Unbelievable! Coming into this season, the first three games were against three teams that made the playoffs last season. I was hoping they could win two of the three and make a statement, but winning those first three games is unbelievable. The only three teams left on the Packers 2007 schedule that made the 2006 playoffs are Chicago, Kansas City, and Dallas. With the toughest stretch of the season over and three quality wins in hand, the Packers are clearly one of the best teams in the NFC.
First Half: The Packers ran the ball an total of 11 times in the game (I'm not counting the two "rushes" by QB Brett Favre). How many Packer fans screamed RUN THE BALL! when Mike McCarthy called pass on the two failed 4th down attempts? Maybe the biggest storyline in this game is how neither team could get to the quarterback. San Diego at least tried to run the ball, but McCarthy didn't even bother. Usually the pass heavy game calling and the additional pass rush it creates usually leads to some bad decisions by Favre, but the protection held up in this game. So far this season the Packers have turned the ball over only three times total in three games and it is a big reason why they are 3-0. I expected the Packers pass blocking would hold up, but I didn't expect the Packers pass rush to be so ineffective. QB Philip Rivers was able to stay upright in the pocket and he picked the pass defense apart, completing his first 15 passes. The secondary and linebackers played well, CB Al Harris was right on top of WR Vincent Jackson on his TD reception, but Rivers was very accurate in the first half. TE Antonio Gates ripped the coverage apart, but he's been great all season and it wasn't that the secondary and linebackers couldn't cover. Despite the pass heavy play calling, every drive by the Packers offense ended in San Diego territory, except the last one with under 30 seconds left in the half. The defense struggled, but it didn't lead to many points in part because the special teams played so well. K Mason Crosby had at least two touchbacks, and all P Jon Ryan's punts fell inside the San Diego 20 yard line.
Second Half: Defensive coordinator Bob Sanders saw the pass rush struggle in the first half, and he opened it up in the second half by bringing LBs A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett on the blitz. It probably hurt more than it helped because they only had one sack in the second half and blitzing the linebackers created more single coverage and opened up the running lanes. Rivers remained sharp for the TD drive to open the second half, but then he started overthrowing receivers. The pass rush was better, but passes he completed in the first half were overthrown in the second half. He even started an argument with RB LaDainian Tomlinson at one point, so something seemed to rattle him, and if it was some change made by the defense, then good job for them. Even before his game clinching interception, LB Nick Barnett had a great game. How many times did he bust through the line and hit Tomlinson in the backfield? San Diego scored their only TD in the half on a screen play to Tomlinson and it was the only time I remember them trying to get the ball to him in the passing game. My fear was that since LT couldn't run effectively they would put him in the slot or out in the flat and make him a terror in the passing game, but they rarely did it. Other than this big TD pass and run, Tomlinson wasn't a factor in the game. Until the Packers had the ball 1st and Goal at the San Diego 2 yard line with a minute to go in the game, they only called two running plays in the entire 2nd half. It had to be a major reason why the offense struggled in this half, until WR Greg Jennings had his fantastic TD run with two minutes left. He had a great run, but it looked like San Diego's defenders all held up while trying to tackle him and Jennings had to have run right past at least four defenders. RB Brandon Jackson scored the first TD of his NFL career and it should be the first of many more (if McCarthy ever lets him carry the ball). The Packers leading rusher only had six carries, but they still won this game.
Weekly Favre milestone update. He tied QB Dan Marino with 420 TD in his career. Just an amazing accomplishment to add to the many he already has and the other he will be reaching later this season.