The Packers were far from perfect on Sunday, sporting a leaky run defense and a still sputtering offense that saw Aaron Rodgers throw a bunch of balls in the ground to avoid the pass rush. But the Packers’ strength through games is emerging: a fast, aggressive, talented defense that is adept at creating turnovers. At plus six in the giveaway-takeaway department through three weeks, the Pack leads the league. That’s how you get to 3-0.
The Smiths continue to show that Gutey spent his money wisely in free agency. Both were in Flacco’s face all afternoon, combining for five sacks and a bushel of hurries. Their protege, rookie Rashan Gary finally got in on the act, recovering a fumble and notching his first sack. And the youngsters on the back end continue to impress; the takeaways by Jaire Alexander and Darnell Savage were back breakers.
But there were some issues on that side of the ball as well. Teams that commit to running the ball are having success, leading to long drives–keeping Pettine’s crew on the field. They didn’t give up any long runs, but Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman delivered body blows all afternoon and that’s something that needs to get shored up. Ugliest was the short TD run by Lindsay, where both Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry appeared to have him stopped, only to watch him churn his way to pay dirt. Kevin King also had a few bad plays that need to be cleaned up.
It’s a really nice start for the defense, but they have yet to face an above average QB (here come Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott) and they will get Zeke in a couple of weeks, who must be licking his chops after seeing the Pack’s run defense the past two games. Big picture: the defense is light years ahead of last year and could use one more dependable piece to slide in alongside Blake Martinez. Maybe Oren Burks fits the bill when he returns from injury, maybe BJ Goodson gets comfortable there, or maybe Gutey finds that piece via trade or on the street.
Offensively it was a mixed bag once again. They got off to another nice start, but Aaron Jones couldn’t get untracked. Jamaal Williams played his best game of the season and showed that he is a valuable complement, both as a runner and a receiver, but on a wet day when the Pack was nursing a lead, a better running game would have taken the pressure off Rodgers.
That stretch in the third quarter where Rodgers appeared to throw the ball away five or six times was a bit alarming, as was his body language. He was clearly frustrated, either by the play calls or his teammates. The offense continues to be a work in progress, with MVS stepping up on a day when the Broncos paid close attention to Davante Adams. He caught all four balls thrown his way, but he’d like to see more targets–we’d all like to see that and LaFleur and Rodgers need to find a way to make that happen.
After the game, Rodgers was giddy about how good he felt after getting knocked down only once all day. The quick throwaways may have been frustrating to watch, but it kept him from getting hit–vital with another game coming up four days later. The Broncos remain sackless through three games and Rodgers came out of this one clean and ready to welcome the Eagles.
The offense still is not making good use of the middle of the field. The tight ends are not making plays (Robert Tonyan had a chance at a long TD catch, but slowed down just enough to miss making the play) and Geronimo Allison continues to be pretty much AWOL.
We didn’t get much of a look at the new returners, though newcomer Tremon Smith made his presence felt with a potential TD saving tackle on a kickoff. Darrius Shepherd fielded one punt cleanly and otherwise made good decisions to let punts go. Punter JK Scott continued his strong start, flipping field position a couple of times.
It’s a promising start, precisely what this team needed the way the schedule flows. The Lambeau love continues with three of the next four at home and the Pack needs to take care of business, before the schedule toughens up at midseason. The banged up Eagles come to town Thursday, off a home loss to the Lions. They’ll be ornery and embarrassed and the Pack will need to be ready for that.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, we can count on the defense to do their part to take away their hopes of a turnaround on the road.
I’ll record a “Packer Preview” podcast Wednesday morning as we look ahead to the Thursday night game against the Eagles. Find it at kfan.com, iHeart radio or on iTunes.