It's been a while since I had a chance to watch a Green Bay Packers game all the way through. The first installment of this series was all the way back on June 21, but I've got a bit more time on my hands now, and I'm going to watch every single remaining game between now and training camp, finishing up this series in the process. Today, I re-watched the Week 2 game against the Carolina Panthers.
This is, of course, the game that ended Nick Collins' career. It was very tough to watch the rest of the game after seeing that injury again, so apologies if I missed anything really important from that point up until the end. If you missed the first post in this series, here's the re-watch of Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints.
Packers at Panthers - Week 2
Final Score: Packers 30. Panthers 23
Packers' record entering game: 1-0
Panthers' record entering game: 0-1
Packers' offensive/special teams MVP: James Starks
Packers' defensive MVP: Charles Woodson
Panthers' offensive/special teams MVP: Steve Smith
Panthers' defensive MVP: Charles Johnson
More after the jump.
First quarter major notes
- Tramon Williams did not start because of a shoulder injury, meaning that Jarrett Bush played a lot of snaps in this game. The end of the season version of Cam Newton might have been able to exploit that, but this version of Cam Newton was very streaky. Bush didn't get picked on at all.
- Jamari Lattimore started the game with a big tackle on the opening kickoff. I recall Lattimore having a great year on special teams in 2011, and I'm looking forward to seeing if I catch more big plays as I keep watching games. He's worth keeping around as a backup linebacker for what he does on special teams.
- The Panthers had two good plays on their first drive nullified for illegal shifts, including a touchdown pass where Greg Olsen torched Collins. They came on back-to-back plays.
- Dom Capers and the Packers' defense let the Panthers get out of that 1st and 20 hole easily with a very bad playcall. Bush was sent on a corner blitz to the opposite side of where the Panthers set up a screen for Jonathan Stewart. He basically walked for 20 yards. This drive eventually led to a touchdown, on a great catch by Brandon LaFell.
- Immediately after the TD was a terrible fumble by Randall Cobb. He coughed up the ball when he ran directly into the back of Ryan Taylor at full speed. Seriously.
- Desmond Bishop was whistled for a roughing the passer on this drive for driving Newton into the ground after he released the ball, but he made up for it. On a 3rd down and 4 in the red zone, Bishop came up with a huge tackle, stepping up to deliver a huge hit on a checkdown throw to Stewart. That forced a field goal following Cobb's fumble.
Second quarter major notes
- Down 13-0, Mike McCarthy decided that his offense needed to change their pace. He went to the no-huddle right away on the Packers' first touchdown drive.
- On a couple of occasions on that same touchdown drive, Aaron Rodgers showed what separates him from the other elite quarterbacks in the NFL: His feet. There isn't much separation between Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady in terms of arm strength, accuracy, reading defenses and decision making, but Rodgers' feet are incredible. He showed some incredible pocket mobility to extend a play that ended up as a 39-yard pass to Jermichael Finley on 3rd and 7 early in the drive. He did it again farther down the field, on 3rd and 2, improvising on a great flip pass to Ryan Grant. This drive eventually led to a John Kuhn touchdown.
- Newton looked very good and very patient until his second to last series of the second quarter. Even though he was under minimal pressure, he tried to force a ball into double coverage, gifting Charles Woodson his first interception of the day. He was lucky that Rodgers missed a couple of throws on the next possession and that the Panthers kept their lead heading into the third quarter.
Third quarter major notes
- The Packers scored a touchdown to take the lead very quickly in the third quarter. James Starks had a couple of excellent runs to start the drive, which opened up the deep play-action pass. Even though Starks only had nine carries in this game and didn't score, I gave him offensive MVP because of his efficiency and because of his assist on this TD. After runs of eight and 14 yards, the defense bit hard on the PA.
- The touchdown came on a really beautiful play design. Jennings was given a bit of a gift when Jordan Pugh cheated way too far outside, giving him the entire middle of the field, but there should have been another safety over the top. There wasn't, because Finley ran a route just underneath Jennings, which Charles Godfrey stepped up to cover. This left Jennings completely uncontested on the 49-yard score.
- Newton's second pick came on the Panthers' first drive, and it was an awesome play by Woodson. He read Newton all the way and undercut Steve Smith's drag route for his second interception of the game. This led to a Packers field goal.
- The Packers scored again on their next drive, with Starks providing the setup for the offense once again. He had a massive 40-yard run on this drive, assisted by a great lead block by John Kuhn, as well as a great seal by Josh Sitton. He had to make some moves of his own, though, and showed some solid burst to get 40 yards out of the play. Unfortunately, the Packers couldn't capitalize by punching it into the end zone, and had to settle for another field goal. Their next drive resulted in a field goal as well, after penalties put them into a 2nd and 33, then a 3rd and 23.
- Morgan Burnett had a big quarter. He had both a strip on Steve Smith, turning a big play into a turnover, and intercepted a pass that Newton absolutely airmailed.
Fourth quarter major notes
- The Nick Collins play happened pretty early in the quarter, with the Panthers driving towards the red zone. It was the second big play of the drive for Jonathan Stewart, who made a spectacular play to hurdle Collins, and the way he came down on Collins' head was just unlucky. About as odd of a freak injury as you'll ever see. Newton missed a couple of throws later in this drive, forcing the Panthers to settle for a field goal.
- Burnett had another big play in the fourth quarter, tackling Cam Newton for a loss on 3rd and 1 to force a 4th and 4. This play, coupled with the strip and his pick made him a candidate for defensive MVP over Woodson, but I gave it to Woodson because of the reasonably high degree of difficulty on his interceptions.
- After that stop, the Packers virtually ended the game with the big Jordy Nelson touchdown, but they started that drive backed up against their own end zone. Starks had an awesome run on the first play from scrimmage, picking up 12 yards to give them some breathing room.
- Then, the 84-yard bomb to Nelson. He made a great cut on the post, then an even better cut to change directions and go up the sideline. He probably would have been caught if it weren't for a spectacular block by Greg Jennings, which allowed Nelson to jog into the end zone without a problem.
- Even if Newton cost the Panthers with three picks in this game, he showed off why he's going to be so awesome on his last drive. He threw a perfect 62-yard bomb to Smith, then ran in a touchdown on 3rd and goal. Donald Driver recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the win, but it was still a sick sequence from Cam.
- Jarius Wynn was really good again. I don't remember where it all went wrong for him last season. He was a monster against the Saints, then played well again in this game. Does anyone remember when the drop-off happened? I sure don't.
- Charles Johnson was easily the best player on the Panthers defense and looked like he deserved the huge contract the Panthers gave him. They were very smart to frontload the living hell out of that so that he never becomes a cap casualty and they have some money to put pieces around Cam.
- This isn't the first time I've said it in this post, but I'll say it again: Watching the Collins injury sucked a lot.
- If Newton was more patient, the Packers might not have won this game. I do not look forward to future games against a more experienced and disciplined Cam Newton.
- Even though he only had nine carries in this game, this performance gave me faith that James Starks is good enough to be a No. 1 back with John Kuhn and Brandon Saine eating some carries.
In general? That Cam Newton is a monster who just needs to clean up the basic mistakes that all rookie QBs have. About the Packers? That they might have been a bit too over-confident after the Saints game. They started slow and, except for the two huge plays that were made more by play design and the receivers than his throws, Aaron Rodgers did not have a great day. This game fell between the Saints game and a trip to Soldier Field, and I think everyone was surprised at how close this game was. They almost paid for looking ahead.