For the second week in a row, it wasn’t the Packers best effort but they got the job done, beating a feisty Arizona Cardinals team 31-17 at Lambeau Field Sunday afternoon.
This is a tale of two teams going in opposite directions; the Cardinals have now lost 5 games in a row after a 4-0 start, and the Packers have now won 4 games in a row and are sitting pretty heading into their bye week at 6-3 on the season. It was a very up and down day for Aaron Rodgers; finishing 14/30 (47% completion percentage) for 218 yards, throwing 4TD’s and 1 INT.
Rodgers was not sharp by any means throughout the game, but he made the throws when he had to. That statement couldn’t have been made more evident than Rodgers’ first two touchdown throws of the day. The first one was to Randall Cobb on a 3rd and 8 on the Arizona 13 yard line.
It came right after a false start penalty on Jermichael Finley, and it looked as though this was going to be the second straight possession where the offense was going to sputter and breakdown in the red zone.
Then out of the shotgun, Rodgers threw a quick pass to Cobb, and Cobb did the rest. Breaking two tackles and pulling off a nice spin move down by the goal line, Cobb got in for the first touchdown of the game.
The second touchdown throw came off the heels of a lengthy Arizona drive where they tied the game up at 7. From the Arizona 21 yard line, Rodgers threw his second touchdown of the game to Cobb, who did most of the work on the first touchdown pass, but the second one was all Rodgers.
Rodgers threw a beautiful ball to Cobb in the back right part of the end zone, halting the momentum for the Cardinals and getting it going again for the Packers.
There were two major factors for the Packers offense today; and in my opinion, neither of them was solely Rodgers. The first major factor of today’s game was the Packers rushing attack; which gained 176 yards on 36 carries (4.5 yards per rush).
Rodgers kick started the rushing attack for the Packers on the second drive of the game, where he scrambled for two first downs and kept the drive alive. Rodgers rushed for 34 yards by himself during the second drive of the game. A combination of running backs Alex Green and James Starks took care of the rushing attack for the Packers the rest of the way. Starks finished the day with 63 yards on 17 carries, and Green gained 53 yards on 11 carries.
On my preview post this morning, I said how important the running game would be against the Cardinals. With the Cardinals passing defense being ranked 4th in the NFL, the Packers were going to have to establish some balance on offense to take pressure off the passing game.
Whether it was Rodgers, Green, or Starks, on multiple occasions the rushing attack either made a upcoming 3rd down manageable, or kept the drive alive by getting an important first down.
Down the stretch, if the Packers can rush the ball like they did today against the Cardinals, then the Packer offense is going to be downright scary. Rodgers completes less than 50% of his passes, still throws 4 touchdowns, and the ground game gains 176 yards. Gives me chills just thinking about it.
The second major factor for the Packer offense today was wide receiver Cobb. With Jordy Nelson leaving the game early due to an ankle injury, a wide receiver needed to step up and make an impact. As I put on Facebook after the first touchdown catch, Cobb stood up and said “Relax everbody…I got this”.
Cobb ended the day with 202 total yards (90 kick return yards, 46 punt return yards, 37 receiving yards, and 29 rushing yards) and 2 touchdowns.
Cobb’s first touchdown was off a screen pass, the second was a go route down the field. Not to mention he made a couple of nice cut back runs when he was lined up in the backfield.
With Nelson’s hamstring and ankle injuries and Greg Jennings recovering from abdominal surgery, the Packers are going to have to rely heavily on Cobb the rest of the season.
Cobb makes the Packer offense so much more dynamic; he can line up in the slot, he can line up on the outside, and then can line up in the backfield.
Not to mention Cobb can score from anywhere on the field during Special Teams. Nobody in the NFL is going to want to play the Packers offense the rest of the season; Aaron Rodgers, a new found rushing attack, and Cobb. The chills are coming back again.
The Packers defense made the Arizona offense very one dimensional early; allowing the defensive line and linebackers to pin their ears back and rush Arizona quarterback John Skelton at will. The Packers only sacked Skelton twice on the day, but got pressure on him numerous times, resulting in rushed throws.
The secondary, for the second straight week, used the “bend but don’t break” approach. They allowed 300+ yards passing for the second week in a row, but clamped down when they had to. If this is the approach that Dom Capers uses going forward, keep everything in front and not allow the big play, I’m perfectly okay with that.
With safety Charles Woodson out and cornerback Sam Shields banged up, there’s not a whole lot of options for the Packers to play with. As a Packer Backer, I’m perfectly okay with giving up 300+ yards every game, if it means sacking the quarterback, getting pressure up the middle and not giving up the big play.
The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for the Packers. On top of Sam Shields, Woodson, and Jennings sitting out of today’s game, Clay Matthews (hamstring), Brian Bulaga (hip) and Nelson (hamstring, ankle) all left today’s game due to injury.
Hopefully the bye week can help heal up the walking wounded for the Packers and get them ready for the second half of the season. The Packers are right in the thick of things in terms of the NFC Playoff picture, and they already have a win against the division leading Bears in their back pocket if head to head match ups come into play.
During the Super Bowl season back in 2010, the Packers had the same record(6-3) going into their 10th game. Let’s hope that the results are the same this year. Dat, Doo, Doo, Dat Doo Doo Doo…GO PACK GO!!!!!