Pack It Up: Aaron it Out, Rodgers That

Posted: October 10, 2011 by Kodi in NFL, Pack It Up

Don’t piss off Aaron Rodgers, Roddy White and the Falcons learned their lesson

The Packers are 5-0 and looking strong

Beating Atlanta in the Georgia Dome is no small feat

“We have a different team than years past. We expect to win when we take the field” Rodgers told the media after Sunday’s victory over the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons are left with a dirty taste in their mouths after Green Bay beat them for the second straight meeting in the last three. The Falcons beat the Packers 20-17 in week 12 of the 2010 season. Although after a 27 point ass kicking in the playoffs and 25 unanswered points after the Falcons jumped to a 14-0 lead on Sunday it seems that the Packers are the better team.

Roddy White said that the Falcons “were a better team than [the Packers]” explaining that “we didn’t perform at our highest level . . . Once we got behind like that, it’s hard for us to catch up”. He seemed to have struck a chord with Aaron Rodgers who speculated about White’s comments without naming him specifically while interviewed on his radio show “I know some of the comments that have been made this offseason have been borderline disrespectful about what happened in the game, but basically we went down there and beat them, and they were the No. 1 seed” continuing “I’m pretty sure they’re upset about that”.

You don’t want to give a team like the Packers whiteboard material like White did, especially if it’s going to piss off the leader of this prolific Green Bay offense. Green Bay has performed well during the Nationally televised Sunday Night Games posting a record of 17-5 after defeating the Falcons 25-14. This isn’t impressive just because of their record during late night games but also because the Packers have given Atlanta their 2nd home loss in a row. Atlanta is 21-3 at home since 2008 without their two losses against the Packers just a single home win behind the league’s best home record during that span, the 22-3 New England Patriots.

It was a scary start for the Packers as Atlanta jumped out to a quick lead and it seemed like the Packers were in for a long night. Charles Woodson had two missed tackles on the opening drive against Falcons RB Michael Turner and it looked like Atlanta was getting back to their running game. The Falcons got the ball back after a Fumble by Packers RB Ryan Grant and the Falcons were able to get into the end-zone when QB Matt Ryan found a wide open Roddy White.

The Packers Defense allowed two TDs on the first two drives and gave up 140 total yards. They turned it around and allowed just 111 yards in the next 8 drives with the final two ending with Interceptions. Charlie Peprah did a great job filling in for S Morgan Burnett last season and although he was beaten a few times on Sunday he has done an admirable job filling in for S Nick Collins.

The Collins situation is very scary and although the Packers have yet to put the perennial Pro-Bowl S on Injured Reserved things don’t look bright. In an interview last week Collins was asked about his neck injury and referred to his football career in past tense. “It’s been a great journey” Collins told the reporter “If that was the end for me, it was great”. Collins explained the procedure that he had just a few weeks ago saying that the Doctor “took bulging disks out of my neck, [and] replaced it and fused it back together”.

Getting back to Peprah, he was able to pick off his second pass in as many weeks after securing a tipped ball. The other INT was made by Nickel CB Jarrett Bush who has been challenging Sam Shields for that role in the Packs D. Shields has shown an inability to commit solidly to tackles and hasn’t given full effort while he is on the field. Bush wants to prove that he can secure that role and make a teammate pay for his lazy play. This battle for the Nickel CB position is great for the Packers because these two are inspiring each other to play harder and improve the sheer depth of the Green Bay’s Defense.

This year is very similar to last injury wise, the Packers have had multiple injuries at key positions and the players behind on the depth chart just seems to step up. There is no bigger example than the play of Tackles Marshall Newhouse and Derek Sherrod. Marshall stepped in two weeks ago when T Brian Bulaga was taken down by injury, starting last week at RT and beginning Sundays game as the starting RT. During the 2nd quarter of the Falcons game LT Chad Clifton went down and McCarthy and the Packers were forced to shift Newhouse to LT and bring in Sherrod at RT. The two Tackless performed admirably and stepped up big, although the Falcons leading pass rusher, John Abraham, was sidelined.

The Packers may likely have to live without Clifton for a few weeks, meaning Newhouse and Sherrod may likely see more playing time. Hopefully the Packers are able to rely on these young Tackles but it does worry me knowing that they will likely face the league leader in Sacks when the Packers travel to Minneapolis to face Jared Allen and the Vikings after playing St. Louis next week.

HC Mike McCarthy however is very pleased about his young Tackles; “I can’t say enough about Marshall and Derrick and the way they stepped up to the plate against a very well coached football team. It’s something we are going to watch on the way back and see how proud we are of these two players”. McCarthy went on to explain that they weren’t forced to change their offensive strategy because of the injuries; “We still played with open edges throughout the second half. That is a real credit to Aaron Rodgers to trust those guys to make it happen”.  Rodgers gave the young men praise after the game as well saying “it was just one of those games that you’re proud of those guys for the way we competed and the adversity we had to deal with”.

Newhouse knew coming into the game that “it’s on all of us to know what everybody else is doing. You’re not preoccupying yourself with what their job is per se, but just knowing all the responsibilities, making sure we’re all on the same page and Aaron knows what we’re doing too”.

The Falcons were able to hold the Packers to their first sub 100 yard rushing game but the Packers nearly abandoned the run during their second half comeback. Grant had a Fumble on the Packers first drive and had 7 rushes for 18 yards but didn’t seem to have the burst that we saw two weeks ago. James Starks has shown week in and week out that it takes some time for him to get going and you need to feed him the ball to get any productivity. Starks didn’t look great but did have 40 yards on 12 rushing attempts. Personally I feel that Starks is the better option at RB and McCarthy and the Packers need to break away from this RB committee and give Starks the chance to prove he can handle a lead back role.

Realistically when you’re talking about the Packers offense you’re talking about Aaron Rodgers and the passing game. Rodgers is coming off of a career high game during the regular season and followed it up with a 396 yard, 2 TD, 0 INT performance against Atlanta. He was 26-39 and completed at least 1 pass to 12 different players tying a Packers franchise record set by Brett Favre. Favre connected with 12 receivers during that game against the Oakland Raiders just a day after his father died.

Rodgers biggest play of the evening came when he found WR James Jones on a 70 TD strike in the 3rd quarter to give the Packers a 15-14 lead.  Rodgers explained that Jones had “a vertical route and [the Falcons] brought pressure. Once the safety turned his head, I was hopeful that James would cut inside and I would be able to get him the ball. He made a great catch”. Jones was the Packers leading receiver finishing the game with 5 catches for 140 yards and that TD.

Rodgers other TD pass was a slant to WR Greg Jennings that the talented receiver was able to cut over the middle of the field and dive into the end-zone with a 39 yard TD catch. The most surprising events in the Packers passing game may not have been the plays that were made and rather the big drops by TE Jermichael Finley who usually has some of the best hands on the team. Finley dropped a sure TD at the end of the second half and had some other bobbles and drops throughout the game.

The Packers are 5-0 and their defense kept them in this game long enough for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense to respond. Green Bay will have to find out just how well these replacements can perform for those starters that went down with injury. They showed that they were able to persevere last season and find gems hidden in their depth chart but it has yet to be determined thus far. When Donald Driver was asked who was able to beat the Packers he gave the perfect response “us” and he’s exactly right. The Packers have looked unstoppable on offense and it’s surprising to say that Rodgers QB rating actually WENT DOWN after this game. Green Bay is on a roll and hope to keep up the winning streak when they face the Rams next week.

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