With Cleveland Out Of The Way, It's Time To Focus On The Brett Bowl
By Jeff Falconio
Before we go head first into the first (and hopefully only) Brett Bowl at Lambeau Field let's take a look at this 31-3 win over Cleveland. The big concerns for the Packers after last week's 26-0 win were pass protecting, running the football and taking advantage of opportunities.
It's one thing to give up five sacks to a team like Minnesota but five sacks to Detroit is unforgivable especially considering the injuries the Lions had to the defensive line. The Browns got to Ben Roethlisberger three times last week and feature some decent players in the front seven. But on this day the Packers kept Aaron Rodgers upright and allowed him to throw three scores while getting the fourth quarter off. That's exactly the kind of performance you need heading into next week's matchup with the rugged Vikings defense.
The Packers opened the game by running the ball ten times in the first 11 plays. Fans have been calling for more commitment to the ground game and it was clear that early on Mike McCarthy was going to do just that. But there's a difference between quantity and quality. Six of those carries were by Ryan Grant but by the end of the half Grant only had 12 carries. Grant averaged four yards per carry but his longest run was only nine yards. No explosion against a defense that ranks 31st against the run. The second half was a different story. Grant carried the ball 15 times for 100 yards, including a 37 yarder. Now that's explosion and that's also where Ahman Green will eventually contribute. Grant is neither a flashy nor a punishing runner but if he can stay fresh in the second half he can do some damage.
Last week the Packers had the ball in Detroit's territory three times in the second quarter. The Packers came away with nine points. Couldn't punch it in even once. Obviously it didn't have an affect on the outcome but good teams exude good habits, including getting it in the end zone when you are given excellent field position. The only drive that started in Cleveland territory ended with a touchdown but the Packers also had a drive that started at their own 48 off a turnover and stalled at the one yard line of all places. Two turnovers led to 10 points and against Cleveland's anemic offense that was more than enough.
So how will this translate into success against Minnesota? Anyone who saw the first matchup knows Minnesota has a fierce pass rush that disrupted Green Bay's offensive flow. To be sure Minnesota's defense is far better than Cleveland's but coming into the Brett Bowl there won't be any questions about how the Packers looked so bad in protection against a weak team. Again going back to that earlier matchup, the Packers will need to control the tempo and that will mean the same balanced attack that we saw today. The best way to keep Adrian Peterson from taking over is to keep him off the field. I'm not sure how many mistakes Brett Favre will make but both of his fourth quarter turnovers were returned for scores by Pittsburgh today. The perfect example of a good team taking advantage of opportunities.
I'm not sure that we've seen the best from the Packers yet and I'm not sure if what we've seen over the last two weeks is enough to beat an upper echelon team. But two wins in a row off a bye is enough to give any team in the NFL a shot of confidence coming into the biggest game of the season to date.