Posted on: August 21, 2010 3:00 pm
Edited on: August 21, 2010 3:02 pm
Nearly 8 months ago Green Bay Packers fans watched as their team lost their last game of the 2009 campaign in heartbreaking fashion. Since then expectations have been high for the 2010 Packers.
After four straight seasons of being the youngest team in the NFL, the Packers will prove that their youth has gained enough experience to make a serious Super Bowl run. It will also be the tightest NFC North division race since the 2003 season when the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Arizona Cardinals on a last second touchdown in week 17, yielding a division championship to the Packers.
This season both the Packers and Vikings should finish 12-4. They should split the head-to-head series and go 4-2 in the division. This would mean whichever team has the better conference record will be granted the division title. This should be the Packers’ year to claim the division title.
Hopes may be so high since the offense is returning every starter from last year. Last year the offense was third in the NFL in scoring and first in the NFL with the fewest giveaways. In total offensive yards per game they were ranked sixth in the NFL, fourteenth in rushing, and seventh in passing. However, they were also first in the NFL in allowing 50 sacks during the season, 41 of these came in the first nine games and only nine were allowed in the final eight games. So although this may be the only question mark on the offensive side for the Pack, they have proven to be a solid group when healthy.
So looking at the quarterback position on this team, the Packers have little to worry about with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. Last year Rodgers threw for 4,434 yards and 30 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. He can make all the throws with a very accurate arm for short quick throws like their staple slant route, but has the arm strength to heave it deep for the big play as well.
However, he did take those 50 sacks last season and not all the blame lies solely on the offensive line. While Rodgers has shown a quick release often he got caught holding the ball too long. Whether it was just waiting for someone to come open or looking for the deep throw when he should have checked down to a short pass, he needs to improve his decision making under pressure in order to avoid some of those sacks.
Behind Aaron Rodgers on the depth chart lays the unproven youngster in Matt Flynn. Flynn has big game experience on the college level when he led the LSU Tigers to a championship his final year, but he has very little experience on the NFL level. During the off-season the Packers’ staff worked with Flynn to improve his mechanics and arm strength. The coaches really like this guy and feel he can step in and back up Rodgers if needed. Whether he is be able to perform to the same level or not is doubtful.
The running backs for the Packers are led by Ryan Grant who is just below the elite status and he may never attain it. This is because the Packers are pass first/run second offense. This can also be attributed to the amount of touches that are given to fullbacks John Kuhn and Korey Hall on the goal line. Despite this Grant is still a very solid back gaining 1,253 yards (7th in the NFL) and scoring 11 touchdowns. Grant takes very good care of the ball and finishes runs well. As his past has shown us, Grant will start out slow and finish the season strong.
Behind Grant this year will be Brandon Jackson and either Kregg Lumpkin or rookie James Sparks. Jackson is a reliable back then has flashy moments, but has never been able to emerge as a player that demands touches. Lumpkin is in his second year and is battling a hamstring injury while fighting for a roster spot against James Sparks who was drafted in the sixth round.
The wide receivers for the Packers are a strong group that is led by veterans Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. Many think Driver is dwindling while Greg Jennings is on the rise. However, we should see this proven half true; yes, Jennings is on the rise, but Driver will not diminish in performance, but will most likely stay steady in production. Behind these guys are Jordy Nelson and James Jones who are fighting for the third spot and are followed by Brett Swain in the fifth spot.
This is one of the deepest receiver corps in the NFL. Mike McCarthy has said that these guys can play any spot; from the slot to wide out any one of the five can do it all. They are always fighting for those yards after the catch (YAC) too. In fact, for the last few years they have been among the best in the YAC category. To further improve on Rodgers target the receivers are sufficiently backed up by a talented group of tight ends.
The tight ends are led by Jermichael Finley who is right now the talk around the NFL as an up-and-coming playmaker. Finley is very athletic and provides nightmarish coverage problems for opposing secondaries. Finley even said on a radio interview that he predicts to gain 1,200 receiving yards this year. Behind Finley are Donald Lee (reliable hands and known for blocking), and Spencer Havner (a converted linebacker who caught 4 TDs last year).
