Depending on the degree of my responsibilities doing soccer coverage and other various things at SBNation.com, I'm going to try to do offensive and defensive review posts for each game this season. If the Packers play a Monday night game on a UEFA Champions League week, you guys will probably be SOL, but I'm going to do my best to keep up regardless. This week, I don't have a whole lot of negative things to say about the Green Bay Packers offense and their performance against the New Orleans Saints, for obvious reasons.
The Packers' first drive was fantastic, and it was a great example of how hard defensive coordinators have it in Week 1 of the season. Gregg Williams will have had little to no film to watch of a completely healthy Green Bay offense that included both Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant, not to mention Randall Cobb.
The highlight was the big 36 yard pass to Jordy Nelson - who had arguably the best regular season game of his career on Thursday, but I was most impressed by the play before it. On 3rd and 12, the Saints were able to get respectable pressure rushing four, but Aaron Rodgers showed the calmness and athleticism that makes him a star, dodging a defender and stepping up in the pocket to deliver a strike to Donald Driver. Greg Jennings scored with a great turnaround catch on a ball Rodgers through perfectly to his back shoulder, giving young corner Patrick Robinson little chance to make a play.
Drive No. 2 was an easy one, thanks to a fumble by Marques Colston. Ryan Grant had a couple of good plays on the drive, while Finley's 15 yard reception was probably the highlight. Nelson's touchdown was a little too easy.
T.J Lang committed a false start the first drive, then committed a second false start on the third drive, drawing some groans from the crowd. As this site's resident fanboy, I wrote it off as some first start jitters. I was (by consequence, since I'm incredibly biased) correct about this, as Lang was very good for the rest of the game. For those concerned about Lang's inexperience and the potential for penalties: Do you remember how many penalties Daryn Colledge committed?!? We're getting off easy with two false starts.
As we know, that third drive turned out spectacularly with a 32-yard Randall Cobb touchdown, featuring a blazing fast run and one impressive broken tackle. That touchdown (and a later kick return touchdown from Cobb) took the focus off another player's performance throughout the game, but specifically on the Packers' third drive. Finley had two big catches on this drive, showing off both his athletic ability and his ability to catch the ball in traffic.
We all knew that Jermichael Finley was one of the most naturally talented tight ends in the league, but his performance in the first three drives was still a little jarring. He was an absolute monster. Lining him up wide as a split end is a nightmare for defenses. How are the Saints corners, all of whom are in the general neighborhood of 5'11", 190 lbs., supposed to get a jam on this guy or contend with him for a ball in traffic?
Between Finley's abilities to cause havoc for a defense when lined up as a wide receiver and the abilities of Tom Crabtree and Andrew Quarless to line up in a fullback/h-back position and run block, it makes sense that Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson elected to keep as many tight ends as they did. Those three players make the team's offense very versatile, and D.J. Williams will probably become a more effective player as the season goes on.
The Packers' fourth drive was a three and out where there wasn't really anything wrong with the play calls or terrible execution, the Saints defense just played well. Unfortunately, we all know what resulted from that drive. Darren Sproles is a beast.
Drive No. 5, the final drive of the first half, was an interesting one. At 14 plays and six minutes, 38 seconds, it was far and away the most eventful of the game. This was the second consecutive drive in which Rodgers looked just a little tiny bit off his game. He'd recover without much of a problem and it was obviously a slight hiccup, but at the time - before James Starks' fantastic touchdown run - I was a bit concerned that Aaron wasn't in a great rhythm. I'm glad I was wrong.
What made this drive was the blocking. Three separate big plays on this drive were made by fantastic blocks that went above and beyond our normal expectations for players. On first and ten from the Green Bay 36, the Packers ran a WR screen for Donald Driver, on which Greg Jennings made a spectacular block to turn what looked like a nothing play into an eight yard gain. Two plays later, on third and two, John Kuhn made a huge lead block for Starks, springing him for a five yard gain. One play later, both Finley and Crabtree made spectacular blocks to open up a massive hole for Starks, helping him to an easy 10 yard run.
On a second and 11 from the New Orleans 42, the Packers threw a short pass in the flat to Jennings, who made two defenders miss with some absolutely sick moves to pick up 14 yards. Jennings is a quick and shifty guy, but it was about the most impressive play I've ever seen him make on this specific kind of play call.
On 2nd and 1 from the New Orleans 20, Rodgers made his second bad mistake of the drive. His first mistake was a badly missed throw early in the drive, but this mistake, a bad read, was slightly more irritating as a fan at the time. I'm a fan of taking a shot on 2nd and 1 if you think the defense will set up in a way that allows you to do this, but understandably, Mike McCarthy called a running play to try and pick up the first down easily.
Unfortunately for him, the run was right into the (mostly unblocked) strong side of the Saints defense. Meanwhile, it appeared that Finley was isolated in one-on-one coverage out wide. I was watching the game on television and not at Lambeau Field, so it's entirely possible that the corner had safety help over the top and I missed it, but I'm fairly certain that the Saints were in man (with one of those small corners) on Finley. Rodgers is excellent at changing into a more desirable play in this situation, so it was disappointing that he missed it this time.
Of course, it ultimately didn't matter that much as Starks made an absolutely brilliant touchdown run. Aside: Starks had 12 carries on the night, while Grant had nine. They both averaged over four yards per carry. These guys are going to be 1a and 1b all year, pissing off fantasy owners and delighting Packers fans. They're going to keep each other fresh, and it's going to be spectacular.
Sadly, much less eventful on the offensive side of the ball for us. Or maybe that's just because I knew what to expect and I wasn't seeing new things anymore? Honestly, I'm not entirely sure, but I ended up with almost no notes on the second half. Maybe I just got really into the game? Maybe, because I'm no longer a Wisconsin resident and on Eastern time, I was tired? In any event, this will be much shorter than the first half notes.
The Packers' first drive of the half was...bad. Rodgers continued to look a tiny bit off, and I was wondering if a serious comeback was on the way. There was one incompletion in which Starks was blocked into him, knocking into Rodgers' arm as he threw. On third down, Aaron just missed Driver. The next drive was a lot better, so let's forget this one.
It wasn't until 3:03 remaining in the third quarter that the Packers would start a legitimate drive, thanks to Cobb's kick return touchdown, a three and out, and some good play by the New Orleans offense. That drive, a spectacular 12 play, 93 yard drive, would be the ultimate game clincher. All of my concerns about Aaron being a little off-rhythm were completely washed away during this drive, where he was absolutely fantastic. This was also the best drive of the game for his offensive line, who absolutely dominated a Saints pass rush that looked slow and tired without Will Smith.
Jennings, Nelson and Kuhn were all fantastic on this drive en route to a game-clinching touchdown, and it was both fitting and encouraging that the best drive of the night came so close to the end of the game. Because of the clock-killing and defensive game that Green Bay played for most of the first quarter, this would be the last real drive of the game, with the next two resulting in punts.
Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley, the entire offensive line
James Jones, who was not involved in the game in the slightest
What did we learn?
1. Jermichael Finley and Randall Cobb are going to be major weapons this year, while Jordy Nelson has improved.
2. The consequence of No. 1 is that James Jones is now offensive option No. 6 in the passing game, or so it seems.
3. We can have an elite YPC with two slightly above average, but not great running backs.
What to watch for next week
We play the Panthers. lol. If we don't kill the Panthers, I can has a sad. We'll re-visit this section in next week's review, since our Week 3 game is at Soldier Field.