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Packers vs. Lions: The Aftermath

November 19, 2012

The Green Bay Packers defeated the Detroit Lions by the score of 24-20.

How Do You Stop A Lion In Its Tracks?

The answer is simple: Run.

The focus of the Packers’ offensive game plan became clear early in the game. Hand the ball to James Starks in order to slow down the pass rush of the Lions. The offense ran the ball 14 times in the first half and added 15 rushes in the second.

In a rare display of play call balance for Mike McCarthy, the Green and Gold finished with more rushing attempts (29) than pass attempts (27).

James Starks led the way with his hard-nosed running on an afternoon where most of the offense fell flat.

Matched up against the Lions’ fearsome four-man defensive line, Aaron Rodgers and the offense struggled to find much open space against seven Lions defenders dropping back into pass coverage.

Rodgers wasn’t spectacular on Sunday, but with the game on the line, he led his team down the field for the winning touchdown.

Young Defensive Backs Making Their Mark

After a few misses early in his tenure, Ted Thompson has hit the mark on defensive backs during the last few drafts.

Rookie Casey Hayward continues to shine. Already leading the team in interceptions, the second-round pick added his fifth interception of the season on Sunday.

Add in his team-high five passes defended on Sunday and the 23-year old out of Vanderbilt had another fantastic afternoon.

Second year cornerback Davon House also played well blanketing his receivers and accounting for one of the defense’s five sacks.

Safety Morgan Burnett flashed his closing speed during a Packers goal line stand by registering a sack against Matthew Stafford. The third-year safety let a ball slip through his hands on a Calvin Johnson touchdown pass, but overall, the former Georgia Tech standout continues to put himself in position to be successful on the field.

It’s still early in each of these players’ careers, but the future of the Packers defensive backfield looks bright.

Game Ball

Jermichael Finley has taken plenty of criticism from the fans this season. At times the critiques are warranted and at other times they aren’t, but with the opposing team regularly double-teaming the Packers tight end, he has routinely become a non-factor in many games this season.

On Sunday, however, he made the most of the three passes thrown in his direction.

On a beautifully designed play in the second quarter, Rodgers and Finley provided one of the Packers’ few offensive highlights.

Running back James Starks trailed after his guard and center as the trio sprinted to the right. Lined up tight to the right side of the line at the snap, Finley slipped out of his stance and ran a shallow crossing route to his left. The Lions’ defenders anticipated a screen and followed Starks as Rodgers deftly found Finley in stride. The tight end did the rest barreling into the end zone for a 20-yard score.

Finley’s number was called again with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter. With the Packers down by six, and the offense struggling, Rodgers found Finley twice. The tight end ran around would-be tacklers and patiently followed his teammates’ blocks for a 40-yard gain. On the following play, the duo teamed up again for six yards.

The drive culminated with a dazzling Rodgers to Randall Cobb touchdown pass, but it was the awareness and presence of Finley that put the Packers in position for the score.

Rating The Lines

The Detroit Lions’ formidable defensive front has given the Packers plenty of problems over the years, but on Sunday, the Packers patchwork offensive line was especially woeful.

Whether it was committing penalties or allowing multiple sacks and pressures on Rodgers, the line looked downright offensive.

The Lions’ defense finished the day with three sacks, multiple pressures and a number of hits on Rodgers. Despite an above average showing in the running game, the Packers’ offensive line struggled mightily in the passing game.

The Packers defensive line, however, played well.

Finishing the afternoon with five sacks, the Packers line was constantly pestering Matthew Stafford and the Detroit offense.

Running back Mikel Leshoure racked up 84 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, but his strong effort was nullified by the combination of an effective Packers pass rush and an off day for Matthew Stafford.

The defensive line kept Stafford from finding a rhythm for most of the afternoon and the team’s five timely sacks ensured the Packers victory.

Redemption

After the debacle that resulted in a week 3 loss at Seattle, safety M.D. Jennings has been waiting all season for another shot at his first career interception.

Early in the third quarter, Jennings’ goal was fulfilled.

After hauling in a tipped ball off the hands of Lions’ tight end Tony Scheffler, Jennings zigzagged his way down the home team’s sideline sprinting past every player on the field. Jennings covered 72 yards to regain the lead for his team and notch the Packers first defensive touchdown of the year.