The offensive line is the biggest knock on this offense if not on this team. Injuries and youth plagued them early on last season. They had to rely heavily on young or inexperienced players like T.J. Lang and Allen Barbre. Chad Clifton and Jason Spitz faced nagging injuries most of the season. The line got a boost in this year’s draft when the Pack used their 23rd overall pick on Bryan Bulaga out of Iowa who will be groomed to take over for the aging Clifton. The projected starts would be Chad Clifton at LT; Jason Spitz at LG; Scott Well at C; Josh Sitton; at RG; and Mark Tauscher at RT.
This defense has incredible ability to be a great defense. Last year they led the league in interceptions with 30 and also led the NFL in turnover difference at +24. In total defense they were second in the NFL; against the rush they were first in NFL and although they struggled late in the season they still finished fifth in the NFL against the pass. They were also seventh in the NFL in fewest points allowed. So this defense has the ability to keep the team in the game when the offense is struggling. Going into their second season under Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense they should be even better. Just a side note: in 1996 when the Packers won the Super Bowl they were first in the NFL in offense and defense. They certainly have that ability this year.
The defensive line is the starting point for the 3-4 and is anchored by Ryan Picket at NT, B.J. Raji at LE, and Cullen Jenkings at RE. Picket is a force in the middle and knows how to eat up two blockers. Raji was nagged by an ankle injury most of his rookie year, but in year two should be good to go. Jenkins has great pass rushing ability and with more experience under the 3-4 we should see his stats improve. Johnny Jolly would probably be a starter on the line, but in June the NFL suspended him for the season for breaking the league’s substance abuse policy. Justin Harrell and Jarius Wynn and further depth to the line
Linebacker may be the deepest position on this defense and is very talented. It is led by Nick Barnett at MLB followed by A.J. Hawk in the middle, second-year phenom Clay Matthews and Aaron Kampman’s replacement Brad Jones on the outside. The backups are no slouches either consisting of Desmond Bishop, Brandon Chillar, and Brady Poppinga. These guys need to step up for this defense to reach its true potential.
The secondary may be the weakest point on this defense, but also has some great individual talent. Charles Woodson, last year’s defensive player of the year, will anchor the corner position. On the other side Al Harris is likely to miss the first couple of games this season so we should see Tramon Williams getting the starts in his place. From there the experience really drops off. Next on the depth chart are Pat Lee and Brandon Underwood. The coaches really like Underwood and is really needed to step up. Lee suffered an injury last year as well as Will Blackmon which left Jarrett Bush to get beat up by better wide receivers. The key for these guys are to stay healthy and play beyond their experience.
The safety positions will be manned by Pro Bowler Nick Collins and rookie Morgan Burnett. FS Nick Collins may be one the best safeties in the NFC with great closing speed and incredible ball skills as well as great return ability once he has the ball. Normally manning the SS spot is Atari Bigby, but another surgery has pushed his return timetable back again. This has led the way for Burnett to already have taken every snap with the first team defense since the beginning of training camp. He needs to mature fast, but has the skill sets to do so.
The special teams for the Pack has a big hole as last year’s punter Jeremy Kapinos was let go. The two guys fighting for the job are Chris Bryan (no college and first year in NFL) and Tim Masthay (second year). Neither one of these guys have ever punted a football in an NFL game.
Mason Crosby was unreliable at times last season. Whether it was a lack of confidence or not, that needs to change this year for the Pack to be successful. If Crosby can’t fix this problem he may find himself out of a job next year.
The return game needs some major improvement on both sides from last year. Will Blackmon, the normal return man, was out all season with an injury which left the Pack trying to find a suitable replacement most of the season.
The kicking team struggled stopping other teams return game last year and need to do a better job at keeping them from giving other offenses good field position. This a key portion of the special teams that will need to improve to help out the defense.
Overall, the Packers have question marks on the offensive line, the secondary, and special teams. They have the pieces in place to improve in these areas. If Coach McCarthy can get things shored up and these pieces ready to go then the Packers will be heavy favorites to compete for the NFC title and a Super Bowl championship is not out of reach if they play to their ability and are hot come playoff time.
