QB Brett Favre was held short of another 300 yard passing game, now he's only had six 300 yard passing games out of his last eight, but he threw 3 TDs for the 2nd week in a row. It's also the 2nd week in a row he's had no interceptions. This game surprised me because Carolina's offense had more total yardage, their offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage, and their defense played well most of the time, but this game wasn't even close because of turnovers. The Packers played well enough to win, but by forcing three turnovers and surrendering none, it was a decisive win.
First Half: S Aaron Rouse intercepted QB Vinny Testaverde's 2nd pass of the game. Rouse has been solid against the run (I've read the coaches say he needs to tackle better but I haven't noticed that it is a problem) and he's been surprisingly good in pass coverage as a shutdown defender against the tight end (starting TE Jeff King only had 2 receptions in the game). Tight ends have killed the Packers this season, but not since Rouse entered the starting lineup in place of the injured FS Nick Collins. The rookie right now is the best safety on the team. CB Tramon Williams' 94 yard kick return for a TD was a great play but otherwise the special teams played bad. K Mason Crosby missed two field goals, the first was blocked, RB Vernand Morency committed a 15 yard unsportsmanlike foul on a kick return, and CB Jarrett Bush (who had a big pass interference penalty and allowed a TD reception) committed a 10 yard block in the back penalty that brought back a good punt return. P Jon Ryan had a good game and WR Donald Driver grabbed the onside kick to end the comeback chance, but otherwise the special teams continues to get worse as the season goes on. I don't ever want to see the direct snap to Driver with Favre lining up wide formation EVER AGAIN! It's one thing to give the defense a different look, but that was just too cutsy and stupid. At least they ran the play away from Favre so he didn't hurt himself trying to block. During a stretch in the 2nd and 3rd quarter, the Packers scored three TDs on four drives. The offense had struggled in the first quarter because RT Mark Tauscher struggled with DE Julius Peppers and overall the offensive line had some problems pass blocking. After the first quarter ended, the offensive line improved and Favre rarely felt any pressure the rest of the game. The sack and fumble of Testaverde that ended the first half was notable because it was one of only two sacks the Packers had in the entire game. It didn't help that the Packers lost starting DT Johnny Jolly early in the game but Carolina's offensive line was very good. I asked Jaxon over at Cat Scratch Reader how former Packers G Mike Wahle was playing and I could tell that he and his teammates on the O-Line are playing very well. RT Jordan Gross did a shutdown job against DE Aaron Kampman.
Second Half: Another great play by a kick returner on special teams as WR Koren Robinson had a big return. This was a real inconsistent game by the special teams in which every play was either a big gain or a big mistake. Another TD pass to TE Donald Lee as his incredible season continues. Favre threw it right on the money to Lee who is running good routes, and since Carolina can't play a safety on Lee with so many three and four wide receiver sets, he is usually covered by a linebacker who can't react fast enough. Carolina got back into this game by running off tackle and right at the Packers' defensive ends. Usually that doesn't work, but Gross outplayed Kampman and LT Travelle Wharton was good against all the ends (Jenkins, Montgomery, and Gbaja-Biamila) that rotated to that side. The cornerbacks appeared unable to come up to help which probably meant Carolina's receivers were doing a good job blocking downfield too. Usually one of the linebackers made the play, but not until the running back got 5-10 yards. Luckily by the time Carolina found something that worked for them on offense they were down 28-3. After a slow start running in the first quarter, RB Ryan Grant and RB Brandon Jackson each had success running the ball. The running game seems to work much better without a fullback in the game and the defense is spread out when three wide receivers are in the game. Mike McCarthy tried to run a couple times with his two fullback and one running back backfield, and I don't think either time it got back to the line of scrimmage. Both Grant and Jackson run well in the zone blocking scheme, each making one cut and going, although Grant is a downhill runner while Jackson is more of a slasher. Unfortunately Grant hurt his ankle late in the game but watching him on the sidelines it didn't seem like it was really bothering him, and he left the game as a precaution. Just as the special teams were up-and-down, so was CB Al Harris. He had a couple of big plays including an incredible interception that was called back because Kampman was offsides and he knocked a TD reception out of WR Dwayne Jarrett's hands, but he also was abused badly by WR Drew Carter. It didn't help that the 3rd CB Bush had a bad game too, although he has played well most of the season. The pass defense continues to slide as the season goes on, and it will have to be something that they continue to work on. After a low penalty game against Minnesota, the penalty yards really added up in this game, but there were only six penalties and while they were all legitimate calls, most of them were close (like Barnett's late hit on Testaverde). Still the Packers are too prone to penalties over the last few weeks, and it is another area the team needs to continue to work on.