On a lesser scale, kicker Mason Crosby found his own redemption. Crosby’s right leg ended up providing the decisive points for the Packers. After missing 50- and 38-yard field goals earlier in the day, it was Crosby’s extra-point on Cobb’s touchdown catch that provided the difference in the contest. Add in a late 39-yard field goal and the Packers kicker managed to salvage an awful day.

Up Next

After escaping Ford Field in Detroit with a victory and their health, the Packers are riding a five-game winning streak. Nose tackle B.J. Raji limped off the field on the Lions’ final possession of the game, but there were no indications an injury will keep him out of next week’s Sunday night contest against the New York Giants.

Sunday’s victory wasn’t pretty, but the Packers did what was necessary to come away with a road win against a divisional opponent.

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Who’s Better: Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers?

November 12, 2012

Who’s better at showing off their tail end in real, comfortable jeans? Brett Favre.

Who has a more unique touchdown celebration? Aaron Rodgers.

Who’s better at pouring his heart out to Greta Van Susteren? Brett Favre.

Who’s better at photo-bombing Captains’ pictures? Aaron Rodgers.

But who’s the better quarterback?

Packers fans never shy away from debating the best quarterback in franchise history and with all due respect to Bart Starr, the discussion usually centers on Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre.

Rodgers supporters point to his pinpoint accuracy and his mental grasp of the game. The Favre faction points to his competitiveness and uncanny ability for the big play.

Frankly, being unable to decide between two quarterbacks who have led the Packers to greatness for the last 21 years is an issue most teams would love to be debating.

With Rodgers midway through his fifth season as a starter and Favre’s reign covering 16 seasons in Green Bay, the debate will likely remain unsettled for some time.

But by looking at both players at approximately the same ages provides some insight into the greatness of each quarterback.

Individual Statistics

Favre and Rodgers’ tenures in Green Bay from ages 25-29 produced quite impressive numbers. Keep in mind that Rodgers’ five-year span is incomplete as his fifth season is just nine games old.

Quarterback Favre Rodgers
Yards 20,273 19,420*
Average Completion Percentage 61.5% 65.9%*
Touchdowns 176 156*
Interceptions 79 42*
Wins-Losses** 57-23 47-24*

*Through 9 games of the 2012 season
**Regular season games as a starter

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Rodgers’ numbers will be superior in yards, completion percentage and interceptions, the difference in touchdown passes will be negligible, but the wins and losses will favor Favre.

Accolades

Favre’s three consecutive Most Valuable Player awards dwarf Rodgers’ single award, but Rodgers has one MVP title that Favre never earned: the Super Bowl MVP.

Speaking of Super Bowls, while Favre appeared in two championship games, both players possess a single title.

The argument can be made that the sky is the limit for Rodgers’ chances of future Super Bowl titles, but the same argument was made for a young Brett Favre in his prime.

Others’ Opinions

Both players take a different approach to the game. Rodgers is known for his composure and coolness in the huddle while Favre wore his emotions on his sleeve.

Those who played alongside, coached and reported on both Rodgers and Favre best sum up each player’s style.

Two receivers who have caught passes from both chimed in on the debate last season.

Packers wide receiver Donald Driver, the team’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards, who played his entire 14-year career catching passes from only two quarterbacks gave the nod to his current teammate.

“I’ve played with two quarterbacks,” Driver said. “One just went out there and did what he did, and he wasn’t patient at all. But Aaron takes what the defense gives him, and that’s the type of guy you want.”

Greg Jennings, whose receiving career has also spanned both quarterbacks, joined Driver in endorsing Rodgers.

They both bring different things to the table, but honestly right now I definitely have to go with . . . Aaron, his body of work at such a young age, his attention to detail, his discipline, I think it’s really second to none — it’s un-paralleled.”

On the defensive side of the ball, lineman Vonnie Holiday played alongside Favre in Green Bay and has faced Rodgers on an opposing team. Without declaring a better quarterback, Holiday aptly pointed out the strengths of both men.

“4 was a gamer, just a tremendous competitor,” said Holliday. “Unorthodox. Sling the ball. Run out of a tackle.

“12 is a student of the game. He sees coverages. You try to disguise and hide things, but he finds the openings. If there’s a guy uncovered, he’s going to find him.”

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was also diplomatic with his assessment.

McCarthy coached Favre in 2006 and 2007 and helped Favre put together one of his better seasons as a 38-year old quarterback. He also oversaw Rodgers’ best year when the fourth-year quarterback won the MVP at 28 years old.

