The Green Bay Packers had a second laugher in a row at home, mauling the Carolina Panthers 38-17, and it wasn’t that close.
11:55, 1st Quarter – The Panthers won the coin toss and elected to defer, which is an odd strategy when your defense has been stinking up the joint. The Packers promptly made the Panthers pay with a touchdown to go up 7-0.
The Packers started with their normal three receiver set and Andrew Quarless in the backfield with Eddie Lacy. Quarless led Lacy right on first down and Lacy bulled his way for a 7-yard gain. After Lacy picked up a first down on the next play, Rodgers lost 10 when he play-faked, only to turn around and nearly run right into Panthers’ defensive end Charles Johnson. Johnson had ignored the play-fake and took an outside path around Quarless. Rodgers had the chance to step inside of the rush, but he slipped and fell.
With the Packers facing 2nd and 20, the Panthers appeared in good shape for a stop. However, they jumped offsides twice in a row to give the Packers 3rd and 2. Rodgers took a short look to his right before leaving the pocket, juking a defender, and diving for the first down.
With 1st and 10 at the Packers’ 41, the Packers pulled out a play that had burned the Jets for a long touchdown and they got nearly an instant replay. Rodgers play-faked to Lacy and then stepped up and hit Jordy Effin Nelson up the sideline, throwing it just far enough to get it by a diving Antoine Cason. Safety Roman Harper then pulled a Calvin Pryor by letting Nelson skip right by him. From there Nelson could jog in for the score.
6:00, 1st Q – The Packers’ second drive was even better than their first, going 56 yards in nine plays to go up 14-0.
The Panthers went three and out on their first drive. The Packers played their base 3-4, as I expected, on first and second down, and then the nickel on third down. Interestingly, Sam Barrington started alongside A.J. Hawk in the middle.
Cam Newton scrambled away from Mike Daniels on first down and gained 6 yards. However, on second down, the Panthers tried running their first read option and Newton and back Jonathan Stewart take an extra second to figure out what side the handoff is supposed to be on. That extra second was all Clay Matthews needed to get into the backfield and tackle Stewart for a 3-yard loss. On the resulting 3rd and 7, Nick Perry bull-rushed into Newton’s face and he threw it away. Punt.
A decent punt return by Randall Cobb gave the Packers the ball at their 44. The Packers picked up a first down when the Panthers got caught with 12 men on the field. After that, two passes to Nelson pick up another first. The Packers then did something rare and actually got some misdirection to work for once. Rodgers faked to his right and then rolled out of the pocket to the left. He found Cobb on a drag route, who broke a tackle and went up the sideline for 16 yards.
An easy curl by Nelson got 10 yards two plays later and on the next play, Lacy took a handoff with Josh Sitton leading him over right guard, saw the edge wide open, and immediately took it for an easy 5-yard touchdown run. The edge opened up when Richard Rodgers controlled the right defensive end, Wes Horton, Jordy Nelson blocked down on Harper, and Cason made a business decision.
2:10, 1st Q – That is three possessions and three TD drives for the Packers, which makes it 21-0 and we are not even out of the first quarter yet.
The Panthers went three and out again. After Stewart gained 5 yards on first down, another run would seem to be wise. Wrong. The Panthers tried the flea-flicker instead. The Packers had everyone well-covered and it was incomplete. Then, on 3rd and 5, Nick Perry used a swim move this time to beat the right tackle and sack Newton. That is two third downs and a sack and a pressure by Perry.
After two hard runs by James Starks gained 11 yards, Rodgers threw the ball right in the middle of the field to Cobb for 14 yards. Safety Thomas DeCoud whiffed on a spear attempt on Cobb, but got the flag anyway to add another 15 yards onto the play. After the familiar drag out to Quarless got 9 yards, Starks got the ball out of the offset, heading up the middle. There was a little gap up the middle, but Starks noticed Quarless got enough of Charles Johnson to open up the edge. Starks swung outside where he found a bunch of Panthers unexcited about the prospect of tackling him. Starks took two of them on and then stretched the ball over the goal line as he was going down. Tuddy.
4:10, 2nd Q – It would be four touchdown drives in six first half possessions for the Packers and it is now 28-0.
