Monday, October 20, 2014

Packers Blowout Panthers, 38-17, To Improve To 5-2

I was expecting the defense to have trouble stopping QB Cam Newton on the read option, similar to the problems they had with QB Ryan Tannehill in their previous game in Miami. I couldn't have been more wrong.
It was a great game from QB Aaron Rodgers, who carved up the Panthers' D, but he had help. His pass blockers gave him time to throw and his receivers were finding holes in the zone coverage. Plus RB Eddie Lacy had room to run and both he and RB James Starks averaged over five yards per carry. Everything was working on offense in the first quarter.

And the defense forced three punts in the first quarter, making the score 21-0 by the end of the first quarter, and leading to the biggest non-Buccaneers involved blowout of 2014. This was their second consecutive blowout of an opponent at home (Vikings on October 2nd).

What does it all mean?

On offense; most of the credit should be given to Aaron Rodgers. He's being extremely productive and not making any mistakes (no INTs in his last six games). It's not even luck. Sometimes a defense drops an INT or two when a QB goes on a long INT free streak, but that's not been the case. The Panthers did intercept one pass in the first quarter, but it came after a defensive offsides when he knew he had a free play. While his QBR is only 4th overall this season, it's the seventh best since 2006 (it's a great year for QBs). He's not quite at his 2011 levels, but he keeps getting better each game.

Unfortunately the running game and the offensive line remain inconsistent. When the line is blocking well and giving Lacy running lanes, as they did against the Vikings and now the Panthers, the Packers are almost unbeatable.

On defense; the inconsistency remains. After dominating the first half in Miami, they couldn't stop Ryan Tannehill in the second half. They bounce back this week by holding Panthers to only 3 points while Newton was in the game, and he only led three drives into Packers' territory. QB Derek Anderson led the Panthers on two touchdown drives while some of the starters were still in on defense during the 4th quarter, but the Packers had taken their foot off the gas by that point.

Only one more game remains until the bye week; next Monday night in New Orleans. Aaron Rodgers loves playing indoors and the Saints are 2-4. While the Saints are unbeaten in two home games this season, their wins came against two of the worst teams in the NFL (Vikings and Buccaneers) and they had to come back from 11 points down against the Bucs just to force them into OT (when they won). On the other hand, Drew Brees isn't throwing as many TD passes but he's been almost as good as ever. I'm expecting they'll win, but they can't look past the Saints either.

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