1. There was a whole new level of intensity brought by the Packers defense today. Aggressive blitzes. Aggressive plays on the ball. Aggressive fumble recoveries. Where was this reckless abandon last week against the Bucs?
2. Charles Woodson set the tone for the game. He was the best player on the field today and is consistently overlooked as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. This is the year Woodson's name should come up in Defensive Player of the Year discussions. What a stud. Absolute stud.
3. Two rookie linebackers, Clay Matthews and Brad Jones, looked terrific. The two rookie Linebackers combined for eight tackles, a sack, and two tackles for loss.
Matthews is what the Packers thought they were getting when they drafted A.J. Hawk #5—an athletic playmaker who will not only make the plays that he should, but will also make your jaw drop once or twice a game.
Matthews is playing with a new level of intensity (probably because he is more familiar and comfortable with the defensive scheme) since the first eight games. He may just be that Kevin Greene-like blitzing force (isn't he lucky to have such a coach) to wreck havoc in the Packers new 3-4 defense for years to come.
Jones, the rookie LB from Missouri, also looked like he belonged out there today. In fact, he played better, in some respects, than Aaron Kampman, who was out with a concussion. Unlike Kampman, Jones looked smooth dropping back into coverage and held his own at the point of attack on off-tackle running plays.
I think the Pack may have found their two future stalwarts at OLB today.
4. Boring, maybe. But Aaron Rodgers did an excellent job of managing a physical, grind 'em out game. Many Packers fans are criticizing Rodgers for holding the ball too long, which may be a contributing factor in some instances, but is preposterous as explanation by itself for the ungodly amount of sacks the Pack has given up. For those fans who criticize Rodgers for NOT taking more chances, I ask you this:
How many times have you seen that old Gunslinger get impatient in tight, grind 'em out games, and launch an ill-advised missile between two defenders that was, well, intercepted. I can think of more than a few. And I, for one, am proud of Rodgers for hanging tough today and leading the Pack against a 6-2 division-leader with a menacing pass rush. And most importantly...NO INTERCEPTIONS. I can get used to this.
5. Call me a hater, but Ryan Grant has worse field vision than Hellen Keller. The Packers O-Line could open up a hole for a Mack Truck to run through, (I know, doesn't happen) and Ryan Grant would make it seem as though a ZipCar could not fit through it. In other words, Grant still struggles at finding the hole and making the right cut-back. Sure, he ran hard today—harder than I've seen him run all year—but I long for the days when the Pack can hand the ball off to a running back who can actually make something happen.
6. Mike McCarthy can be a poor game day coach. I have been saying this for awhile now, but it often seems like McCarthy is overwhelmed by the game day responsibilities of a head coach.
I won't get into the penalties (yes, they keep on comin'), but calling a challenge in the 2nd half when you HAVE NONE LEFT is unacceptable. I mean, seriously, Mike? Since when did you get three challenges?
7. The Packers CAN establish a running game if the coaches commit to it. It was certainly nothing to write home about, but the Packers were finally able to establish a legitimate running game to balance their pass-heavy offensive attack. Far too often, McCarthy has given up on the run after only a couple of failed series.
If the Packers are going to compete for a wild card, they MUST establish a legitimate running game to take the pressure off of Rodgers and the pass protection. A little Ryan Grant explosion in the 2nd half, a la 2007, would be prettttttty prettttttttty good.
8. Nick Barnett looks healthy and ready to bust out the Samurai on a regular basis. I got the impression during the first half of the season that Barnett was still favoring his knee and not quite playing with his usual reckless abandon. Today, that changed. The Samurai was flying around the field.
Packers insiders have seen Barnett practicing the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique every Wednesday after practice. He could be preparing that for Jay Cutler in Week 14.
9. It never fails to amaze me how quickly the tides can turn. One week ago, the Packers' season looked like a lost cause, and fans were screaming for drastic changes.
Now, momentum seems to have turned and fans are whispering playoffs again.
In one week's time, the Packers' playoff chances went from seemingly nothing to pretttttttty good. Win the games that they should and a couple that they shouldn't, and the Pack can grab that wild card fo' sho.'