The 3-2 Green Bay Packers came away from a road defensive struggle with the 3-3 Baltimore Ravens with a 19-17 victory today. While this was a satisfying, hard-fought victory it was also extremely costly. The Packers lost WRs James Jones and Randall Cobb to injuries, along with losing LB Nick Perry for several series during the game.
The game was a defensive struggle. It’s not often that the “big” plays for both teams in an NFL game can be counted on both hands. This was one of those games. The Packers found a way to win it, which is exactly what good teams do.
Short recap this week…but Chest Bumps and Thumps aplenty from the Packers-Ravens game!
Chest Bump- to Packers LB A.J. Hawk. Hawk has been trending up lately and he had a career game today. His eight tackles, two assists, and three sacks led the team in all categories. My eye only caught one missed tackle. He looked like he was a man possessed out there and the Packers really needed his huge performance. While A.J. wasn’t the only defender who had a good game his was a big step up in performance personally and a big boost to the defense as a whole. Nick work 50!
Thump- to the Packers O line in pass protection. These guys got manhandled in pass pro way too much today. QB Aaron Rodgers can’t do much magic if he’s running for his life- and he was today. They gave up three sacks and a passle of hurries and hits on 12, on many of which they looked abysmally inept. If they weren’t doing a much better job on their run blocking (see below) there would probably be bounties on their heads by now. Pass pro has to improve or there might be a new record for QB sacks given up and hurries / hits / pressures / unhappy fans.
Chest Bump- to the Packers O line in run blocking. I was a little hard on these guys last week after the Detroit game. They did a good job controlling the interior line of Detroit. They did a good job opening holes and lanes for RB Eddie lacy today too. No RB carries for 120 yards on 23 carries without the O line in front of him getting some good work in. I’d feel much better about the line if they could be as consistently good at pass protection as they have been in the run game so far this season. The good news is that the big guys have room for improvement in all phases. If they were already bumping up against their ceilings as football players and as a group then, well, things would be really scary.
Chest Bump- to Packers RB Eddie “Steady” Lacy. Lacy started strong and finished stronger, racking up 120 yards on 23 carries and in general being exactly what the Packers need and want for their running game to be effective. I can’t say Lacy looked faster or tougher as the game went on to me, but racking up that kind of yardage against a talented Baltimore defense isn’t easy. He got the tough inside yards. He bounced outside and picked up yards in bunches. As I have said many times over the years, I’ll take 5 yard runs all day long. You won’t lose many games that way. Lacy’s final run was perhaps his best. He started out off left tackle, bounced to the left outside, picked up the yards he needed for a drive-sustaining first down, and then slid- in bounds so the clock kept running. It’s been a long time since the Packers have had the kind of production in the run game they’ve had so far this season. This just in: Lacy is a keeper folks. Now if we could just get MM to call for more runs on third and short!
Thump- to Packers CB Sam Shields. Shields was burned for a TD today and he looked bad doing it. Having his eyes in the backfield instead of on his coverage responsibility downfield was a huge mistake- especially in a game like the one today. Luckily the Packers offense answered the call. He had one tackle. He looked very ordinary in a defensive secondary crying out for and badly needing extraordinary efforts. The Packers run defense has been their most improved defensive category. If the Packers DBs don’t ramp up their performance quickly the improvements in run defense won’t mean much. Or anything at all if teams are throwing the ball at will against the Packers secondary.
Chest Bump- to Packers WR Jordy Nelson. Jordy came through again this week in a big way. Obviously his 64 yard TD was huge in the game, but he also had three other catches that were all clutch. He had a drop early that stung some, but he seems to come back better after an occasional gaffe than most other receivers. More importantly he has been consistently reliable with few exceptions. Today, with James Jones and Randall Cobb going down with their injuries, Nelson had to pick up some extra workload and he did exactly that.
