In a game somewhat typical of week one in the NFL thus far, defense was largely on top in a tense encounter in Pennsylvania. The Green Bay bandwagon is somewhat lighter after a game where Aaron Rodgers was consistently harassed and threw two poor interceptions and arguably had his worst game since becoming the Packers' starting QB.
However, whilst many neutrals may have second thoughts about picking the Pack as the NFC champions, fans will more likely be encouraged by this game, as a number of key concerns heading into week one appear at least for now to have been overplayed.
Here then are my snap judgements on Green Bay's performance:
- The pass-rush: The primary concern of many cheeseheads was the ability of Dom Capers to consistently bring pressure to opposing QBs. Whisper it quietly but if Clay Matthews can continue in this form, then he could be a gamechanger in the way that Charles Woodson was last year. The USC product had two sacks, forced a fumble and should have held onto a pick as well. The fact that Capers moved him around and gave him different looks and positions meant that space was freed up for UDFA Frank Zombo to get a free hit on Michael Vick in the fourth quarter. A secondary and almost as important factor was that BJ Raji had a big push regularly for the D-line and both he and Cullen Jenkins got sacks as well.
- Special Teams: What a pleasant change it was to see all sides of ST working well. Mason Crosby hit two very important field goals, one of which was a franchise record of 56 yards, as well as another from 49 yards. Tim Masthay had four punts and only messed up on one in the fourth quarter. Perhaps the most impressive element was in the return game where Jordy Nelson had three significant gains on kick returns and was not dragged back by any dumb holding flags, which I'm sure most Pack fans were immediately looking for after each gain.
- The shutting down of DeSean Jackson: Jackson cut a frustrated figure as he was well covered for the most part by Charles Woodson or Tramon Williams. His deep threat was something that had many very worried at Lambeau, but he was mostly a non-factor. In addition, he only had two punt returns for 10 yards combined, as well as two fair catches—a very satisfactory day at the office.
- Aaron Rodgers: After what he described as a terrible performance, Rodgers will not want to watch the tape of this when he gets back to the training ground. He was hurried, missed open targets, and generally lacklustre. Both INTs were horrible throws, and he was lucky not to have a pick 6 from Asante Samuel, as well.
- The Tackles: Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton both did their best to make their new contracts look a waste of money. They showed their age as Trent Cole, Jacqua Parker and Brandon Graham caused havoc in the backfield. Brian Bulaga may be getting a game sooner than he thinks...
- Greg Jennings commented that if they got field position like that consistently then points would be so easy it'd be like stealing. Well, it's only theft if you actually take advantage of the opportunity. For all of the positives, there should have been more points on the board.
- Injuries: If Ryan Grant is out for any length of time, then I just don't trust Brandon Jackson to get it done as a workhorse 'back. Justin Harrell surpassed even his standards of ill health by not even lasting one half of a game though that's less of a surprise. Mike Neal, get well soon.
The Packers spluttered on offense, but the major worries on D never materialised. Rookies Morgan Burnett and Sam Shields were solid enough as first time starters and seldom got found out. The pass rush appears vastly improved with opposition co-ordinators having to account especially for Matthews in the future, which should allow other players to make impact plays.
People will still worry about the D in the wake of Mike Vick showing some of his Pro Bowl form, but Vick is a total one-off player in the NFL. I'm sure if Dom Capers had known he would play as extensively as he did, then he would have schemed for him outside of the wildcat.
I think AJ Hawk should get on the phone with his agent to start selling him hard for next off-season. Granted, Green Bay played almost exclusively with five or more defensive back, but if Hawk's not doing enough to get himself on the field then he's not likely to get a new contract next year.
One last thing: To all those people who say Greg Jennings is not a top receiver in the NFL? Go back and watch his one handed grab during the first touchdown drive...That is all.
Got an opinion? Please comment - I hope to do a review like this after every game so thoughts are always welcome.