Packers qualify for new IDs
A win for the Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia wasn’t unexpected, but the fashion in which it happened was.
Defense and special teams bailed out the Packers’ offense in their 27-20 win over the Eagles, which was nearly the exact opposite of what we’ve come to expect from coach Mike McCarthy’s teams.
“It’s one game,” McCarthy in reflecting on the victory. “Very pleased with their performance. I felt that was a win, when you break down the offense, defense and special teams. It’s a lot of time, effort, and I thought the players really stepped up and did the things the way we asked.”
Whether it’s been Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers directing the show, the offense has always been the star throughout McCarthy’s tenure.
Granted, the defense made significant strides a season ago under defensive coordinator Dom Capers. But its struggles against veteran quarterbacks—particularly the playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals where the Packers gave up 51 points—have been well documented.
In regard to special teams, there can be no beating around the bush. Their performance the past couple years can only be characterized as abysmal.
As McCarthy acknowledged, the 2010 version of the Packers has played only one game. But could it be that this year’s Packers are forging a new identity?
Even Rodgers seemed to be surprised by the offense’s newfound fortune, thanks to the play of the special teams.
“For Jordy (Nelson) to get us consistently across the 30 to the 50 on the first drive of the second half, that’s excellent,” Rodgers said. “That’s important for us. We’ve definitely been on the other side of that.
“No penalties on the special teams—that’s nice. Too frequently last year we were out on the field with a lot of flags down and started drives inside the 20. And today we had really good field position.”
With a boost from the return game, the Packers’ offense was able to get into a rhythm the second half and score just enough to hold off the Eagles, who were led by dangerous quarterback Michael Vick.
A 32-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Greg Jennings gave the Packers a 17-point lead late in the third quarter, which had fans feeling pretty good about the prospects of a win on the road to open the season.
But those were all the points the Packers could muster the rest of the way. The offense gained only 125 yards the entire second half, most of them coming in the third quarter. And they only converted two of six third downs over the same span, which was uncharacteristic for Rodgers and a McCarthy-coached team.
It took a superhuman effort from Clay Matthews and the rest of the defense to preserve the lead and a Green Bay victory.
Matthews led the team in tackles, had two sacks, two quarterback hits, two tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one pass defended, but all that paled in comparison to what he did on the Packers’ final defensive play.
Facing fourth-and-1, up by only a touchdown, ball in Packers territory with only two minutes remaining, Matthews fought through the line of scrimmage to stuff Vick for no gain to turn the ball over on downs.
Considering the team had little defensive line depth and had to use its nickel defensive package to defend the Eagles on that fourth down without a lot of beef up front, the play by Matthews can be considered all the more impressive.
“Our defense was on the field way too much in the second half. We’re short defensive linemen, and we’re playing against a very mobile quarterback,” McCarthy said. “That was a tough, gusty performance by our football team.”
Based upon recent history and the play of Aaron Rodgers in his first two seasons as the quarterback of the Packers, the offense doesn’t figure to continue to struggle. A high-scoring passing attack will presumably return in the near future.
Considering Rodgers’ threw only seven interceptions last season, any more two-interception performances should be the exception and not the norm.
And that can only be a good thing for the Packers. As long as the defense and special teams can continue to play at a high level and the offense can revert to its old ways, McCarthy could have his most well-rounded team ever.
Brian Carriveau is the editor of Maple Street Press Packers Annual and writes for CheeseheadTV.com.