Sunday, October 14, 2012

The MMQB: Despite all the reasons in the world to lose, the Packers rise up and whip the previously undefeated Texans

I kept hearing it all week and I kept repeating it all week: The Packers, with their inconsistent play, would be no match for the undefeated Houston Texans in their house. We had an offensive line that had trouble keeping our QB upright. We had a defense that could turn from world-beaters to little leaguers in a heartbeat. We were missing our best wideout, our starting running back and our stoutest d-lineman. Against a team that runs to pass, gets after a quarterback and never makes mistakes. Yup, looks like a big ol’ “L” in week six. The problem is, we all forgot to tell the Green Bay Packers!

Rodney Harrison said it best on FNIA: The Packers were two plays away from being 4-1 so don’t write them off just yet. Turns out he’s a smarter man than most of us.

The Texans inexplicably came out throwing the ball and when they did go to the run, the Packer front seven (really eight because Woodson spent 90% of the game up on the line) snuffed it out. Now, if you hang your run-stop on the ample shoulders of BJ Raji and that stout man is in street clothes on the sideline, you have to have lights-out performances from Clay Matthews, Woodson and the rest of your defense. Maybe it was a circle-the-wagons mentality. Maybe it was just a bunch of guys refusing to be beaten. As the injuries decimated the defense throughout the game, the “next guy up” played as well if not better than the guy he was replacing. Casey Hayward is a perfect example. Shields had been picked on all night for big yardage (though he did get one nice interception) but when he went down, Hayward came in and had one gorgeous pass defense (something missing from the rest of the Packer D tonight) and two interceptions. That’s what I call STEPPING UP!

And speaking of stepping up, Mr. Rodgers must have gotten tired of all the people second-guessing his abilities and decision-making. He exploded for 338 yards, 6 TD’s and zero interceptions. That six TD day ties the Packer record, set just last year in explosive fashion by Matt Flynn. And he spread the love around, hitting Nelson (3), Jones (2) and Crabtree (1) for scores and also completing passes to Finley, Green and (with resounding regularity) Randall Cobb. Of course, Mr. Distraction Finley dropped two in important spots. So maybe he’s the guy that needs to get on somebody else’s page. 

Alex Green, filling in for the injured Cedric Benson, had a world of pressure on him. In the new Packer scheme of things, running the ball (or at least establishing the fact that you can run the ball) is the only way you are going to keep swarms of pass rushers from devastating your quarterback. Now, Green didn’t remind anybody of Ryan Grant, Ahman Green or even Edgar Bennett but he did a respectable job with 65 yards on 22 attempts. He had several 8-yard carries on first down and he did his job (although he missed a blitz pick-up here and there). Sure, Rodgers still felt pressure and was sacked but the running of Green prevented the Texans from selling out on the pass rush on every down.

You couldn’t have a Packer game (or an MMQB article) without at least one “WTF?” moment by the refs and here it is: Aaron Rodgers goes down on a sack late in the first half at the hands of J.J. Watt. And when I say hands, I mean Watt’s hands smacking Rodgers in the helmet and ripping it off his head. Now, I’ve seen plenty of times when a guy’s been flagged for merely touching a QB’s helmet. Last week Packer Nick Perry got not only flagged but fined for a perfectly legal sack/fumble. But for some reason when Watt ripped Rodgers helmet off, that was not only not flagged, it wasn’t even mentioned by the broadcast team. A non-call like that on your franchise player, that’s ridiculous.

This was a good game by the Pack. Sure, our secondary looked like they were in prevent for big stretches (were we even covering some of those guys?) and that just seems like it’s a feature of Dom Caper’s defenses lately. And giving up a blocked punt for six in slop time was pretty ugly. I think the team was already in the locker room in their heads and, suddenly, had to be reminded there was still football to be played. But it was a good game. It showed the Packers could bounce back from such an ugly collapse and win a big game against a (seemingly) better opponent. I slammed him last week for the collapse, so have to give credit to Mike McCarthy for this turnaround. He didn’t let his troops get too low and get too wrapped up in the loss last week. Plus, he knew Aaron Rodgers well enough to unleash the beast and let him control the game with his arm   

It would have been a bloody mess to have dropped to 2-4 with a loss, even though the Bears were idle and the Vikings lost. With the win, you can see a path to supremacy in the North that might have been impossible to travel without it. Having only played one division game and won it (against the Bears), the Packers can now get back on track with a few decent showings against the Rams, the Jags and the Cards to get to the bye and then start North play in earnest. I’m hoping we can look back on this victory in a few weeks and point to it as the game when the offense found itself again and the defense realized they could stand toe-to-toe with anybody.

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