Analysis: Green Bay Packers defeat Browns 17-0

That was a dominant performance. The score: 17-0. Total yards: 392 to 191. Time of possession: 39:56 to 20:04. Of course then I read another game recap that said it wasn't dominant because Cleveland blew two plays. Well almost doesn't count. It would have been dominant even if Cleveland hadn't dropped one TD reception and committed a penalty that nullified a made FG.

The bad news is that it's just one win. The 1st string looked great against Cincinnati in last season's first preseason game, although the backups couldn't hold that lead. And it really showed how bad Cincinnati would be, not how good the Packers were. 

But the good news is that a lot of players looked great. And the preseason is all about trends. Watch out for players or units that are playing bad throughout the preseason, like last season's defensive line. And Mike McCarthy said there were no significant injuries, which is the most important thing in the preseason. 

Some players that really stood out:

  • Middle linebacker. LB Desmond Bishop made Cleveland's backup look bad, but LB Brandon Chillar did the same thing to their starters. The new 3-4 defense will make the linebackers look really good. But they still have to show that they can drop back in pass coverage too.
  • Backup QB. These guys look so much better than they did last season, even if the stats don't show it.
  • Defensive line. Cleveland's offensive line is good, and the Packers' defensive line did a good job holding their ground, something they were lousy at last season.
My complete game review after the jump.

Browns vs Packers coverageBrowns vs Packers recapBrowns vs Packers boxscoreDawgs By Nature (Cleveland fan site).

But for my complete game review, I'm using the NFL.com play-by-play.

First Quarter

(12:54) 25-R.Grant right tackle to GB 47 for 14 yards.

It doesn't really matter, but seeing RB Ryan Grant play in the preseason is great. Except for one play, he missed all of last preseason with his bad hamstring. The starting offensive line is Clifton, Colledge, Wells, Spitz, and Barbre, and they got a great push. They gave Grant room to run and QB Aaron Rodgers time to throw. The time at right tackle was split exclusively between RT Allen Barbre and RT Breno Giacomini as they battle for the starting job. Both played well, but neither stood out.

(12:15) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass deep middle to 80-D.Driver for 53 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Rodgers is so good at throwing on the run. Nice move by WR Donald Driver to get behind the secondary.

(10:50) (Shotgun) 10-B.Quinn pass short middle to 88-M.Furrey to CLE 36 for 9 yards.

(9:00) (Shotgun) 10-B.Quinn pass short middle to 88-M.Furrey to GB 21 for 11 yards.

Two completions on 3rd down. It looked like WR Mike Furrey was matched up against a linebacker and beat them to keep the drive alive. All of the Packers' linebackers can play, but the starters will be the ones who can drop back into coverage. If you're keeping track of the cornerback depth chart, Harris and Woodson sat out so CB Tramon Williams and CB Will Blackmon started. CB Jarrett Bush was the nickel back.

LB Brady Poppinga got the start at right OLB since LB Clay Matthews and LB Jeremy Thompson were both held out with minor injuries. All of three are very active and have some pass rushing ability, but Matthews should be the best in pass coverage.

(6:53) 12-A.Rodgers pass short left to 88-J.Finley to GB 44 for 12 yards.

(6:14) 12-A.Rodgers pass short right to 89-J.Jones to CLE 48 for 8 yards.

Both TE Jermichael Finley and WR James Jones had good games. They both look better than last season, which isn't surprising since Finley is so young and Jones battled injuries. Neither will start, but they'll help.

(4:55) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass incomplete short middle to 25-R.Grant.

You can't see it on the stat line, but this was a completely botched screen pass. It's odd to watch the Packers struggle so badly with the screen pass since they were so good at it in the 1990s.

(:10) 10-M.Flynn pass short right to 88-J.Finley to 50 for 6 yards.

QB Matt Flynn looks so much better. He's got some zip on the ball and can throw on the run. He's even adjusted his throwing motion so he looks an awful lot like Rodgers. Unfortunately the rest of the offense made three mental mistakes (false start, illegal formation, and illegal man downfield) that stalled his first drive.