Posted on: July 20, 2010 10:36 pm
Edited on: July 22, 2010 3:05 pm
The NFC North is the most storied division in all football. It has long been considered one of the best divisions until it saw a dip in playoff performance after the turn of the century. The NFC North is the oldest division in the NFL: a combined 303 years old (The Packers are 91 years old - founded in 1919; the Bears are 90 years old - founded in 1920; the Lions are 80 years old - founded in 1930; the Vikings are 49 years old - founded in 1961.); and these teams have been together as a division since 1967.
These teams have made 10 Super Bowl appearances (Packers, Vikings - 4; Bears - 2) and have 4 Super Bowl titles (Packers - 3; Bears - 1). Of the top 5 NFL teams with the highest winning percentage throughout its franchise history, three of them reside in the NFC North (Bears: .577; Packers: .558; Vikings: .555). For 6 years in a row (from the 1995 season through the 2000 season) one team from the NFC Central/North made an appearance in the NFC Championship game. After the 2000 season no NFC North team appeared in the NFC Championship game until the Bears made a Super Bowl run in the 2006 season.
Then a slow rise began to take place. The Bears went to the Super Bowl in 2006 and the Packers lost in overtime in the 2007 NFC Championship game. The division took the 2008 season to revamp their teams. In 2008 the Packers named a new starting QB in Aaron Rodgers and in 2009 the Vikings (Brett Favre), Bears (Jay Cutler), and Lions (Matthew Stafford) each named a new starting QB.With each team retooled at arguably the most important player on the team the division started to show life not just in one or two teams, but in all four. Although the Lions and Bears finished under .500 they showed some important steps. The Packers finished 11-5 and lost a tough one in the Wild Card round. The Vikings took their run all the way to an overtime loss in the NFC Championship game making that 3 appearances in the last 4 years in that game.
Now looking forward to the 2010 season the Packers and Vikings are heavy favorites to make deep playoff runs. You can safely predict that both the Packers and Vikings have a solid chance at making it to the second round of the playoffs. The Bears have a chance at being a Wild Card team, but you can be sure they will hover around the .500 mark by season's end. The Lions will be no push over either. With the weapons they have in Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson, and with Brandon Pettigrew and a revamped running attack the Lions will also be competitor (at least by their last 2 season's standards) winning 4-6 games.
Yes, the NFC North is back and you can bet these teams will make deep playoff appearances for year to come (yes, that even includes the Lions).
Posted on: July 20, 2010 10:35 pm
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Posted on: April 17, 2010 12:19 am
Edited on: April 17, 2010 12:32 am
With the 2010 draft nearly upon us I thought it suiting to take a look back at the ten best picks the Packers have made under Ted Thompson.
10) James Jones WR Round 3, 78th overall, 2007 - Jones became an immediate impact his rookie year in 2007 earning the third receiver spot. He finished a rookie year that finishes fourth best in Packer history. Currently, Jones still holds on the third receiver spot.
9) Mason Crosby K Round 6, 193rd overall, 2007 - Crosby won the kicking job his rookie year during training camp. All Crosby did his rookie season was become the first rookie to lead the NFL in scoring since Chicago K Kevin Butler in 1985. Currently, Crosby still holds the starting job for the Pack.
8) Jermichael Finley TE Round 3, 91st, 2008 - Finley didn't break out until his sophomore year in 2009. He finished the '09 campaign with 676 yards and 5 touchdowns receptions. Currently, Finley is listed as the second tight end on NFL.com and first on cbssports.com on the roster.
7) Jason Spitz G Round 3, 75th, 2006 - Spitz has been one of the most reliable and consistent offensive players. In 2008 he was one of only two offensive players to play every snap of the season. Although starting at guard for most of his career, Spitz is currently listed as the second center.
6) B.J. Raji NT 9th overall, 2009 - Raji played in 14 games his rookie year. Currently, Raji is listed as the second NT, and is expected to have a breakout sophomore year.
5) Clay Matthews LB 26th overall, 2009 - Matthews had an amazing rookie season playing in all 16 games starting 13. He led the team with 10 sacks, the most by rookie in franchise history and was selected as a first alternate to the Pro Bowl. Currently, Matthews is still the starting ROLB.
4) Nick Collins FS Round 2, 51st, 2005 - Collins has started all 45 games he has played in missing only three games in his career, but only truly broke out in 2008 as a big play-maker. Currently, Collins remains the starting free safety.
