Back on track. And tied for the Division lead in the loss column. The schedule has us in a position to make a run, if we can get thru the Defending Champions on the road. Sure, the Lions were undermanned as they played without Calvin Johnson & Nate Burleson, but you aren't going to get any sympathy from an organization that has been littered with injuries since the start of the XLV Season. Under Mike McCarthy direction, the Packers have admirably applied the "Next Man Up" philosophy and - for the most part - the player who was next in line has played better than expected.
Any time you win in the Division, it's crucial. Though it wasn't pretty, it looks the same in the box score and ultimately, it was a solid grind it out victory over a tough-minded Lions team. Here's some vibes from the game:
* Mike McCarthy wins inside the Division. The appearance isn't always delightful to the eye, but the end result is normally the same: VICTORY FORMATION. I respect McCarthy. I like how he's trying to let the offense evolve. Clearly, he's still figuring it out. But, it's coming together. It's a full-on blend of a heavy running attack on 1st down. Mixed in with short passes and additional runs on 2nd down. Then, on 3rd Down, the ball is put in Rodgers hands - almost exclusively. It's an offense based out of shotgun formations. In my mind, McCarthy is clearly setting up opponents in the future. Look for more play action passes out of the same formations.
* I like the pitch play to the outside. It's worked wonders. I expect this play to evolve into a play action pass to the weak side of the field. It'd generate one-on-one coverage and an open TE in the flat. It'd be a first down.
* While McCarthy's new offense isn't as flamboyant as ones in the past, it's effective for this version of the Packers. It eats the clock and it forces Rodgers to execute on 3rd and 6 or less. I like my chances in that situation. It's more ball control than we're used to seeing out of the Green & Gold.
* The other place McCarthy's new offense demands efficiency is inside the Red Zone. And, this is his biggest area of opportunity. Inside the 10, McCarthy has abandoned the run game. He needs to give the ball to Lacy who has a nose for the end zone. Let Lacy pound away. McCarthy is getting too fancy. Rodgers appears frustrated with the play-calling. Further, Rodgers seems as though he is losing confidence in the OL inside the Red Zone. Once the 1st read is covered, it looks like Rodgers looks down at the pass rush and not down the field for open receivers. Could be wrong, but that's what I perceive.
* Dear Aaron Rodgers, Stay cool. Stay calm. Stay collected. You are our driver. We all know this. Your frustrations speak volumes. Keep us united. Especially in the Red Zone. Big things are soon to happen for this offense.
* I like Eddie Lacy. A lot. But, he leaves a lot of yards on the field. Find the yardage maker, Eddie. Move the sticks. Be less concerned about looking for the 25 yard carry and more concerned about picking up the 1st down. Prior to the 3rd & 1 in which Rodgers' pass to Cobb was knocked down by DeAndre Levy at the line of scrimmage (what was McCarthy thinking on that play call?), I thought Lacy could have picked up a first down on both of the prior carries, but he misread the rushing lanes.
* How epic was McCarthy's insertion of Cobb as a RB? Changed the game. Brought the Packers a victory. Loved the play call. Running Cobb to the weak side. Big adjustment from McCarthy. The more Cobb touches the ball, the better this offense will be.
* Jordy Nelson is an acrobat! In full exclamation.
* James Jones is underrated.
* Note to Johnathan Franklin: if you don't hang onto the football in this league, you don't last long. Priority #1 is ball possession.
* Great game, Josh Sitton. You, too, EDS.
* Thought TJ Lang played well with the exception of when he whiffed on Levy on the screen.
* Keep working, David Bakhtiari.
* J-Mike is running harder after the catch than he has throughout his NFL Career.
* Ryan Taylor should be released. He brings zero value. Great play call by McCarthy. Great design. Taylor was wide open. Ball hits him in the hands. Should have been a TD. No excuses.
* Get healthy, Clay Matthews. We need you.
* Great game, Mike Neal. Be ready for more action. Neal was an absolute stud against Detroit. Against the run and putting pressure on the QB.
* The Packers will miss Brad Jones. Hope he's back soon. Man, he's been somewhat beastly this year.
* I didn't want to see Robert Francois in action due to a Brad Jones injury, but I was excited to see him. Sad that he's done for the year. The special teams units will sorely miss him.
* Time to elevate Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington.
* Big play, Morgan Burnett! Thought that was a TD. Good instincts, young man.
* Play bump and run, Ras-Davon. No reason House is laying off receivers by 5-7 yards. That's not his game. He has to out-physical WR's at the line of scrimmage.
* Good game, AJ Hawk. He's having his best year as a Packer. He still struggles in pass coverage, but it was fun to see him shifting DL into the right spot prior to the play and nearly every time, his adjustment was spot on.
* Ryan Pickett is immovable.
* Mike Daniels keeps pushing OL backwards.
* Make the tackle, MD Jennings!
* Game ball to you, Mason Crosby.