After an exciting Clay Matthews’ interception for a touchdown was called back, the Panthers faced 3rd and 1 on their next drive. The Packers lined up with Daniels, Letroy Guion, Mike Pennel and Josh Boyd all on the line between Peppers and Matthews. There were no corners on the field. Besides the six guys on the line, Hawk and Barrington, there were three safeties in Morgan Burnett, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Sean Richardson. The Packers got a good push at the line and Richardson aggressively met Stewart in the backfield. Barrington finished it off and the Panthers were punting again.
The Packers followed with their first three and out of the game when Rodgers threw the ball at Nelson’s feet on 3rd and 4.
The Panthers drove the ball to midfield with all passes on their next possession. However, after an incompletion on first down, Newton tried Jason Avant in the flat and Clinton-Dix tackled him immediately for a gain of 1. On 3rd and 9, Newton got pressured up the middle by Clay Matthews and nearly threw a pick to Williams.
A decent punt for the Panthers placed the ball at the Green Bay 6-yard line. It wouldn’t matter. The Packers went 94 yards in nine plays to go up big in the game.
The Packers faced 3rd and 6 from the 10 until another offsides against Carolina made it 3rd and 1. No fooling around with pulling guards or whatever this time. Everyone blocked straight ahead with Richard Rodgers leading Lacy behind Josh Sitton. Rodgers stoned Luke Kuechly and Lacy ran free into the secondary. A shoestring tackle by Harper held Lacy to a 10-yard gain. On the next play, Lacy followed Rodgers again for 11 more yards right up the middle.
On the following play from Packers’ 36, Rodgers bought some time by rolling to his right before finding Cobb against the grain. Cobb hopped backwards to avoid a tackle and then sprinted clear across the field, taking advantage of a Nelson block to get 47 yards.
On 3rd and 12 from the 19, Rodgers ran out of the pocket to his left, picked up a block and then picked up 16 yards. The Packers scored on the next play with a quick out to Cobb. That is Cobb’s eighth touchdown of the season already.
The Panthers would drive for a field goal before half, which is meaningless. If they had hurried and given themselves a chance for a touchdown, it might have meant something, but I don’t know, maybe they already considered the game over.
12:15, 3rd Q – The Panthers’ first possession of the second half ends abruptly when the Packers stuff Cam Newton for no gain on 4th and 1.
The Panthers started the second half doing more of what they should have at the beginning, with passes to Greg Olsen and dumps to Stewart picking up a couple first downs. However, on 3rd and 1, a run by Stewart was stuffed short by Guion and Burnett. With the ball at the Packers’ 42, the Panthers decided to go for it with a quarterback sneak by Newton. Guion and Daniels stalemated the play at the line and Newton came up short.
10:25, 3rd Q – It took just four plays for the Packers to pretty much put the game away for good at 35-3.
The Packers immediately faced 3rd and 6. Rodgers hit Cobb on a quick out. It’s a play that the Rodgers throws all the time for short yardage, but on this play, Cobb broke three tackles and went up the sideline for 33 yards. On the very next play, the Packers scored on a route combination that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before. The Panthers covered like they had never seen it before.
The Packers had Nelson in the near slot, Davante Adams out wide and Cobb in between. Nelson ran straight up field, keeping both safeties in the end zone, Cobb stopped, and Adams ran a square in into the void created by Nelson’s wake. Rodgers hit Adams as soon as he cleared Cobb. Touchdown.
00:08, 3rd Q – The Packers followed an interception with a field goal to wrap up the three quarters of work they’d put in today at 38-3.
After punts by both teams, the Panthers moved the ball into Packers’ territory by throwing three straight times to Greg Olsen. With the ball at the Packers’ 37, Newton either missed Olsen or had a receiver run the wrong route. Either way, Casey Hayward was sitting in zone behind Olsen and was happy to pick it off. Hayward’s somewhat comical return moved the ball all the way past midfield.
The Packers only had one successful play after that. Eddie Lacy broke it over right guard for 11 yards. He fumbled at the end of the play and Bryan Bulaga became the next Packers offensive lineman to make a great play by jumping on a fumble. In the unnecessary scrum afterwards, a ref got a little too energetic pulling Kuechly out of the pile and when Kuechly unknowingly shrugged him off, he got hit with a 15-yard penalty. On the plus side for Kuechly, he got a ticket out of the game, which I’m sure was a relief at that point. I’m sure only the threat of being fined stopped the rest of the Panthers defenders from taking shots at the refs to get their own ticket out of the game.
On 3rd and 4, Rodgers gave Richard Rodgers a chance to make a big play. Rodgers ran a seam route from the slot and got behind the linebackers. A-Rodge had to loft it over them and Richard Rodgers mistimed his jump and missed the ball. A-Rodge was unpleased.
