The Green Bay Packers defeated the Houston Texans 21-13 on Sunday at a snowy Lambeau Field, and although the conditions limited the passing games a bit, Aaron Rodgers still had a solid day throwing the football. He completed 2⁄3 of his passes on the day for close to seven yards per attempt, and all told he had plenty of zip on his throws.
The more interesting item when looking at the snaps this week is how the Packers shuffled the deck with their running backs. For the first time since James Starks returned to full health, Ty Montgomery saw significantly more playing time than the veteran tailback, as he was one of the keys to the Packers’ two long touchdown drives in the second half that sealed the game. Even though Montgomery only had eight touches on the day, he made the most of them and continued to cause problems for defenses with his ability to be physical and effective out of the backfield.
On defense, an injury to linebacker Nick Perry forced the team to use a couple of veterans more at that position than usual - Julius Peppers played almost 90% of the team’s snaps on Sunday, so keep an eye on his usage moving forward.
OFFENSE (58 snaps)
LT David Bakhtiari 58, LG Lane Taylor 58, C Corey Linsley 58, RG Jason Spriggs 58, RT Bryan Bulaga 58, OT Kyle Murphy 3
The Packers’ line remained intact once again this week, with Murphy getting a few snaps as a 6th lineman. Taylor and Bakhtiari in particular had nice days, with Taylor being particularly effective as a run blocker on a few occasions.
QB Aaron Rodgers 58, RB Ty Montgomery 29, FB Aaron Ripkowski 24, RB Christine Michael 11, RB James Starks 7, FB Joe Kerridge 5
This is the most interesting storyline of the game, in my opinion. James Starks played on the Packers’ first two drives of the game, but then was conspicuously absent for the remainder of the contest. He totaled a single yard on four carries, so his benching should come as no surprise.
Michael got the first crack at replacing Starks in the first half, and he ran the ball on four straight plays to pick up a first down. After that sequence, Montgomery and Ripkowski took over on the remainder of that drive, which ended in a touchdown pass. Although Michael picked up just 19 yards on 9 carries, he generally looked more assertive with the football and appeared willing to take on tacklers rather than dancing towards the sideline.
Montgomery ended up getting the lion’s share of snaps at tailback in the second half, though Michael picked up a few here and there. Monty was by far the most effective runner on a per-carry basis, however, as he picked up almost seven yards per carry with a long run of 13 yards. Look for a similar snap breakdown to continue over the next few weeks unless Starks gives the Packers a reason to keep him on the field.
Ripkowski added 14 yards on three carries and a touchdown - his second game in a row finding the end zone - all while lined up as a fullback rather than a tailback. Kerridge also saw a few snaps in a dual-fullback formation.
WR Jordy Nelson 55, WR Davante Adams 49, WR Randall Cobb 44, TE Jared Cook 29, TE Richard Rodgers 27, WR Geronimo Allison 5, WR Jeff Janis 2
The Packers used Janis just twice, but they finally got creative with him when Mike McCarthy called an end-around for the young receiver in the fourth quarter. That play picked up 19 yards and set up the Packers for their third and final touchdown of the game.
Cobb was the team’s punt returner today, likely due both to the weather conditions and Trevor Davis being inactive. He picked up 44 yards on his two returns, though he might have had a touchdown on one if he had seen a block to his right and gone to the sideline instead of cutting back up the middle.
For all of Adams’ praise this week, it was a largely disappointing game for him. He did convert a big play on the go-ahead touchdown drive, a 17-yarder that would have gone for closer to 50 had his toe not touched the sideline. All told, however, he caught just one of seven targets on the day, though many of those incompletions were not his fault.
Nelson was of course the star, catching all eight targets for 118 yards and the go-ahead score. The Packers had three plays of more than 20 yards on the day, and all three were receptions by Nelson - the 32-yard touchdown and catches of 21 and 28 yards on the scoring drive that made it a 21-7 game.
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 66, S Morgan Burnett 66, CB LaDarius Gunter 63, CB Quinten Rollins 63, CB Damarious Randall 48, S/CB Micah Hyde 26
The Packers’ safeties were allowed to roam more freely this week, both due to a relatively healthy group of corners and the fact that Brock Osweiler has been bad this season. They were active all day in run support and combined for 16 tackles. Burnett also added a hit on Osweiler, a pass breakup, and a fumble recovery on the first drive.
Gunter had a marvelous game, not allowing a single completion into his coverage, breaking up two passes, and forcing the aforementioned fumble. Rollins and Hyde each added pass breakups as well.
ILB Joe Thomas 63, OLB Julius Peppers 58, OLB Datone Jones 56, ILB Jake Ryan 38, ILB/OLB Clay Matthews 29, OLB Jayrone Elliott 24, OLB Nick Perry 12
The Packers were hamstrung early when Perry left the game, and that forced Peppers and Jones to take on much bigger roles. Although Perry did return after halftime, it was only for a few snaps. The Texans’ running game was at its most effective on third downs, when they were able to sucker the Packers’ defense into allowing some big gains on draw plays. Ryan and Matthews both played with injuries, while Burnett filled in a bit at inside linebacker once again. Ryan had four tackles (one for loss) plus a hit on Osweiler; however, Matthews did not appear on the stat sheet once again.
Mike Daniels 45, Letroy Guion 36, Dean Lowry 18, Mike Pennel 8, Kenny Clark 7
The line saw an unusual snap breakdown, with Lowry ranking third for the first time. That was likely due at least in part to the Packers using more base defense against the Texans. Lowry responded with his first career sack and a pass deflection at the line of scrimmage. Guion was providing some good penetration from the nose and picked up a pair of tackles for loss, while Pennel added one of his own when he blew up a run in the backfield.