It’s like t-shirt time, only better, because no one from Jersey is involved. Shawn Neuser takes a look at the Green Bay Packers 9-0 victory over the New York Jets.
Two of the better NFL defenses met on Sunday in blustery conditions. Ultimately, the team whose offense (and head coach) made the fewest mistakes won the game. The Green Bay Packers served notice that they are injured but not out, and the New York Jets reminded everyone that no Super Bowl has ever been won by talking a good game.
The biggest play in the game for the Packers may have been the third play from scrimmage, which was Aaron Rodgers’ first pass of the game. On third and 6 from the Green Bay 27, Rodgers tried to force a ball over the middle to Donald Driver. Jets safety Brodney Pool jumped the route and appeared to have an easy interception, but at the last moment, a diving Darrelle Revis tipped the ball away, robbing his own teammate of an interception that might have been returned for a touchdown, or at the minimum, would have given the Jets the ball in range to take an early lead.
Once again, the Packers appeared on the positive side of the officiating, and there can be no doubt this week’s crew was better than last week’s. Both Packers’ interceptions, both of which were ripped away from their respective receivers, were miraculously called correctly on the field.
After starting their first drive of the second half at their own 11-yard line, the Packers had a third and 10 at the Jets 40. Rodgers threw incomplete up the sideline to Jordy Nelson. A flag was initially thrown for illegal contact, but the refs ruled the contact was only incidental and was legal since Rodgers was out of the pocket. The ruling was complete nonsense. Jets cornerback Drew Coleman bit on the stop-and-go and was forced to grab Nelson or let him run free. The play was textbook interference and an easy call. Instead, the no call stopped the Packers’ first drive of the second half.
The Packers’ game plan was understandably conservative, featuring 23 rushes against 37 designed passes. Brandon Jackson had 15 carries for 55 yards, aided by a 27-yard scamper at the end of the first half. The Jets are a tough defense to run against, and I thought the Packers’ effort was adequate.
One thing I especially liked was Jackson getting to the corner on a couple runs, something Green Bay backs, since the early days of Ahman Green, have not been doing enough. Getting around the corner in the running game is like throwing deep in the passing game — it forces the defense to cover the whole field, and can make running inside easier later in the game. John Kuhn had a couple runs of note, but I still don’t understand Mike McCarthy’s habit of replacing Jackson after successful runs.
Tackles Bryan Bulaga and Chad Clifton both excelled in the passing game, once again, but both were over-matched in the running game, especially Bulaga, who struggled against Shaun Ellis, Calvin Pace, and Bart Scott.
Since the Jets normally leave the center uncovered, it was Scott Wells’ responsibility to block Scott or David Harris on most running plays. He wasn’t successful blocking either for most the game. Guards Daryn Colledge and Josh Sitton were adequate, but much of their good work was ruined by breakdowns to the outside.
With Jermichael Finley out, the Packers need Donald Driver to get healthy more than ever. Greg Jennings appeared capable of getting open regardless of who covered him. He also caught the ball when thrown his way. Big plays continued to allude him by the slimmest margins, however.
One week after I named him the heir apparent to Driver, James Jones had an awful game, including a drop on Rodgers’ best pass of the game — a deep ball down the right sideline. Jordy Nelson, on the other hand, stepped up, catching a couple passes over the middle that are normally Driver’s forte and making a great play on a back-shoulder toss when the Packers were backed up on their own 11.
Unfortunately, rookie Andrew Quarless is not going to be mistaken for Finley any time soon. He dropped a big third-down pass in the first half that would have moved the Packers into field goal range.
Rodgers is taking some unfair heat here, though it’s understandable, considering the 9-0 score and the 3-14 third down performance. It’s obvious the Packers’ game plan for the Jets involved Rodgers throwing the ball away if nothing was there, which was quite often.
