The crowd was spectacular against the Cowboys. I enjoyed the clear disgust that was displayed by the penalties & play-calling in the 1st half only to have it coupled with complete rowdiness as Romo stepped up to the line of scrimmage. You made life difficult for the Cowboys offense and aided in the near shut-out. If you were in attendance, pat yourself on the back.
Charles Woodson wants his name in the ring of honor at Lambeau Field. Each time I watch him, I begin to think that while I love having Charles Woodson on my team, Chuckie enjoys playing for my team as well. For those of you that know me, you're aware that I'm a Michigan fan. While playing for the Wolverines, Woodson became the 1st defensive player to ever win the Heisman. He left my team and went to the Raiders where he had 17 interceptions in 8 seasons. Since becoming a Packer, he now has 24 interceptions in 3.5 seasons. Chuckie, I need you. But, mate, you need me as well. Together we're a great tandem.
Yes, Charles Woodson saved the Packers season. At least temporarily. 9 tackles. 1 pass defensed. 1 sack. 1 interception. 2 forced fumbles. He was the difference in the game. A telling picture was when Rodgers approached Woodson and shook his hand as a sign of appreciation. Epic.
The defense also got terrific performances out of Clay Matthews III, Cullen Jenkins and Johnny Jolly. They really dominated the line of scrimmage. We were quicker off the snap than the Cowboys OL. And just as I predicted, Jason Garrett became impatient. He abandoned the run. CM3, Jenkins and Jolly made Romo uncomfortable. Often times playing a 2-4-5 formation, Jenkins and Jolly controlled the point of attack, got a push and allowed for Barnett & Hawk to make a difference shooting the gaps with inside blitzes. Both Barnett & Hawk played possessed. Desperate as though their jobs were on the line.
It's also interesting to note that on both fumbles that Woodson forced, Clay Matthews III was the man on top of the football playing until the whistle blew. Additionally, it's noteworthy to state that one play came nearly 40 yards down field and the other play came nearly 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Both displaying terrific versatility.
Matthews has to be in conversations for the defensive rookie of the year - just behind Jairus Byrd. Thus far, Matthews has 23 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 fumbles recovered, 1 forced fumble, 4 passes defensed and 1 TD. I'd like to see Matthews finish with 50 tackles, 8-10 sacks, 2-3 forced fumbles, and 4 fumble recoveries. For comparison sake, LaMarr Woodley has 22 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 1 TD and 4 passes defensed. Shaun Phillips has 42 tackles, 5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. When you consider that Matthews did not start seeing every down snaps until Week 4, statistically he fits in the 2nd tier of OLB's that play in the 3-4. While he does not force offenses to scheme around him, he does bring an endless energy that elicits positivity.
It was also nice to see Nintendo Nick getting his hands on a couple of passes. And, of course, Ras Al playing steady as ever.
I'm also going to offer applause for Brad Jones. He drops in coverage nicely. He had 7 tackles. He seemed to adapt well to his role. And in his first game in which he saw significant playing time, he was not responsible for any glaring mistakes. With that being said, he was often the last person to move off the snap. His first step seemed slow coming off the edge. He did not look overly comfortable as a pass rushing LB. My fear is that he may have the same disease that plagues Michael Montgomery & Jeremy Thompson. He might be a good effort guy who is not quick enough off the ball while judging the snap count. I hope I'm wrong as I want to like him.
The win moves the Packers to 5-4 & in the thick of the Wild Card hunt. In fact, I could argue that we're in the driver's seat as we are battling Dallas, Philly, the Giants, the Falcons, the Panthers, the 49ers and the Bears for 2 spots. Remember to eliminate one of the NFC East teams as they qualify automatically for winning the division. Dallas still has games against the Giants and Philly. Philly still plays Chicago, Atlanta, the Giants and Dallas. Atlanta still plays the Giants and Philly. Eliminate Chicago as they have two games left against Minnesota. The Giants still play Atlanta, Dallas, Philly and Carolina. What I'm saying is that if we take care of our business, the rest of the teams will knock each other out of it.
The 49ers come into town this weekend. You know Mike Singletary will want this game. His troops will be physical. His team will be ready. They'll be prepared. If we're not focused early in this game, we'll fall behind. And the 49ers are the type of team that can annoy you. They'll bait you into mistakes. They'll frustrate you. They're tough to comeback on. They play good defense, pressuring the QB & stopping the run. They run the football. They use short routes to Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree to keep the ball moving.
The 49ers have a small handful of rising star players; notably Patrick Willis, Frank Gore, Davis and Crabtree. I also really enjoy Manny Lawson's game. Lawson is a long armed, lanky defender that pressures the QB and gives optimum effort every play. Playing the same position as CM3 in the 3-4 defense, Lawson (who was the 22nd pick in the '06 draft) can both rush the passer and drop into coverage. He presents mismatches and can alter plays. Across from Lawson is Parys Haralson, an under appreciated, unknown defender who can presser the QB. Haralson & Lawson will provide a stiff challenge for our Tackles.
The 49ers can be attacked as Nate Clements & Takeo Spikes will be out. Mark Roman will see playing time. Though Dre Bly has been a Packer killer, he's aged and slowed down. Shawntae Spencer has nice size, but he'll bite on slants and you can run by him. Michael Lewis is a safety that I wanted the Packers to sign before the 2007 season. He's a respectable safety that is normally fit for his assignment, a sure tackler. Not a terrific playmaker, but he's going to be around the ball.
I'm not going to get into the Alex Smith/Aaron Rodgers draft class, but I'm sure this game weighs heavy on both players minds and that they're especially aware of each others performance.
We're 9 games into the season and we still don't know who the Packers are. We lack an identity. We may go into the offseason wondering the same. Or we may establish ourselves as a legitimate playoff contender in the comfort of the confines of Lambeau Field. A win would not only be good for our playoff standings, but it'll also all but eliminate the 49ers.
The 49ers physical mentality gives the Packers fits early in the game. We struggle with protection. Patrick Willis stops the run game. Frank Gore pounds at us in between the tackles. The 49ers lead 6-3 midway through the 2nd Quarter.
And then the defense provides the lift. Clay gets into Alex Smith's face for a sack. We swing the field position. Rodgers finds Jennings on a deep ball. 10-6 Packers.
Early in the 3rd, Ras-A-tari gets his hands on a ball. Once again the Packers have good field position. It's Rodgers to Grant on a screen. Grant picks up 15. It's Rodgers to Nelson for a 1st down. It's Rodgers to Donald Lee for a TD.
With a two score lead, the Packers bring the pressure. Smith avoids the pressure and finds light success with Vernon Davis who provides a mismatch against Hawk, Chillar and Barnett. He connects with Crabtree on a slant. But, the Packers defense holds to a FG.
In the 4th Quarter, the Packers rediscover the run game. Pounding at the cold and uncomfortable San Francisco DL. The Lambeau crowd leaves with joy for the second week in a row.
Packers 23. 49ers 9.
Charles Woodson for Defensive Player of the Year.