“You take Brett Favre and freeze frame him from the waist up and you take this guy here (Rodgers) and freeze frame him from the waist up and you’ll see two of the purest throwing motions you’ll ever see,” McCarthy said. “Brett Favre is extremely fundamental with shoulder rotation, point of release, big hands, long arms, elbow pointing to the target, all the things I look for. Aaron Rodgers is no different.”

Tom Silverstein, who covered both Rodgers and Favre as a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, declined to choose who’s better until later in Rodgers’ career.

“…[F]or all those people who think Favre never played at the same level Rodgers has, it’s time to put aside your prejudices and judge this question in an objective manner,” Silverstein wrote. “Enjoy how well Rodgers is playing and imagine the greatness he can achieve if he keeps playing this well.”

Silverstein finished his article with a reminder of both players’ greatnesses.

“For now, don’t forget how great Favre was. He played just as well as Rodgers is playing now.”

Conclusion?

Brett Favre was a remarkable quarterback who played a key role in putting the “title” back in Titletown.

Already in his short career, Aaron Rodgers has maintained the Packers prominence but still has a future to write.

Where Rodgers ends up in the annals of Packers history remains to be seen, but so far, he’s as good as Brett Favre. Until Rodgers’ career comes to a close, however, the debate will remain open.

Cardinals vs. Packers: The Aftermath

November 5, 2012

The Green Bay Packers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 31-17 at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

Making Plays

Aaron Rodgers statistics weren’t jaw dropping on Sunday. In fact, if you take away his four touchdown passes, Rodgers’ day – 14-of-30 passing for 218 yards – was pedestrian.

Despite only connecting with his receivers 14 times, Rodgers and the offense made the most of each completion. Whether it was Randall Cobb with touchdown catches of 13 and 21 yards, or James Jones with a touchdown catch of 28 yards or Tom Crabtree for 72 (more on this later), the offense ran up plenty of points.

Even with four touchdown passes, it was Rodgers’ heads up play in the second quarter that made the difference.

When running back James Starks fumbled, the nearest Packers’ player was receiver Jarrett Boykin, who didn’t even see the ball on the ground while he maintained his block.

On what Rodgers called his “best play of the game, unfortunately,” QB1 sprinted to the ball, dove headfirst and secured the ball before any Cardinals’ players could recover the fumble.

Rodgers’ recovery kept the Packers drive alive and seven plays later, receiver James Jones made a brilliant touchdown catch which proved to be the decisive score of the contest.

The Matthews Effect

While Clay Matthews continues to post sack numbers, his presence on the field is much more difficult to quantify. With Matthews, the defense is a solid force. Without him, the unit is mediocre.

On both sacks the Packers defense recorded Sunday, Matthews stunted inside after the snap allowing defensive ends Mike Neal and Mike Daniels, respectively, to register sacks on Cardinals quarterback John Skelton.

The attention Matthews received on both plays allowed Neal and Daniels clearer paths to the quarterback.

Matthews’ motor and presence on the field are a big reason why the Packers defense has recorded 28 sacks through nine games this season compared to just 29 all of last season.

When Matthews left the field with a hamstring injury in the third quarter, quarterback John Skelton and the Cardinals offense put together back-to-back scoring drives where they marched down the field on the Packers defense.

The first drive of 87 yards closed with a Larry Fitzgerald touchdown catch, but on the following drive of 74 yards, the Packers defense stiffened near the goal line and held Arizona to a field goal.

The field goal turned out to be the final scoring drive of the day for the Cardinals, but the defense was clearly less effective with Matthews on the sideline.

Finding The Right Mix

A Mike McCarthy-run offense will likely never possess a power running game, but on Sunday a combination of players proved to be the key for the Packers putting together their best rushing performance of the season.

Individually, no rusher gained over 61 yards, but collectively, the unit gained 176 yards on the ground.

In what was the most rushing attempts by the Packers this season (39), four separate players patched together an excellent performance.

James Starks led the way with 61 yards, followed by Alex Green with 53. Aaron Rodgers got in the act with a few nice runs totaling 33 yards and utility man Randall Cobb netted 29 yards on three carries.

The team is still holding out hope for the return of Cedric Benson, who is eligible to return in December, but until then, Mike McCarthy will have to continue to be creative as he patches together a respectable ground game.

