what good that did me). But as the Green Bay Packers are the recent Superbowl champions, I am forced to step out of my homeristic view of the NFC North and pay dividends where it is due. The Packers are good.. scary good.
On that note, it is two days after the most watched sporting event… oh wait, the most watched television program EVER. The Superbowl is the thing everyone is talking about, so by nature we feel obligated to add our opinion. I am here to list off 10 things I learned (or already new, but became concrete) after last Sunday’s game, including the woeful ways of my favorite hometown team. The first few may be obvious, but some may surprise you.
10. Defense wins championships: No other championship game in recent memory has exemplified this point better than the 2011 Superbowl. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers were No.’s 1 and 2, respectively, in points allowed all year. The Steelers had a half point advantage at 14.5 pts allowed per game, while the Packers were sitting at allowing only 15 pts per game. Both defenses were ranked in the top 5 of yards allowed per game (Steelers No.2, Packers No.5), and both were in the top 5 in either passing yards allowed (Packers No.5) or rushing yards allowed (Steelers No.1). Both of these teams relied heavily on their defenses while facing the top offenses from this past season in elimination play. Although the game did not stay low scoring like most the games these teams played this year, the defenses continually showed why they were the best in the NFL. Nick Collins’ early pick of Ben Roethlisberger put the Steelers in a 14-0 deficit, which is hard to overcome for any team, especially in the Superbowl, when the largest deficit faced by a winning team is still held at 10 pts. This is the largest deficit that has been overcome by a team because championship teams have championship defenses. They don’t let people score 10 more than their offense. Why do you think the ’99 Vikings had so much trouble trying to get to the big game? Last Sunday eventually led down to which offense would execute their game plan better against a tough, physical, and stifling defense.
9. Just get in to win: This marks the second time where a number 6 seed has won the Superbowl. The first you ask? That would be the ‘06 Steelers winning Superbowl XL in Detroit against the Seattle Seahawks. With salary cap restrictions, injuries, and an abundance of talent in this league, it is all about who turns it on and gets hot at the right time. The season is long, the schedule is grueling, but if you can make it through to the postseason, anyone has a shot at winning it all. Both #1 seeds were one-and-done. Both were knocked off by the 6 seeds in their respective divisions. Seedings don’t mean squat. Look for more wildcard teams in this era of longer schedules and salary caps to contend for the title.
8. Football is BY FAR, the most popular sport in America: This one seems obvious and needs no explanation. However, with my sports directors here at KVSC being hockey buffs with no large interest in the NFL, I find myself having to be reminded that I am not crazy for loving this game. With over 111,000,000 viewers, last Sunday’s game set a record for the most watched television programming ever (I guess we know why commercial spots are so expensive during the halftime intermission), and I can rest easy knowing that I am probably not the only one who cancels plans, doesn’t work, and sits for 5+ hours every Fall Sunday. (Add 3 more hours for Monday!)
7. Coaching matters: Big time. We all fuss about how we hate them, or complain about how arrogant and stupid they can be… but what do they really do? Just look at this Superbowl to see how Mike McCarthy could be the most valuable piece in Green Bay. The 2010 defensive MVP is sitting on the other side of the ball, waiting for his internal radar to tell him where exactly that ball is going to be. At a key moment, he finds the ball and nabs it out of the air, taking it out of reach from your receiver. Remember the moment in the game when Troy Polamalu came screaming across the field and…. got burned? Kudos McCarthy. He rendered Polamalu irrelevant to the outcome of the game. Granted, players needed to execute, but we will talk more about that later. It was up to McCarthy and his staff to beat the Steelers defense and shut down Ben Roethlisberger. Knowing that the brain under all the hair playing safety (Polamalu) works a lot off of instinct, they purposefully lined Greg Jenning up in the slot to get key matchups in the secondary. They took advantage of one of Troy Polamalu’s weaknesses. Once Polamalu jumped the post route he thought Jennings was running, Rodgers immediately turned and threw the corner route, leading to an amazing touchdown for Green Bay. Greg Jennings:2, Troy Polamalu:0. Overall the whole game plan by the Green Bay coaching staff was effective. They were going to make Rashard Mendenhall beat them on the ground. By dropping back, they opened up some running lanes off the line, but gave Big Ben trouble all night long throwing the ball. Good coaching gets the best out of players, and we saw just what the Packers were capable of Sunday night; torching the league’s best defense for 31 points.
6. The Vikings don’t draft as well as everybody thinks they do: Being the rube that I am, I have to look at my own team after the big game. Now, it does take time to develop sure-fire, everyday starters in this league. But after a few years, looking back at the Vikings’ draft classes, they don’t look very good. Everyone praises Rick Spielman and even Brad Childress for the personnel they bring to the team. But who really do they bring? Players like Toby Gearhart as a second round pick to be a backup running back? Wasn’t the reason why we had Chestor Taylor in on 3rd downs and important plays because Adrian Peterson was too young and could not recognize the blitz? So now in his absence you are going to use a 2nd rounder on another guy who is in the same position? Sorry. That is a rant for a different time. Just look at the 2008 draft class for the Vikings. Tyrell Johnson, John David Booty, Letroy Guion, John Sullivan,and Jaymar Johnson. None have produced on the field as efficiently as they should. The argument is well, we got Percy Harvin, we got Adrian Peterson. If the best college running back in recent history fell to me at the 7th round draft pick I would be stupid not to pick him. If the most athletic player and arguably the best receiver in the draft fell to me at the 22nd position in the draft I would be stupid not to pick him. Get my point? This personnel staff can pull the trigger on guys who have unbelievable talent, but have trouble evaluating and bringing in guys that make up the bulk of your team. That is why the packers are so good. Last year’s draft class produced Bryan Bulaga, Andrew Quarless, and James Starks, all three starters in Superbowl XLV. Not to mention Morgan Burnett, a stud safety who got hurt in the 4th game of the season. What about the year before that? The first two picks were used on B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews. The year before that brought Jeremicheal Finley and Jordy Nelson to the team. Get my point? The Packers Ted Thompson is one of the best in the business at finding and replenishing young talent on his team. The Vikings haven’t had a legitimate quarterback since Fran Tarkenton. Now with an old and depleted offensive line, an old and depleted defensive line, one old and the rest depleted secondary, the Vikings are far from having a complete team.
