If you listened to me on the radio leading up to this game, you know I was a bit nervous. The combination of last week’s performance, coupled with the lengthy injury report had me worried that it might take some late game heroics from Aaron Rodgers to get past the somewhat resurgent Texans, led by Deshaun Watson.
Instead, we watched a humbled Packer team rebound with a dominant performance in all phases, from beginning to garbage time. So far, it’s been the trend under Matt LaFleur for this team to bounce back from defeat–they have yet to lose back to back games.
No David Bakhtiari? No problem. Billy Turner would just channel his days with the NDSU Bison and swing over to the left side and lock down Rodgers’ blind side. With Ricky Wagner taking over on the right side where he is far more comfortable, the line did #69 proud by keeping Rodgers comfortable and upright all afternoon. He wasn’t sacked and was knocked down just once.
No Aaron Jones? No problem. To be sure, the Packers missed him, as rush yards were tough to come by. The Pack averaged just 3.6 yards per carry against the league’s worst run defense. Jamaal Williams worked hard, but found little running room for most of the day, but managed 114 total yards, 77 on the ground. Turns out, this would not be AJ Dillon’s coming out party, as he managed just 11 yards on five carries.
No Kevin King, Darnell Savage and Tyler Lancaster? No problem. The Pack’s defense looked a lot like last year’s unit for the first time this season, getting enough pressure on Watson to keep him off balance for most of the game, getting third down stops and stiffening in the red zone. If you would have bet me the Pack would be pitching a shutout at halftime against that passing attack, I would be taking out a second mortgage.
Rodgers was coming off one of the worst games of his career? No problem. He would happily quiet the naysayers with yet another vintage performance, orchestrating the Packers offense brilliantly. He missed a few throws, but made a number of big third down plays, found the end zone four times and had a passer rating nearly 100 points higher than last week’s.
And then there’s Davante Adams, who reminded anyone who may have forgotten the he is one of the five most talented receivers on the planet. He finally looks completely healthy, something we haven’t seen since Week One. With the Texans opting against double teaming him, for some reason, Rodgers made them pay all afternoon. He targeted Adams 16 times and connected on 13 of them. When this duo is in sync, it’s a beautiful thing to watch.
But it was the play of the defense that really caught my attention. Before he left the game on the first play of the second half with a shoulder injury, rookie Krys Barnes was having the game of his life. He notched a team high eight tackles in the first half, along with a sack and a tackle for loss. He’s been a revelation since being forced to play when Christian Kirksey went down. His exit paved the way for rookie Kamal Martin to make his long awaited debut and he looked good, with six solo tackles.
The Pack got production from other unheralded guys on that side of the ball, like rookie safeties Vernon Scott and Henry Black. Safety Raven Greene was forced to play some cornerback and handled it well. Even Josh Jackson seemed to hold up well–pressed into service with King out.
And it was nice to see two of last year’s biggest additions, Preston Smith and Adrian Amos make big plays late, both corralling Watson late, Amos with a sack and Smith with the tackle when Watson was trying to convert a crucial third down. This is the version of Mike Pettine’s defense we need to see from here on out. It’s encouraging to see that there appear to be some rookies that are ready to handle their business when called upon.
It was just about as strong a performance as we could have hoped for and now the Pack heads home, where they will play six of their final 10 games. Next up is the Purple, as LaFleur will look to remain perfect against the NFC North. Guessing they’ll have a little spring in their step and a little swagger back, when they welcome Captain Kirk and company.