The Packers come away from their game with the Cardinals with a 31-17 win.
However, they lost even more players to injury, so Thank Goodness It’s Bye Week!
Gone to the training room this game were LB Clay Matthews (hamstring), OT Bryan Bulaga (hip pointer), WR Jordy Nelson (ankle this time), and for parts of the game WR Randall Cobb (shoulder/stinger) and TE D.J. Williams (hamstring).
This game was another in which both the Packers offense and defense didn’t play as well as they have in the past – even this season past. But they played well enough to pull out the W and along the way some good things happened- things we wouldn’t mind seeing again!
Chest bumps and thumps from the Cards game:
Chest Bump – I thought the Packers did an excellent job of mixing the run and the pass. Both facets of the offense were productive and if either hadn’t been they might have been in real trouble in this game. The run game was more effective than in any other game this season. James Starks ran for 61 yards on 17 carries and Alex Green had 53 yards on 11 carries. Add Randall Cobb’s 3 carries for 29 yards and Aaron Rodgers’ 33 yards to the total and that comes up to 176 yards and a 4.5 yard average. That’ll get you a W almost any time in this league. I thought Starks looked a little slow early but his running improved as the game wore on – a good thing for a RB.
Thump – Drops. Again. What can be done to improve in this area? Whatever it is the Packers receivers need to do it. Embrace it. Own it. Grasp it. Hold on to it. Get it?
Chest Thump – Mixed returns for the Packers O line.
• Good Thing- rushing for 176 yards can’t be done without pretty good to great offensive line play.
• Not So Good Thing – Aaron Rodgers, especially early in the game, looked like he was running for his life on every play. Thankfully pass pro improved as the game went on.
• Good Thing – when T Bryan Bulaga went out with his hip pointer early in the second quarter, G T.J. Lang moved to RT and G Evan Dietrich-Smith filled in at LG for Lang. No obvious falloff ensued.
So overall Packers O line play was, well, better than it might have been considering the circumstances. Nice work by the big guys!
Chest Bump – Penalties- or the lack thereof. In this game the Packers had one penalty (false start on Finley) for five yards. That’s the kind of attention to detail for which this team is capable. Even with a shuffled offensive line pieced together after Bulaga went out, for the most part the Packers played good, clean effective football. Not perfect football, but penalties didn’t enter into it in this game. A welcome change!
Thump – Ball security. Against the Cards RB James Starks had a fumble, recovered by QB Aaron Rodgers at the cost of his body, and an interception stolen from WR Randall Cobb while he was on the ground which really wasn’t Rodgers’ fault. Either way, coupled with the drops, the Packers don’t seem to be emphasizing ball security enough. Fix it!
Chest Bump – DL sacks. DLs Mike Neal and Mike Daniels both had sacks. Sacks by DLs good. Very good. We like ‘em. We love’em. We want some more of ‘em!
Thump – Lack of LB sacks. The LBs got close enough to Cards QB Skelton to sack him several times. LB Clay Matthews had him in grasp but lost him right before he left the game with his hamstring injury. Skelton was hit several times and pressured even more but sacked only twice. I thought the Packers pass rush would do better against the Cards patched-up O line.
Chest Bump – Defensive takeaways. LB Erik Walden was able to pick off Skelton after CB Casey Hayward tipped a pass up for grabs. And on special teams DB Jarrett Bush recovered a muffed punt deep in Arizona territory to take away any chance for Arizona to ruin the end of the game. Both were huge plays, as so often takeaways are.
Thump – Third and shorts. In the second quarter the Packers converted a third and one running the ball. The drive ended with a TD. In the third quarter the call was to pass the ball on third and one. Incomplete. Drive stalled. Later in the third quarter the call was to run on third and one. Green couldn’t get the one yard even though it looked like there was room to his left. Drive stalled. In the fourth quarter a third and one failed when Starks couldn’t gain a single yard on the ground. Drive stalled.
Moral: the Packers need to find a consistent way to convert third and short yardage situations into first downs.
Chest Bump – Packers run defense. There is no denying that the Cardinals are not a top running team. But they are a NFL team with NFL players. They could have had more success if the Packers defense hadn’t done what I thought was an excellent job of bottling up Cards RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, holding him to 51 yards on 17 carries and not giving up anything longer than one 11 yard run.
Chest Bump – TE Tom Crabtree … the newest Packers deep threat. Sure he was gassed (by even his own admission) when he got to the end zone, but he made the longest touchdown (72 yards) so far this season at a time in the game when the team seemed to need it the most. Arizona had just drawn to within a TD after a Feeley FG and it looked like the Packers might just Indianapolis, or worse Seattle, this one. It looked like Crabtree’s play fired up the defense, too. Great job!
I’m glad to say I was close to the mark in predicting a few things before the game. RB James Starks did outrush RB Alex Green but not by much. It was nice to see the Packers RBs working together and contributing more than just “carries.” Rodgers running still scares the green and gold out of me! Thirty-nine running plays and 30 pass attempts was also nice to see come true. And WR Randall Cobb is keeping this team in games by what looks like sheer force of will. He totaled over 200 combined rush/pass/return yards in this game. He’s my Offensive Player of the Week.
So the Packers limp into their bye week at 6-3. Chicago looks tougher each week and the Packers, along with the rest of the NFC North, will still be looking up at their 7-1 record when they come back after the bye.
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt took the old “it wasn’t what they did as much as what we didn’t do” approach after the game. Yes, the Cards did drop more passes and make more mistakes than the Packers did. But good teams find a way to win games like that. The good team, and the better team, won this one.
Get the players healthy. Improve what needs improving but recognize what’s working and stick with it. Enjoy the bye week because once it’s over every game will be critically important – starting at Detroit in two weeks!
Bring on the BYE! Go Pack GO!