Archive for the ‘Game previews’ Category

MNF: Saints prepare for best in the league

You know the old saying, ‘It’s not bragging if it’s true’?

Last week while speaking with reporters, Al Harris told them something you don’t hear from pro athletes much while talking about the Packers secondary:

“By far, we are the best in the league,” Harris said.

You only need to watch Harris and Co. lock down opposing WRs to know that claim is true. But the stats also back up 3irty1’s claim.

The Packers entered this weekend’s action No. 1 in the NFL in several key defensive categories: interceptions (16), touchdowns by defensive backs (6), completion percentage (51.5) and quarterback rating (59.5).

And Monday, the Packers take their ultra-aggressive pass defense and put it up against Drew Brees and the high-powered attack of the Saints. In fact, the game is being billed as the NFL’s No. 1 passing offense vs. the league’s best defensive secondary. And Al likes that:

“Nice. That’s got a nice ring to it.”

Saints’ QB Drew Brees will have to be especially accurate tonight if New Orleans is to have any success through the air. What does Brees expect tonight?

“I think more so than anything, all of their guys have very good ball skills,” said Brees, who has thrown for a league-best 3,251 yards with 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. “So if a ball is up in the air and touches their hands, they have a good chance of coming down with it. They have pretty good athletes on that side of the ball.”

Brees throws it 40 times per game and is averaging 325 yards per game. And with RB Reggie Bush still banged up, you have to expect the Saints will have no choice but to challenge the Packers stout secondary.

Lance Moore has been Brees’ favorite target in 2008. Moore leads the Saintswith  52 receptions, 609 yards and 5 TDs. He’s small (5-9, 190) but he runs precise routes and has a knack for coming down with the ball.

Devery Henderson hasn’t been quite as prolific as Moore, but has hauled in 22 catches for 554 yards and three scores.

And don’t sleep on Marques Colston. In each of his first two seasons, the 6-4, 225lb wideout accumulated over 1,000 receiving yards and scored a total 19 times. But after off-season knee surgery, Colston has been slow to regain his old form and hasn’t made much of an impact this season. However, he has 10 catches for 170 yards in his last two games and appears to be regaining strength in his knee.

No matter which player Harris matches up against, you can almost guarantee the WR won’t see many balls thrown his way. And if he does, be prepared for an all-out war for possession of the pigskin.


Packers (5-5) vs. Saints (5-5)

8:30pm (ET) on ESPN


Week 11: Bears brace for bump and run


The Bears are talking like they know exactly what to expect from the nasty bump-and-run coverage Al Harris and Co. are preparing to blanket the Chicago receivers with.

But knowing what’s coming and actually dealing with what’s coming are two completely different things. Every team in the NFL knows some basics about how the Packers secondary plans to cover them, but despite knowing the type of coverage they’ll face, they just can’t get any work done vs. the Green Bay secondary.

Check the Green Bay defensive numbers:

  • Opponent QB rating: 58.8 (1st in NFL)
  • Opponent passing yards per game: 179.1 (3rd in NFL)
  • Opponent completion percentage: 51.5 (1st in NFL)

How do Harris and the Packers secondary do it? Check Bears QB Kyle Orton’s assessment:

“They’re up in your face,” Orton said. “They hold you, grab you; you’ve got to play physical with them. You’ve got to get off the coverage. They’re going to be pulling and grabbing at you all the way down the field, so the receivers have to do a great job of beating man coverage and making plays, and I’ve got to do a great job of seeing it and throwing to the open guy.”

Orton, who has been sidelined since injuring his ankle on Nov. 2, is hoping to return to the field vs. Green Bay. He’s more accurate and careful with the ball than Rex Grossman, the No. 2 QB on the Bears depth chart.

Al’s been studying tape and knows what to expect no matter which QB takes the field:

“(Orton’s) not going to take a lot of chances,” cornerback Al Harris said. “He makes a lot of good decisions. That’s all the tape I’ve been watching so far. Tonight, I’ll watch Rex. Orton is going to manage it. That’s not meant to be offensive either. I think when you say a guy manages a game, that’s a good thing. He’s going to manage the game a little better.”

Either way, you know 3ity1 is going to make the Bears work for every inch they get:

“If you do complete a pass, like a big pass for an explosive gain, it’s going to have to be a perfect pass. They’re going to have to work (for it).”

Indeed, in the two games since his return from a ruptured spleen, Al has not allowed a completed pass.