* The last couple of years, the Packers have made plays on special teams, it didn't look as though Micah Hyde could continue that trend based on his one return. I'm not willing to give up that piece of our team. We need to improve in the return game.
* Much has been made of Nick Perry's move to the right side. I feel like his comfort there is important. Not only is he playing a new position at OLB, but he also is pushing off with a different side of his body. When I first saw him play for USC, he was on the right side. He was abusing Jonathan Martin. Martin was eventually a 2nd round pick by the Dolphins. Perry looked powerful. He looked quick. He looked natural. We didn't see a lot of that in his limited action on the left side. But, in just a few snaps, he notched 2 sacks and a forced fumble rushing from the right side. He'll get his chance to punch out more pressure on the QB. Play with confidence, Nick.
* Quick shout out to Sir Charles! Tied the NFL Record for most defensive returns for a TD. He also picked off a pass. And, thus, he was awarded the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. Stallion!
This week - it's the Ravens. In Baltimore. It should be noted that the Ravens are a much better team at home than they are on the road. The Ravens have a stout OL, a couple of talented RB's, a beastly pass rush, and the most overrated QB in the NFL.
I'm not a Joe Flacco fan. I give him credit for winning the Super Bowl. He engineered a great playoff run. He was deserving of the Super Bowl MVP. But, man, as a week-to-week QB, I'm glad he's not in Green Bay.
Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are legit. Both are the type of RB's that traditionally give the Packers problems. They're tough. Physical. Great vision. And, both are utilized well on the screen. If I were the Offensive Coordinator for Baltimore, I'd call between 7-10 screens this week. Rice and Pierce will make hay on the Packers thru the screen and dump offs.
The Ravens OL is big and gifted. Eugene Moore looks to start at RT. He's a solid addition and will immediately improve the Ravens OL. Nick Perry will have his work cut out for him as he tries to beat Michael Oher in an attempt to get to Flacco.
Torrey Smith can get deep. But, he's not a great short-to-intermediate route runner. Jacoby Jones is talented, but he might not play. Marlon Brown and Tandon Doss don't scare me. Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark are decent possession receivers.
Defensively, the Ravens scare me. Dumervil and Suggs are intimidating. They could have their way with Bakhtiari and Barclay. Canty, Ngata and Arthur Jones are all legit. Ngata is elite. Canty is long and problematic. Ladarius Webb, Jimmy Smith and Corey Graham are solid CB's who match up well with our 3-headed WR combo of Nelson, Jones and Cobb. Matt Elam has playmaking skills at Safety.
The Ravens defense matches up well with the Packers offense. Freakishly well. In order for the Packers to win, they'll have to do two things: run the football and utilize the middle of the field. Lately, McCarthy has been stuck on moving the football to the outside. He's gotten away from the middle of the field. This week - the Packers must attack the middle of the field. Force James Ihedigbo, Daryl Smith and Josh Bynes to make plays. Force them to cover J-Mike and AQ81. Get Finley and Quarless down the field. Use the dump off to Lacy. Get Kuhn involved underneath. Take what you can get. And run it right at Canty. Yes, run Lacy at Canty. On repeat.
Defensively, the Packers must play to stop the run. If so, Flacco will make a mistake. It'll be up to our DB's to capitalize on those mistakes. I'm confident that they will. I'm calling it again this week - look for T-Mon to grab a game changing pick!
Don't let Torrey Smith beat you deep. The Packers must give help on the deep ball with Smith. 8 in the box. With help over the top on Smith. Get after Flacco with a variety of blitzes. Flacco will be throwing off his back foot. Opportunities will be present.
Corey Graham is an excellent slot CB. He'll do well against Cobb. It'll be up to McCarthy to get creative in an attempt to get Cobb the ball.
Early on, look for the Packers to come out trying to punch the Ravens DL in the mouth. Running right at the Ravens DL. The Packers move the football with moderate success and Crosby is true as the Packers stall near the Red Zone.
The Ravens move the football in annoying fashion. On a 2nd and 12, they hit the Packers in the teeth with a screen to Pierce. It's Flacco to Smith in the back corner of the end zone.
But, the Packers respond. It's Finley over the middle of the field. And, then, the Packers take advantage of the overly aggressive CB play on the outside. Using a double move, James Jones gets behind Jimmy Smith. For a big play.
Watch for it, Graham, Smith and Webb are grabbers. Let's hope we get the calls. Because pass interference and defensive holding calls could come in abundance.
It's a back and forth game. The Packers cling to a 3-point lead late. And they come with pressure up the middle. Jamari Lattimore gets home for a big sack! Side note on why I'm excited to see Lattimore: he's a natural pass rusher. Like Jones, he used to play OLB. This should translate into enhanced pressure from the inside. I like Lattimore's game. I expect positive things out of him.
Once again, it's Rodgers in victory formation for a BIG road win.
Packers 23. Ravens 20.
Are you Feelin' It? I'm Feelin' It!
Go Pack Go!