In spite of donning the ugliest of ugly 1929 throwback uniforms, the Green Bay Packers came away Sunday with an impressive 34 – 16 win against the San Francisco 49ers to bring their season record to 8 – 4. After a sluggish and error-prone first quarter, the Packers came on strong and dominated this game down the stretch.
Over the past month or so Aaron Rodgers has been playing near-perfect football. He did so again against the 49ers, throwing two touchdowns to Greg Jennings and another to Donald Driver. Rodgers has also been doing double duty this year, advancing the football with his swift feet. Rodgers got some help gaining ground yardage Sunday from the play of rookie James Starks.
Starks finally got an opportunity against the 49ers and managed a respectable 73 yards on 18 carries. Starks is somewhat of a mystery man as he did not play a single down of football during his senior year at the University of Buffalo due to injury. The Packers’ sixth-round draft pick injured a hamstring early in training camp and it lingered, so he has been on the shelf a long time. That being said, Starks looks big, strong and fast. He just might be able to provide what the Packers need for the last quarter of the season.
As fresh as the energy James Starks brings to the Packer party, the oldest player on the Packer roster made the play of the game. Donald Driver caught a third quarter pass from Rodgers and turned it into an incredible run-after-the-catch 61-yard touchdown which will no doubt make the highlight film this week. Not to be outdone, Greg Jennings was spectacular once again. He and Rodgers have the communication going strong right now and I doubt there is a better passer/receiver combo in the NFL.
The Packers’ defense had a couple lapses in pass coverage Sunday. I was surprised to see the Packers deploy their “dime” package (six defensive backs) as much as they did. The 49ers have arguably the best tight end in the league in Vernon Davis and he looked the part in spite of the extra coverage. The loss of linebacker Brandon Chillar (put on Injured Reserve last week) may have caused Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers to alter his schemes. Chillar was the Packers’ best “coverage” linebacker and saw extensive playing time in obvious passing situations. Now that he is no longer available, we may see more of the “dime” for the balance of this season.
The Packers travel to Detroit next week to play a 2 – 10 Lions team that is actually quite a bit better than their record would allow. Even some of the horrible Lion teams of the past decade have played the Packers tough at home and I expect more of the same next week. The Packers match up favorably with the Lions and they should win. The Lions have a tendency this year to play competitively for a while and then fold. Let’s see if that happens at Ford Field next week.