Monday, December 24, 2012

Packers trounce Titans 55-7

After watching the total beat-down of the Tennessee Titans by the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field yesterday, many have just one question: who were those guys and what did they do with our Packers?!

Was this dominating team, on both offense and defense, the same team we've seen struggling to put away lesser opponents throughout most of the season?

In the last regular season game of the 2012 season played at Lambeau, the Packers put together their most complete performance of the season. The game against Houston earlier in the schedule was also a very thorough performance against, at that point, an undefeated team. But this game yesterday was...different.

To be sure, there were a few miscues, especially in the first half, as QB Aaron Rodgers himself admitted after the game. He missed a few throws that could have easily been touchdowns. Still, when you tally 55 points there's not too much to complain about. There were touchdown passes to multiple receivers, there were three rushing touchdowns (I KNNNOOOOWWW!), two by veteran Ryan Grant and one by rookie free agent DuJuan Harris. Actually, you have to add a rushing TD by Rodgers, as well, for the first score of the day on a quarterback draw.

On defense, the Pack registered seven sacks on the day and 12 knockdowns. LB A.J. Hawk himself had two; the last time Hawk had two sacks in one game was in 2008. The defense didn't let Titan RB Chris Johnson get rolling...they didn't let anything happen until about 2 minutes left in the game when a blown coverage led to a pass reception at the 2-yard line and then a TD moments later to shatter the shutout...which would have gone down in Packers' history had it held up.

As for special teams, they also performed so well that even kicker Mason Crosby's consecutive game streak of eight (or was it nine?) games in which he had missed at least one field game game to an end. Crosby made his only two field goal attempts on the day, although for good measure he did clank the 48-yarder off the right upright before it went over. That's how good of a day it was.

Second-year phenom, Randall Cobb, featured prominently not only in the passing game where he reeled in a remarkable TD catch, but also in the return game. In one remarkable play which displayed Cobb's intelligence rather than physical ability, he was back to receive the kickoff to start the third quarter. The kick came up a bit short and began to roll...and stall...near the 4-yard line. If Cobb had picked up the ball in bounds, the play would be live where he picked it up. In all likelihood, because of the slow roll and kickoff coverage, the ball might very well have wound up right there. Instead, Cobb first put one foot out of bounds -- actually looking to make sure -- before he touched the live ball. Thanks to a rather arcane NFL rule, this made him an out-of-bounds player and which then -- by rule -- made the kick out of bounds...which, in turn, is an illegal procedure penalty on the kicking team. Rather than the ball being on the 4 or 5-yard line, this action by Cobb gave the Packers the ball on their own 40-yard-line. Six plays and 60 yards later, the Pack was once again in the Titans' endzone with a touchdown. Head coach Mike McCarthy said this morning, "It’s the first time I’ve seen that kind of play in a game. That’s something our guys are coached to do. We have video when you show guys what to do. It’s a great play by Randall." Indeed.

The downside about Cobb for the Packers is that he got an ankle injury in the third quarter on a punt return. This has stirred up a hornet's nest of discussion about whether and why the Pack should still have Cobb back on kickoff and punt returns given his overall value to the offense of the Packers. McCarthy had this to say on the matter of perhaps removing him from those duties: "No, Randall Cobb is a big part of our success on special teams. That’s been our most consistent unit of our football team. ... I don’t understand how you play scared in the game of football. I understand the risk involved. Some plays are higher risk than others, but you can’t sit here and say special teams is important if you don’t put a guy like Randall Cobb out for a return."

One of the other big changes for the Packers Sunday was starting Evan Dietrich-Smith at center in place of veteran Jeff Saturday. There was nothing wrong with Saturday but it seems as if McCarthy and the coaching staff have been itching to see what Dietrich-Smith could do at center going forward. By all accounts, he performed well. First test passed.

There were and are a lot of other issues coming out of the game, as well as the loss by San Francisco to Seattle last night, which moves the Packers into the Number 2 NFC playoff seed right now. The possibilities that arise for the playoffs coming out of the final week of the regular season will make your head explode. Given that it's Christmas Eve, we'll avoid that scene. For now.

Check back later in the week when we will review a few of the possibilities for the playoffs and the Packers.

Enjoy the gift we received yesterday, Packer fans. Have a very Merry Christmas!