Happy Birthday Tom Crabtree

After dropping an easy catch in the first half, Tom Crabtree’s birthday vastly improved in the second half.

The Packers’ offense was dismal throughout the third quarter, but Crabtree’s catch to end the period erased the memory of a cheerless quarter.

To start the second half, the offense ran 13 plays for a meager 23 yards and no first downs until the final play of the third quarter where Aaron Rodgers found Crabtree streaking out of the backfield for the Packers longest touchdown of the season.

Crabtree hauled in the quick pass and outran the entire Cardinals defense for a 72-yard score.

Counting his spectacular special teams play in Week 2 against Chicago, Tom Crabtree is averaging 23 yards per catch and a touchdown every other time he touches the ball.

Injury Report

The Packers list of injuries continued to grow on Sunday.

In his first game back from a hamstring injury, Jordy Nelson didn’t even put together a full quarter of football before an ankle injury forced him from the game.

Nelson limped off the field after his left ankle rolled under his right leg while trying to cradle a low pass from Aaron Rodgers. The Packers’ trainers wrapped Nelson’s ankle in ice and he was unable to return.

Prospects didn’t seem bright for right tackle Bryan Bulaga. Bulaga found his way to the sideline after he tripped himself up and awkwardly twisted his hip on a running play. Eventually, Bulaga rode a cart to the locker room and did not return.

Clay Matthews was also injured on Sunday. Twice Matthews left the game, but after immediately returning the first time, Matthews was unable to do so the second time. Matthews injury was characterized as a hamstring, but he was able to jog to the locker room with trainers.

Tight end D.J. Williams also left the game with a hamstring injury.

Wide receiver Randall Cobb took a nasty hit on a punt return, which forced him out of an offensive series, but was able to return. The second year receiver fought off an injured shoulder as he put together a dazzling day with two touchdowns and 202 all-purpose yards.

Up Next?

The Packers enter their much needed bye week on a four game winning streak and sporting a 6-3 record.

Of the remaining seven games this season, five are against NFC North opponents. With three of those five divisional games on the road, the Packers’ strength and resolve will be tested as they look towards defending their division title.

Jaguars vs. Packers: The Aftermath

October 29, 2012

The Green Bay Packers defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday by the score of 24-15.

Special Teams

In his post game press conference, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy cited the special teams as leading the way in Sunday’s victory over Jacksonville. And while things certainly began that way, the special teams failed to live up to their name as the game wore on.

With Green Bay leading 7-3 early in the game, defensive back Davon House moved away from the Jaguars gunner on the outside of the punt formation to join the linemen for a punt block attempt.

Although the Jacksonville punt team pointed out House’s shift, no one bothered to block him. House sprinted off the left end, fully extended his body into a leap and blocked the Bryan Anger punt.

After the ball bounced off of the Lambeau Field turf, and a couple of players, linebacker Dezman Moses fell on the ball in the end zone to put the Packers up by 11 points.

The second half was a different story for the Packers special teams as the units failed to execute their jobs as smoothly.

In attempting a trick play on a field goal attempt, the team instead turned the ball over on downs.

Facing a 4th-and-6 from the Jacksonville 37-yard line, the Packers opted for a field goal attempt. Prior to the snap, kicker Mason Crosby vacated the backfield and other Packers players ran into alternate positions as the team left the Jaguars to wonder whether the lone player remaining in the backfield, Tim Masthay, would punt or attempt a pass.

Masthay took the snap, moved to his left and attempted a long pass back across the field to tight end D.J. Williams. The pass was well short and the Packers’ trickery failed.

The Jaguars could not convert the turnover into points, however, and on the next series, the Packers defense forced Jacksonville into a three-and-out before the offense put together an 11-play drive that started from their own 20. Stalled at the Jacksonville 14-yard line, Mike McCarthy elected for a field goal.

Mason Crosby’s 32-yard attempt began straight but sliced badly to the right before hitting the upright and bouncing to the ground. After the game, McCarthy cited the wind as a possible explanation for the miss, but regardless of the circumstances, the failed kick marked Crosby’s first miss from inside 50-yards this season.

The Running Game

To his credit, Mike McCarthy never abandoned the run, but the team’s execution on running plays remained a concern.

Starting running back Alex Green finished the day with 22 carries for 54 yards, averaging a paltry 2.5 yards per carry.

Prior to the game, ESPN’s Adam Schefter started up the rumor mill with a story of the Packers’ interest in Rams’ running back Steven Jackson.

