The Green Bay Packers came away from Sunday’s skirmish with a win over the San Francisco Forty Niners, but two Pro Bowl defensive players were lost for the season. Unfortunately, Aaron Kampman and Al Harris suffered serious season-ending knee injuries which may prove costly for the Packers’ 2009 fortunes.
It figured that Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers would play well on this day and he did. Rodgers and 49er quarterback Alex Smith were the two highest-rated quarterbacks in the 2005 collegiate draft. The 49ers chose Smith with the first pick in the draft and the jilted Rodgers fell all the way down to the Packers’ slot at number 26. The Packers ended up with the better player though as Rodgers is one of the better quarterbacks in the league while Smith has struggled mightily. So it was Rodgers who led the Packers to an incredible first half of football.
The Packers totally dominated the ball game in the opening two quarters with Rodgers throwing two touchdown passes to give the Pack a 23 – 3 halftime lead. The Packers could seemingly do no wrong as their suspect special teams performed well and the defense dominated. Even the much-maligned offensive line did not render any sacks. Ryan Grant ran the ball with reckless abandon. The lopsided first half ended with the Packers enjoying a 362 – 57 total yard advantage and a three-to-one time possession advantage. Incredibly, Smith was held to a negative 7 passing yards. Cheeseheads were wondering… where has this team been hiding?
Alas, all that is good does not last forever and when the second half got under way the Packers’ offense lost some of its steam and the dominating defense began to yield yards and then points. The special teams guys joined the slide when they allowed a long kick-off return. Literally adding injury to insult, the aforementioned Kampman and Harris injuries unfolded and the Packers had just barely enough juice to squeeze out a 30 – 24 victory.
The 2009 Packers have not demonstrated discipline this year and thus the collapse in the second half was not a major surprise. Losing two veteran players seemed to take some of the starch out of the game too. The Packers will now have to regroup and find replacements. Fortunately the Packers are fairly deep at linebacker but they will miss Kampman’s ability to rush the passer. Tramon Williams will replace Harris but that is quite a step down in talent.
The Packers won’t have much time to prepare the replacements because the Packers play the early game on Thanksgiving against the Detroit Lions. The 2009 Lions are a bad team but the Detroit Lions have this traditional thing about playing well on Thanksgiving. Historically, the Packers have a losing record at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day so they better bring their “first half” team to Detroit on Thursday.