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Not Quite Perfect, But Very Close

By: John Linn

The Green Bay Packers came close to perfection with a 17-7 win over the Cowboys. Close, but no cigar. While the defense looked nearly unstoppable, and the offense got rolling in the second half, the team continued to be the most penalized team in the league. While the Vikings won again to improve to 8-1, the Packers moved into the second half of the season with a bang.

Game Review: The offense sputtered early on. The line was once again shuffled from the previous week, with TJ Lang being moved to right tackle to replace both Mark Tauscher (knee injury) and Allen Barbre (concussion). Colledge was injured early in the game, leaving the team with only one backup lineman. The line actually held better than usual. Rodgers was sacked four times, and was under pressure, but he had much more time and released the ball much sooner than he usually does. The offensive finally overcame its shortcomings at the very end of the 1st half with a field goal from Crosby that gave the Pack a 3-0 lead, after both Crosby and Cowboy’s kicker Nick Folk missed field goals in the first half.

The defense however, looked truly dominating, for really the first time all season. Not only did they stop one of the best running games in the league, but for the first time they got real pressure on the quarterback, as Romo was under pressure from all sides all day. The best part, however, was that the team was able to do this without Aaron Kampman or even his backup Brady Poppinga. Rookie Brad Jones replaced Kampman and played incredibly well, compiling seven tackles, one for a loss. The secondary was all over the place, breaking up passes and making tackles. Charles Woodson added another interception to his already team-leading total. Romo was harassed numerous times by both the line and the linebackers.

While Rodgers was still under pressure as always, it was not remotely as bad, and he was able to avoid most of the trouble. He completed passes to numerous receivers and threw a touchdown pass to Spencer Havner, who is fast becoming one of Rodgers favorite red zone targets. The running game also looked better than it has in past weeks, continuing on its great performance last week. Though Grant was mainly used, unlike last week when Green saw extensive playing time, he looked productive. He did not put up the numbers of last week, but was very productive when needed finishing with 79 yards. The running game was scarcely used early on (as always) but Grant still managed to look good. The Cowboys came in being one of the healthiest teams in the league, but injuries hit the team throughout the game, especially in the secondary, which helped the Packers receivers get separation to help Rodgers. There weren’t many big or standout plays, but Rodgers did have a rushing touchdown to go with his passing touchdown.

Also, the special teams looked much stronger this week after horrible miscues last week and weeks previous. The coaching however, looked rather weak again, in my opinion. The team was plagued with penalties again, and for some reason McCarthy tried a third challenge and was not warned that he did not have another, which was completely dumbfounding and in eyes made him look rather poor as a coach.

What I saw:
-An absolutely dominating defense manhandled an overpowering Dallas O-Line. Even though their starting right tackle went down early with a broken fibula, the rest of the powerful line stayed intact and was manhandled by the Packers defense in one of its first great performances in its new 3-4.
-The offense struggled horribly early on, but something got them going in the second half.
-The team was given some harsh words earlier this week by its leaders, to try and kick-start them after a crushing defeat to a lowly team. That definitely didn’t help the offense early on, but there’s a good chance that was what got the team going again in the second half.
-The coaching staff failed yet again in my eyes. Yes, the players need to be blamed somewhat for their lackluster play, but the coaches still are not keeping the players as disciplined as they should.
-The line needs some sort of continuity. Lang fared well at right tackle, and fared well in previous week at left tackle, but he is still only a backup. If Tauscher, or Barbre is back healthy then Lang should be put in in favor of the struggling Daryn Colledge. Colledge was called for several penalties again, as usual and just isn’t working and needs to be replaced, preferably by Lang.
-While the team didn’t give up any big returns on special teams there were still special teams problems. Kapinos is not getting enough hang time on his punts and Crosby missed a 52-yard field goal. While that is a bit of a distance, he did not miss distance-wise, but missed wide. Neither Crosby or Kapinos is playing to their potential.