3) A.J. Hawk LB 5th overall, 2006 - Hawk has started every single game since his rookie year. In that rookie year he led the team with 155 tackles second-most ever by a Packer rookie. Currently, Hawk remains the starting LILB.
2) Greg Jennings WR Round 2, 52nd, 2006 - Jennings broke out in 2007 as big play-maker. That year he caught Brett Favre's record-breaking 421st TD pass, and Aaron Rodgers' first career TD pass. Currently, Jennings is one of the two starting receivers with Donald Driver.
1) Aaron Rodgers QB 24th overall, 2005 - Sitting behind Favre for three years, Rodgers got his first start in 2008 and is no doubt the best pick Thompson has made. In the two years he has been the starter he has thrown for a combined 8,472 yards, 58 TDs, and only 20 picks. Rodgers is now easily a top 5 QB in the NFL and is without question a future Packer legend.
Posted on: February 24, 2010 2:07 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2010 2:26 pm
Week 16: Packers vs. Seahawks; W 48-10; 10-5
After a heart breaker in Pittsburgh the Pack just had to win one of their last two games to ensure a playoff spot. The Seahawks never proposed a threat as the Packers shot out to a 24-3 lead at the half and completely dominated the Hawks. The Pack air attack wasn't the dominating offensive presence for the first time this year as Rodgers only had 237 yards and 1 touchdown, and was only sacked once. However, the ground game was outstanding combining for 153 yards with Ryan Grant leading the way with 97 yards and two touchdowns, Ahman Green had 29 yards and 1 touchdown, and Brandon Jackson had 20 yards and two touchdowns. Greg Jennings led the receivers with 4 catches for 111 yards and Rodgers one TD throw went to Jackson giving him 3 total touchdowns. The defense was all the more impressive as the picked off Matt Hasselbeck 4 times. Atari Bigby led with 2 picks and Nick Barnett led with 6 tackles and 1 sack. The Pack were now in and with the close of week 16 it became aware that week 17 against the Cardinals didn't matter at all because win or lose the Pack were heading to Phoenix for the Wild Card game.
Week 17: Packers at Cardinals; W 33-7; 11-5
The question that arose for week 17 was how would these two teams play each other knowing there would be a rematch just a week later. It didn't take long to figure out what Mike McCarthy had planned. The Pack didn't change a thing and played the way they had for the past 7 weeks shooting out to a 26-0 half time lead which was more than enough when the game was over. Aaron Rodgers went 21 of 26 for 237 yards, one touchdown, and also rushed for a score, and was sacked only once. Grant went for 51 yards and one touchdown. Donald Driver led with 6 catches for 65 and Jermichael Finley grabbed Rodgers one TD throw. A.J. Hawk led with 6 tackles and the defense gathered in 3 picks one of which was returned for a TD by Charles Woodson. In a game that didn't mean much the Pack looked great but were playing against the second and third teams of the Cardinals most of the game. Still many were confident that the Pack could put together the first playoff win in the Aaron Rodgers era.
Wild Card Round: Packers at Cardinals; L 45-51
Rodgers started off his first playoff start on a bad note throwing a pick on the very first play from scrimmage which led to a Tim Hightower score. On their second possession Driver fumbled on the second play which led to a Kurt Warner touchdown pass. On their third possession the Pack gained a first down then were forced to punt which led to a Neil Rackers field goal. On their fourth possession Mason Crosby's struggles continued as he missed a 54 yard field goal wide right in the second quarter. On the Cardinals' third play of the drive Woodson forced Larry Fitzgerald to fumble which was recovered by Clay Matthews and led to an Rodgers score on the ground. However, the Cardinal marched right down the field and Warner passed to Early Doucet for each of their second touchdowns. Then the Packs ensuing possession led to a Mason Crosby field goal at the end of the half as they trailed 24-10.
To start the second half the Cardinal marched down the field again as Warner threw to Fitzgerald for the touchdown. On the Pack ensuing possession Rodger marched them down and threw a TD pass to Jennings. The Pack the successfully recovered an onside kick and Rodgers again threw a touchdown to Jordy Nelson. The Cardinals then went down the field in four plays ending with a Warner touchdown pass to Fitzgerald. At the end of the third quarter the Pack trailed 38-24.
