Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Spark from Starks

Of all the fun things to watch in Sunday’s game against the 49ers, seeing James Starks doing some damage was the highlight for me.  The usual positives you expect from the Packers were all present – another superlative 300-yard, 3-TD, interception-free day from Rodgers; big plays from Jennings and Driver; and a smothering defense that excels at keeping opponents out of the end zone.

But one aspect of the Packers game we’ve become conditioned not to expect is an effective running game.  Although the Packers' running backs combined were still held just under 100 yards, James Starks provided a spark we really haven’t seen in the running game since maybe the Redskins game.  Despite riding the PUP for most of the season, maybe Thompson's instincts were right in holding a place for Starks.  There were several things that stood out about the rookie’s NFL debut:

  • First, he’s big.  The Packers list him at 6-2, but he looked taller than Rodgers (also listed at 6-2) to me – he definitely has an inch or two on all the receivers.
  • Second, he’s physical.  Despite the oft-criticized “upright running style”, Starks finished every play falling forward for a few extra yards – showing none of the hesitation at the point of attack that have cut short so many of Jackson’s runs.
  • Third, he’s quick.  He burst into the hole assertively and was a step away from breaking a couple runs for big gains.  He finished the day with 73 yards on 18 carries – just over 4 yards per carry.

If he turns out to be what he appeared to be today (i.e. a legitimate running threat that defenses will have to account for) then he will have appeared just in the nick of time.  The game started with the same frustration in the opening drive that the Packers suffered from last week.  After easily marching down the field, the drive stalled after a first and goal from the 49ers’ 6-yard line.  Three passing plays later, Mason Crosby’s kick banged off the left upright.  It appeared the Packers were going to continue to completely abandon the run – and, consequently, be ineffective in short-yardage situations.

But as Starks’ carries increased, you could see his confidence increase, as well as the confidence of the coaches in him.  He was asked to carry 6 times on first and 10, gaining an average of 4 yards (9, 3, 2, 5, 5, and 0 yards).  His number was called on 9 of the 17 plays on the Packers’ final drive – accounting for 35 yards, including his long of 16.  And, guess what – when you can run the ball, suddenly screens and play action and everything else the Packers like to do are just that much more effective.

Beat up the dorky kid!!!
About the only thing I didn’t like about the day was the Packers’ throw-back uniforms.  Don’t get me wrong – the blue jerseys with the yellow circle are cool.  It’s just that how much more Packer paraphernalia can I own, for Christ’s sake???  Just when you thought there was nothing left to buy at the Packer Pro Shop, along come these damn throw-back jerseys that instantly rocketed to the top of my kids’ Christmas lists.  We know what you’re up to, Mark Murphy.  What… a home and away jersey at $80 a pop isn’t enough for you?  We need to get the “third jersey” now too?!?  Bastard.  Shockingly, it's the "featured product" in the online store.

The brown faux-leather helmets were a bit of a stretch, though.  And the sideline beanie complete with pompon was downright dorky.  I’ve seen kids get beat up fashion offenses lesser than this.  It’s the kind of hat your mom insists you wear, along with a blaze orange scarf, mismatched mittens and snow boots lined with Wonder bread bags… hypothetically, of course.  If you’re going to do throw-back hats, get something regionally resonant to Northeastern Wisconsin – like this authentic badger pelt hat, which comes with a free shotgun when you buy two.

Get these in green and gold and you'd be on to something!
The only thing that could have made the day better was if the Bears had managed to lose to the Lions’ third-string QB, which they appeared on the verge of doing.  We’ll just have to keep winning.  At least the Buccaneers lost, so we moved ahead of one team in the Wild Card race.

1 comment:

  1. James Starks is a nice young man who looks like Isiah Thomas, minus the sexual harassment. I thought he was going to be busty like Letha Weapons, but he showed some promise on Sunday and made us more than one-dimensional.