Pack It Up: Carolina On Their Mind

Posted: September 20, 2011 by Kodi in NFL, Pack It Up

How long is Nick Collins out for?

Did anybody see the game Charles Woodson have on Sunday? or Morgan Burnett?

Is it true can Cam Newwton actually throw the ball? or is it just his Cammy Juice?

Pack It Up: Carolina On Their Mind

The Packers game against the Panthers had record breaking events on both sides of the field for both teams but every silver lining has a touch of grey. Green Bay hasn’t played Carolina since Nov. 2008 when RB DeAngelo Williams ran for 4 TDs on the way to a 35-31 victory. That running attack happened in Lambeau Field and the Packers were hoping to crush the Panthers and improve defensively, but things don’t always go as planned.The game had barely started and the Packers found themselves in a 13-0 hole but the defending Champs didn’t quit and fought their way back into the game.

Cam Newton was coming off of a Rookie passing record for his first game performance of 422 passing yards and broke his own record throwing for 432 yards this weekend. Newton looked like a legit QB and hooked up with WR Brandon LaFell on the game’s first drive for a miraculous pass and catch TD. LaFell’s body was rotating in the air when he came down in the back right of the end-zone and was able to tap both of his feet in bounds. Randall Cobb ran into his own teammate and fumbled the kick return giving the ball right back to Cam.

The Panthers added a FG and gave the ball to Aaron Rodgers for the first time of the game but a quick three and out and the QB was 2-2 with just 13 yards in the entire first quarter. Carolina jumped to a 13-0 lead scoring a TD and 2 FGs on their first three possesions. It wasn’t until 9:58 were left in the 2nd quarter when John Kuhn rumbled in from the 1 yard line to make it a 13-7 game going into half. The Packers were caught off guard and Cam Newton was carving up their secondary just as he had in his NFL Debut last week.

HC Mike McCarthy must have lit a fire under his squad’s ass because they came out firing on all cylinders and it took just 5 plays into the beginning of the 3rd quarter until A-Rodge found Greg Jennings for a 49 yard TD. The Packers took the lead and never looked back, as on the very next series Cam Newton threw an INT to Charles Woodson, who racked up two INTs in the game and for the first time in NFL history a Heisman trophy winner had Intercepted another Heisman Trophy winner.

The Packers were unable to turn that TO into a TD but did add another 3 points on the board with Crosby’s 37 yard FG. The Panthers got the ball back and Newton kept finding open receivers but on the second play WR Steve Smith had caught a ball and was running towards the right sideline when his bowling ball grip on the football was jarred by S Morgan Burnett’s hit and the ball rolled forward into the hands of who else, Charles Woodson. Green Bay was only able to turn it into another FG but had taken a 20-13 lead with a little over 5 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.

Newton and the Panthers had the ball but the young QB just kept making Rookie mistakes and he sailed a ball on 3rd and 10 that found its way into Morgan Burnetts hands. The Pack had a chance to keep their foot on the pedal but were slowed by a Charlie Johnson Sack on first down from the 13 yard line and a Holding penalty on Josh Sitton that negated a 14 yard Driver reception that could have given him the all-time Packers receiving yards record. Rodgers knew what was at stake and hit Driver for a 10 yard gain on 3rd and 23 that allowed for Driver to write his name in the Packers record book. Driver is currently ranked 6th among active players with the most receiving yards behind: TE Tony Gonzalez, WRs Derrick Mason, Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne and Chad Ochocinco. The drive however ended in yet another Mason Crosby FG.

The next Panthers drive may be one that S Nick Collins may never forget, as the 3-time Pro-Bowler was injured. The play seemed pretty harmless, a simple dump to Jonathan Stewart, that ended with Collins be stabilized and carted off the field. Collins neck was jammed during his attempt to tackle Stewart and he was forced to spend the night in a local Charlotte hospital. Collins agent Alan Herman said “we know he didn’t break his back, he didn’t break his neck and he has full feelings in all of his limbs” on Monday and there was an outside hope that Collins could return at some point this season.

Those hopes and dreams were squandered when it was revealed that Collins may be suffering from a disc problem but the Packers are declining to reveal any specifics about his injury. Collins was put on the Injured Reserve list and there is no chance of the S returning to the Packer this year and his career may be in jeopardy. Nick “the pick” Collins is one of the best in the game and was a name that may have been lost at times on a team full of great defensive players but the Packers will undoubtedly miss his presence on the field.

There has been speculation whether or not the Packers should shift Charles Woodson to S and allow Sam Shields and Jarret Bush to step up into the starting CB and NB positions. There has also been some rumblings around Titletown, USA that they have looked into signing former Packer/Vikings/Saints S Darren Sharper. I think that the Packers already have an adequate option at S on the team and it allows them to keep Woodson and Williams as their starting CBs.