Thump- to Packers CB Tramon Williams. Tramon seems to have lost his mojo. He had a couple of really obvious missed tackles today that ended up causing huge YAC for the Ravens- especially the one on which he could have stopped Ravens WR Brown but he tried to tackle the ball instead of the player. It ended up being what my father used to call an “ole’” tackle. Williams didn’t have much of a stat line either- one tackle and one assist. His holding penalty on third down allowed the Ravens to keep their drive alive, eventually ending with the TD over Shields. He tends to bounce back from poor performances though, so perhaps he’ll play a whale of a game against the Browns next week. If he doesn’t then Davon House might end up playing more and Tramon might just end up an expensive nickel back. That’s a huge drop off for someone who was not long ago and is still expected to be the Packers’ lock-down corner.
Thump- to Packers TE “Bad” Jermichael Finley. Finley had a couple of drops, was called for a phantom holding penalty, and threw some ineffectual phantom blocks that didn’t help the Packers cause in the run game. I think I scored it 1-6 or so, good blocks to bad blocks. Luckily for “bad” Finley (and all the rest of us) there is also “good” Finley…
Chest Bump- to Packers TE “Good” Jermichael Finley. Finley’s 52 yard catch was the play that more than any other put the game out of reach for the Packers today. He should have stayed in bounds (Twitter blew up over that one), but that’s a relatively minor criticism considering the importance of the yards gained. When Finley performs on a more consistent basis the Packers will get their money’s worth out of him. So far the majority of this season has seen, regrettably enough, sufficient instances of “bad” Finley to make it hard to determine when “good” Finley will finally make a big play.
Chest Bump- to Packers S / KR Micah Hyde. Hyde had a nice 23 yard punt return and totaled five punt returns for an average of 15 yards per. Those were important plays considering the Packers forced nine punts in the game. He also forced a fumble and had five tackles and an assist. Hyde’s talent and potential are what got him drafted by the Packers. His viability will continue to increase as he makes contributions to team wins like the one today.
Thump- to Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. Just between you and me, I hate thumping Rodgers. Or more to the point, I hate it when he deserves it. Even only partially. Today Aaron threw a gorgeous 64 yard TD pass to Jordy Nelson. He also threw an interception in the end zone. Rodgers fumbles twice, which is ugly, but the Packers recovered both of them, which was better than losing them. Rodgers ran five times for 21 yards and a couple of big first downs, but he took a beating in the pocket and missed some throws to open receivers. He and Jarrett Boykin misfired several times before Boykin finally made his only catch of the game- the big 43 yarder. See a pattern here? What I need from 12 is consistency. He knows today’s game wasn’t his best effort. It was good enough, but had the Packers D not been playing extremely well for most of the game the Packers probably would have lost this one.
Chest Bump- to Packers LB Nick Perry. Perry played a really good game today. He had three tackles with two assists and a strip / sack that DE Datone Jones was able to scoop up and return deep enough that K Mason Crosby was able to redeem himself after missing his previous FG attempt. Perry was pressuring Ravens QB Joe Flacco consistently and playing the run effectively until he was forced out of the game for several series with an injury. Here’s hoping Perry comes back real soon with the same drive and effectiveness he showed today.
Thump- to the officiating crew. This seems like a perpetual thump but seriously- is there an officiating crew in the NFL that can call penalties when they’re really there, not call penalties that aren’t really there, and most importantly explain their actions clearly and succinctly when called upon to do so? No? Too much to ask? OK then. How about just calling the penalties that are there. Holding on Hyde during the punt coverage? The “pick” during the pass play in the second quarter to Jones? Balderdash you say? My temerity knows no bounds? Alright…this one’s easy. How about calling a penalty on the first person to shove a player or get in someone’s face instead of the second player all the time? Just one time! Excuse me? My expectations are still too high? I thought maybe so. Thanks NFL zebras for making fans the world over wonder how you ever made it to your present level of responsibility.
