What a huge weekend! The Packers win easily in St. Louis and QB Brett Favre became the NFL career yards passing leader ahead of QB Dan Marino. The win and Seattle's loss in Carolina clinched a first round bye, and Dallas' surprising loss gives the Packers a chance at getting home field throughout the playoffs.
Another very exciting event this weekend was the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater football team won the Division III championship. It's the school's first football national championship. It was the third consecutive national championship game they had played, but they had lost to Mt. Union in 2005 and 2006. The third time's the charm and Whitewater beat Mt. Union 31-21. It ended Mt. Union's 37 game winning streak. When Mt. Union went into the locker room at halftime down 10-0 it was the first time they had trailed at half since 2005. Mt. Union had beaten their opponents in 2007 by an average of 55-5. They are a college football powerhouse, but Whitewater finally got the better of them. It was too bad that former Whitewater star WR Derek Stanley had to play for St. Louis against the Packers on Sunday, and it was too bad the Packers had to force a fumble on one of his returns in the guy's first NFL game.
This game really showed how well the Packers are playing right now as a team. The offense had one of their poorer showings in weeks and still scored 33 points. The defense was run over in the first half, but still held St. Louis to 14 points. The special teams was the star of this game. K Mason Crosby nailed four field goals, the kick and punt returners started the offense in St. Louis territory on half of their possessions (5 of 10), and Crosby and the kick coverage stuck St. Louis in terrible field position all game long.
- St. Louis committed two penalties on the first three plays. The Packers had been struggling with penalties in recent weeks, but only had six penalties in this game. St. Louis had thirteen penalties for 93 yards. Penalties plus return yards were heavily in the Packers favor in this game and offset the nearly 100 yard advantage St. Louis had on offense.
- On RB Ryan Grant's TD run, C Scott Wells and LG Jason Spitz cleared the two defensive players completely out of the play and opened up a wide lane for Grant to run through.
- Grant hadn't lost a fumble (he was involved in a couple of missed handoffs but those are technically charged to Favre) but he had one today. The Packers have had few turnovers this season, this fumble led to a St. Louis TD drive, and the early season lost to Chicago was due in large part to turnovers. Although the Packers had three turnovers in this game, it did not factor into this game.
- CB Al Harris looked bad early while having trouble keeping receivers from getting big 3rd down receptions. But after WR Torry Holt caught his TD, he only had one more catch in the game and that was due in large part to Harris.
- Favre had no business throwing that TD pass to TE Donald Lee but the defender in coverage couldn't react quick enough.
- After RB Steven Jackson scores on a 46 yard TD run, by my count he had 89 yards rushing in the first 20 minutes. The Packers defensive line was getting beat badly early on. No one player was to blame because everyone played their part. DT Justin Harrell was getting shoved around. DEs Aaron Kampman and Cullen Jenkins were either overpursuing or getting blocked off, and Jackson had giant cutback lanes to run through. On his TD run, LB Nick Barnett blitzed up the middle and away from the play leaving no linebacker to challenge Jackson at the second level once he cutback to where Kampman had been pushed out of the way. It didn't help on that run that S Nick Collins was picked off the by referee.
- When I previewed the game I noticed that the unit that was playing the best for St. Louis was their pass defense. They didn't get a lot of pressure on Favre, but their secondary was good at keeping up with the receivers.
- The defensive line was completely different in the second half. They weren't getting shoved around and the cutback lanes disappeared as the ends held their positions. St. Louis had 135 yards on offense in the second half, which isn't good but isn't horrible either, but their best field position in the second half was starting at their own 21 yard line and they couldn't sustain any drives down the field.
- Huge game for LB Nick Barnett with 13 tackles and 2 sacks. Defensive coordinator Bob Sanders hasn't let Barnett blitz much this season, but he's starting to open it up for Barnett and LB A.J. Hawk.
- Football Outsiders had mentioned that St. Louis LT Alex Barron will someday have the false start penalty renamed in his honor, and he had two false starts in this game. In his quiet home stadium!
- St. Louis had the ball almost the entire 3rd quarter but couldn't keep any drive going; the first ending on an interception by S Atari Bigby (two interceptions in the game) and the second on a missed field goal. The Packers offense only ran six plays with two completions, but the second was the 44 yard wide open bomb to WR Greg Jennings. St. Louis' Bartell played pretty well in the game, but covered the wrong man on that play and left Jennings wide open with no deep help because St. Louis blitzed.
- After that TD, St. Louis was down by 13 and started throwing a lot. The passing game never worked great, it was their running game that was really killing the Packers early, but they had to play catchup.
- The Packers could have probably run more of the game away, but Favre threw his second deep INT to Atogwe. St. Louis was playing double coverage on the deep left sideline pass, just like Oakland did last week and Washington did earlier in the season, but Favre just couldn't help himself and he threw two INTs in almost the exact same spot. Probably half of Favre's INTs this season have been on passes to the deep left sideline. Teams are all over it and it's time for Mike McCarthy to tell Favre to not ever throw that pass again this season. It should still work well as a decoy, but it rarely works as an actual play. For some reason it isn't a problem on deep passes along the right sideline. Maybe Favre is better with his timing on passes to that side.