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Monday Morning Aftermath: Green Bay Packers

December 27, 2010

The New York Giants gift wrapped six turnovers on the day after Christmas as the Green Bay Packers routed the Giants 45-17.

What Concussion?

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was cleared to play last Tuesday after missing an entire week of practice as well as a game in New England. Maybe the time off was necessary because QB1 came to play on Sunday. Rodgers was unstoppable; he completed 25-of-37 passes for 404 yards and 4 touchdowns. As dominating as Rodgers’ statistics were, his accuracy and game-management were at an even higher level. He continually avoided pressure in the backfield and directed his receivers on the field like a general commanding his troops. Rodgers even provided some comic relief. After scrambling for a first down in the red zone, Rodgers safely slid to the ground. He popped up and gave a baseball umpire’s “safe” signal as the crowd cheered.

And if the 404 yards and 4 touchdowns was not enough, Rodgers joined some pretty elite company. According to the Packers, “Aaron Rodgers joined Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner as only QBs in NFL history to pass for over 12,000 yards in first 3 seasons as a starter.”

Kuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhn!

After struggling in short-yardage situations for most of the season, the Packers may have found their answer. Running back John Kuhn is becoming somewhat of a folk hero in Green Bay. When the team faces a short-yardage situation the crowd becomes boisterous in their demand for the fifth-year player out of Shippensburg. And lately, Kuhn has not disappointed.

Kuhn got the call on the first play of the game rushing for 5 tough yards on 1st-and-10 from the Packers’ 27-yard line. Two plays later, he converted a 3rd-and-1 by hauling in an Aaron Rodgers pass for a 2-yard gain. Later in the first quarter, Kuhn converted another 3rd-and-1 keeping the Packers’ drive alive. In the second quarter, Kuhn had his longest rush of the day, an 8-yard smash up the middle for his first of three touchdowns on the day. In the third quarter, Kuhn didn’t see much action, but he did have the wherewithal to cover up an Aaron Rodgers fumble late in the quarter. The fourth quarter was John Kuhn’s opportunity to shine. After hauling in another touchdown pass, Kuhn finished his spectacular day with a 1-yard touchdown plunge putting the Packers up 45-17.

The Packers’ Defense Taketh Away

Aside from two lapses, the Packers’ defense had their way with the Giants all afternoon. Eli Manning threw 4 interceptions and each of the Giants’ running backs coughed up the ball. On both fumbles, the Packers’ defense not only swarmed to recover the ball, but also made heads up plays to ensure their team would come away with possession. In the beginning of the third quarter, Charles Woodson forced a fumble out of the hands of Ahmad Bradshaw and linebacker AJ Hawk blocked a Giants’ player from recovering. In the ensuing pile up, safety Atari Bigby came out of the scrum with the football. Later in the same quarter, Clay Matthews showcased his speed by catching Brandon Jacobs from behind to strip the ball. The ball bounced around like a hot potato, but linebacker Desmond Bishop showed his athleticism to keep the ball in bounds before Nick Collins finally recovered for the Packers.

The Packers’ defense contributed to the most complete game the Packers have put together in the 2010 season. The offense was sharp and touchdowns were plentiful, the defense was dominant, and the special teams played well. Despite all this team has gone through this season, the Packers are one victory away from the playoffs.

Looking to the Future

The playoff picture for the Packers is simple: win and you are in. The Packers face the Chicago Bears next Sunday at Lambeau Field. And despite the Bears’ already clinching the NFC North and a spot on the playoffs, the matchup should still have plenty of meaning for both teams. Provided the Eagles take care of the Vikings on a rare Tuesday night game, a Bears victory would give them a much coveted first-round bye in the playoffs. And the way both teams have been playing lately, Sunday’s 3:15 p.m. matchup should be a heck of a game.

Even with a loss, the Packers could still make the postseason. If they lose to Chicago on Sunday, they would also need the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Giants to lose. It’s not the preferred method of entering postseason play, but it’s the way it is.

Injury Notes

Fullback Korey Hall left the game with a knee strain and safety Atari Bigby left with a groin strain. Neither player returned. Hall is a key special teams player, and Bigby probably played his best game of the season this week. Hopefully for the Green and Gold, neither injury is serious. Head coach Mike McCarthy did not provide any further updates, but we should know more when on Monday when McCarthy conducts his weekly press conference.

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