The Packers were never out of first place in the NFC North at any point during last season, but find themselves alone in last after just one week of the 2012 season. After wins by Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota, Green Bay struggled to get going and fell short to the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field. As bad as this may look on the surface for Green Bay, there are some not-so-bad things to take away from this.
According to Jason Wilde at ESPNMilwaukee.com, cornerback Charles Woodson is saying the same thing: "We're going to be OK," Woodson said.
These words carry meaning considering they came from the mouth of a brutally honest and straight-forward team leader. Even though they are in last in their own division, look at the opponents each NFC North team played. While the Packers were taking on a team with 13 wins a year ago, the rest of the division's Week 1 opponents—St. Louis, Indianapolis and Jacksonville—combined for just nine wins in 2011.
Also, even though they were outplayed for the vast majority of the game, Green Bay showed the resiliency that every good team has. The Packers were down 23-7 at one point in the third quarter, and twice had the ball in the fourth quarter trailing by only one possession. Aaron Rodgers failed to deliver his magic from 2011, but this is a defense unlike any the Packers have seen in quite some time.
"This was a tough game," Woodson said. "This was a team that went to the NFC Championship Game last year, and they have just about everybody back and they've added some pieces. So they're a good team, make no mistake about it" (via ESPNMilwaukee.com).
Sure, the Packers still have things to work on. The secondary was not on the same page for the majority of the game, and safety M.D. Jennings was replaced by rookie Jerron McMillian after giving up an easy touchdown to Randy Moss early in the second quarter. The run defense was pretty much non-existent, and the poor tackling that plagued the team last year was still evident in the first game of 2012.
Offensively, Rodgers struggled to get momentum going, and had very few good looks down the field. The top two receivers, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, combined for just 98 receiving yards and no touchdowns. Running Back Cedric Benson managed just 18 yards on the ground and barely saw the field in the second half of his Packers debut.
Despite all this, there were some bright spots for this Packers team looking to build off their successes of last year. Their defense got big stops, allowing San Francisco to go just 2 of 9 on third downs, and their new look pass rush produced four sacks, including 2.5 by Clay Matthews.
On offense, Rodgers unleashed an emerging star in second-year receiver Randall Cobb. Lined up in the backfield, the slot and on the outside, Cobb finished with nine catches for 77 yards to go along with a 75-yard punt return touchdown.
Even punter Tim Masthay had a solid performance. Four of his six punts landed inside the 20, and he only had one touchback. His long of 60 yards also shows he can unleash a rocket when not trying to pin the ball deep.
All in all, the Packers have no reason to hang their heads. Despite losing their opener for just the second time under head coach Mike McCarthy, Green Bay hung tough against arguably the best team they will face all year.
"We're going to get where we need to be," Woodson said. "I promise you that" (via ESPNMilwaukee.com).
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