I couldn’t watch the final kick. I’m not proud to admit that, but I just couldn’t handle it. I walked to the other side of my house, waited a couple of minutes and then returned and saw the Cowboys-Giants game was on, so I knew Crosby had made the kick–otherwise the game would still be going on. I hit rewind and watched the kick, as my blood pressure slowly lowered.
How do you describe what we witnessed over the final three minutes of regulation and overtime? Five consecutive missed field goals with the game tied. Mason Crosby had put that nightmarish game in Detroit three years ago so far out of his mind that he had only missed four field goals since and had made 27 in a row. It shows you what tricks the mind can play, once it gets into your head.
All of the kicking craziness at the end overshadowed what was a pretty strong road performance by the Pack on both side of the ball. I was especially pleased with how the defense played, completely shutting down the passing game in the first half, until that flukey bomb caught by impressive rookie Jamarr Chase in the final minute. Joe Burrow had an eternity to make a throw and Chase had time to get behind Darnell Savage as he crossed the field. Before that play, that vaunted receiver group had been held completely in check.
The defensive line has gotten better each week, getting Kris Barnes back was huge (he looked like he wasn’t ready to surrender snaps to Jaylon Smith), De’Vondre Campbell continues to be a standout and Eric Stokes was more than up to the challenge of shadowing Chase (he wasn’t in coverage on the long TD pass).
The defense was solid against the run, made stud slot receiver Tyler Boyd an afterthought and impressively, surrendered just one touchdown in six possessions after halftime. Both Preston Smith and Rashan Gary continue to be disruptive. What needs to be cleaned up: the red zone. They’re toothless in the red zone this season, giving up 13 TDs in 13 chances. That almost seems impossible; they’re the only defense in the league without a red zone stop.
Offensively, it was the Davante Adams show. What more can you say? He’s the best in the game. It would be nice to see Rodgers spread things around a little bit like he did last season, and maybe that will happen as the season plays out, but watching Rodgers and Adams cook is as good as it gets. Seeing Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon post another productive day is also a great sign. Seeing Dillon develop as a receiver is a very encouraging sign.
What’s not encouraging is LaFleur’s inexplicable conservative play calling in the red zone. Last year this team was nearly automatic; this year LaFleur retreats into his shell. Settling for field goals on the road is a recipe for disaster and easily could’ve cost the Pack the game in Cincinnati. He admitted as much after the game. Big picture, the team gained 466 yards of offense against a defense that entered the game ranked sixth in the league. And the Pack did it without three starting offensive linemen, and without MVS, whose absence changes how defenses attack the Pack.
Fortunately, the Packers still have a quarterback at the top of his game. Rodgers was terrific all afternoon, passing Phillip Rivers for fifth place on the all time touchdown list. The play of the game was the third and 16 missile to Randall Cobb on the game winning drive. The window was so tight on that play but Rodgers was on target and Cobb made the huge catch. It set up fourth and inches and I figured they would keep the offense on the field and not ask Crosby to come back out and try a 49 yarder. But Crosby assured LaFleur that he would make it and that was good enough for the head coach. I would have handed it to Dillon and try to punch it into the end zone. Obviously, his faith was rewarded.
Special teams had a bad day all around, beyond the Crosby meltdown. They allowed a long kick return, Corey Bojorquez had a lousy punt at the wrong time and the right side of the line on kicks continues to be a problem. I get it, there are a lot of moving pieces on this unit as guys come and go, but Maurice Drayton needs to figure things out quickly.
Beating a 3-1 team on the road without four of your eight best players is an accomplishment and they’ll have to keep it up, because three of those guys aren’t hitting the field anytime soon. Next up is a visit to Soldier Field against a Bears team brimming with confidence after a suprising win in Vegas.
It will be nice for Rodgers to get back to his home away from home. As you know, it can get rather windy. Probably best not to leave it up to the kicker next week.