Ratings (Out of 5)
QB: 4. Rodgers finally got the ball away in time to help the struggling line. He did not do very well in the first half, though the entire offense struggled in the first half. He seems to have found a favorite in the form of Spencer Havner, hitting Havner for another TD. He also rushed for another TD.

Recievers: 4. Once again, the entire offense struggled in the first half. The receivers made some amazing moves to get yards and got separation, which had been a problem earlier on. They definitely helped Rodgers escape pressure at times. (Note: It is sad that we have to say they did well when Rodgers was sacked four times, but it is indeed an improvement, especially with an amazing pass-rusher like DeMarcus Ware).

Running Backs: 3.5. The run game was used sparingly early on, and actually throughout the game. There were never any sustained drives with runs; they were interspersed amongst many passing plays. However, Grant was able to rush for 79 yards and a 4.2-yard average. However, the team was not able to get any other backs into the mix besides Grant. Rodgers was able to scramble for some good gains as well.

O-Line: 3.5. The line looked good at times but still gave up 4 sacks of Rodgers. They did however, handle the great pass-rush of the Cowboys. They need some sort of continuity on that line though. They continue to put up different teams and it doesn’t help. Colledge needs to go, Tauscher should start when he is back. Lang should get Colledge’s spot at left guard.
D-Line: 4.5. The D-Line held the great rushing ability of Marion Barber, Tashard Choice, and Felix Jones to a meager performance. Johnny Jolly was all over the place, getting into the backfield and breaking up passes. Cullen Jenkins as well looked dominating. This was especially shocking against such a large offensive line.

Linebackers: 5. In one word, havoc. The linebacking core caused absolute havoc for Tony Romo. Romo was sacked five times, and was running for his life a lot. Rookie Clay Matthews was disruptive all night. AJ Hawk was all over. Nick Barnett has two sacks and made 8 tackles. Rookie fill in Brad Jones was stellar filling in for Kampman and didn’t look overmatched at all.

Secondary: 4.5. The secondary played very very well against a strong Dallas receiving core. The Pack held normally explosive receiver Miles Austin to very few plays, as well as normally unstoppable force tight end Jason Witten. Woodson also got another interception. They would have gotten a 5, but fell apart a bit on Dallas’ only scoring drive.

Special Teams: 3. The special teams finally didn’t give up a huge gain. They did have some good returns, but nothing amazing. Which is sad that I am excited about that, but it is still quite an improvement.

Coaching: 3.5. The coaching staff would have been rated higher but the team still is not disciplined. Yes, the players are making the mistakes, but they are not being disciplined for them, which is the coaching staff’s responsibility. Also, in my eyes McCarthy looked almost idiotic when he tried to make a third challenge. Though that also made the officiating crew look bad when it took them quite a while to catch the mistake. However, McCarthy needs to realize that, it would have been nice to win, but it made him look rather stupid in my eyes.

Team as a whole: 4.5. As usual I realize this is not the average of all of them, however, when the team is put together I feel they played startlingly well. They would have gotten a 5 in my opinion except for the penalties.

My Pick for MVP: Charles Woodson. Woodson not only led the team in tackles with 9, he also picked off Romo for the only interception of the game, sacked Romo once (in an absolutely devastating hit), and forced two fumbles. He was unstoppable to say the least.

Final Thoughts: Whatever was said by the leaders of this team really helped. The leaders sat down the team and told them what needed to be done, handed out blame, and made sure they were ready for this week. It worked. The team looked ready from the get go on defense, and got its struggling offense going in the second half. The team needs to take this and bring it into the second half of the season. Also, much of the heat has come off of coach McCarthy that had been on him. Most of those calling for his job have been quieted, and I agree that he has redeemed himself a bit. I no longer think he needs to be fired, but he needs to discipline his players better and still isn’t coaching as well as he should be.

Packers Mix blog featured writers John Linn, Zach Letter
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