Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Packers' Best Game of the Year

Green Bay Press-Gazette Photo by Evan Siegle
Loss-Win-Loss-Win-Loss-Win.  Could a team be any more inconsistent than that?  Which team is the real Packer team?  The team of the collapse of epic proportions from the Colts game?  Or the team that went out and knocked off the unbeaten Texans, on the road, in convincing fashion?  I wish I knew.

Until the Texans game, you could say that the Packers had not performed particularly well in any game.  They lost to the 49ers, Seahawks and Colts.  The Packers were outplayed and out-coached by the 49ers.  There may be an asterisk next to the Seahawks loss, but you wouldn't want to have to defend the proposition that the Packers played well in that game.  And as for the Colts game, the Packers played a good first half, and then fell apart at the seams to lose the game.

What about the two previous wins?  The Packers beat the Bears solidly, but then again I am not really a believer in Cutler or the Bears, despite their division-leading 4-1 record, so color me somewhat unimpressed.  The win against the Saints was important and satisfying at one level, but (a) they barely beat the Saints and could easily have lost; and (b) the Saints are not the Saints of a couple of years ago.  So the Packers not only needed a win against the Texans, they needed a convincing one, for the sake of their own confidence and the confidence of their fans.  This game ought to do the trick.  The Texans were not only undefeated, they were looking like a Super Bowl contender.  They had one of the highest-powered offenses in the league, featuring Arian Foster and Andre Johnson.

Despite all that, the Packers outplayed the Texans from the first possession on, and won the game 42-24.  They looked good on offense, and on defense, and on special teams (other than the blocked punt that was recovered for a TD).  Alex Green did a solid if unspectacular job of replacing Cedric Benson, and the passing game looked the best it has looked all season, even if it is still not quite at the level of last year.  On defense, the Packers put pressure on Schaub all night long, sacked him three times, and intercepted him three times.  Both Foster and Johnson were kept in check, and Schaub finished with 232 yards, no TDs and 2 interceptions.

The frequently frustrating James Jones seems to be taking a step forward this year.  He has caught two TD passes in 3 consecutive games, including the sensational catch pictured above.  No Packers player has done that since DON HUTSON did it a long time ago.  That seems impossible to believe.  Jennings, Driver, Freeman, Brooks, Sharpe, Lofton, Dale, McGee, Dowler, and Howton never did it, but Hutson and Jones did?  That is pretty remarkable company.  Speaking of Packer records, how about Aaron Rodgers?  He tied the all time Packer record for TDs in a single game (6), set by . . . Matt Flynn last year.

The Packers lost another starter for the year (D.J. Smith) and several other players were knocked out of the game with injuries that looked less serious.  The backups played well, especially rookie defensive back Casey Hayward, who made two interceptions and looked great.  Now the Packers will finish their three game road trip at St. Louis, where the Rams are also 3-3.  The Packers are favored in this game, so you would certainly think that they have a good chance of winning 2 of 3 on the road trip, and getting above .500 for the first time this year.  Maybe the Packers have the rest of the league exactly where they want them, with a 3-3 record, just like they had in 2010.

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