Green Bay Packers: Some Good Things That Happened Monday Night
For Packer fans across the nation, Monday night was about as bad as it gets.
At least on the infamous 4th and 26 play we had only ourselves to blame. And at least the pain of Brett Favre's last pass attempt in green and gold, an interception that set up a game-winning field goal for the Giants in the 2007 NFC Championship game, lessened a bit with the quarterback's subsequent fall from grace.
But Monday night was much more frustrating and much harder to swallow. No, it wasn't the playoffs, but the loss seems more futile and confusing than anything I've experienced in sports for a long time. Sure, Green Bay should have had a larger lead to begin with and the refs didn't sack Rodgers eight times in the first half, but until today it was hard to focus on anything but the bad calls and lost chances.
Despite all that, the Green Bay faithful should be encouraged. A lot of good things happened in this game that has been overshadowed by the unusually low score and controversial ending.
The Defense Is for Real
Two weeks ago against the Chicago Bears, the defense put on a show, picking off Cutler four times, sacking him seven times (including 3.5 by Clay Matthews) and keeping the Bears' offense a non-factor the entire game.
This week, they proved that it wasn't a fluke. The Seahawks won't set any offensive records this year, but they are no pushover, especially at home. Green Bay only recorded one sack and, uncharacteristically, left the field without forcing a turnover, but the Packers held Seattle to only 130 yards in the air—and that includes 24 very controversial yards. This is a drastic improvement over last year, even if it was against a rookie quarterback.
Against the run, they contained Marshawn Lynch to 98 yards on 25 carries. Not dominant, but once again vastly better than last year and against a very capable running back. It's especially good news that his longest rush was only nine yards. Just ask Jamaal Charles what a long run or two can do to your stat line.
And mobile QB Russell Wilson only had 18 yards on three rushes. Green Bay usually lets quick quarterbacks run amok, especially at key points in the game, but Wilson couldn't find any openings and was forced to throw the ball away.
New Orleans will be a very different test, but the last two weeks have looked incredibly promising for the squad.
M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian Are Legitimate Safeties
Last season, the Packer defense was crippled by the loss of safety Nick Collins. The problem wasn't necessarily that the defensive players from the Super Bowl team weren't playing up to their abilities, it was that a key injury gave every offense a glaring hole to exploit.
The Packers spent the whole season trying to plug the hole left by Collins, but kept getting burned again and again.
Not anymore. M.D. Jennings, even before he became a household name on the last play of Monday's game, has been a force. He has shut down receivers, broken up passes and been involved in many more plays than reflected on the stat sheet.
He has no interceptions (or one, depending on who you ask) to his name yet, but you just get the feeling from watching him that he could breakout at any time.
Quickly becoming a fan favorite in Green Bay, it will be interesting to see how Jennings responds to his new-found media attention.
Jerron McMillian has been even more impressive. He was a huge factor in shutting down the Bears' passing game and already has one interception to his name. When Jennings had a sluggish start to the 49ers matchup, McMillian came in and played extremely well.
At the moment, McMillian seems to be the favored of the two, but just the fact that the Packers have multiple, legitimate options at the position is encouraging. Trying to find playing time for both young safeties is a good problem to have.
The Offense Clicked, If Only for a Moment
The stats don't necessarily reflect this, but in the second half, Rodgers and his receiving corps starting playing like their 2011 selves. Rodgers and his receivers were exploiting short routes and marching down the field with such swagger that you just knew they were going to get the first down.They gained momentum and used it to steamroll the defense without blinking an eye.
There might not be much tangible evidence to go off of here, but getting that unbeatable attitude back might be the most valuable asset to this team. Ultimately, they had to settle for too many punts and field goals, but there were definitely glimpses of last year's greatness—just enough to make me think that they'll find their way back to the top of the league.
Greg Jennings Is Back
After sitting out the crucial game against the Chicago Bears, Greg Jennings was suited up again for the green and gold. He's a critical member of the offense and proven leader among a very young receiving corps.
Jennings only had 35 yards Monday, but led the team with six receptions and was a yard away from scoring his first touchdown of the season.
His chemistry with Rodgers was clearly back to normal and if the Packers hope to buck this current offensive slump, they are going to have to run through Jennings. There is no doubt that his return boosts the entire Green Bay offensive unit.
Division and Scheduling
Being 1-2 in a tough division is never a good thing, but the season is far from over. There are no undefeated teams in the NFC North and of the two teams ahead of Green Bay—Chicago and Minnesota—they have already beaten one and the other is arguably the least talented team in the division. Props for beating the 49ers, but out of these four teams, the Vikings are the least likely to make the playoffs. The Lions still have plenty of talent, but have sputtered out of the gate this season.
As long as the Packers take care of their own business, they should see a return to the playoffs this year. New Orleans is a tough out, but they have yet to win a game this year. Houston is a legitimate Super Bowl contender, but Green Bay can match them if they find their stride.
New York is always solid and Arizona has been surprisingly good this year, but other than that their non-conference schedule feature easy matchups with Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee and St. Louis.
Assuming they take care of business against the gimmes and play up to their potential, there is no reason why they can't end up at least 10-6; and that's being conservative. This team has all the potential that last year's did, especially if they start believing again that they are unbeatable.
The future in Titletown is very bright.