Sunday, September 13, 2015

Packers Start 2015 1-0: Defeat Bears 31-23

The big story was obviously WR James Jones, who looked like he never left Green Bay. He signed early this week after being released by the New York Giants, and caught two touchdowns with a 3rd that was taken away by a penalty.
Technically the Packers had 30 run plays to only 23 pass attempts, but 8 of those rushes were by QB Aaron Rodgers and one was a lateral to TE Richard Rodgers after the pass protection broke down. So the Packers are keeping their pass heavy ways even though Tom Clements is technically calling the plays now instead of Mike McCarthy. Rodgers still calls a lot of the plays himself, so some things won't change, and again it was a nearly flawless game from Rodgers with a QBR of 94.4, 3 touchdowns and no turnovers. He even looked good when running, though I hope he does less of it as the season goes on.

Only five receivers were targeted, which surprised me because I was expecting the Packers would rely on many receivers to overcome the preseason loss of WR Jordy Nelson. All those targets that would have gone to Nelson last season have to go somewhere. Instead, they got a break when the Giants released Jones. I wasn't sure he would actually move ahead of WR Ty Montgomery, but it doesn't look like JJ's forgotten any of the offense, while I'm sure Montgomery is still learning it. Though Montgomery did make his mark with a big kickoff return.

Oh, CB Sam Shields. The Bears saw something they liked, and almost every running play and crossing route went to Shields's side of the field. He's great in single coverage down the sidelines, he knocked a touchdown pass away from WR Alshon Jeffrey in the end zone, but he struggled with nearly every open field tackle that came his way. It'll be something to watch as the season goes on, and the absence of starting S Morgan Burnett might have made the situation worse.

LB Clay Matthews is still a beast. He ran across the field to tackle a running back from behind on one play, and on the game clinching INT he ran from left to right tackle to make the interception. He didn't have a huge impact as a pass rusher, it was LB Julius Peppers's day in that department, but as long as Matthews's is healthy and still running at full speed, it's only a matter of time until the sacks come.

LB Nate Palmer in pass coverage. As you might expect, there's been some rough patches watching Palmer, a former college defensive end, adapt to life as a pass covering inside linebacker in the NFL. And he's coming off a lost season, and played the entire preseason with a giant club on his injured hand. The Packers lost LB Sam Barrington mid-game with an ankle injury, and though Barrington's no great shakes in pass coverage either, he's still probably better than Palmer.

As much as they struggled with RB Matt Forte on defense, they once again had no problem with QB Jay Cutler (who always seems to play his worst against the Packers) and the offense hummed along with the addition of Jones. Next week they host the Seahawks, who are looking for answers after their upset loss to the Rams, in arguably the biggest regular season game of the season.

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