S Morgan Burnett has had two huge games to start the season but he was lost for the year early last season and Charlie Peprah filled in significantly. Peprah can fill in for Collins for the time being and he will feel the aches and pains of transitioning from one S position to the other but its better than bringing in someone new to learn Dom Capers defensive system. Peprah knows how hard this is telling the media on Monday “It’s a really unfortunate situation, you never want to assume this role with that type of injury. I just first and foremost hop that [Collin’s] is going to be okay”.

HC McCarthy said during his Press Conference “Nick’s a heck of a football player. . . He’s a true team guy. . . You look at the first half of his career, he’s on pace to potentially have a Hall of Fame career here”. Collins will not be an easy player for the Packers to replace but all we can hope is that his career isn’t over and that Peprah and Burnett step up. Burnett knows what is ahead of him saying “it’s going to be a challenge, because with Nick’s leadership and his big-play ability, those are big shoes to fill”.

The injury was a very scary moment for Packers fans but the game still had to be finished. The drive finished in an Olindo Mare FG that cut the game to a 7 point lead. The Packers shot themselves in the foot with a Holding penalty on Brian Bulaga during 1st down and led to a three and out. The Panthers had a chance to go downfield and tie the game and Cam Newton did just that.

The Panthers charged into the red-zone with two huge receptions by LaFell and Steve Smith. A Sack by Clay Matthews on 1st down and Morgan Burnett on 3rd down left Carolina with a 4th and 4 from the 6 yard line. Cam got the call and took the ball himself attempting to scramble up the middle for the 4 yards but was met by Matthews a yard before the first down marker and the Packers had a huge stop with just over 3 minutes left in the game.

The Packers ran the ball to get their backs away from the end-zone and on the second play from their 16 yard line Rodgers hooked up with Jordy Nelson for his only catch of the game. It just happened to be that the catch was an 84 yard TD reception that locked up a victory for Green Bay in Carolina. Jordy Nelson has become a reliable target for Rodgers and the Packers and it may be surprising to some to learn that in the last 6 games including the Playoffs Nelson has the exact same amount of yards and TDs as Greg Jennings, 447 and 4.

Cam didn’t give up and connected with Steve Smith on a 62 yard reception before running in a 4 yard TD to make it a 30-23 Packers lead. The Panthers however could not recover the onside kick and although Carolina had two great back-to-back performances by their Rookie QB they were 0-2 on the year. The Packers had given up way more yards on defense then they had planned for but their 4 TOs allowed them to leave Carolina undefeated after the first 2 games of the year.

The Packers D has a bend but don’t break mentality and after giving up back-to-back 400+ passing yard performances in the first two games it is no surprise that they are ranked dead last in pass defense. They have had the most passes attempted on them in the league and are in the middle of the road when it comes to passing TDs allowed. They rank 16th after giving up 4 TDs to Newton and Brees but they rank 4th in the NFL with their 3 INT performance in Carolina.

Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers was asked about giving up a lot of yards in a press conference on Monday and he said “obviously we don’t like the big plays. We have to start limiting some of those big plays and sometimes that yardage comes in two-minute situations when you get up on people, but the biggest thing is I want to see us eliminate those big plays and make people work a little bit harder and work the ball down the field”.

Newton has recorded 854 passing yards in his first two games of the season and set the NFL Record for most passing yards in the first two games until Patriots QB Tom Brady broke his record a few hours later. Newton did however set a league record for most passing yards by any QB in their first two games of their career.  Packers DT B.J. Raji said “I knew he would be good, but if I told you I knew he’d be this good this early, I’d be lying to you”.

Newton has the right attitude and knows that his success hasn’t produced W’s and said “I’m not the person to just sit up here and say, ‘Well, we have next time.’ I’m not that type of person. I want it right now and I want to get it right now”. If I were HC Ron Rivera, the Panthers organization or a Carolina fan I am ecstatic by the way this kid has presented himself on and off the field. He continued to explain that “there’s going to be a lot more things I can look back on. . .One thing I know right now is you have to capitalize. When you’re in the red-zone you can’t take a Sack, you can’t digress. You have to capitalize and get points when it matters

The Packers have the worst 3rd down percentage of any team in the NFL allowing opposing teams first downs 56% of the time. They also have allowed 53 first downs, which ranks better than just 3 teams, but they are ranked 4th in Sacks with 7 total and 3rd in red-zone TD percentage with a 27.3% average over the first two games. The Packers have won games and it is because they have allowed a lot of yards but they have the 4th most Turn-Overs and an offense that is one of the best in the league. There have been two huge stops inside the 5 yard-line in their first two games, the Ingram run to end the Saints game and the Matthews stop of Newton on 4th down.

DE Ryan Pickett said that “we’ve got time to worry about our defensive stats later on. In the game, the big thing about our defense, we made plays when we had to. That’s been the story of our defense the last few years. When it comes down to the wire and we have to make a play, we make it”. I completely agree with Pickett but also know that the fans at home and in the stands will feel much more comfortable without the last minute opportunities and know the Packers have the talent to close the door earlier.

 

 

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