Rumors of Defense's Demise Have Been Greatly ExagerratedPosted:Sep 14th, 2012 4:50 am
Clay Matthews and the defense were the difference in the Pack's dominant, back from the dead performance against the Bears. Seven sacks. Four Picks. But it was Mike McCarthy's gutsy gamble that turned the game around.
I still can't get over the chutzpah it took to try the fake field goal. At the time the Pack was winning the field position battle and had the edge in a tight 3-0 game in the second quarter. Then on 4th and 26th from the 27 (finally, a 4th and 26 goes our way) he goes for the fake, knowing that if it didn't get sprung for a TD, the Bears would take over. But it ran to perfection. Tim Masthay flipped it to Tom Crabtree who had nothing but open air and green grass in front of him.
It knocked the wind out of the Bears: 10-0 Pack. The passing game was never really in synch. But from the start, the running game was productive. Benson had six carries for 27 yards in the first quarter, ensuring that the Bears had to respect the ground game. He caught a couple screen passes and finished with well over 100 total yards. If he can keep it up, the passing game will come around quickly.
Playing without the injured Greg Jennings, Rodgers relied on Jordy Nelson (6-84) mostly and sprinkled balls to the others. Finley and Jones had drops and both contributed to turnovers. The inconsistency we see from numbers 88 and 89 is maddening and makes me wonder how long the organization will stick with either of them. Cobb again proved to be a nice weapon in the passing and running game. His role will only increase.
But the story of this game was the play of the defense. They bottled up the run early and got constant pressure on Jay Cutler, who spent the past few days opining on how the Packers DBs would be able to cover his big physical receivers, Brandon Marshall and rookie Alshon Jeffrey. As it turned out, both were featured on milk cartons for most of the night, till Marshall surfaced dropping a potential touchdown pass in the end zone.
Kudos to Dom Capers for employing the same scheme he used on Megatron last Thanksgiving. With Tramon Williams sticking with him and Morgan Burnett staying back to prevent the big play, Marshall was a complete non-factor.
The night belonged to Matthews, whose 3 1/2 sacks give him six in the first two games: exactly as many as he had last season. He may get credited for another half sack. He completely embarrassed Jamarcus Webb and had Cutler on the run all night. Rookie Nick Perry took a seat early, as the Pack chose to go with Erik Walden and Dezman Moses instead. They were all disruptive, along with rookie Jerel Worthy who got the start for CJ Wilson. The pass rush caused Cutler to Gamble and the Pack's top two DB playmakers, Woodson and Williams made plays when they were there.
The offense has yet to find its rhythm through two games, but there are signs that it's getting closer. What's clear is the defense has a chance to be pretty good. Granted, they only get to play against Cutler and his ratty offensive line one more time, but there is more depth, youth and athleticism with this year's unit and it was on full display at Lambeau Field on Thursday night.