Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Packers 45, St. Louis 17. QB Brett Favre and RB Najeh Davenport. I haven't talking enough about the great season Favre is having, and I've just been taking his great play for granted. His completion percentage is over 65% again this season, while on pace for 30 TDs again this season. Further, Favre is keeping better care of the ball (only 11 INTs so far this season), while on pace for the fewest sacks in a season. In 2003, Favre had a couple of games (losses) when he seemed he could do no right (week 1 vs. Minnesota, at Arizona, and Turkey Day at Detroit) but he has had none of those games in 2004. This might be the most consistent season of his career. During his MVP seasons, Mike Holmgren would defer if the Packers won the coin toss because he knew Favre was too juiced early in the game and he was better off with the extra possession in the second half after Favre calmed down. Mike Sherman doesn't have to coach that same player anymore. Davenport has been battling injuries all season long, and because of them we had to wait until week 12 for Davenport to really show off this season. Davenport showed off his great speed to accelerate past the line of scrimmage, the Packers offensive line owned St. Louis's defensive line in this game, and he has the strength to shove smaller defensive players (paging S Rich Coady) out of his way in the open field. The third unsung star of the game was the football itself; the Packers had multiple fumbles bounce out of bounds and any one of them could have turned the whole game around. St. Louis defense isn't good at all this season, but the Packers offense still played a nearly perfect game.

The defense was a problem again, although forcing 3 turnovers was a big improvement. Over 400 yards of passing by QB Marc Bulger in the game. Only 47 yards of rushing, but RB Steven Jackson looked good (40 yards on 8 carries) when he had the opportunity. Bob Slovik didn't call a great game; St. Louis caught the Packers with 4 defensive backs on 4 wide receivers a couple of times in the game, the Packers blitzes didn't force much pressure on Bulger, and the coverage was very soft. The defense benefited from zero turnovers by the Packers offense; St. Louis always had to drive the length of the field and the Packers defense gave up no big yardage plays once St. Louis drove into Packer territory. The Packers appeared to turn up their intensity after the Mike Martz last minute time out cost the Packers a fumble recovery. Rookies CB Ahmad Carroll and CB Joey Thomas each had their best games so far; Thomas forced the early fumble which led to Carroll's TD run and Carroll had an interception in the end zone. With FS Darren Sharper's return to the starting lineup, the secondary could turn into the defense's strength in the last 5 games. The only downside was SS Mark Roman probably had his poorest game of the season with a couple of missed tackles (including RB Marshall Faulk's TD reception) but he has been a solid tackler all season (and preseason) long.

The Packers play at Philadelphia next week. Philadelphia should clobber the Packers, but these are the two hottest teams in the NFC at this point. If the Packers seriously believe they can make it to the Super Bowl this season, then they have to find a way to beat Philadelphia this season. If the Packers can avoid committing turnovers and force turnovers like they did against St. Louis, then they can win at Philadelphia. Its common knowledge you can run against Philadelphia's run defense, but actually their pass defense is worse than their run defense this season according to footballoutsiders.com. Unfortunately the Packers defense has been one of the worst in the NFL (thanks again Aaron). For all the Packers might have tried to fix the problems of 4th and 26 from last season's playoff loss, the Packers defense is still suspectible to allowing conversions on 3rd and long this season and is basically playing the same cast of characters in the secondary and at linebacker.

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