The Green Bay Packers were able to complete the Wisconsin sports-fan tri-fecta: The Brewers won their first game in the NLDS by handling the Diamondbacks, the Badger football team handled the Big Ten debut of the Nebraska Cornhuskers in dominating fashion and the Packers took care of the Denver Broncos 49-23. (as an extra-added bonus, the Brew Crew have beaten the ‘Backs to take a 2-0 lead in the NLDS. What is better than a tri-fecta? Quad-fecta? Help me out here, horse racing fans)
So when your team hangs almost 50 points on a team they should handle easily, a fan like me should be all happy, and excited, right? Well, I am happy (a big victory against a lesser opponent is a good thing) and I am excited (Packers 4-0 and that’s a good as they can be) but I’m more than a little concerned about our defense. To wit:
- For some of the first quarter an all of the second, the Packer defensive secondary was entirely lost: they couldn’t cover at all. Bronco receivers were wide, wide open and we made an ordinary QB like Kyle Orton look like Tom Brady. A few weeks ago, the excuse was the lack of Tramon Williams. This week, I’m sure it will be the absence of Nick Collins. My take: We have stars on defense but the rest of the team has long streaks of being merely ordinary.
- Have you seen such pathetic tackling? How many times have did you count three, four, five missed tackles on the same play? This was not your typical Packer performance in the tackling arena. Bad basics, bad mechanics, bad positioning.
- Lack of a pass rush and general pressure on the quarterback was very, very troubling. If they are taking Matthews away, there are six other guys on that defensive front that should be taking advantage. But where were they? The Packers managed only one sack and only a couple pressures and Orton was able to sit back in the pocket, order a pizza delivered and then pick out whatever receiver he felt like hitting.
Here is my thing: While the Packer offense is hitting on all eight cylinders (most points scored in the first four games of the season in franchise history) these defensive lapses and lacks are really not all that important. They are rendered moot because Aaron Rodgers and his posse are busy ripping off yards, TD’s and wins. But we are going to come to a game, in the very near future, when some defense will figure out a way to shut down that offense. They will take away Finley or they will force Rodgers into making multiple mistakes or maybe our man A-Rodg will simply have an off day. On THAT day, our Packer defense, so mighty and strong last year, will be forced to make that win happen and, from all I’ve seen over 4 games, I do not believe they are up to it. Don’t get me wrong: I’m loving the big plays, the picks, the ability to stiffen and deny the opponent in the red zone. But the fundamentals of tackling, covering and pressuring in the quarterback, so important to the Super Bowl season last year, are nowhere to be seen and it is worrisome to me.
“Enough with the negativity, MMQB”, I can hear the Faithful shouting. And they are right. As much as those concerns bring a sense of foreboding, the great plays the Packers are making fill me with a sense of destiny:
- Aaron Rodger went 29-38 for 408 yards and four (4) TD’s. Plus he ran two scores in himself. That is the first time the long, storied history of the NFL that any QB has accomplished that much yardage, that many scoring throws and two rushing TD’s. I am sick and tired about hearing how GREAT Tom Brady is. I’m getting a bit nauseous whenever I hear about Matthew Stafford and I am developing a severe allergy to the name Cam Newton. There is no QB in the NFL who has played better than Aaron Rodgers. Period. He is the best there is and proves it every Sunday.
- We had right (8) Packers with catches today. For most teams, that would be some kind of record. For the Packers, that’s just another Sunday. The Broncos seemed to be paying special attention to Jermicheal Finley and held him to only had three catches for 28 yards. But all that means is Jennings (7 catches for 103 and 1 TD), Nelson (5 for 91 and a score), Cobb (2 for 75 ), Jones (3 for 48 and one TD), and Driver (3 for 20 and one TD) all step up and blow the opponents away.
- Special mention of Donald Driver: The Man Double-D went out with what to me looked like a career-ending injury when Aaron Rodgers ran in for his first of two TD’s on the ground. Not only did Driver return, but he caught a bullet from Rodgers in the front of the end zone for the final Packer score. Not only is DD good, he’s really, really tough.
- The Packer defense, despite all the faults I listed earlier, were able to come up with three picks and a forced fumble, one of those turnovers a pick-six by Charles “Future Hall-of-Famer” Woodson. This is the way that the Packer defense is overcoming their shortcomings: they are coming up with big, big plays and they are doing it when it’s most impactful.
There will be a big game next week, featuring the Packers at the Falcons. Atlanta has not been the team they were expected to be but they are still a very dangerous opponent, especially at home. Green Bay went in there last year in the playoffs and had MONSTER win. If our defense can come up with a way to perform fundamentally, the Packer offense is more than a match for the Falcons. If not, this might be the toughest test of the young season.