Rodgers, Cobb Shine as Packers Hold Off Saints To Win OpenerPosted:Sep 9th, 2011 4:26 am
If the Packers and Saints meet again for the NFC Championship, as I have predicted, they'll be hard-pressed to top this one--an instant classic that ended on the Packers' one yard line when Clay Matthews and Morgan Burnett stuffed Mark Ingram just short of the goal line to preserve a 42-34 win that had a little bit of everything.
It couldn't have started any better for the Pack, with TDs on their first three drives. Aaron Rodgers' first quarter line: 14-15 for 188 yards and 3 TDs, a perfect passer rating. They Pack came out in the no huddle and marched 74 yards on their first drive. A Saints fumble gave the ball right back and it was 14-0 before you could say, 'Who Dat!'
Rookie Randall Cobb exploded on the scene with a 32 yard touchdown catch and run over the middle. then midway through the third, after the Saints had cut the Pack's lead to eight at 28-20, he took the kickoff eight yards deep and brought it out. "I wasn't cheering for him until he spun out of that tackle," Mike McCarthy said after the game. "Then I was happy he brought it out. The 108 yard touchdown tied an NFL record and offset Darren Sproles earlier punt return for a TD. McCarthy mentioned how players have noticed that Cobb is a special player. "He's gifted," he said after the game.
Donald Driver finished the game tied with James Lofton as the Pack's all time yardage leader for wide receivers, but it was his grab of New Orleans' onside kick attempt in the final minute that was his biggest play of the game.
Concerns: well, the defense got torched through the air, giving up a 400 yard passing game to Drew Brees and nearly surrendering a 15 point lead in the final five minutes. When Tramon Williams left late with a shoulder injury, Brees went after Jarrett Bussh immediately. We'll have to wait and see on the severity of the injury. The Pack has 10 days before their next game and he could probably sit against the Panthers and rest up for the Bears the following week. Special teams was also shaky, despite Cobb's brilliant return. Darren Sproles caused the team fits: look for the team to make some adjustments for next week.
I thought the Pack's running game was solid, just shy of 100 yards--James Starks had 57 of them and averaged nearly five yards per carry and scored his first regular season touchdown. I maintain he will be the Pack's starter before long.
All in all, a thrilling opener for the Pack--maybe a little too close for comfort, but the Pack took care of a very good team and showed that with the return of Finley and the emergence of Cobb, points will be plentiful this season. Now, let Dom Capers work on tweaking the D and we will be on our way.