Ok, I didn't see that coming. I expected a win and I expected it would be close, most of the games played by Green Bay and Denver have been close this season, but I didn't expect it would unfold like it did. Both teams had a pair of good to great cornerbacks and it seemed like a bad game to be a wide receiver, but it was the other way around. I expected the Packers would be able to run the ball, but not with 4th string RB Ryan Grant. Denver did everything they wanted to on offense, except when they got near field goal range or the end zone. After struggling for six straight quarters, the Packers offense found some new life against a weak Denver defense. Aside from the two long TD bombs, the most important thing was that the Packers had no turnovers. When the Packers have under 2 turnovers, they are unbeaten this season.
First Quarter: Denver started out the game with the perfect offense strategy against the Packers; get the ball to your tight ends and running backs. The good news was that although both tight ends caught passes, they only caught three more the rest of the game. Despite the strong start, it was a typical Denver drive in that it stalled at mid-field and led to a punt. After a three-and-out set up good field position for Denver, they put together a solid drive with QB Jay Cutler throwing to four different receivers, mixing in the run, and it led to a TD pass to a tight end. Another thing that helped Denver was that the Packers blitzed more than usual in this game, and it left receivers open in single coverage (or uncovered) when the blitz was always picked up. Denver was real successful rolling Cutler out in the first quarter, and luckily they seemed to get away from that for the rest of the game. The key to getting the offense going was to get WR James Jones back into the game plan since he had been a non-factor after his second fumble against Chicago, but no way did I expect him to beat CB Champ Bailey deep for a TD. Denver had a good defensive game plan. Leave their two Pro Bowl corners in single coverage against the young Packer receivers on the sidelines, and let their safeties and linebackers swarm around WR Donald Driver. Driver was a non-factor for most the game, except for a couple of receptions that went for first downs, but WR Greg Jennings and Jones just killed them.
Second Quarter: That fumble at the goal line was the turning point of the game. Denver's offense moved at will on their first three possessions and gained 172 yards. However, they only gained 160 yards over the last three quarters. After the fumble recovery, the Packers drive 98 yards for a field goal? This is when the penalties start to hurt; two false starts move the ball off the Denver 1 yard line and back into a field goal. This was the RB Ryan Grant show because he had 14 of his 25 carries and receptions in the 2nd quarter. He wears ex-Packer RB Dorsey Levens' old #25 and he runs a lot like him too. He's not fast but he gets to the line quick and is always moving forward. On several occasions he got hit but then managed to keep moving and turn it into a 7-8 yard gain. It shows that you don't need to have a franchise back but a good offensive line and a good blocking scheme. For the first time this season the Packers played against a defense with a below average run defense, and now they have their first running back with a 100 yard game. This is as good a time as any to talk about the awful game by S Atari Bigby. It was awful, with multiple 15 yard penalties and a stupid 5 yard delay of game penalty, but he's a young second year player, it was his first bad game, and it's not a big deal until he has another one. Denver had one last shot at another first half scoring drive, but it ended quickly when DE Aaron Kampman had his first of three sacks. He put pressure on Cutler most of the game and was a big, if not the biggest reason, Denver's offense stalled after the first quarter.
Third Quarter: There wasn't much to say about this part of the game. There were only three possessions and they all stalled, except both Packer drives led to punts while Denver got a 45 yard field goal.
Fourth Quarter: On Denver's first drive, they moved the ball again but a huge holding penalty brought back a big run by RB Selmon Young, who had a great overall game and has to be better than RB Travis Henry. Eventually they were stopped short of field goal range after another penalty and an aborted wide receiver pass option play pushed them back. If Mike Shanahan had let K Jason Elam try a long field goal, which he was sure to make because kickers don't miss field goals against the Packers, then this game might have been lost. The Packers were able to pass the ball, but were determined to run it instead. Grant was held to 6 carries for 15 yards in the 4th quarter because Denver decided to stop the run. They lined up five or six players on the line and stopped him. If he had been able to break through that first line, he would have had a big 15-20 yard gain, but he just didn't get it and Mike McCarthy was determined to run the ball anyway. I expected the defense to shut down Denver with less than 2 minutes in the game, but Cutler got the ball to the Brandons (WR Stokley and Marshall) and moved them down the field for the game tying field goal. It was a bad game for CB Al Harris too, who let Stokley and Marshall catch a number of passes against him. Since it was Harris' first bad game of the season too, it isn't a big deal at this point. By the end of the last drive, the defense looked really winded and it was damn lucky they kept Cutler out of the end zone on his attempted sneak. It was even better luck when they won the coin toss for first possession of O.T.
Overtime: One and done. Jennings ran right by CB Dre' Bly on the first play of overtime for a TD and game over. It was a good idea to try and have your two shutdown cornerbacks shutdown the outside receivers in one-on-one coverage, but every opponent the Packers play the rest of the season are going to see how Denver lost trying single coverage on Favre's deep receivers while other teams like Washington two weeks ago played their safeties deep and shut him down. That's not a big problem, but Mike McCarthy will have to be ready for it and have a game plan designed to take advantage of the soft short and medium routes when it happens.