This review might be a little bit shorter than usual, but I have a good reason. Since I was at the game, I'd like to spend a little time this afternoon going a little bit more in depth with what I saw in and around Lambeau yesterday. I've got some fun pictures to show and some observations of the gameday experience to share.
On the field, things were somewhat different from what we may have expected. My preview on Friday predicted a blowout, and while that wasn't the case, I think we did learn a few things about the Packers on Sunday. First, Jordy Nelson plays a bigger role in the offense than I expected. There was no punch to the passing game with Nelson on the sideline, and with Greg Jennings disabled for the time being, the cupboard seemed pretty bare at receiver.
Secondly, the Packers are still pretty deep, although there was a noticeable talent drop off with the backups in the game this weekend. Even with a boatload of opening day starters on the sideline, the Packers still had the Jaguars outgunned, although the talent gap was significantly narrower.
Although it may have been a lackluster performance, the Packers got the job done. There's no "quality win" category to be considered when the NFL's playoff field is set.
Morgan Burnett - 9 tackles, 2 assists, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble - Burnett wasn't the problem on defense Sunday. From my vantage point in the north end zone, his impact was apparent against the run and the pass. He flew to the ball and played aggressively, something that couldn't be said for the rest of the defense. Burnett's role in the defense may continue to become more prominent as the Packers continue to explore their new post-Woodson options.
James Jones - 7 catches, 78 yards - No touchdowns for Jones this week, but he still moved the chains for the Packers. He didn't necessarily show that he could be the number one receiver Sunday, but he did show that he continues to be a solid option for the Packers. I've been impressed with James Jones this year.
Randall Cobb - 5 catches, 28 yards, 1 touchdown - The stats aren't overwhelming, but Cobb's touchdown really stuck out to me. The Packers were driving toward our end of the field for this score, and I had a good look at the way Cobb worked his way open to make his touchdown catch. The way he manipulated the defense to work behind the secondary at the back of the end zone reminded me of Greg Jennings. I can really see why Rodgers thinks so highly of his young receiver.
2.45 - Yards per carry by Alex Green. I'm not sure how many yards Green is really leaving out on the field, but you'd think the ground game could produce at least three yards a carry. The commitment to running the football is nice (22 carries for Green yesterday), but if it's not working, what's the use?
2 - Touches by James Starks (not including at least one dropped pass). With as unimpressive as Green has been, I'm surprised Starks hasn't gotten a little bit more of a look. He was in and out of the game a fair bit yesterday, but they only went his way a couple times. The coaches must be really high on Alex Green if they can't even spare a couple more carries for Starks.
14 - First downs generated by the offense (9 by pass, 5 by rush). This may be the best indicator of how sluggish the offense was on Sunday. 14 first downs breaks down to just over three per quarter for one of the (allegedly) most high powered offenses in the league. In summary, Jordy Nelson can't come back soon enough.
Special - The Packers got another big play from their special teams on Sunday when Davon House knifed into the backfield on a punt and swatted the kick right out of the air. Dezman Moses eventually fell on the ball in the end zone, but House was really the hero on the play. I suspect it was a specific play set up by the special teams, but House had originally been lined up as a blocker covering the gunner to the right of the Jaguars' punt formation. Just before the snap of the ball, he moved in and lined up just outside the edge of the Packers' defensive line, then blew past the blocker at the snap of the ball. It was an impressive, athletic play even from my vantage point at the other end of the stadium.
Depth - In addition to Davon House, several other Packer backups played well Sunday. Jerron McMillian split time with M.D. Jennings at the safety spot opposite Morgan Burnett, Brad Jones was second in tackles on Sunday and also recorded a sack early in the game, and Jarrett Boykin notched his first career catch. The win may not have been pretty, but the Packers showed their backups are at least competent.
Heavy - Evan Dietrich-Smith made a could cameos as a tight end yesterday, reminiscent of the Packers' old U-71 package with Kevin Barry. EDS doesn't tip the scales quite as much as Barry did, but I thought it was interesting to see Coach McCarthy adding a new wrinkle to the offense. Unfortunately, I don't remember any of the plays with Dietrich-Smith on the field being especially effective.
Not-So-Special - The Packers reached a fourth down in the third quarter, so I briefly looked down to check a text on my phone. When a sound of surprise rippled through the Lambeau crowd, I looked up to see Tim Masthay in the shotgun formation with T.J. Lang lined up in the slot to the left. Re-read that sentence and tell me if it sounds like a good idea. What followed was an embarrassing attempt to convert a 4th and eight with a pass by Masthay. It didn't work. It was awful. If you're going to go for it on fourth down, why not give Aaron Rodgers a shot?
Holes - Even though the Packers did show some solid depth, the holes on offense and defense were apparent. The Packers need to get healthy soon, or the patchwork fixes on both sides of the ball will be exposed.
Too Heavy - I wonder if the Packers are throwing too much at Alex Green. He carried the ball 22 times yesterday with minimal success, but McCarthy and Company stuck with their second year back almost exclusively. I wonder why. Certainly Starks or John Kuhn couldn't be any worse. What's the harm in trying something different? Mike McCarthy has always preached the value of riding the hot hand, but when do you abandon a hand that's been anything but hot?
Up Next - One more home game against Arizona next week, then a much needed bye after that.