Wow! Week 14 in the NFL turned out to be one of the most entertaining weeks of football in recent memory. This weekend could not have played out better so far for the Packers with a 22-21 win against the Atlanta Falcons and a Lions loss. Oh, and it never gets old seeing the Vikings lose, especially in the final seconds of the game. The icing on the cake would be a Bears loss tonight against the Cowboys, and Aaron Rodgers being cleared to play against Dallas Week 15.
OH, so that’s why Jarrett Bush is still on the team.(I am aware that he is an above average special teams player which is his primary role. Don’t get me wrong, there are still many other defensive backs I would rather have in that situation.) Bush made two HUGE plays late in the fourth quarter. He had one pass break-up, and an interception to seal the deal for the Packers. He, along with the rest of the Packers defense, showed flashes of what they looked like earlier in the season. They were able to hold Matt Ryan to 206 yards passing and a 57% completion percentage. While the stat sheet only shows one sack, the big guys up front were able to get a better pass rush than in recent weeks.
I would like to dedicate this next section to the absolute force in the middle of the defensive line that is Johnny Jolly. I don’t believe he gets enough recognition for his play. The Packers were able to hold Atlanta to 83 yards on 23 carries which is by FAR their best performance defensively in recent weeks. Back to Jolly. It was clear that while Jolly was suspended from the NFL for three years that the Packers missed him. In one of one of my previous posts, I mentioned that he was one of the main reasons the Packers had a top 10 run defense for the first few games of the season. Unfortunately he was, and maybe still is a bit banged up. But yesterday he showcased why he deserves to be talked about as one of the top interior defensive linemen in the entire NFL. When he wasn’t blowing up runs through the middle, he was throwing his hands up trying to deflect passes. He had one pass defensed and one fumble recovery on Mike Neal’s sack of Matt Ryan at a crucial moment of the game.
One of my main concerns heading into the Atlanta game was how the injured offensive line would respond to last weeks dreadful performance showing against the Lions. If I had to give a grade, it would probably be a C+. At least Flynn was given the opportunity to throw the ball this week and make a few big throws downfield. Besides the fluke play interception, Flynn had a solid game. Being sacked four times is obviously better compared to seven against the Lions. The player that continues to impress me the most however, is Eddie Lacy. I mean, WOW. This guy just runs through people time after time. The last time we had a power back like this was probably before I was born. While he did not have his best outing statistically (20 carries for 65 yards), he did score a touchdown and picked up some big first downs. In addition, he has been a viable receiving option, giving the packers opportunities to run more successful screens. It seemed like everytime I saw him with the ball there at least four or five players trying to tackle Lacy and still he was able to fall forward for a few extra yards.
Although the Packers were playing against a mediocre Falcons team, they showed that they can actually move the ball on offense, and play physical defense. I’m not sure if it was the ten days in between games, or they just finally realized they needed to start making plays if they wanted to stay in the playoff hunt. Many fans, like myself at times want to solely blame the injuries for the lack of success. While it is true we have had a plethora of injuries at key positions, it is important to remember that most of the defensive starters have been together and healthy for the last few weeks. There was really no excuse for the poor defensive efforts against average offenses. Yes, the Lions have a high-powered offense but there is no way with 4 giveaways they should be putting up forty points.
The offense is a bit of a different story. Losing arguably the best quarterback in the league will definitely change the dynamic of your offense. However, the coaching staff has not done the best job adjusting to this in my opinion. By no means do I have the adequate knowledge or experience to be an NFL coach, but I am well aware of when the Packers are running a predictable offense. Part of this has to deal with the fact that Packers are playing with backup quarterbacks which I understand. However, after a run of, let’s say two yards on first down, the Packers choose to run straight up the middle again. Most of the time this is resulting in third and long situations. Teams are expecting run with Rodgers being out. This suspect play-calling has largely contributed to the lack of success on offense lately in my opinion. If Rodgers does not play next week, McCarthy needs to do a better job with the play-calls on second and long situations to give Flynn a better chance on third down.
With all that being said, why should I complain? Rodgers has missed six games(including the Bears game,) the Packers are a half game back of the Lions at 6-6-1, and still have a shot at the NFC North Title. Let’s hope the Packers can carry this momentum into Dallas for Week 15.