The Green Bay Packers again appear capable of winning football games, which is a nice change of pace. Unfortunately, the Detroit Lions aren’t collapsing like they’re supposed to.
The Packers still have an uphill road if they plan on making the playoffs. With Detroit beating New Orleans handily on Sunday, that now seems like a long shot. However, as long as the Packers are winning, there’s hope.
At least for now…
Here are some additional nuggets from Sunday’s victory over the Houston Texans.
As Evenly Matched As They Come
I only point this out because it’s fairly uncanny. The Packers and Texans were almost identical on the stat sheet on Sunday. The Packers gained 309 total yards, the Texans had 307. Houston had the ball for 31:31, the Packers controlled it for 28:29. Each team had one turnover. Houston had 17 first downs to the Packers’ 16. Houston committed three penalties and the Packers had four. Both teams were 1-2 on fourth down. And I suppose this all makes sense since both teams are now 6-6. So what was the difference in the game on Sunday? Probably field position.
So Long, James Starks
It was maddening that the Packers ran James Starks out there with the starters, considering he was averaging 2.5 yards per carry on the season. Mike McCarthy rode with that for four carries on which Starks gained a single yard. Then he apparently finally saw enough. Starks was benched in favor of Christine Michael and Ty Montgomery, the very two guys we’ve been asking to see for weeks. Montgomery responded with 40 yards on six carries. Michael ran nine times for just 19 yards, but he did have some nice runs in that bunch. Most importantly, both of these guys showed something Starks hasn’t shown all year — burst, quickness, ability to make something out of nothing. I still have no idea what took so damn long for McCarthy to make a change. These are the guys who should be getting the bulk of, if not all of the carries going forward.
I’m not going to overstate how well the Packers’ defense played on Sunday. Houston isn’t a very good offensive team and the conditions certainly played a factor. However, there were a number of performances that caught my eye. Julius Peppers had his best game of the season in my estimation, finishing with five tackles and a sack. When he wasn’t jumping offside, Letroy Guion had himself a nice game. He finished with four tackles and two of those went for a loss. He wasn’t particularly flashy, but Jake Ryan showed that the Packers have a much better defense when he’s on the field. Lastly, my boy LaDarius Gunter has been up and down this year, but he was definitely up on Sunday with three tackles and two passes defended.
Special Teams Were That for a Change
Usually, when we’re talking about the Packers’ special teams, it’s because they had an awful game. Not so on Sunday. The return units were surprisingly effective. The one thing that I think is important to point out here is Randall Cobb returning punts. This is a recent development and Cobb had his best day doing so on Sunday, averaging 22 per return. It seems fairly obvious that the Packers are making Cobb earn some of that gigantic contract he has. He isn’t earning it with his receiver play, so he may as well contribute as a returner. This is significant for what it says because there was a time when Cobb was considered too valuable to risk on returns. I will also point out that punter Jacob Schum doesn’t look like a bum anymore. Of his five punts, three were put inside the 20 and one was a touchback. That performance was a difference-maker in a game like this.
Haunted By the Third-Stringer Again
This has been a trend all season and it continued on Sunday. The Packers shut down Houston’s top running back, Lamar Miller. He ran 14 times for just 22 yards. Of course, they let Houston’s third back, Jonathan Grimes, gouge them for big plays all day. Grimes carried just five times, but those five runs went for 43 yards. The Texans’ second back, Alfred Blue, was just about as effective. Blue ran five times for 38 yards. In the end it didn’t matter, but I find it amazing that this happens so often. It’s as if the defense only looks at film of the top running back on the opposition and ignores everyone else. Then they have no idea what to expect when those guys are on the field. I’m not sure how else you could explain it.