5. The running of the football era has passed: 6 of the top 10 teams rushing the football didn’t make the playoffs. Of the 4 who did, 3 lost in the first round. 5 of the 10 worst teams rushing the football made the playoffs. One of them one the Superbowl. In this pass happy league, throwing the football is what everyone is concerned about, including the fans. Did anyone like watch Kansas City’s No. 1 rushing offense this year? Unless you are from Kansas, chances are you did not because of their 30th rank in the passing offense category. Those offenses are boring to the average football fan. Personally I love looking at the lineman get gritty and seeing holes open (followed by yelling because the average running back misses them). The Packers rushed the ball for 50 total yards in Sunday’s game. Aaron Rodgers threw for over 300. I credit that to the game plan. This team and Mike McCarthy knew they couldn’t run against this defense. When they faced the Falcons 3 weeks earlier they knew they couldn’t run as well. But they kept trying, something that you need to do as a team to establish your offense. Without handing off the rock, the play-action is ineffective (unless your name is Kurt Warner), and the ability of the linebackers to drop right into pass coverage overwhelms a spread offense. I commend the Packers for handing it off on 1st and 2nd down, knowing they were going to get stuffed. But the last few teams that have won the Superbowl have not done it on the backs of their players that rush the ball. In the last last 8 years, a Superbowl MVP has either been a receiver or quarterback. The last time a running back won the MVP? Terrell Davis is 1998. Don’t expect that to change.
4. The Vikings will not compete for a Superbowl for atleast 3 years (most likely more, but I am optimistic): Pride aside, this is the case. No need explaining it. I feel like I already have. No quarterback, no offensive line, ageing defensive line, no future secondary, and not enough draft picks to work with this year to replenish any of these positions properly. I don’t expect a move to L.A. (nor do I want it)… but would it kill us?
3. The NFC is better than the AFC: The last 3 of 4 Superbowls have been won by the NFC. I remember a poll on ESPN.com the year of the then undefeated New England Patriots. The Poll asked, “How many years will it be before the NFC wins the Superbowl? A)1 B)3 C)5 D)10+.” Well isn’t karma a son of a gun. With over 60% voting for C or D, the Giants upset the Patriots and claim host to the first NFC victory in 4 years. The AFC has a lot of top tier teams, but the NFC consistently has been performing better in the postseason the last few years. With young emerging stars and teams like the Packers and Buccaneers, look for the NFC’s continued dominance in the Superbowl (and Probowl).
2. Aaron Rodgers is an elite quarterback: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Aaron Rodgers? After this year and for years to come, the answer is Aaron Rodgers. The Packers faced what technically could be viewed as a 6 game playoff schedule. In a must win situation since week 16 of the regular season, Aaron Rodgers threw for 1,722 yds, 14 td’s, and 3 int. That is the definition of clutch. Being surrounded by one of the best receiving corps in the NFL certainly helps, but this guy knows what to do with the football. I remember watching Daunte Culpepper play for the Vikings. Every time he would drop back I would shut my eyes and fold my hands, praying for him to not throw an interception. With Aaron Rodgers, it is just the opposite. I close my eyes and fold my hands, praying that he won’t throw another touchdown against my team. With a 65% completion rate, Aaron Rodgers has replaced the gold throne in Green Bay left by the old No. 4.
1a. The Packers are good… scary good: Back to my main point. The Packers are only getting better. They are one of the youngest teams in the NFL today. They have no big contractual issues with any of their players this year, and mostly everyone should be returning. Add players who are already on the roster that are expected to be back from injury like Jeremicheal Finley, Jason Spitz, and Ryan Grant, and the Packers just improved every aspect of their offense. Then on top of all of that, you have the draft and potential free agent signings. The Packers could make legitimate runs at the Superbowl for many years to come. The young nucleus on this team is surpassed by no other team in talent.
1b. The entertainment committee for the Superbowl needs to be fired: This should not need any more explaining if you watched the Superbowl. Not just the halftime show, but the ridiculous, outlandish, crude and tasteless commercials were the worst I have ever seen during the game. The Black Eyed Pees were a good idea, but someone should have seen the rehearsals and gone, “wait, wait, wait…” My local band could have provided more energy and possesses more vocal talent than was displayed there. And don’t get me started on the National Anthem debacle. All I will say is it happens. I mean, I don’t get paid thousands of dollars to sing one song, but hey, it happens.
This whole article may sound like I have blissfully fallen in love with a hated, bitter rival. All I can do is point out the facts and express my own frustrations with the outcomes and consequences of decisions that have happened years ago and continue today. Aaron Rodgers is only one concussion away from never playing again unfortunately. However, I must and I will give respect where it is due. I have paid my dividends for this season now, so next year I am free of guilt and karma will be in my favor (hopefully). Congrats Packer fans. Our state is better.