While an in-season trade would be out of character for Packers general manager Ted Thompson, something needs to change if the Packers hope to successfully run the football.

Injury Report

The Packers list of players who did not suit up for the game read more like an all star roster than it did an inactive list. Without Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Charles Woodson and others, the Packers’ “Next Man Up” philosophy was tested.

The first half was injury free, but in the second, the injury bug hit two Green Bay players.

Rookie defensive lineman Jerel Worthy was hurt on the opening kickoff of the second half. The former Michigan State standout suffered a concussion and will be monitored and evaluated as the week progresses.

Fellow defensive lineman Mike Neal also left the game with an injury. Neal injured his right ankle and was unable to return to the game.

As Rodgers Goes, The Offense Goes

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished the day with two touchdown passes, but the Packers’ signal caller was out of sorts all afternoon.

Rodgers looked somewhat dazed and unenthused throughout the game as he finished with 186 yards on 22-of-35 passing.

Add in two fumbles, one of which was called back due to a Jaguars’ penalty, and QB1 had an afternoon to forget. Perhaps he’s playing hurt, perhaps the numerous sacks and hits are taking a toll, but for one reason or another he did not look like his fiery, focused self on Sunday.

Fortunately for the Packers, point differential in the NFL is unimportant. No matter the score, a win is a win, and even with a less than stellar day from their MVP, the Packers found a way to victory.

Good teams find ways to win games and despite a lackluster and dull performance, the Packers proved their worth on Sunday.

Up Next?

With the victory, the Packers improved to 5-3 on the season and have put together a three-game winning streak. They remain in Green Bay to face the Arizona Cardinals next week, who have lost three in a row and host the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football this evening.

The Cardinals are the last stop before a much needed bye week for the Packers as they hope the rest will help shrink their lengthy list of injured players.

Packers Vs. Rams: The Aftermath

October 22, 2012

The Green Bay Packers defeated the St. Louis Rams by the score of 30-20.

Precision

A common criticism of quarterback Aaron Rodgers is his tendency to hold onto the ball too long in the pocket. While the knock on Rodgers is at times accurate, the Packers’ quarterback also creates and extends plays by holding onto the ball and scrambling when the pocket breaks down.

Ultimately, Rodgers’ football acumen and physical ability far outweigh his minor faults. And Sunday’s critic-silencing effort was another example of why he is the reigning league MVP.

With no semblance of a rushing attack, Rodgers finished the day passing for 342 yards and 3 touchdowns. Earlier this season, Rodgers admitted that he wasn’t getting it done, but it’s safe to say that the past two weeks have marked his return to form.

Defensive Efforts

The Packers defense turned in an impressive overall effort against the Rams on Sunday, but a couple of individual players stood out.

Outside linebacker Erik Walden continues to be stout against the run and the pass. As the performance of the defense ebbs and flows from week to week, Walden’s play remains consistent.

In Sunday’s effort, Walden led the Green and Gold with nine tackles. He also added a sack, a tackle for a loss and two hits on the quarterback.

Perhaps more important than Walden’s individual statistics, however, is his steady presence. Between Walden and rookie Dezman Moses, the Packers have forced opposing teams to pay attention to an outside linebacker not named Clay Matthews, which in turn, creates more favorable matchups for Matthews.

Rookie cornerback Casey Hayward also made his mark on Sunday. The defensive back out of Vanderbilt leapt up for an under thrown Sam Bradford pass in the third quarter to record his fourth interception in three games.

As a collegiate player, Hayward was known as a ballhawk, and seven games into his rookie year, he’s bringing that label with him to the professional level.

Mr. Fourth Quarter

As exciting as utility man Randall Cobb has been for the Packers offense this season, no performance was as exhilarating as Sunday’s fourth quarter feat.

With Steven Jackson and the Rams whittling the Packers lead to seven points midway through the fourth quarter, Cobb came up big on the ensuing drive.

On his way to a spectacular 39-yard touchdown catch, Cobb kept the drive alive with two separate third down receptions.

With each eye-popping performance, Randall Cobb is helping Packers fans get used to a future without Greg Jennings.

Forging An Identity

After a sputtering start to the year, the Packers are beginning to establish themselves. The offense is finding ways to win without Greg Jennings, young playmakers are emerging on both sides of the ball and the team’s strong showing in the face of mounting injuries displays preparedness for the grind of a long season.

