NFC North Champs! Although I expected the Packers would win, I did expect Oakland would put up more of a fight. In the last home game the Packers pass defense allowed QB Vinny Testaverde to throw for over 250 yards, so it seemed likely with Oakland's RB Justin Fargas running well and the Packers pass defense struggling that Oakland would be able to put some points on the board. Instead their offense really stunk. Except when QB Josh McCown ran a good 2 minute drill at the end of the first half, connecting on three long completions for about 70 yards, including the long TD pass to WR Jerry Porter, Oakland's pass offense was held to about 100 yards total the rest of the game. Fargas had some good first half numbers, but they couldn't sustain any drives without a passing game. The Packers offense, defense, and special teams soundly thumped Oakland and the game wasn't even as close as the lopsided 38-7 score indicated because the Packers had three drives that ended in Oakland territory in which they came up with zero points (2 missed FGs and one drive ended on downs).
- The game temperature was around 19 degrees and everyone looks a step slower.
- Although the Packers had been passing early and often in most games this season, and RB Ryan Grant only ran 10 times at Dallas, he had 5 carries on the first drive. Mike McCarthy has done a very good job this season of attacking the opponents weak spots, and Oakland's run defense is the worst in the NFL. The fact that it was cold and QB Brett Favre is still recovering from his shoulder and elbow injury probably contributed to the run heavy play calling too.
- CB Charles Woodson and DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila returned for this game, but the Packers continued to send an extra pass rusher, usually LB A.J. Hawk, early and often in this game. Defensive coordinator Bob Sanders has preferred letting his front four generate the pass rush and staying away from the blitz for most of this season. However, without KGB for the last game at Dallas, the Packers couldn't get anywhere near QB Tony Romo in the first half and Dallas scored on their first five possessions. Only when Sanders started calling for an additional pass rusher, again it was usually Hawk, did the Packers manage to slow down Dallas. Hawk didn't get after the McCown too often, but his presence was felt. On one early play, Hawk blitzed up the middle, Oakland's right tackle reacted by moving inside to block, and he left DE Aaron Kampman unblocked off the edge to lay a big hit on McCown.
- Oakland has a good pass defense and they did a good job taking away the sidelines, except for a couple of passes in the second half when they abused CB Stanford Routt, but when Favre tried the left side the ball was tipped and intercepted. This wasn't a bad play, it was designed to be thrown before WR Koren Robinson turned for the ball, but CB Chris Carr was all over him and Robinson didn't make a good reaction to the ball.
- It was great to see Favre return to his low turnover ways. Except for the one interception, there were no other turnovers, and it's a big reason for the Packers success.
- The offense started clicking when Favre got the ball to WR Donald Driver and TE Donald Lee in the middle of the field. The pass rush couldn't get to Favre all game and Oakland seemed to lose track of Lee and Driver on several plays.
- Strong TD run for Grant. One of the great things about Grant is how he fights through tackles and is often tackled by the second or third defender to hit him. Check out this highlight reel from the Oakland game. He set his career highs in carries and yards, but this was game wasn't as good as his previous two games when he ran for over 100 yards against much better run defenses in Detroit and Dallas. Still this was an outstanding game and that's just an indication of how well the Packer run offense has been since the bye week.
- CB Will Blackmon looked done for the season back in September with a foot injury, but GM Ted Thompson resisted placing him on I.R. and now he's made it back to make some big plays. His punt return was a great run, he did step out at the 5 yard line, but it was still a great run and would have led to a score. Blackmon was making kick and punt returns like this in the preseason, but this is the first time in the regular season that the broken bones in his foot and hand have allowed him to return kicks this season. He's injury prone, but this game wasn't a fluke. He's good, if he can stay healthy.
- CB Al Harris had the ball taken away from him by Porter on Oakland's only TD. Harris isn't really in decline this season, but it does seem like he is either making a big play (he did have an INT in the game too) or getting beat. He was outstanding in 2005 and 2006, but his 2007 season is similar to how he played in 2003 and 2004.
- Scoring on the first drive of the 2nd half is such a boost to the team. Not only does the offense show it is in a rhythm, but it shows which team made some good halftime adjustments and it gives the defense some more time to rest. WR Greg Jennings' 20 yard catch on 3rd and 18 was just a killer for Oakland. They had the chance to get the ball back in great field position and possibly tie the game.
- Jennings follows up his big first down catch on the previous drive with a huge 80 TD reception. Here's the video. Robinson had a big reception to Routt's side on the previous drive. It looked like Oakland was going to leave the receiver to the right side in single coverage and let the safety to that side, S Michael Huff, play closer to the middle to stop Driver and Lee.
- I can't believe Oakland tried a 44 yard field goal on their next drive. The wind was awful and any field goal attempt over 40 yards was a longshot. Oakland was down 24-7 at that point and kicking field goals was not going to get them back into the game.
- After two 2nd half scoring drives, Oakland's defense finally held, but a huge special teams tackle by DE Jason Hunter and another great special teams play by Blackmon. Still Hunter was still the star of the play; forcing fumbles is a skill and recovering fumbles is luck.
- S Atari Bigby has struggled in recent weeks, but he had a great interception and return for a TD. Unfortunately the TD was wiped out by a personal foul on DE Cullen Jenkins. McCown wasn't making any move to make a tackle, and it was a bad play by Jenkins.
- The Packers start running out the clock with six consecutive carries by RB Vernand Morency, but then one pass up the middle, and several bad tackles later, and Lee scores again on a 46 yard TD reception. The tackling by Oakland was just awful.
- Oakland had some bad penalties, but the Packers beat them with even more bad penalties. Penalties have been a problem over the past several weeks, and now the Packers lead the league in personal fouls, I would expect Bigby is the team leader in this category. The team is playing great, but they have to show some improvement over the next three games at limiting their penalties.