Well it wasn’t always pretty, but they say a win is a win. The Packers defeated the Giants 23-16 on Sunday Night Football to improve to 3-1, keeping pace with the 5-0 Vikings in the NFC North. While the atmosphere in historic Lambeau Field was electric, the team seemed to lack some of this same spark. As was the case last week, the offense started strong in the first half, and then seemed to take their foot off the gas as the game progressed. The defense outshined the offense, forcing a fumble and harassing Eli Manning all night. Let’s take a look at position grades after last night’s win.
What has happened to Aaron Rodgers? The two-time MVP finished with 259 yards, 2 TDs, and, if your eyes can believe it, 2 ints. For some Qbs, this is a decent outing–For Rodgers, it’s subpar to say the least. To find the last time Rodgers threw 2 picks in a game we have to go all the way back to week 5 of the 2015 season against the Rams. In Rodgers defense, one of the picks Sunday night resulted from a tipped pass off of Nelson’s hands that should have been caught, but the other was the result of a terrible decision by Rodgers in which he had all day to get rid of the ball. It almost looks as though he is panicking in the pocket sometimes, constantly looking for the perfect play instead of taking what is given to him. We can’t discredit him too much though, as he did complete two pretty TD passes to Nelson and Adams and led the Packers to a win, but something is not quite right with A-Rodg, and if Green Bay wants to continue to have the same success as in previous years, Rodgers needs to R-E-L-A-X and find his groove.
It was a tail of two cities in the running back department. Eddie Lacy was tearing up the Giants run defense, tallying 81 yards on 11 carries, but an ankle injury in the third quarter sidelined him for the rest of the game. When Lacy is healthy, McCarthy has to consider getting him the ball more frequently. A man that large is next to impossible to bring down with a single defender, and a more consistent running game will open up the passing game and get this offense back on track. Lacy’s departure left the running back duties to James Starks, who vastly under-performed when thrust into the role. Only averaging 2.8 YPC, Starks just could not find any openings, adding a few dropped screen passes to his night. Given the disparity between these two running backs, we’ll give out separate grades.
Eddie Lacy: A-
James Starks: C
Randall Cobb finally had the game he needed to get back on track. Rodgers go-to target all night, Cobb hauled in 9 receptions for 108 yards, including the game-sealing 13 yard catch on 3rd and 10, preventing the Giants from getting a chance to tie up the game. Nelson still seems hampered by his ACL injury, playing an inconsistent game in which, despite catching a TD, he had some drops, including one that resulted in an interception. Adams played well, grabbing 5 catches for 85 yards and a TD. Richard Rodgers struggled heavily, dropping 2 would-be touchdowns and failing to present himself as a consistent target for Rodgers. The overwhelming theme for Packers receivers over the past year has been the inability to get open, and the trend continued Sunday night. McCarthy needs to revert back to the old playbook, where slants and short routes were the go-to plays that gained solid yardage, because these long routes take too long to develop, and the Packers just don’t have the speed to get enough separation.
Remember when the Packers had Josh Sitton? Yeah me neither. We expected a regression with the departure of Sitton but they certainly didn’t miss the Pro-Bowl guard Sunday night, as the team of Bakhtiari, Taylor, Tretter, Lang, and Bulaga kept Rodgers off his back all night, sometimes giving him so much time that Rodgers didn’t even know what to do with it. This unit played fabulously, and will need to continue to do so for the Packers to have success.
You thought that offensive line was good? Well this defensive line is pretty darn good too. While the pass rush defense could certainly improve, the Giants were held to 43 rushing yards on Sunday, largely thanks to Mike Daniels and that big, bad D-line. The Packers have allowed to second-fewest rushing yards through the first 4 games in history. This dominating force could be the key to the Packers success while the offense figures things out.
Boy it’s nice to have Clay Matthews back in the lineup isn’t it? The man has no off switch, and is constantly flying around to the ball. I love the young trio of linebackers in Fackrell, Ryan, and Martinez, complimented by the veterans Matthews and Peppers, and expect big things from this core in the future. There were times Sunday night when these linebackers had busted coverages–Jake Ryan inexcusably allowed Will Tye to break open down the seam and was fortunate enough that Tye dropped a sure TD. This group will have to continue to play well next week against a surprisingly high-powered offense with Dak Prescott at the helm.
Finally, the secondary doesn’t get torched. After giving up 182 and 205 yards to Stefon Diggs and Marvin Jones the past two weeks respectively, and giving up 320 passing yards to the Jaguars in week 1, the back four finally clamped down for the Packers. Only conceding 199 yards, the secondary did not give up any long bombs, but sometimes sacrificed short gains to ensure that didn’t happen (which, given the porous play by the secondary the first few weeks, I’m okay with). It is definitely encouraging to see a solid outing from the secondary given the fact that Sam Shields is out. When he returns, this group is only going to get better.