The third play of the fourth quarter found Rodgers throwing his third touchdown pass to James Jones. The Cardinals were then forced to punt and in three plays the Pack marched down the field and capped off the drive with a John Khun 1 yard touchdown run. With the score now tied at 38 the Cardinals simply moved down the field in 11 plays capped off with a Warner pass to Steve Breaston. The Pack then answered with a Rodgers pass to Spence Havner for a touchdown for the final score of regulation. At 45-45 the Pack got the ball in overtime first. Already with some officiating calls in question Aaron Rodgers found himself being sacked on the fourth play of OT and the ball being knocked out of his hands as Karl Dansby grabbed the ball and took it in for the game winning touchdown.
I'm not here to argue whether or not there were missed calls or anything like that. The Packer offense played great and the defense was awful. With so much controversy around the close of the game we forget that the Pack lost this game on their own. All game long the Cardinals did what ever they wanted on offense and the Packer offense showed its greatest weakness when Rodgers was sacked.
Posted on: February 5, 2010 2:37 pm
Edited on: February 5, 2010 2:42 pm
Week 13: Packers vs. Ravens; W 27-14; 8-4
Hosting the Ravens in week 13, the Pack opened their toughest three game stretch of the season. The Ravens had the third ranked defense in the league. In this game the Raven defense forced 3 turnovers on the Pack. However, the Packer defense forced 4 turnovers of their own. The half time score showed the Pack dominated the first half leading it 17-0. In the third quarter Baltimore scored 14 to get themselves back in the game as the 4th quarter started with the score 17-14. However, Aaron Rodgers' second TD throw to Jermichael Finley and an interception by A.J. Hawk the led to a Mason Crosby field goal with under two minutes to play shut the door on the Ravens comeback. Rodgers finished the game 26 of 40 for 263 yards, three touchdowns, two picks, and was sacked only once. Ryan Grant was held to 41 yards on 18 carries. Finley was the leading receiver with 7 grabs for 79 yards and two touchdowns. Clay Matthews led the with 5 tackles and two sacks. Now the Pack were 8-4. A month before they were sitting at 4-4 as it appeared their season was slipping away but a four game win streak had them sitting right in the middle of the playoff picture.
Week 14: Packers at Bears; W 21-14; 9-4
A rematch of the week 1 contest in which the Pack escaped with a win, the hot Pack now traveled to Chicago to face a struggling Bears team. In contrast to the week 1 game the Pack appeared they would run away with this one. The Pack forced a three and out on the Bears first drive and the very first play from scrimmage for the Pack, Grant took the hand off 62 yards for a touchdown! The Pack again raced to a 13-0 lead and led at the half 13-7. However, at the start of the fourth the Pack found themselves down one 14-13. Nick Collins would make the difference picking off Jay Cutler and taking it down to the 11 yard line. Grant would then punch it in from the 1 and Rodgers would hook up with Greg Jennings on the 2-point conversion to all but seal the game. Rodgers did very little going 16 of 24 for 180 yards and no TDs and was sacked 3 times. Grant was the one picking up the slack on offense carrying 20 times for 137 yards and two scores. Once again Finley was the main target getting 5 grabs for 70 yards. Both Rodgers and Finley also lost a fumble each. Atari Bigby and Tramon Williams led with 6 tackles. The defense also picked off Cutler twice. Now with a five game winning streak, the Pack were very confident and very hot. Their defense had been playing incredible during the last five games. Packer fans were once again excited about a likely playoff run.