The Packers came away from Sunday’s game without any major injuries and with the eventual return of Greg Jennings, B.J. Raji and others, the team should only get stronger as the season progresses.

Up Next

The Packers finally return home after a three game road trip. Next Sunday at noon, the Jacksonville Jaguars travel to Lambeau Field to face the Pack.

Packers vs. Texans: The Aftermath

October 15, 2012

The Packers caught a few breaks but lost a few players on their way to putting together their first complete game of the season and handing the Houston Texans their first defeat of the year.

Making The Most Of Opportunities

The Packers have been on the wrong side of a few calls this season, but the Green and Gold caught a break on the opening possessions of each half Sunday night.

On the offense’s first possession of the game, Texans’ rookie special teamer DeVier Posey lined up offsides on a Tim Masthay punt, giving the Packers a fresh set of downs.

On the very next play, Aaron Rodgers dropped back to pass and lofted the ball over the left shoulder of Jordy Nelson. Nelson hauled in the 41-yard rainbow and dove for the pylon to open up the game’s scoring.

The beginning of the second half also started in a similar fashion. After marching down the field, the offense stalled in the red zone but the Texans committed two costly penalties giving the Packers new life.

Two drops by Packers’ receivers set up a Mason Crosby field goal attempt, but during the kick, the Texans committed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty which gave Green Bay an automatic first down.

Another drop by a Packers’ receiver appeared to doom the offense again, but Texans’ safety Danieal Manning punched Packers’ tackle Marshall Newhouse in the helmet, drawing yet another penalty and setting up Jordy Nelson’s third touchdown catch of the game.

Favre-like?

Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers is looking more and more like his predecessor in Green Bay.

Think about it. How often did Brett Favre come out jittery and overthrow his receivers early in games? And how Favre-esque was that shovel pass to Tom Crabtree in the first quarter?

How about the play where Rodgers scrambled, made J.J. Watt miss and found a streaking Randall Cobb in stride for a 24-yard gain? Or the laser-like throw to Jordy Nelson for Rodgers’ third touchdown pass of the night?

Normally, any sort of Aaron Rodgers versus Brett Favre comparison is unwelcome, but perhaps enough time has passed to start equating the two in a favorable fashion.

Getting Defensive

The Packers defense started the evening without nose tackle B.J. Raji and lost three more starters to injury as the game wore on. Regardless of who saw the field, however, Dom Capers’ unit dominated.

The defense held the Texans’ three stars to pedestrian numbers. Quarterback Matt Schuab finished the game with no touchdown passes and two interceptions, running back Arian Foster scored on two short runs but was held to 29 rushing yards and receiver Andre Johnson caught 8 balls for 75 yards and no touchdowns.

Aside from a couple blown coverages in the third quarter, the Packers kept the pressure on Schuab all night and forced the Texans to abandon their usually potent ground attack.

Add in the defense’s three interceptions, two by rookie Casey Hayward, and the Packers put together an admirable performance after blowing an 18-point lead in their last outing.

Injury Report

The Packers were banged up coming into the contest and left the game even more battered and bruised.

Outside linebacker Nick Perry was the first Packers player to go down with a leg injury. The rookie outside linebacker hurt his left knee early in the game and was unable to return.

Inside linebacker D.J. Smith also hurt his knee when he was blindsided by Texans’ tackle Duane Brown after Arian Foster changed directions and came back towards Smith on a running play.

Brown appeared to lead with his helmet and will likely receive a fine from the league office, but the damage to Smith appears to be worse than anything the league could hand out. Smith was carted off the field wearing a brace on his right leg.

Backup running back Brandon Saine also left the field on a cart. He injured his left knee covering a kickoff in the third quarter.

Sam Shields became the fourth player to go down when he injured his shin in the fourth quarter. After being kicked in the shin by teammate Mike Neal, Shields was helped off the field without being able to put any weight on his right leg. Along with Smith and Saine, Shields became the third player to be carted off to the locker room.

No Jennings, No Problem

Without their top wideout or running back, the Packers offense finally found its rhythm. Accounting for all of the team’s touchdowns, quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the no huddle offense with confidence and composure as he finished with six touchdown passes and no interceptions.  

In place of the injured Cedric Benson, second year back Alex Green looked more explosive than he has in his entire career as he carried the ball 22 times for 65 yards. Although his stats were less than impressive, Green’s presence and timely runs provided just enough for Rodgers to do his damage.

