Sure, the NFL is unpredictable, but this was ridiculous. Behind a makeshift offensive line, the immobile Philip Rivers was supposed to struggle at Lambeau. And Eddie Lacy was supposed to carve up that 30th ranked run defense. The crestfallen Chargers were operating on a short week and playing a team that has been invincible at home. The Packers were 10 1/2 point favorites.
So naturally, Rivers threw for nearly 1,000 yards, Eddie Lacy was invisible and the Chargers came within a Demarious Randall fingertip of forcing overtime. The bye couldn’t come at a better time for the 6-0 Pack, who need to refocus, regroup and recuperate.
Where to begin? Let’s start here. Philip Rivers was phenomenal. So was his patchwork offensive line. Rivers kept the pass rush off balance all day with his quick release and decision making. He went to work early and often on Randall, who was assigned the task of covering Keenan Allen and was not up to the task. The Packers defense could not move Rivers off his spot, couldn’t disrupt his timing and was powerless to stop his aerial assault. Despite a complete lack of a running game, Rivers and the passing game was unstoppable.
Clearly the Packers had not faced a QB of Rivers’ pedigree this season, and with three starters out (Raji, Burnett and Perry), they couldn’t keep up with him. They couldn’t get off the field on third down and they had no answers for Allen, Gates and Woodhead. The fact that Allen couldn’t finish the game with a hip injury might be the only reason the game didn’t go to overtime.
Of course, the defense stiffened when it absolutely had to, and was saved when Randall made a terrific, athletic play on fourth down and knocked down a ball that was earmarked for Woodhead, who appeared to be open. And we could all exhale.
Now, let’s talk about the offense. We were all surprised to see James Starks get the start. His cut back run of 65 yards for a touchdown was the Pack’s signature play of the day. But where was Lacy? Perhaps we’ll get word tomorrow when Mike McCarthy addresses the media. He made a Hitchcock-like cameo, carrying four times for three yards and catching a pair of passes for 17 yards.
The reports coming out of Green Bay all week told us that Lacy’s ankle was stronger, that he was using less tape and it appeared he was ready to bust out. Instead, he was an afterthought. Very interested to see what develops in the next couple of weeks.
When Ty Montgomery went down early with what looked like a serious ankle injury, the Jeff Janis era began and Rodgers was without three of the top four guys he thought he’d be throwing to when training camp opened. The offense was herky jerky all afternoon. A couple of impressive drives were overshadowed by many more drives that were over before they started–once again the Pack struggled to convert on third downs and were dominated in time of possession, yards, pretty much any category you care to look at–besides the final score.
They’re not all going to be pretty. The Pack is 6-0 for the first time since 2011 and they have two weeks to get ready for the last two games of the second quarter: against teams that are a combined 11-0 (Denver and Carolina). They will need to be better (and healthier) on both sides of the ball when they hit the road if they have any hope of staying unbeaten.