Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Packers down Browns, Vikings next up to go down

This is very late breaking news: the Green Bay Packers beat the Cleveland Browns Sunday, 31-13. In doing so, the Packers now sit atop the NFC North at 4-2, 1-0 in the division; Da Bearz, the ViQueens and the Lions all lost. Order has been restored to the universe.

It was throwback weekend for the Pack, so they were in their blue and tan uniforms (now with a non-logo gold helmet courtesy of NFL rules), a recreation of the 1929 uniform worn by the Packers' first NFL championship team. With Sunday's win, the Pack is now 3-0 in these uniforms. Go, Acme Packers, Go!

The game itself was nothing flashy. The Packers were just generally efficient -- and better -- against a not-so-good Browns team piloted by a not-so-good quarterback. Although, to be fair, Browns QB Brandon Weeden did get into a rhythm as the game progressed. It's just that it didn't matter. Despite the plethora of injuries which has decimated the Packers again this season, the Pack just has more depth where it matters. And they also have QB Aaron Rodgers at the helm. That's big. So, too, is rookie RB Eddie Lacy who has become an integral and important part of this offense and has helped the offense overcome the loss of key receivers. (More on that in a minute.)

Defensively, the Packers -- playing rookies at the outside linebacker positions because of injuries to both starters and immediate backups -- held tight. The defense is playing aggressive football. Young players are sometimes making mistakes, but are also coming up with big plays. LB Jamari Lattimore, now seeing extended action, seemed fast, decisive and hard hitting. A.J. Hawk is continuing to perform at a level that seems to make this his best season yet. Micah Hyde is playing with a maturity that belies his rookie status. Davon House had perhaps his best game of the season in coverage. The defensive line, as a whole, is really making the opponents' running games a non-factor so far. It really is an all-around great team effort. With star performers on the sidelines, that's what it will take this season.

Jermichael Finley the latest addition to injury list
(Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

While the Packers and fans alike celebrated the win, all thoughts turned to TE Jermichael Finley who left the field on a stretcher and spent Sunday evening and Monday in the intensive care unit of a Green Bay hospital with an unspecified neck injury. In his press conference yesterday, head coach Mike McCarthy used the word "significant" in describing the injury and stated that it would take some time to accurately assess the injury and, by implication, Finley's future not just for this season but for his career. Word has only come out today that the initial prognosis is that Finley has a bruised spinal cord. He was up and around yesterday in the hospital. But it will apparently take additional medical tests and opinions before both Finley and the team are able to determine what role, if any, Finley may have going forward.

That's secondary, of course, to his overall personal health and well-being. Finley sustained a concussion in week 3 of this season, at which time his three-year-old asked him to stop playing football. No doubt the youngster's request will be made again. And this time, it may carry a lot more weight given the severity of the injury. If you want to read an overview of Finley's situation and its impact on both him and the Packers, check out this great article by Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

A quick look ahead to the Vikes
We'll do a more in-depth preview of the upcoming game between the Packers and the ViQueens later this week. For now, it's enough to know that the Josh Freeman era at quarterback has apparently started in Minnesota. He played versus the Giants in New York last night and the results were not good. Vikes lost their fifth game of the season and Freeman was done no favors by his head coach who put him in a position to fail rather than succeed. While the final score was 23-7 (against a currently not-great Giants team), Minnesota's offense failed to score a single point; the TD came on a punt return in the first quarter.

ESPN commentator and quarterback camp guru, Jon Gruden, couldn't fathom why head coach Leslie Frazier didn't make the switch to QB Christian Ponder in the second half of the game. Freeman looked totally out of his comfort zone if not element entirely. If you care to read a great synopsis of the game by Gregg Rosenthal at NFL.com, go here. For game reactions via the Twittersphere, check this out.

Packers and ViQueens is always a tough game, particularly when played in Minnesota. Even with the depleted roster the Packers are playing with right now, they should still win the game against this group of ViQueens. Especially if the 'Queens make the decision to start Freeman at quarterback once again.

More later in the week.