The Green Bay Packers could still taste the sting from last week, a humiliating defeat in Tamp as they lined up for their first offensive snap in NRG Stadium. The week of practice between games brought more adversity. Their all-pro left tackle, David Bakhtiari did not recover from a second half injury in Tampa and was ruled out. Their star running back and offensive juggernaut, Aaron Jones, was ruled out late in the week with a leg injury. On defense, three starters including two starters in the secondary, did not suit up for the game. The injury report had more names on it than the practice squad for most of the week. If you weren’t worried as a Packer fan, you weren’t paying attention.
Aaron Rogers simply disregarded the injury report, focusing on the game plan and the players in his huddle. When the offense seemed on the brink of failure, he threw clutch, accurate passes and kept drives alive. Rogers line of 23-34 and 283 yards may not be quite as impressive as Badger QB Graham Mertz’s debut on Friday night, but his 4 TD’s, including the first TD pass for Malik Taylor and first this season for TE Jace Sternberger put the Packers up big early.
The Packers weathered another injury during the game. Krys Barnes, who has solidified the middle of the Packer defensive with solid play against the run and pass, left the game with a shoulder injury. When Ty Summer’s play was ineffective, Kamal Martin earned his first NFL snaps and he performed adequately. While Summers struggled, a number of Packers with Texas ties came up with big plays.
Rookie Vernon Scott (TCU) made a big play on 3rd down to stop a potential touchdown drive. Henry Black (Baylor) made the most of his opportunity laying a hard hit on Texan’s RB David Johnson to create the only turnover for the defense and finally put the game away after the Packers faltered late in the game. To put that in perspective, the one turnover created by the defense came from a player not even listed on the depth chart. Add in Sternberger’s one handed TD grab and the trio of former Texans made their Alma mater’s proud.
While Packer fans can celebrate the win, coaches will be busy cleaning up a number of errors on special teams that easily could have cost the team a victory. A blocked punt and a failed recovery on the Texan’s on side kick made many fans flash on the dreaded playoff collapse against Seattle. The blocked punt was a failure of RB Dexter Williams. Called up for the first time this year, he failed to do his job and cost the team the block. He was replaced for the next punt by Jamaal Williams. One has to wonder about his future on the team. The onside kick failure was one of both scheme and execution as the Packers left the middle exposed to cover each sideline.
The Packers defense should be applauded for three key defensive stands in the second half. The two stops that allowed only Texan field goals and final turnover were the difference in the game. Preston Smith had three tackles, none more important than his fourth down TFL of Deshaun Watson. Krys Barnes (8) and Kamal Martin (6) combined for 14 tackles and Josh Jackson quietly had his best game as a Packer. A 35-20 win is a solid victory for this team. Let’s hope Rogers and company can keep the momentum rolling over the Vikings next week.