Packers 16, Philadelphia 13

With so many returning starters, if they had not improved from experience and a season of familiarity under Mike McCarthy, then Philadelphia would have blown them out in this game. Last season, the Packers only beat one playoff team and that was Chicago in week 17 when Chicago had already locked up home field advantage for the playoffs. The Packers were blown out in home games against playoff bound New England, NY Jets, and Chicago, while Philadelphia blew them out in Philly. This first win was not a perfectly played game, but it is something they did not accomplish last season.  

First Quarter: The special teams have been a negative the past couple of seasons, but as a unit it was the player of the game. It started right off with CB Jarrett Bush making a big hit and forcing a fumble on Philadelphia's punt return which was recovered by special teams' ace LB Tracy White in the end zone for a TD. The defense started out strong, putting a lot of pressure on QB Donovan McNabb that led to a three-and-out and forced on the next drive an INT by LB Nick Barnett. K Mason Crosby nailed a 53 yard field goal that looked like it could have been made from a few yards further out. The offense took a lot of time warming up in this game. There were only two drives worth mentioning in the first half. In this quarter, a couple of completions to WR James Jones started a good one that ended when TE Bubba Franks was beaten for the ball by CB Sheldon Brown. After a strong preseason, Franks was mixed with some moments that (like the INT) that looked like the ineffective 2006 version, but he had a couple of good catches, including a big 3rd down reception in the 2nd half. It was a small play, but on Favre's 3rd pass attempt, rookie RB Brandon Jackson dropped a short pass with no one within 5 yards of him and there was a great shot of Favre ripping his entire chin strap off in disgust afterwards. Jackson didn't have a great game, but he had no where to run as Philadelphia's DL for the most part dominated the Packers OL, and he was second on the team in receptions and receiving yards. The biggest disappointment was how Philadelphia's defensive front seven really beat the Packers offensive line. Favre was under a lot of pressure and Jackson had no where to run. RG Jason Spitz started, but had to come out later in the game and was replaced by OL Junius Coston, but the weakest link in this game was LG Daryn Colledge who had a couple of penalties and was responsible for at least one sack.

Second Quarter: This spills over from the end of the first quarter when Philadelphia started a long drive that ended early in the 2nd quarter with a field goal. Philadelphia's OL played very well during this stretch when they limited the Packers pass rush, in large part because they started blocking DE Aaron Kampman with an offensive lineman instead of their backup tight end, and they were very good on 1st and 2nd downs.  During their two first half scoring drives, they always had at least one good gain on 1st or 2nd down and only had one 3rd and long. It also didn't help that CB Al Harris' elbow injury forced backup CB Tramon Williams into the game who gave up the big pass play to WR Kevin Curtis down the sideline. It was notable that Philadelphia was unable to even make an attempt deep down the middle of the field which was a major problem last season. Apparently S Atari Bigby and an improved S Nick Collins are off to a good start in pass coverage. With time running down in the half, the offense had another good drive, but this one ended not with a turnover but Favre's bad decision to dump it off to Jackson when they had run out of timeouts, and the half ended.

Third Quarter: In 2006, the Packers and Philadelphia played a close first half, but then Philadelphia just blew out (especially ex-CB Ahmad Carroll) in the 3rd quarter, so this was an important period for the Packers. The main reason that didn't happen this season was the Packers offense kept the ball for about 11 minutes, most of it on long drive that led to a field goal. The offense started clicking primarily because WR Donald Driver started catching the ball, and some luck when a desperation flip to RB DeShawn Wynn turned a big sack into an 18 yard gain. It was interesting that the Packers used Wynn as their 3rd down back, not because he is a very good receiver, but apparently they think he is better in pass protection then Jackson. On one play Wynn went in motion out of the backfield as a receiver, but he probably was only a decoy. The defense did allow a big drive that led to a field goal, but Harris returned with a heavily taped right elbow, they showed shots of him having to get help to put on his helmet because he couldn't lift his right arm, and he made a big pass deflection in the end zone that saved a TD.

Fourth Quarter: The Packers seal the deal. The best part of this quarter was a renewed push by the Packers pass rush after it was dormant in the 2nd quarter and off the field for much of the 3rd. Defensive coordinator Bob Sanders rarely blitzed but the Packers front four put pressure on McNabb and was good in pursuit and catching him from behind on a few occasions before he could run for a big gain. Philadelphia was forced to punt four times in this quarter and it didn't help that that RB Brian Westbrook, who was big in the first half, dropped at least two passes late in the game. Overall it was a crappy quarter for offense because the Packers offense did nothing either. Instead the player of the game, the entire special teams unit, won this game for the Packers. On a short punt by P Jon Ryan, Philadelphia's punt returner made a really bad choice to try and field it in the middle of a sea of Packers and he muffed it. Bush, who played great on defense as Harris' replacement in the 2nd quarter too, was once again around the punt returner and fell on the loose ball. Crosby came in after a couple of clock consuming running plays to make his 3rd field goal, and the first game winning field goal of his NFL career.

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