I counted six such throwaways in the first half alone, and there should have been at least two more, counting Rodgers’ first pass of the game and the sack he took in the first half immediately before Mason Crosby’s lone field goal miss of the game. Rodgers has to know he shouldn’t take a sack with the ball at the Jets 23. Otherwise, my only other criticism is the lone red zone possession of the game.
A good defense is going to try to take away what Rodgers wants to do. On the goal line, with Finley out, that’s the dig route to Driver. The Jets had it doubled. Rodgers stayed on it too long. If he looked to the right, Jones is wide open on the exact same route. If he sticks with the play a little longer, Jennings breaks open in the middle of the end zone on the same route that turned into a score against Chicago. Or if Rodgers looks immediately to his left, Jackson has a touchdown if the ball is delivered as he comes out of the backfield. Instead, Rodgers waits too long to get Jackson the ball, and the defenders close the gap enough to stop Jackson at the two.
Rodgers actually played a good second half. There were no sacks, no near interceptions, and he went 8-for-13 in the half. On third and 6 from the Jets 40, early in the fourth quarter, the Jets sent a linebacker blitz that worked. Rodgers stood in, took the shot, and threw the ball over the middle to Nelson, getting the first down and setting up the field goal that would stretch the lead to 6-0. That’s the kind of play a big-time NFL quarterback makes.
The Packers’ overall yardage is skewed by the fact they made no attempt to gain yards two of the three times they had the ball in the fourth quarter. There was no need to.
The Jets averaged fewer yards per carry than the Packers. The Packers were aided by the fact the Jets were seemingly reluctant to stick to the run, but the Packers’ stout play had something to do with that.
C.J. Wilson may actually become a player in this league. What a find in the seventh round that would be. B.J. Raji is a player and battled with the New York bigs all game. He was helped by the hefty load of Howard Green, fresh from New York via the waiver wire, whose lone flash of brilliance was on an unusual reverse, where he almost prevented LaDainian Tomlinson from completing a hand off to Jerricho Cotchery. Cullen Jenkins returned from injury, but other than a batted ball, he didn’t provide the pass rush that was hoped for.
I don’t know what’s gotten into Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk, but these guys had a lot to do with the shutout. Bishop led the team with 10 tackles, and he and Hawk were both excellent in pass coverage. Bishop actually had another possible interception that could have turned into a touchdown that bounced off his helmet. Brandon Chillar even played better against the pass than last week and got a fairly impressive sack in the first quarter. Clay Matthews made the Jets regret doing a toss sweep to his side, and like last week, he did what big-time pass rushers do. Stoned for most of the game by Pro Bowl caliber right tackle Damien Woody, Matthews got the big sack when it mattered most — in the fourth quarter. Frankly, with all the recent euphoria over the Packers, they in all likelihood lose the last two weeks without Matthews on the field.
We don’t know how Morgan Burnett would have developed to this point, but Charlie Peprah has been a pleasant surprise, thus far. He was tough against the run and solid in coverage. Peprah and Nick Collins shared equal responsibility on the deep pass over the middle to Cotchery. Otherwise, the Packers safeties had virtually no mistakes. Collins all but removed tight end Dustin Keller from the game.
Maybe Charles Woodson read some of his press from last week. Whatever it was, Woodson played more like last season’s defensive MVP than the Packers second-best cornerback, which he’s been so far this year. Woodson was everywhere against the run, nearly got an interception blanketing Braylon Edwards over the middle, and did get an interception by ripping the ball away from Keller. Tramon Williams continues to play at a Pro Bowl level.
The Packers special teams were finally special. Punter Tim Masthay shocked Packers Nation with a 55-yard punt with no return on his first kick. The rest of the day followed that form. Crosby missed an important field goal in a pesky wind, but he made three others, so it’s all good. The coverage units gave up one long return, but it didn’t cost the team. The return units were more of the same.
This was a huge win for the Packers, that’s mostly the result of inspired defensive play and an offense that didn’t make crucial mistakes. Should doesn’t pay the bills, but the Packers should beat the Dallas Cowboys this week and head into the bye at 6-3.