Dozens of individual Green Bay players played significant roles in Monday’s magnificent victory. Here are a few miscellaneous things I noticed about this intrepid group of guys.
But first, let’s credit Matt LaFleur with doing such an understated job of coaching. Years down the road he’ll have the gravitas, and the players’ respect, to rule in a more iron-handed fashion, but for now he’s allowed the team’s veterans and leaders to share the spotlight and contribute their input. This team’s chemistry is terrific, which starts at the top – and that might be LaFleur’s greatest achievement to date in his first year at the top of the pyramid.
In particular, he’s continued to delegate the defensive chores to Mike Pettine and his defensive assistants. In mid-season, that was looking shaky, but points allowed in the last four games, 13, 15, 13, and 10, speaks for itself. When giving up fewer than 26 points, Green Bay is 13-0 on the year. Under Pettine, we have a defense.
The steady maturation of Allen Lazard has been critical to the upward change in this team’s trajectory. A win over Detroit would constitute a mini-run-the-table – a five game streak to close out the regular season. Without multiple receiving outlets, defenses had begun to suffocate Davante Adams.
Allen’s latest numbers, 5 catches for 45 yards, aren’t eye-popping, but he’s been getting open and moving the chains. That Rodgers threw his way nine times on Monday indicates Lazard has found a believer in the team’s QB. The big guy also seems to contribute key blocks, game after game.
In the course of the season, this defense has gone from a poor tackling to a sure-tackling group. Time after time, when Cousins threw out to the flat or to receivers behind the line of scrimmage Packers’ defenders closed rapidly and made textbook below-the-waist tackles. Alexander, King, and even Tramon Williams prevented yards after catch all game long.
Brian Bulaga personifies professionalism. He gave a locker room interview after the win that you ought to view (here). He’s a plain spoken guy, but you could sense he viewed vanquishing the Vikings as a highlight of his 10-year career. Brian summed things up nicely: “It was a game of wills. . .and I felt that in the third quarter we just started to kind of impose ours.”
Bulaga, as a rookie and a first-rounder in 2010, became the youngest player to ever start in a Super Bowl, at the age of 21 years and 322 days. Wouldn’t it be something to book-end his career with another Lombardi trophy at the end of this campaign? Not that I want him to retire. . .
Kenny Clark, another first-round draftee, in 2016, indicated how as a rookie on the last Packers team to win a division title, he didn’t understand how much effort was involved to achieve it. Now in his fourth year, he knows just how much hard work, going back to the OTAs, led to Monday’s result. Referring to his 4.5 sacks in the last three games, Kenny quipped: “It’s cool to call me Mr. December now.”
When Kevin King is healthy and on his game, this defense tends to shine. As evidenced by his five interceptions on the year (tied for fourth), he’s proven to be a game-changer. King is another high draft choice – the Packers’ made him the first pick of Round 2 in 2017.
Just an observation on Za’Darius Smith: he has a technique whereby he uses his hands and arms to jab at blockers, which keeps them from reaching his body or grasping on to him. In doing this, he is then able to get around one side or the other of his opponent. The usefulness of this method was on full display on Monday night.
Jamaal Williams continues to play mistake-free football – I can maybe recall one dropped pass on the year. His six carries for 33 yards, and two of two catches for 19 yards is fine production in such a limited capacity. As to his shoulder injury, one source expects he’ll have an MRI done before the likelihood of his availability for the Detroit game is known. If he can’t go, rookie Dexter Williams is the next man up.
Thanks, guys, for making it an extra-merry Christmas throughout Packerland this year.
Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year you filthy animals.
A few thoughts…..Good call on the Def. scoring outlook. First 3 games, and now the last 4 games were stellar after losing it in mid season as you’ve mentioned. Lets hope this is real and the bad defense doesn’t make a return visit.
McCarthy and LeFleur treat the defense the same, hands off. The difference being (hopefully) is that McCarthy failed to act for years (do his job) when the defense couldn’t stand on it’s own. Lets hope LaFleur conducts his business different if the situation requires attention down the road.
Kenny Clark has no doubt picked up his play, but where was he before? Was it a change in scheming? We can call him Mr. December i guess, but i’d rather call him Mr. Pro Bowl.
I know you have love for Kevin King, or as you describe him…(glue). But lets not get carried away, a good game here or there doesn’t a great corner make. Even with 5 picks, PFF has him at 61.2. Where Jaire Alexander has 2 picks, but grades at 73.8. If Kings play is to be blamed partly by injury, i guess that would be the same problem as last season. But instead of sitting out games, he’s still playing this season. He still has a ways to go. He better work out, because how many more resources can the Packers spend trying to acquire corners. Took us years and multiple draft picks just to get where we are now.
Oops…Bulaga and Williams……Bulaga is a Pro’s Pro. he’s a warrior who we all should have pride he’s wearing the Green and Gold.
Williams is under rated as a tool on offense. He’d get more accolades if he had more touches, but no body works harder picking up yards than watching this man running downhill and moving piles of people. Beast in his own right.
Thanks for writing Rob, Happy Holidays to you and yours.
Merry Christmas Rob.
Not to take anything away from Kenny Clark, but I do believe Z moving around and rushing from the middle tends to free up Clark from so many double teams. Clark and Z both demand double teams.
I know some did not want the Packers to re-sign Bulaga in 2015. I was not one of those. I hope the team can work something out with Bulaga.
If Jamaal is not available for Detroit, I think Dexter Williams may be active. I do think based on Monday’s game that Ervin will get more opportunities to touch the ball on offense than Dexter.
As I said after the Monday game I thought the Packers defense had one of their better tackling games in the last few years.
Holy shit got to go one of my grandsons is rattling the windows with either Metallica or Megadeath?
Can’t go wrong with either Megadeth or Metallica
That is exactly what my Grandson said. Have a Happy New Year.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all Total Packers posters. PF4L and Howard are two of my favs and Robster is one of my favorite contributors and has been for a while. So thanks guys, many blessings.
We’ve all been pleasantly surprised with where this team and their record have ended up. A bit beyond where most of us would have expected. It is not wrong to expect at this point they can’t continue. The team is mostly healthy and they are moving in the right direction, meaning they are peaking at the right time and getting better going into the playoffs. Here’s hoping they continue to jell and play a complete game as a unit from here on out. Get by the Lions and hope for the best seed in the playoffs.
Wow, didn’t think I’d be posting this back around September….
Thanks Mitch. Your comments add a lot to the discussions. Have a Happy New Year.
I find myself starting to buy into this team more despite the “ugly win” tag associated with this team. A team needs two things to make a super bowl run: a hot pass rush and a hot QB. The defensive front is playing their best football at the right time. Kenny Clark and Za’Darius Smith are the keys there. Aaron Rodgers isn’t playing great football, but I think he is very capable of getting hot. He has a lot of playoff experience. Pretty sure if they play San Francisco again, it won’t be like the last meeting.
I wanted to also wish everyone a Happy New Year. I think Dean Lowery’s play has been pretty disruptive in the last few games. Interception, ball batted down, and just being a big man on the DL. I look for the Lions to be beat down, however, I could see a trap game here as well. Time to put the NFC North shirts away, and commence the run to the SB. Proud as hell to ride my Packer Golf cart here at the beach in our 70 degree weather. Go Pack Go!