Pack Leaps to Division Lead, Led by Lacy's LegsPosted:Nov 24th, 2014 1:01 am
Say what you want about the 2014 Packers, they are able to assume different identities depending on the situation facing them. In the two 50-point explosions, the passing game was on fire, as the Bears and Eagles defenses basically dared Aaron Rodgers to throw the ball.
We figured the Vikings would play a lot of cover 2, to try to force the Pack to run, or dink and dunk and earn their yards and shorten the game. Once again, like in the first matchup, the Packers were happy to morph into a running team, as Eddie Lacy led the offense with his second 100 yard rushing day of the season--both coming against the Vikes, finishing with a season high 125 on the ground on 25 carries.
Is there anything more satisfying than running out the clock on the road by pounding the ball down your opponents' throats? When the Pack took over at their own 20 with 3:23 to play and their lead cut to three, everyone in the house knew the Pack would ride Lacy and try to run out the clock. And the Vikings were powerless to do anything about it. Props to injured guards TJ Lang and Josh Sitton, who helped trigger the running game all afternoon.
Was it pretty? No. Was the Pack perfect? Hardly. But that's to be expected in a game like this. I thought it would be a one possession game late and it was, but it was a little closer than I (and virtually everybody not named Paul Allen) expected. The Pack committed eight penalties, which is not like them. But they won the turnover battle (1-0, the Pack is now +34 in turnover differential in 53 division games under McCarthy) and held Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikes to 38% on third downs.
The rookie QB saved the defense on a number of occasions, missing some throws that could have been big gainers. There's a lot to like about his game. He seems to have the poise in the pocket of Russell Wilson and the ability to extend plays and make the right decisions. But he was dreadful for the most part on throws that went 20 yards downfield--he needs to improve in that department. The team could use some receivers that can get some separation--that would help him too.
It wasn't a great day for the Packers defense but they made just enough plays to get the job done. They'll need to be a lot sharper next Sunday when Tom Brady and the high flying Patriots come to Lambeau for a Thanksgiving weekend classic. Weather permitting, it has the looks of an 80-point pinball affair.
They're not all going to be pretty. But with cold weather in store in four of the next five games and beyond, I like having Eddie Lacy in the backfield bouncing off defenders. 70 of his 125 yards came after first contact--a season high. That kind of production will keep opposing defenses honest and Rodgers will become even more dangerous.
At 8-3, the Pack has vaulted to the #2 spot in the NFC and have their eye on the top spot. The Cardinals fell to 9-2 in Seattle and still have road games to play in Atlanta, St. Louis and San Francisco and home games with the Chiefs and Seahawks--a tough slate.
The Packers have an easier road; but next Sunday's test, which will assuredly be billed as a possible Super Bowl preview, will provide the Pack with a chance to stake their claim that they're the NFL's top dog as the calendar turns to December.
Rodgers vs. Brady. Is it Sunday yet?