Mason Crosby would come on and kick a short field goal to make it 38-3.
The Panthers, led by Newton, would drive for a touchdown on their next drive, but it would take until the 9:35 mark of the fourth quarter for it to happen. Everyone would admit at that point that the game was over and insert the second string. This would be the second home game in a row where Matt Flynn played the fourth quarter.
The Carolina Panthers have struggled on defense this season, but they are not as bad as they were on Sunday. The Packers dominated the game in every fashion and that is two home games and a half in a row where that has been the case.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense has been humming. I don’t think we’ve seen a stretch like this from Aaron Rodgers since 2011 and we can only hope it keeps going for as long as possible. With Rodgers playing at this level, the Packers are as good as anyone in the league. Davante Adams continues to develop as a threat and if the Packers can get anything out of a healthy Jarrett Boykin, they are strong in the receiving corps. Randall Cobb has been playing at an elite level, like his old self, since his travesty at Detroit and when you put a performer of his caliber on the other side of Jordy Effin Nelson, you have something special out wide.
The running game needs to keep coming along. Frankly, more than anything, everyone involved in the running game could probably just use rest from the bye week, especially the two tackles who have been dealing with injury. Barring injury, I expect the Packers to have relatively fresh legs and be stronger in the run game after the bye.
The Packers defense is continuing to improve and coalesce before our eyes. On obvious passing downs, the Packers consistently lined up with Perry, Matthews, Peppers and Neal all on the line at the same time and the Panthers struggled to keep those guys away from Newton. Clay Matthews had his best game of the year and if we can see more of that, then everyone else will continue to get opportunities to make plays.
When you combine that pass rush with what I feel is undoubtably the deepest cornerback group in the league, you have a pass defense that is for real and going to give a lot of quarterbacks problems. Casey Hayward and Davon House are both making a case to be on the field. Morgan Burnett has been rejuvenated by having a player like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix next to him and for being a rookie, Clinton-Dix might be the best tackler on the defense.
Anyway, next week in New Orleans should be a good test for all of them. So, let’s not get ahead of ourselves there.
Obviously, the weakness of the Packers defense continues to be the run defense. The Packers, led by Matthews, managed to make a couple plays in the Panthers’ backfield and the Panthers were too quick to abandon the run, which was their only real chance this game. So, the Packers’ run defense wasn’t really tested in this game. However, if the offense continues to execute like it has at home, then it is going to be difficult for teams to stick with the run.
Great game by the Packers, who are looking like a strong contender in a jumbled NFC. However, both the Packers and the Lions were 5-2 at this point last season. In other words, there is a long way to go with injuries still capable of playing a big role in how this season unfolds.
You can’t underestimate the ability to have a great change of pace back in James Starks. When Lacy is not feeling it, we still have a running game with Starks in there. Offense is complete if we had another threat at TE.
I like the secondary a lot. The D Line needs to resort to tricks rather than a straight up beat the guy in front of you. Daniels is the only one i have confidence in. The inside LBs are the reason we struggle against the run. Here’s hoping Barrington and/or Lattimore can make a difference.
Another reason the run D has been so poor is because of the weakness at NT. Letroy Guion and Mike Pennel were terrible at first, but have really improved that last 4 games. In fact, Letroy Guion, according to pro football focus, has the highest rating among all NT’s in the league in the past few weeks. Yes, we were terrible in the first four games, but the last three have done a MUCH better job.
Yes, hopefully our back-up ILB’s will continue to improve. Personally I hope we see just a little bit of Carl Bradford as well.
Great reading as usual. Thanks for spending the time in the film room.
One of the good things about this type of game is getting experience for the backups. Some are starting to show up. It appears Barrington, Richardson and Pennel are getting more work in obvious run downs or series. As the weather gets worse there value will show up in the run game. I sure thought Pennel showed some hustle on that third quarter series when he literally tripped up Newton on the sideline. There are a lot of good options in the D personnel from D line to DB’s. ILB’s still a big ?.
The bad thing about this type of game is it gives you a false sense of security. Not sure the D is there yet ( although getting better) when the opposing O has there full play book available. Most D’s have that same problem. I would be most happy if the D could stuff the run and make the opposing O one dimensional. For now the arrow is pointing up and if the offense or the weather makes the other team predictable then great because the D is improving although erratic at times. New Orleans will be a great test. Go Pack