Week 15: Packers at Steelers; L 36-37; 9-5
The Packers took a five game win streak into Heinz Field to face the Steelers who were in a must win situation just to stay in the playoff race. The two teams went back and forth the whole game. The first two scores of the game were big plays. Ben Roethlisberger threw a 60 yard TD to Mike Wallace and Aaron Rodgers responded with an 83 yard TD to Greg Jennings. At half time however the Pack trailed 14-21 and 14-24 to start the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter the Pack would take the lead 36-30 with 2:06 left. However, the Pack defense which struggled all game to slow Ben down allowed the Steelers to march down the field and with no time remaining Big Ben threw a game-winning touchdown to Mike Wallace. Rodgers was impeccable going 26 of 48 for 383 yards and 3 touchdowns and was sacked only once. He also ran in for a touchdown. Unfortunately, Ben was even better shredding the Packer D for 503 yards and 3 touchdowns. Grant was held to 8 carries for 37 yards and a touchdown. Jennings led in reception yards with 118 yards and a score. Finley led with 9 receptions and a score. Nick Barnett led with 6 tackles and Matthews with 5 tackles and 2 sacks. A heartbreaking loss for the Pack, but it had no severe effect on their playoff race. The Pack just needed one win in their last two games to clinch a playoff spot.
Posted on: January 27, 2010 11:59 pm
The Packers were a struggling team going in to a game against the Cowboys whom they had lost to each time in the last two years. Fortunately for the Pack the Cowboys were also a struggling team. It was a slow moving defensive game through the first three quarters with the Pack up 3-0 going into the fourth. Then Aaron Rodgers took over and scored 2 touchdowns (1 running, 1 passing) within 3 minutes of each other. The Cowboys never posed a threat after as the Pack won a game many expected them to lose. The offensive line story continued though as Rodgers was sacked 4 times. He went 25 of 36 for 189 yards. Ryan Grant carried 19 times for 79 yards. Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, and Donald Driver each had 4 grabs with Driver leading the way with 50 yards. Spencer Havner caught the only TD from Rodgers. The Pack continued to control the turnover battle with none and forcing 3 (1 INT, 2 FUM). They held the Cowboy offense to 278 yards and sacked Tony Romo 5 times. Charles Woodson was the defensive star in this one leading the way with 8 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 interception. It was a must win for the Pack, but they were still far from making a playoff run.
Week 11: Packers vs. 49ers; W 30-24; 6-4
The 49ers started the season off strong, but quarterback controversy was causing problems for their offense all season. A win for the Pack would match their win total of a year ago with 6 still to play. The Pack got off to a great start and led the Niners 23-3 at the half. However, in the second half it seemed the Pack let up a bit allowing the Niners back in the game as they outscored Green Bay 21-7 in half. The Niners scored their last touchdown with 5:56 showing on the clock and the Pack ran the rest of that time off with one possession to win it. Rodgers was great going 32 of 45 for 344 yards and two touchdowns and was sacked only twice. Grant was just as good getting the ball 21 times for 129 yards and a touchdown. Jermichael Finley led with 7 catches and Jennings led with 126 yards and a touchdown. Once again the Pack didn’t commit a turnover and forced the Niners into one big pick by Nick Collins which gave the Pack the short field to punch it in for their only second half score. They got to the QB 3 times and held the Niner offense to 284 yards. Aaron Kampman led with 4 tackles and a sack. The Pack nearly let this one get away, but held on. However, they still needed some big wins to deserve playoff consideration.
Week 12: Packers at Lions; W 34-12; 7-4
It was Thanksgiving Day in Detroit when the Pack came to town to play the Lions they shutout earlier in the season. However, it was Thanksgiving and the Lions are always confident on this day in their place. By the end of the first quarter they were showing it and led 7-0, but the Pack went on to score 27 unanswered points before the Lions added a safety and field goal in the fourth and Woodson closed the door for good taking a Matthew Stafford pass back for a touchdown. The Packer D picked off the rookie QB four times. Woodson was a nightmare for Stafford collecting 2 picks and sacking him once. Woodson also recovered a fumble for the Pack. Stafford was sacked twice and the Lion offense was held to 272 yards. A.J. Hawk led with 8 tackles. Rodgers was fantastic going 28 of 39 for 348 yards, 3 touchdowns, and was sacked only once. Grant was about average getting 20 carries for only 61 yards. Driver had a huge day with 7 receptions for 142 yards and a touchdown. Now with a three game win streak the 7-4 record looked fairly good, but the Pack were about to face probably their toughest 3 game stretch all season.
