Vic So'oto's big night helped the Green Bay Packers defeat the Kansas City Chiefs 20-19 at Lambeau Field in the final week of the preseason. The Packers now turn their attention to the New Orleans Saints who march into Green Bay for the Sept. 8 opener.
So'oto led the Packers defense on their way to their third win of the preseason. The Packers were without many starters including Charles Woodson, A.J. Hawk, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson and James Jones as well as others. Many of the Packers starters only played a series while plenty of the Chiefs starters played the whole length of the game.
The Packers took the lead on an interception return from So'oto in the fourth quarter. The Packers were able to hold on as a Ryan Succop field goal was no good as time expired. The backups were able to fight until the end and pull out a win against the quality team.
Attention is now turned to the season opener on Sept. 8. The Packers play host to the Saints with the NFL world watching on Kickoff Weekend.
A spectacular performance against the Chiefs should cement So'oto's place on the Packers roster as an outside linebacker. He followed up a brilliant game against the Indianapolis Colts last Friday with an even more impressive stat-line Thursday night.
So'oto made his mark by registering 1.5 Sacks, 1 FF, 1 INT and 1 TD. He completely dominating the Chiefs starting offensive line even forcing them to double him as the game went on. If So'oto can continue this level of play, he won't just make the team, he will see playing time.
The Packers have searched for a player to play opposite of Clay Matthews and So'oto is quickly looking the part. As an undrafted rookie, So'oto has a great opportunity to grow as a player and learn from one of the league's best rushing linebackers in Matthews.
After a dazzling performance against the Arizona Cardinals, Chastin West has looked lost come game time. Tori Gurley has done a much better job in the last two games and was impressive tonight catching passes from Aaron Rodgers.
Gurley was far more impressive than West who was unable to bring in a reception. Gurley was one of only three Packers to record a catch on the evening. He caught two passes for 12 yards.
The main reason Gurley could get the nod over West is that Gurley brings a new dimension to the unit. At 6-foot-4, Gurley would be the tallest wide receiver on the team and check in just shorter than Jermichael Finley. If Gurley develops like the Packers would hope, he could become another red-zone target for Rodgers.
In the position battle that never took off, Ryan Grant has solidified his position as the team's starting running back. Starks appeared to be challenging Grant coming in to camp, but an ankle injury in the first preseason game prevented Starks from making much of a push.
Grant looked good on the Packers first drive with four carries for 31 yards. He showed good patience and some burst that has been missing so far on a 23 yard scamper early in the game. After the Packers 56 yard scoring drive, Grant was removed from the game with the rest of the starters.
Starks did come in on third downs during the opening drive, but was unable to create any production. He was the featured back on the team's second possession, but only had one carry for a single yard. His time on the field was haunted by poor quarterback play from Matt Flynn.
Besides Aaron Rodgers and the No. 1 offense, the Packers were terrible offensively and failed to convert many opportunities that the defense gave them. After Rodgers left the game, the two backup quarterbacks combined to throw for 23 yards the rest of the way. After Grant handed over rushing duties, the Packers only gained 49 yards.
The backups on offense did face quite a challenge as many Chiefs starters stayed in the game. They looked overwhelmed and completely confused. The backups on defense, on the other hand, were all over the field creating turnovers.
In a sloppy performance, the Packers showed the mentality of their team. Instead of laying down when the Chiefs starters remained in the game in the third and fourth quarters, the backups on defensive accepted the challenge and played well.
They say preseason wins don't matter, but a win like the one against the Chiefs and last week against the Colts do build camaraderie and lay the foundation for the mentality of a team. Rodgers and Matthews were both spotted on the sidelines coaching up the young players late in the game. It is never to soon to strengthen the mentality and confidence of a football team from top to bottom.
The Packers accomplished their number one goal for the preseason. They avoided any serious injuries to key contributors and stayed relatively healthy throughout camp and the four preseason games. Frank Zombo is the only player that will definitely miss the opener.
After the injury to Zombo, the next most serious injury thus far for the Packers appears to be Mike Neal's knee injury. Neal injured his knee before the Cardinals game and has not practiced since. His injury is not expected to keep him out for an extended period of time.
Minor injuries have prevented players from practicing and participating in preseason games, but all of these knocks and bruises should be healed quickly and without much concern.
Health will be a key factor in the Packers quest for another Lombardi Trophy. Last year, the Packers didn't suffer many injuries until a flood of injuries hit in the regular season. If the Packers can stay relatively healthy, the sky is the limit for this team.