Receiver James Jones also shone on Sunday night. His three catches for 33 yards do not tell the complete story as two of his receptions went for touchdowns. Both scores required spectacular concentration and Jones now has 23 catches on the year with just under one-third of them, seven to be exact, accounting for touchdowns.

Up Next

The Packers finally put together a complete game to trounce the Texans. Next Sunday, the team travels to St. Louis to face the Rams. Despite a rough start to the year, the team is back to .500 and, perhaps more importantly, has captured the swagger that had escaped them for the season’s first five games.

The Aftermath: Packers vs. Colts

October 8, 2012
by

The Green Bay Packers fell to the Indianapolis Colts 30-27 on Sunday.

The Second Most Important Statistic

The Packers defense came up with four interceptions during their week two match-up against the Chicago Bears, but the unit has since failed to come away with another turnover.

That streak was broken on Sunday when rookie Casey Hayward ran stride for stride alongside Colts’ receiver Reggie Wayne and pulled down an interception, but on the ensuing drive, the Packers offense stalled and failed to convert the turnover into any points.

For a defense predicated on creating turnovers, the Packers live and die by forcing the opposition into mistakes. Despite multiple opportunities on Sunday, the unit wasn’t up to the challenge.

Rookie linebacker Nick Perry forced a fumble after annihilating Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, but Perry led with the crown of his helmet, drawing a personal foul penalty, and negated the turnover.

For the second week in a row, two Packers’ defensive backs collided with each other to break up a potential interception.

Tramon Williams had his second potential pick overturned by an official review. The replay showed that he allowed the ball to hit the ground after Colts quarterback Andrew Luck threw it directly into Williams’ hands.

With under five minutes to play in the fourth quarter, veteran Charles Woodson let another potential pick slip away. Instead of an interception sealing the game for the Packers, Andrew Luck and the Colts marched down the field and completed the comeback.

Injuries

Already without Greg Jennings, who was inactive with a groin injury, the Packers lost another pass catcher early in the third quarter. Jermichael Finley’s right shoulder slammed into the Lucas Oil Stadium turf after an incompletion and he was unable to return.

After the game, he assured reporters that he would be back next week.

“I’ll be back in Houston for sure,” Finley told Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

There was no post-game word from Cedric Benson, however, after the offense lost the running back to a left foot injury in the second quarter. After leaving the field under his own power, Benson was carted off the field and did not return.

ESPN’s Stats and Info quantified Benson’s absence. With Benson still in the game, the Packers averaged 6.5 yards per play and dropped back to pass 53% of the time. After he went down, the offense averaged 4.2 yards per play and was forced to dropback 77% of the time.

The defense suffered a substantial loss as well. B.J. Raji injured the same ankle he hurt in the preseason as he was being blocked away from the play. After the game, Raji was terse with his description of the injury.

“I rolled my ankle, wasn’t able to come back. There’s nothing more to say,” he told reporters.

With four starters missing, the team dwindled away an 18-point halftime lead.

It Wasn’t All Bad

After the first half, the Packers looked to be headed towards an easy victory. The team went into the locker room with a 21-3 lead, the offense was in sync and the defense was playing inspired football.

In a brutal second half, backup running back Alex Green provided the lone spark for the Packers offense. Prior to Sunday’s game, the second year player had logged two career carries for a total of two yards. After Benson left the game, Green’s workload increased.

Finishing the day with 55 yards on 9 carries, Green made his mark in the fourth quarter. The second year pro burst through a hole on the left side of the line, made a cut to his right and put together a 41-yard scamper that set up the Packers only points of the second half.

Not The Packers’ Day

Simply put, the Colts’ second half was better than the Packers’ first half. Good teams win games they are supposed to win, and after blowing an 18-point halftime lead, the Packers 2012 squad is searching for its identity.

With misses from 52- and 51-yards, kicker Mason Crosby picked a bad time to miss his first field goals of the season, but this loss isn’t on the special teamer. The brunt of this defeat is on the ineptitude of the offense and defense.

Up Next

The Packers face the undefeated Houston Texans on the road next Sunday night. Green Bay hasn’t lost two games in a row since coming up short against the Lions and Patriots in weeks 14 and 15 of the 2010 season, and the Packers will look to avoid that fate as they head into Houston next weekend.