Getting Back to The Basics "Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." ―Vince Lombardi
Posted on: January 24, 2010 9:52 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2010 9:54 pm
Week 5: Bye
The Packers took a step toward trying to improve the offensive line by signing tackle Mark Tauscher on October 12, 2009 during their bye week. Tauscher had been a free agent due to a surgery he had to repair a knee for the second time in his career. After successfully rehabilitating that knee the Pack signed him in hopes to help an offensive line that was absolutely dismal the first four weeks of the season.
Week 6: Packers vs. Lions; W 26-0; 3-2
After making personnel improvements during the off week, the Pack now looked to make improvements on the field against a young, poor Lions team. The score says they dominated, but still struggled greatly to protect Rodgers who got sacked five times. Rodgers still played well completing 29 of 37 passes for 358 yards for 2 touchdowns and one pick. Grant rushed for 90 yards on 24 carries. Driver led the team again in receptions and yards with 7 for 107 yards. It was the defense that played great and dominated shutting the Lions out. Clay Matthews led the team with 2 of the 5 sacks and Barnett led with 9 tackles. The defense also forced 3 interceptions and allowed only 149 yards. In short, the Pack had a descent offensive day, but an incredible defensive day.
Week 7: Packers at Browns; W 31-3; 4-2
The game against the Browns was the last chance the Pack had to make improvements in game time situations before meeting the Vikings again in week 8. Well, on this day it looked like they were able to put everything together. The offensive line didn’t allow a single sack the whole game and gave way for Ryan Grant to go off for 148 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown. Aaron Rodgers completed 15 of 20 passes for 246 yards and 3 touchdowns. Greg Jennings led the team with 5 receptions and Donald Driver led in receiving yards with 84 yards and a touchdown. The Packer defense had its best game of the year yardage wise allowing only 139 yards. They collected two sacks, one interception, and one fumble. A.J. Hawk led the team with 7 tackles. All looked well. The Packers seemed to be rolling and had regained their confidence and were ready to welcome the Vikes to Lambeau Field for the second showdown of the season.
Week 8: Packers vs. Vikings; L 26-38; 4-3
The Packers were ready and the fans were confident as they welcomed Brett Favre and the Vikings to Lambeau for a rematch of week 4. At this point the Vikings were 6-1 and the Pack was 4-2. With a win the Pack would be in reach of taking the division lead. However, by the time the Pack took the field for their first possession of the second half they were down 24-3. The Pack then scored 17 unanswered points making it a 24-20 score at the end of the third. Unfortunately, they never overcame the Vikings and were outscored 14-6 in the fourth. In the end Aaron Rodgers played well in the comeback effort going 26 of 41 for 287 yards and three touchdown and no picks, but he was sacked 6 times. The offensive line was dominated by the Viking front again and held Grant to 30 yards. Jennings was the leading receiver catching seven balls for 81 yards and a touchdown. The Pack amazingly were plus 2 in the turnover category not giving up any and recovering two fumbles. Again the defense failed to sack Favre as he shred them for 4 touchdowns. Nick Barnett led the way on defense with 7 tackles. Most were giving up on the Pack, but even at this point if they could right the ship they could still make a playoff run.
Week 9: Packers at Buccaneers; L 28-38; 4-4
Week 9 presented an apparent easy first opportunity for the Pack to right the ship against the winless Buccs who had a rookie starting his first game in Josh Freeman. The Pack could never put the winless Buccs away though and allowed them to hang around. With about thirteen minutes left the Rodgers ran in a TD from 12 yards out to put the Pack up 28-17, but the Buccs went on to score 21 unanswered points and surprise the Packers. It seemed for the first time all season that Rodgers did not play well. He went 17 of 35 for 266 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 picks and was sacked 6 times for the second week in a row. On the other hand, Grant seemed to run well with 21 carries for 96 yards and a score. Jennings led with 5 receptions and James Jones led with 103 receiving yards. The defense could only get to the rookie QB one time and picked him off one time. Hawk led the team with 7 tackles and the only sack. Packer nation was furious at the loss as all hope for a playoff run was gone and some questioned if a winning season was now possible. There were now plenty calling for the jobs of Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson. To be honest even I as a die hard Packer fan had given up. Rodgers and the Packer defense weren't done yet and still had something to prove during the last half of an apparent disappointing season.
Getting Back to The Basics "Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." --Vince Lombardi