The 2011 season kicked off last Thursday in grand fashion as the Green Bay Packers outscored the New Orleans Saints by 42 -34. My neighbor claimed that this game was the best football game he has seen since the Packers defeated the Washington Redskins 48 – 47 back in October 1983, and I could not disagree. It was a whale of a football game.
Aaron Rodgers came out smoking, firing three touchdown passes in the first quarter. Rodgers performed exactly like he did in last year’s Super Bowl as 70,000 Lambeau screaming Cheeseheads roared approval. Rodgers’ third touchdown pass went to rookie Randall Cobb. Later, in the third quarter, Cobb returned a kickoff 108 yards for another touchdown. Two touchdowns for Cobb in his first NFL game, the latter of which is the longest touchdown run in the history of the NFL, is a great start for this young man’s career.
The game proved to be a challenge for the Packer defense. Saints quarterback Drew Brees and company won the Super Bowl two years ago with a very high-powered offense and that has not diminished. The Packer defense gave up way too many passing yards but they also came up with critical stops when they needed to. It was a classic example of bending rather than breaking and doing what was needed to win the ball game. The most exciting defensive play of the game was the last play of the game. At the one yard line with the potential to tie the game, the Saints attempted to punch their running back through the middle but the Packers stopped him cold.
Defensive end Jarius Wynn had a nice game starting at the spot vacated by the departed Cullen Jenkins. The Packers hoped that Mike Neal could step into that position but Neal can’t shake an injury jinx. Wynn is a low-round third-year player who was cut last year. He was later re-signed. Losing his job apparently lit a fire underneath him as he looked like a very good football player against the Saints. Wynn was one of the Packer linemen who got really low and prevented the Saints from scoring on the last play.
Another young Packer who had a nice game was left guard T.J. Lang. Lang had a couple penalties, but he is an instant upgrade at that position, especially at run blocking where he helped open some decent holes for the Packers’ running backs. Speaking of running backs, James Starks got more snaps than Ryan Grant and looked pretty good. It appears that the Packers intend to alternate Starks and Grant this year although I suspect Cheeseheads will be seeing more of Starks and less of Grant.
Next week the Packers travel to Carolina where they will face Panther quarterback Cam Newton, the much heralded and first player chosen in last spring’s collegiate draft. Newton is an incredible physical talent who had a very nice showing in his first NFL start last week against Arizona. But, Carolina was a terrible team a year ago and Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers will certainly dream up some defensive schemes with the intent to rattle Newton. The Packers ought to be at least a touchdown favorite and if the Pack plays anything like they did against the Saints, the Panthers game will be a blowout.