Let me repeat that.

Al Harris has not allowed a completion in two full weeks since returning from a career-threatening spleen injury.

And we know 3irty1 typically gets the assignment of locking down the opponent’s top receiver. In the Bears’ case, that top receiver could either be Rashied Davis (28 rec, 338 yards, 2 TDs) or Devin Hester (25 rec, 311 yards, 2 TDs).

Whether it’s Kyle Orton or Rex Grossman under center, look for the Bears to try and establish their running game with Rookie Matt Forte, and to establish a passing game to their two tight ends Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark as well as with RB Forte, who actually leads the team in receptions (37).

Either way, all of the Chicago receivers are in for a long day Sunday in Green Bay.

Do you remember the last game?

The calm before the storm: Al Harris was quiet this week as he prepped to battle T.O. on Sunday night football. As we all know, 3irty1 likes to let his play do the talking. But yesterday Harris delivered a couple of encouraging and inspirational lines.

First, on the Green Bay defensive scheme this week:

“I can say this: I think this is a much better game plan (this week),” Harris said. “This is the best game plan that we’ve had since I’ve been here, in this scheme. I honestly think that. And you can quote me on that.”

And on the last time the Packers battled the Cowboys:

“Do you remember the last game?” Harris asked, calling it “the game that I had two interceptions” even though one was nullified. “Let me ask you couple questions: How many yards did T.O. have? 156. How many catches? Seven. How many did you see me around him? Three. That should tell you right there if they had a great game plan for what we were doing. You’ve got to read between the lines on the rest.”

Week 3 matchup: Al Harris vs. Terrell Owens

Harris and Owens will go head-to-head Sunday.

Harris and Owens will go head-to-head Sunday.

You know the old question the in the NBA about which player is most clutch, or who you’d want taking a last-second shot for your team?

As we all know, even the best players aren’t going to succeed 100% in taking the game-winner. But the fact certain players are willing to step up, put the ball in their hands and put it all on the line says a lot about that particular players’ leadership, ability and desire to succeed.

Which brings us to this week’s huge Sunday night game between the Packers and the Cowboys. As you may know, the game features several intriguing matchups, but the one everyone is talking about is Al Harris vs. Terrell Owens.

Harris will be stepping up and taking the perverbial “last shot” for the Packers Sunday when he puts his rep on the line to go toe-to-toe with T.O.

Owens is the best WR on the high-powered Cowboys offense, and rates highly in several NFL receiving categories, including:

– Yards per game: 88.0 (13th in NFL)
– Yards per catch: 22.0 (7th in NFL)
– Touchdowns: 3 (T-first in NFL)

Check what the Green Bay Gazette is saying about this matchup:

[Owens is] almost surely the best receiver on the Packers’ regular-season schedule this year and might be one of the three or four best receivers in the game.

“This is why they pay (Harris) all his money,” backup safety Charlie Peprah said, “to go up against big-time receivers in big-time games. He’s always up for that.”

As you probably know, Owens keeps his body in supreme physical condition and has a height and strength advantage over most cornerbacks (Owens goes 6’3”, 218 lbs).

At 6’1” and 190 lbs, 3irty1 will use both his body and his technique to get into Owens’ head. More from the Green Bay Gazette:

Harris, also 33, lacks pure speed for cornerback but uses his strength and experience to knock receivers off their routes, which can ruin a play by blowing up timing with the quarterback. Owens presents a major challenge there, because at 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds he’s a big, strong athlete who as a 13-year pro has vast experience defeating all types of coverages. He, like Harris, is in superb physical condition.

So what kind of matchup is T.O. expecting?

“I know he’s going to play a lot of bump-and-run, and I’ll be faced with that,” Owens told reporters in Dallas on Wednesday. “No different than last year. Obviously, I think he knows what to expect from me, and I know what to expect from him. With that being said, I think they know what to expect from this team. I think we have a lot of weapons. We’re going to try to work the middle of the field, we’re going to try to stretch it, we’re going to do whatever we can to try to move the ball.”

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, reacting to reporters’ questions about Owens’ big game vs. the Pack last season, bristled after being asked whether Harris vs. T.O. is a good matchup for Green Bay:

“I think Al Harris is a tremendous competitor,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “If people want to point out one game or a certain situation to drive an opinion, that’s fine. That’s your choice. I don’t share that opinion. I’m around him every day. He is competitive. We play a certain style of football, so there is going to be interaction more than other styles of football.”

