Take the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands, pound the ball with Cedric Benson and let the defense rule the day.
Just what everyone expected, right?
Utilizing a rather unorthodox (for them) gameplan, the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears 23-10 and moved to 1-1 on the season. The Packers of 2011 played with an offense with so much firepower and a defense that was notorious for bending, but not breaking.
Last night, however, was something out of some kind of mirror universe. The Packers sacked Jay Cutler seven times (with Clay Matthews accounting for exactly half of them) and intercepted him four times (Tramon Williams accounted for exactly half of those). The Packers shut down Brandon Marshall and the defense created a Bears meltdown no Packer fan will soon forget.
The offense on the other hand showed some signs of rhythm, but still was nowhere near the juggernaut it was a season ago. Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times and his receivers continued to be plagued by a case of the drops.
So who stood out? It’s time for another addition of Game Balls and Lame Calls.
LB Clay Matthews
I think It’s safe to say: the Claymaker is back.
Want proof? Through two games this season, Matthews has accumulated six sacks. His total from all of 2011 was….six. He is currently on pace for 48 sacks though he likely won’t finish with quite that many.
Even when he wasn’t throwing Cutler to the ground, Matthews was blowing up plays. The Packers found a favorable matchup and exploited it.
Looks like Matthews is back in 2010 form
CB Tramon Williams
Speaking of returning to form, Williams looks to be recovering nicely from the shoulder injury that plagued him throughout 2011.
Not only did he pickoff Cutler TWICE, he shut down one of the best receivers in the NFL in Brandon Marshall. Thanks to a bad throw that would have resulted in a touchdown, Marshall finished with two catches.
When you consider that Cutler rarely looked the way of his all time favorite target, then this adds up to a career night for Williams.
RB Cedric Benson
The Packers established a running game. The end must be nigh.
Benson gained 75 yards on the ground in one of the more memorable games for the Packers on the ground in well over a year.
With Benson also performing well in the screen game, the Packers had an all purpose back for once. If Rodgers and the passing game can get going, the offense could be even more lethal.
TE Tom Crabtree
That fake field goal? Probably one of the most impressive plays I have seen in quite awhile. A gutsy call followed by flawless execution by Crabtree and the field goal unit.
That’s not the whole reason he gets a game ball. Crabtree is a blocking specialist and he had some killer blocks allowing Benson and the running game to finally show some signs of life. With Finley continuing to struggle, Crabtree is quietly making a case to see more playing time going downfield.
TE Jermichael Finley
What else can be said?
Finley has ball control issues. Many were convinced his drops last year were a mental issue. With the same problems reoccurring this year, you can’t help but think something else is afoot.
In his defense, that fumble was a fantastic play by Charles Tillman. That’s not all on Finley.
Still, Finley again dropped passes. When he did catch a ball, the Lambeau faithful gave him a sarcastic “Bronx cheer.”
The patience fans had with Finley is obviously gone. Could his coaches be far behind?
LT Marshall Newhouse
Newhouse’s poor play nearly gave Packer fans a heart attack.
After giving up a sack, Rodgers was favoring his elbow and Graham Harrell began warming up. Thankfully, the crisis was averted and Rodgers came back.
That said, Newhouse has got to play better. You can’t let the franchise quarterback take a pounding like the Packers have been. Unfortunately, thanks to no depth on the offensive line, there really is no suitable player that can.truly push Newhouse to perform better.
LB DJ Smith
Memo to Dom Capers: stop putting linebackers on wide receivers.
Smith, like Nick Perry, is not good in coverage. He has plenty of ability in the blitz, but he is liability in pass coverage. If you are going to be a linebacker in Capers’ 3-4, you need to be able to cover.
WR Jordy Nelson
Once again: drops.
I’ll just blow this off as one bad game for Nelson but he cost the Packers a couple scoring opportunities. He had a decent game otherwise, but a couple more catches would have made this an even bigger blowout.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke