Monday, November 05, 2012

Packers Win Fourth In A Row, Improve To 6-3 Before The Bye Week

The Green Bay Packers didn't blow out the Cardinals, who have now lost their last five games, but they did score first on a beautiful screen pass to WR Randall Cobb and they never trailed. The big story, and concern, are the new injuries, especially the hamstring injury to LB Clay Matthews. Immediately after the game, there was no word on how the injured players were doing.

QB Aaron Rodgers was pretty critical of his own play, but I thought he was accurate and, obviously, four touchdown passes is pretty impressive. Drops were a problem, again, and a FOX graphic showed at least four by mid-game. He did miss a couple passes into tight spots, but his criticism of those incompletions is because of his high standards. It didn't help that he barely had WR Jordy Nelson again this week, as he came out early after an ankle injury. Few teams can survive losing their top two receivers, and it's no surprise that he struggled a little.

The running game showed some signs of life, but unfortunately, the Cardinals were begging the Packers to run. They were much more concerned with the passing game, and during the first half, the Cardinals often played with only two defensive lineman. They sometimes left a linebacker standing over the center while their two lineman lined up over the tackles, so Mike McCarthy went to the ground game. RB James Starks had room to run as the offensive line pushed around the Cardinals' linebackers, but then he had to ruin it with a fumble (fortunately, it was recovered by Rodgers). Once the Packers had a second half lead, and the Cardinals started expecting the run, they began to line up with NT Dan Williams and the rushing attack slowed down. Also, the Packers failed to convert three times in the second half on 3rd and 1, so their power running game in short yardage situations still needs work.

RT Bryan Bulaga was lost for the game with a hip injury, and LG T.J. Lang played well as his replacement at right tackle. The offense didn't seem to miss a step with OL Evan Dietrich-Smith at left guard, but Lang has struggled in the past at tackle so hopefully Bulaga returns soon.

Allowing 306 yards to QB John Skelton might be seen as bad, but he almost had over 300 yards the previous week against the 49ers. He accumulates yards, but then struggles translating it into points. The Cardinals did manage a second quarter touchdown after an interception, and I don't think it was a coincidence that they had their two 3rd quarter scoring drives right after Matthews injured his hamstring. LB Erik Walden had a great game (3 QB hits, 1 interception) after a poor game last week against the Jaguars, but he and LB Dezman Moses weren't nearly as effective as Matthews (obviously). Going forward, they'll need Matthews back ASAP, but he's been limited by bad hamstrings in previous seasons so they might not be able to expect much from him the rest of this month.

After reading a lot of praise for rookie CB Casey Hayward over the last week, he struggled against the Cardinals. I didn't count all the completions he allowed, but it was several and at least one big one that set-up the first touchdown. Having said that, he did break up the pass on 4th down with two minutes left in the game and that play was the Cardinals' last gasp.

All the injuries were bad, but they did win the game and now enter their bye week on a four game winning streak. The Bears keep rolling, but the Packers still control their playoff destiny. Now they have a week off to get healthy before playing two tough road games (at Detroit, at NY Giants) as they finish out the month of November.

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