No Shortage of Yards to Pass Around
Frank: So, it's just minutes after the Packers escaped with a 30-23 win over Cam Newton and Carolina. I heard they trailed 13-0 and wound up surrendering 400-plus passing yards for the second straight week. Were you worrying a little bit?
Artie: Nope. The only stat that counts is 2-0. But I can tell you that Cam Newton is for real. His 422 passing yards against Arizona in his debut were no fluke. This time he went for 432. Man, he can throw!
Frank: Come on, no worries even when they fell behind so quickly?
Artie: It was one of those things that doesn't really shock you when it happens. They marched right down the field on the opening drive, Newton was 6 for 7 and they scored. Then Randall Cobb fumbled the kickoff away, but the Pack held them to a field goal, and then another one on the next drive, and then the offense got things going. I really never doubted they'd come back.
Frank: But didn't Carolina have a shot at making it 23-23 as the game wound down?
Artie: Yeah, but Clay Matthews sacked Newton on fourth down from the six and Rodgers quickly got the clinching score. Turnovers were really the key; Charles Woodson had two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Frank: So your faith was strong.
Artie: Yeah, but that pass defense might start testing it. Newton pretty much had guys open all day.
Frank: And so did Drew Brees in the opener.
Artie: But remember, the Pack was facing guys who can really throw. And it's a quarterbacks' league more than ever, so high passing yards are kind of the norm. The first two weeks have certainly reflected that; guys are routinely throwing for 300 and 400 yards. There'll be a lot of high-scoring duels.
Frank: Rodgers was no slouch against the Panthers, I reckon.
Artie: Another 300-plus, with two TDs and no picks. Although he wasn't as sharp as he usually is, he got it done. And James Starks ran very well.
Frank: I've lost track; who's the next opponent?
Artie: The Monsters of the Midway.
Frank: Who were on the other side of a lopsided score against the Saints after beating Atlanta in their opener. I presume you're not worried by the Bears?
Artie: Not a bit. The Pack will take care of business at Soldier Field just like the Badgers did against Northern Illinois.
Frank: They didn't last September, in that game where they had 18 penalties.
Artie: That's the only way the Bears can win. Yeah, Jay Cutler can throw the ball, but their offensive line is still weak, so the sack opportunities will be there. And we know Cutler can get rattled.
Frank: Well, I'm impressed that you haven't been rattled by the Packers' close calls in their first two games.
Artie: Like I said, things are pass-happy for a lot of teams these days. Carolina ain't a bad club; they're certainly not in the sweepstakes to draft Andrew Luck. The leader there has to be Kansas City, which got obliterated by the Lions.
Frank: Besides, right now the Panthers have no need for a quarterback.
Artie: Good thing the Packers don't either.
Frank: The Brewers' "merrily we roll along" clubhouse could have been tested last week by two interviews with national media.
Artie: Could have been, but wasn't.
Frank: Prince Fielder told TBS what everyone assumed at the start of this season, that he'll probably leave as a free agent in a few months. And Francisco Rodriguez, acquired in July and used as an eighth-inning reliever, told CBSSports.com he was unhappy that he hasn't gotten any chances for saves.
Artie: With Prince, it was much ado about nothing. It's not like it was a surprise to hear him hint that he'll want more money than the Brewers can afford. But the timing could have taken some air out of the "Era of Good Feelings" created by the march to the playoffs.
Frank: As for Rodriguez, it's not that he was being inconsistent. He's been a top-notch closer for years, and he said from the start that he'd like to get some chances here. But he also had deferred to John Axford as the resident closer, saying he'd do whatever he was asked.
Artie: I'd say "bad timing" certainly applied there. Yeah, Ron Roenicke had talked about save chances for both guys, but Axford hasn't missed a beat since K-Rod got here, so why mess with a winning formula?
Frank: K-Rod was looking to the coming winter and free agency, too. It's likely that the Brewers will give him a buyout and he'll become a free agent. So he was giving a heads-up to prospective bidders.
Artie: But also letting them know that he won't be looking for setup-man money. He wants the big green that closers get! But he needed to say that before the postseason was even clinched? There'll be plenty of time in November, so why make a pre-emptive strike?
Frank: It didn't help that both interviews appeared in print alongside the story of a lethargic loss to Colorado. Of course, the Brewers circled the wagons and said the two interviews had absolutely no effect in the clubhouse.
Artie: And when they swept Cincinnati, all was indeed well. Especially because their run production jumped.
Frank: It's a chicken-and-egg question. Does a happy clubhouse promote winning or does winning produce a happy clubhouse?
Artie: The answer is yes.
Frank: It's not surprising for the players to take "controversy" in stride. They don't need any reminders that behind all the team spirit is a business where money and winning talk the loudest. They're businessmen too.
Artie: You mean they're "job creators"? That's what businessmen are supposed to be, ain'a?
Frank: But for the fans it may not be so easy to shrug off.
Artie: With all the winning, I think there was kind of a growing delusion that, "Gee, Prince will realize how great he has it here and take less money to stay."
Frank: In a way, we're back where we were a year ago, when everyone assumed Prince would be traded for pitching, and he made honest but disheartening comments to the effect that "I just go where they tell me."
Artie: If he departs from a National League or World Series champion, the fans won't begrudge him. But if he departs after a sub-par performance in the playoffs that helps knock the Brewers out quickly, they might feel differently.
Frank: As for K-Rod, my relatives who are Mets fans weren't surprised. They think he had a "me first" attitude.
Artie: What a surprise for someone playing in New York!
Frank: As reflected in that contract clause that would have paid him $17.5 million next year if he finished—not saved, just finished—a certain number of games.
Artie: A clause the Brewers cleverly bought out for $500,000, kicking his buyout up to $4 million and giving themselves a clear field in how to use him.
Frank: I believe Roenicke did think he could get K-Rod some saves.
Artie: Last Wednesday, because Axford had pitched two innings the night before against Colorado, maybe K-Rod would have pitched in the ninth. But that was a game they lost.
Frank: Roenicke reacted to K-Rod's interview a little defensively, saying "I feel bad" about how things have developed. And K-Rod is entitled to his annoyance, I guess. But what's the problem with keeping your mouth shut until the season's over?
Artie: Just because you're asked some questions doesn't mean you have to spout off.