Monday, December 01, 2014

"It Was A Huge Game" Packers Beat Patriots 26-21

The quote above was from Green Bay Packers S Micah Hyde confessing that he wasn't being honest earlier in the week when he said this was just another game. This was a special game but the Packers didn't win it in the way I was expecting.
I guess I shouldn't complain, but I was surprised that the Patriots didn't run the ball more often. They were productive (4.7 yards per carry) but only called 17 running plays to 37 passing plays. If they had run it more, then maybe they would have done better with time of possession (23:25 to 36:35) but the Patriots also struggled at getting their defense off the field (the Packers were 10 for 17 on 3rd downs). The best way to stop Tom Brady is to keep him on the sidelines, and both the Packer offense and defense did their parts to make it happen.

The Packers dominated this game when it was being played within the 20 yard lines. When the Patriots moved their offense into the red zone, they scored touchdowns on their first three trips. It wasn't until late in the game when the rush got to Brady for the sack (picture above) on third down to end their final red zone trip with a missed field goal opportunity. On the other hand, the Packers kept settling for field goals in the red zone (both touchdowns were on 32+ yard passes). It's a credit to the Patriots for making plays near the end zone that kept them in this game, but this game wasn't as close as the score made it seem.

On offense, it was a complete team effort. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb ended up playing key roles, but when they were shut down early, Eddie Lacy, Davante Adams and Richard Rodgers stepped up in their place. The offensive line had a few break downs against the pass, and a few more against the run, but they also gave Aaron Rodgers all day to throw on several plays and opened some huge running lanes for Lacy.

On defense, I knew they would have to do something at inside linebacker in place of A.J. Hawk and for the times when Clay Matthews would move outside, I thought they might go back to Brad Jones, but instead they gave Sam Barrington an expanded role. It wasn't an MVP game, but he made some plays (1 pass defense, 1 QB hit) from a position where they really needed an upgrade. It wasn't a flawless performance for the defense either, Tramon Williams and Davon House had some forgetable moments in coverage, but Williams also led the team with nine tackles and Mike Daniels was huge (3 QB hits and the sack in the picture above). It was a very good game against an offense that's been on a tear in recent weeks.

With the Lions beating the Bears on Thanksgiving, it was important to win and keep the NFC North lead. They shouldn't have much trouble with the Falcons next week (if the game was in Atlanta, it might be a dangerous trap game, but a dome team isn't winning in Green Bay in December) before two potential road trap games at Buffalo and at Tampa. If you don't believe in the danger of either of those games, I'll point out a December 2011 loss at Kansas City as a recent trap game that caught an unbeaten Packer team. Their final home game on December 28th is against the Lions and its still looming as the one to decide who wins the NFC North and potentially secure the top seed in the playoffs.

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