Second Quarter

(9:34) 2-M.Crosby 60 yard field goal is No Good, Hit Left Upright.

There's been some Tweets from training camp that K Mason Crosby has been struggling. But his two misses were very long attempts that didn't miss badly. And he had two kickoffs go into the end zone. There's nothing wrong with him.

(8:45) 3-D.Anderson pass deep right intended for 16-J.Cribbs INTERCEPTED.

This gets back to what I said about the middle linebackers. It was a big night for LB Desmond Bishop, 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, and he was a constant presence behind the line of scrimmage. But the 3-4 defense sure gives the middle linebacker opportunities to shine. Bishop was allowed to delay blitz, or run a stunt, and got in on the QB. The pass from QB Derek Anderson had no chance because Bishop came in unblocked, and hit him as he was throwing.

(1:20) (Shotgun) 10-B.Quinn pass short middle to 16-J.Cribbs to GB 14 for 22 yards (29-A.Smith). PENALTY on GB-29-A.Smith, Face Mask (15 Yards), 7 yards, enforced at GB 14.

(:25) (Shotgun) 10-B.Quinn pass short middle intended for 17-B.Edwards INTERCEPTED by 29-A.Smith at GB -7. Touchback.

S Anthony Smith was one of the budget free agents signed by the Packers. The former 3rd round pick was a starter in Pittsburgh, but was benched in 2008. He had a nice blitz for a sack and made a nice play to jump the route in the end zone for an INT. But he also had a careless facemask penalty. It's not clear whether he's an upgrade over last season's backup safety, S Charlie Peprah, who had an INT of his own during the game.

Third Quarter

(14:26) 5-B.Ratliff pass short left to 87-A.Walker to CLE 30 for 9 yards. 

QB Brett Ratliff played the entire 2nd half for Cleveland. He connected with journeyman TE Aaron Walker on 3 passes for 48 yards, and one screen pass to WR Brian Robiskie for 15 yards, and that was the all Cleveland's backups could muster. The 2nd unit defense struggled at times last preseason, so this great game is hopefully the start of a promising trend.

(12:16) 11-B.Brohm pass short middle INTERCEPTED.

QB Brian Brohm had an ugly line, 3 for 10 for 18 yards and 2 INTs. This INT happened because the right defensive end got past LT Tony Moll and hit Brohm as he was throwing. But overall, he looks so much better than he did last year. He's got a zip on his passes, just like I said above with Flynn. The difference is that Brohm is a little late on his passes. One one late pass, he led the receiver too close to the sideline, and on another he made the receiver slow down on the sidelines when he had a step on the defender. He's still the 3rd string QB, but with more experience he'll be a solid pocket passer. 

Fourth Quarter

(14:11) (Shotgun) 11-B.Brohm pass short right intended for 81-J.Harris INTERCEPTED.

Brohm threw the pass high, but it ricocheted off WR JaRon Harris' hands for the INT. It's a tough job, but receivers have to catch those passes.

(11:05) 23-T.Sutton left tackle to GB 37 for 17 yards.

I'm a big fan of RB Tyrell Sutton. He was a great player at Northwestern. He went undrafted because his 40 time at the combine was slow, he's only 5'8" (he looks even shorter standing next to the O-lineman in the huddle), and he's had a history of injuries. But he's talented and should make a good 3rd down/change of pace back. Unfortunately, it probably won't be with the Packers because there's nothing he does that RB Brandon Jackson can't do.

(8:47) 28-K.Lumpkin right end to CLE 38 for 14 yards.

I don't know how undrafted RB Kregg Lumpkin made the team last year. He wasn't awful, but he didn't really dazzle either. In this game, however, I could see what the coaches see in him. He's a strong runner and he's a load to bring down at 230 lbs. He beat out RB Deshawn Wynn last season because Wynn was injured for most of training camp, but then Wynn was resigned after Lumpkin was lost for the year with an injury. They'll only keep one of them, and Wynn played earlier in the game then Lumpkin did.

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