Chest Bump- to Packers Next Man Ups LB Jamari Lattimore, Andy Mulumba, and Mike Neal. OK…I know. It should probably be written out Next Men Up. Too bad…I like Next Man Ups better and my opinion counts for something here. Lattimore had only three tackles today but he was all over the field. Mulumba had one solo tackle and three assists. Neal had no stat line at all but he took resources the Ravens couldn’t use to block Hawk and Perry, both of whom had productive games. The D line and LBs are playing great team defense right now. The pieces are meshing very nicely. Nice work in the trenches!
Chest Bump- to PK Mason Crosby. I know Crosby missed a FG today. He also made four others and accounted for the majority of the Packers points in this game. Had he not made those four FGs the Packers lose today’s game. He’s having the comeback year by which all other comeback years will eventually be measured. He just needs to keep focused and follow through. Maybe I’m oversimplifying things but seriously- Mason is making a strong case for team MVP so far this season.
Packers fans with whom we watched the game today were a very nervous but loyal and vocal group…The same cannot be said of the Houston Texans fans who turn out in droves to watch their team in the sports bar- even when they play at home. When Texans QB Matt Schaub went down with an ankle injury during their blowout loss to St. Louis the “TexFans”cheered louder and longer than we had heard them cheer for a long time- certainly more than at any other time during today’s game. Stay classy all you Texans fans!…Does anyone else get as ticked as I do when a hold is called (like the one on Finley against Suggs) and the commentators comment is that they didn’t see it or they wouldn’t have called it?…The Packers D held the Ravens scoreless through 40 consecutive minutes of game clock today…Coming in for the injured WR James Jones, Packers WR Jarrett Boykin had three drops / missed routes before he broke loose on his one big 43 yard catch and run…Former Packer front-office man and current NFL insider Andrew Brandt tweeted today that a Ravens fan asked him about the cap hit the Ravens would take if they cut QB Joe Flacco…When the Fox telecast went to the footage from the 1974 Packers at Colts game (the last time the Packers had won in Baltimore before today), I turned to my son John and told him I remembered watching that game… at which point he turned to me and said, “you’re so old!” I told him I was his age at the time, and that regularly and faithfully watching those Packers teams of the 70s and 80s is why I’m the middle-aged old man I am today!…the Packers had five tackles for loss in the game…The fourth and 21 play converted by the Ravens (over out-of-position S Jerron McMillian) on the way to their second TD pass (also over McMillian) dredged up some really unpleasant memories for Packers fans of a similar play years ago in Philadelphia- but the Packers won this game…When the Packers blocked the punt they would have retained the ball in good field position if FB John Kuhn hadn’t touched it and then fumbled it…Kickoff specialist / punter Tim ”Thunderfoot” Masthay only generated one touchback today…early reports indicate the injuries to WRs James Jones and Randall Cobb may not be as bad as first thought. Let’s hope that’s the case!
With regard to the Fearsome Predictions I made prior to the game, I have to say I was absolutely correct about every one of them! Too bad I didn’t write a pregame piece this week and share them with you gentle readers…but trust me I was dead-ON! I’ll go way out on a limb here and say that it’s highly unlikely anybody foresaw the Ravens game going the way it did. I’ll make some more “public” Fearsome Predictions for next week and share them with the people- just because those same people tell me they like them. So watch out readers. You still can’t stop me from making Fearsome Predictions. You can only hope to contain me. Unless my real-life work and family obligations keep me from being able to post a pregame piece!
Next up the 3-2 Green Bay Packers return to the comfortable confines of Lambeau Field, don their throwback unis, and take on the 3-3 Cleveland Browns, who lost to Detroit at home today 31-17. The Browns made a game of it but they just didn’t have enough horses to hold off Detroit. The Packers will face a Cleveland team looking for payback. With so many injured players likely forced to sit for at least next week’s game the Packers offense is sure to have some new wrinkles. Will the Browns be able to beat the wounded Packers on the road? Or will the Packers get their patched-up offense back on track at home against the Browns? Which players will lead the Packers to victory? That’s why they play the games…and why we love to watch them!
Go Pack GO!