Right, onto our thoughts:
3-0...it sounds good. The Packers looked magnificent for three quarters on Monday Night...but strangely questionable in the fourth quarter as the Chiefs cut the game to within 10 points towards the end of the game.
All in all, this game is about Aaron Rodgers' ridiculous performance and the surgical precision with which he carved up the Chiefs' defense. It was also about Randall Cobb and James Jones' big days on the other end of the passes, as the two veteran wideouts beat the Chiefs' defensive backs left and right.
It's also about the tale of two pass rushes. The Packers sacked Alex Smith seven times on the night, including two by Clay Matthews. The Chiefs, on the other hand, sacked Rodgers just once, a critical factor in the Packers' ability to have success through the air. Perhaps that hard count of Rodgers' is good for more than just drawing opponents offsides; perhaps it also helps throw off the pass rushers' timing even when they don't jump off, thereby helping out his offensive line.
In any case, this was a 10-point win against a good team. Though by all accounts it probably should have been 20, it's still a solid feather in this team's cap and finishes off a tough two-game home stretch. Now the Packers get a 49ers team in disarray on Sunday. Should be fun.
Only two teams in the NFC stand at 3-0, and the Green Bay Packers are one of them. While there's certainly fault to find in each of their victories, the presence of Aaron Rodgers easily overcomes just about any concern one could have with the team at this stage. It's genuinely fair to wonder if we've ever seen the quarterback position played better. All the praise you'll hear over the next few days is deserved. He has transcended all doubt.
At some point, the discussion needs to begin as to whether the Packers erred in allowing Mike Daniels to enter 2015 without a contract extension. Certainly, Daniels could have rejected offers from the team in hopes of securing a larger deal next year, à la Randall Cobb. But unlike Cobb, Green Bay didn't need Daniels to prove anything. As it stands, the fourth-year defensive end is on pace to become the team's highest paid player on defense.
It dawned on me as I was watching last night's game just how rare it is that an AFC team faces a truly mobile quarterback. Romo. Rodgers. Wilson. Kaep. Cam. All NFC guys. Roethlisberger is the obvious exception but his brand of escapability has always been based more on shrugging defenders off his linebacker frame than sheer elusiveness. So what a jarring shock to the system it must have been for the Chiefs last night - 11 days removed from facing a rickety, stone-legged Peyton Manning - to have to go against the most evanescent magician in the game today.
Jon Gruden - when he wasn't speaking in school-girl-crush - went on to make a pretty good point about Rodgers. "His feet are always moving." He's right. I've watched Rodgers play every game of his professional career and while it's always been clear he's capable of uncorking absurd throws from almost any angle, I never noticed just how active his feet are the entire time. A shuffle here, a hop step there, and bang - the football's sailing 35 yards into a receiver's pocket. You'd think that at some point, all the little nicks and tweaks the Packers have on offense - Adams' ankle, Cobb's shoulder, etc. - are going to catch up with them. But as long as Rodgers is healthy, I'm not so sure. He keeps them in any game and so long as he can keep his feet moving, the Packers have a shot. I'm not sure if Rodgers will get another ring this year or ever, but I think when he's done we're going to remember him a lot like Ali. That the beauty of watching him wasn't the punch he packed. It was the way he danced.
Watching Alex Smith makes me sad. Or maybe it's Andy Reid. Smith is a bad quarterback, but once upon a time he was better than this. I know Reid built the team based on defense and Charles, but when you play the Packers (or their ilk) you have to understand that isn't going to work. Situational Awareness people! You need points!
Ignore the 4th quarter. It means nothing. The Packers steamrolled a quality opponent and are a good chunk of the way through the toughest part of the schedule. After Denver it's smooth sailing. There are not enough superlatives to describe Aaron Rodgers at this point. Weapons get hurt. Weapons commit penalties. It simply doesn't matter. No one has played the position at this level.
Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers barely play the same sport.
The final score may have read just a 10-point victory, but in my opinion this was the most satisfying victory of the three thus far. Like Paul said, I am running out of ways to describe Aaron Rodgers. When fully healthy he singlehandedly makes up for any deficiencies this team may have. This team will go as far as Rodgers take them. It is incredible how in tune James Jones and Randall Cobb are with him. I still do not understand how teams keep falling for the hard count and giving up free plays, but this unit seems to capitalize each and every time.
One of the big takeaways from this game should be the Packers ability to get to Alex Smith. Gruden mentioned this more than once, but the late-game pass rush is a huge factor in preserving victories. It was awesome to see guys like Jayrone Elliott, Nick Perry and Mike Neal in the backfield. This makes Clay Matthews’ move to the inside much easier to manage. Oh, and Mike Daniels is about to get PAID. I don’t know by who, but he is going to cash in big time.