The (regular) season in review

Playoffs! Who saw this coming at midyear? The Packers are as hot as anyone going into January, and you have to like their chances in their third Arizona match-up with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Anquan Boldin no better than questionable for the game. There was some concern about how the Packer secondary would hold up against the formidable Cardinal passing game, but with a gimpy Boldin, Capers should have an easier time hiding the weak cornerback situation.

Oh, the game today? Well, there's really not much to say: Rodgers-Cromartie got hurt, and Arizona yanked Warner. We then saw Matt Leinart play and understood their caution: without Warner, they're toast, and with Warner in his late-30s, they opted to play it safe. And to be perfectly fair, that was probably the best course of action for the boom-or-bust Cardinals, just as playing for the win was the best option for a streaky Green Bay team. Outside of that bit of insight, there wasn't much to take from the game, as it was little more than a preseason game that actually counts.
However, with the regular season now over, let's look back on the 2009 season:

Sacked in good company
: Aaron Rodgers ended up with 50 sacks this season, tying Ben Roethlisburger for most in the league and giving him the all-time Packer record. A quick look at the QBs he overtook:
Most Times Sacked, Season
  • 47, Don Majkowski, 1989
  • 42, Bart Starr, 1964
  • 40, Lynn Dickey, 1981
  • 40, Lynn Dickey, 1983
  • 40, Brett Favre, 1996

Not bad company, right? Brett Favre in an MVP/Super Bowl year, Majik in his best season, Bart Starr in a year he led the league in completion percentage, and the 1983 Lynn Dickey led the league in passing yardage. I scoured the stats hoping to find some indication that sacks ultimately don't make a big difference in the grand scheme of things, but that simply wasn't the case: a disproportionate number of the sacks taken by each player came in their losses, Rodgers included. Perhaps the sacks came against better defensive lines, and were a byproduct of each QB standing firm in the pocket, patiently waiting for the perfect throwing opportunity. Its hard to say, but its interesting that these years were successful seasons for the players in spite of their being on the ground a lot.

Three numbers for you: 30, 10 and 11. The first two are the number of interceptions and fumble recoveries the defense has logged, and the third is the number of giveaways the offense committed. The math? Green Bay led the league with a +29 turnover ratio. If you're wondering how they overcame all those sacks and penalties (which they also led the league in), look no further than the turnovers on both sides of the ball. And while I didn't look at the entire league, a quick glance at Packer history says that in their 12 league championships, they led the league in turnover ratio in 6 of them. Just throwing that out there...

Pick-6x3: Packers play-by-play man Wayne Larrivee tends to get caught up in the moment. A lot. There have been games where so many daggers have been stuck in the Packers' opponent that you start to picture an unfortunate voodoo doll. However, when Wayne called Charles Woodson the Defensive Player of the Year after he took a Leinart pass into the endzone, he was dead on. You can make a case for Darrelle Revis, but he's a shutdown corner, and nothing else. I don't mean to cheapen that quality in any way--he's probably the best cover man in the NFL--but Woodson plays the run as well as he covers a receiver, and I've seen him jump routes on receivers he wasn't even covering. 74 tackles, nine INTs, four fumbles forced, three touchdowns, two sacks, and a partridge in a pear tree. The man is enjoying the finest season of his career, and he deserves it. Good call, Wayne.

Another award: Clay Matthews III should get Defensive Rookie of the Year. Am I biased? Probably. But you have to understand that his sack total is only half of the story. You've been watching the games. Think about how many holding calls he's drawn--including the one in Arizona that resulted in the safety. He disrupts the rhythm of every offense he goes up against, and unfortunately there's really no statistic that can accurately measure that. The award will likely go to Brian Cushing, his former USC teammate now in Houston, but CM3 is equally deserving.

The Tauscher effect: Another player whose value cannot be directly measured with stats: Mark Tauscher. There are a number of ways to explain Rodgers rapid decrease in sacks as the season wore on. Maybe it was the "come to Jesus" meeting, maybe Rodgers is doing a better job of getting rid of the ball today than he was in the beginning of the year, maybe the offensive line just needed to play several games together to really click. But consider this: 20 of the 50 sacks allowed came in the four games before Tauscher was resigned, and in the eight games he started 15 sacks were allowed. This includes the six-sack Tampa game, in which he played sparingly before suffering an injury.

My reading of this? The line sorely needed veteran leadership, something Chad Clifton seems to lack, and Mark Tauscher brought it to the table. And I'm glad he was brought back, for more than just the leadership aspect. It just wouldn't have seemed right for him to play with another team--in a way, it would've been worse than the Favre situation. He's a home grown product from Marshfield who played collegiately at UW-Madison and has played his entire NFL career in Green Bay. He belongs in this state.

Mark Tauscher, you are Wisconsin sports. The Tap salutes you.