True to form, 3irty1 has been quiet when asked about the matchup this week. We all know he prefers to do his talking on the field, and we can’t wait to see how Sunday plays out.

These two have an interesting history together.

Remember last year’s playoff game when Harris appeared to cleanly strip T.O. of the ball, only to have the refs (and the instant replay) say otherwise?

I know every Green Bay remembers this play in the end zone, when Owens had the ball bounce off his chest and into the appreciative hands of Mr. Al Harris. The best part about this play is the way Al sprints to the sideline with the ball firmly tucked away!

So what’s your prediction for Sunday’s battle? Post your comments below, and send your support to Al and the Packers. You know he checks in to see what his fans are saying, so post a note and let your voice be heard!

He is the guy in your face


Great feature story on Al Harris over the weekend in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that talks about 3irty1’s tough route to the NFL and how he soaked up all the info he could from teammates in order to become what many describe as the most feared CB in the NFL. Read the entire story here, and check out a sample:

For a while, Harris said he could get away with his aggressive bump-and-run style of play because so many other receivers underestimated him. Not anymore.

“But sometimes I will still get a guy and push him and he’ll fall on the ground and he’ll look back up like, ‘Hey, damn, how did that happen?,” Harris said.

Now Harris is usually assigned to the opponent’s top receiver. He’s been called, by some of his opponents, the toughest corner in the game. Most recently, it was Detroit’s Roy Williams on AM-1130 in Detroit.

“I think he is the best in the league,” Williams told the radio station. “If anyone can play press man, up in your face like a Deion Sanders type that can shut the whole field down, it’s Al Harris.”

3irty1 has what will likely be his most important matchup of the season on Sunday when the Packers take on Terrell Owens and the Cowboys. How will Harris handle T.O.?

On Thursday, Harris will face his greatest one-on-one challenge yet: Dallas receiver Terrell Owens. On smaller guys, Harris can push on their shoulders to jam them, but on a big player like Owens will have to get more into his chest and use both hands. It could be a real battle.

“I’m probably going to be stronger than most of the receivers in the NFL,” said Harris. “There’s a couple guys that are strong, like T.O. The guy from San Diego is strong. Arizona, Anquan Boldin, he’s strong. But once I touch ’em, I can pretty much guide them to where I want to go.”

Media in Dallas is already expecting a “jam session” with the Packers CBs getting physical with the Dallas wideouts:

Of all the matchups in Thursday’s game against Green Bay, none is as intriguing as that of Terrell Owens and Patrick Crayton against Green Bay cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris.

Woodson and Harris play more aggressively at the line of scrimmage than any cornerbacks the Cowboys have seen this year. Woodson, however, is battling a toe injury and did not fully take part in Sunday’s practice.

“They’ll be physical,” Owens said. “They’ll be a little aggressive. I know what to expect.”

Owens has caught at least six passes in his last six games with touchdown receptions in all six. Cowboys receivers coach Ray Sherman has his receivers work against press coverage almost daily in practice.

“Some of our guys are hard to bump,” coach Wade Phillips said, “so we’ll see how it works out.”

3irty1: I trust what I know

How does Al Harris prepare for his defensive assignment each week? He says he gambles on every play, but in a controlled kind of way. Check it out:

 “It’s really hard in our scheme because our back is always to the quarterback,” said Harris. “I learn the guy, learn the system, pick my spots where I may be able to make an interception, cause a turnover, study and then just trust what I know.”

“Operation Shutdown” adds this Packers team is the best he’s ever been on as far as creating turnovers is concerned:

“Actually, we’re putting more emphasis on getting turnovers with this defense than defenses that I’ve played on in the past,” said Harris.

Harris said other defenses he played for emphasized either shutting down the quarterback or playing with speed in getting to the ball. “We really preach turnovers here,” he concluded.

Preview: Packers at Vikings

The unbeaten Packers (3-0) take on NFC North Division rival Minnesota Vikings Sunday in the Metrodome.The Packers have won three of their last four games in Minnesota, including last year’s 9-7 win at Lambeau Field.

CB Al Harris will be matched up with Vikings WR Bobby Wade (see his complete stats), and the game will be Harris’ 158th straight contest.

Check the case file on Bobby Wade before Sunday’s game, and we’ll update after the game to let you know how the Wade/Harris matchup played out.