With an incredible slew of injuries to deal with this past week, Mike McCarthy came up with the theme “keep calm and carry on.” The message took hold as the Green Bay Packers rose to the occasion and beat down the Cleveland Browns by a score of 31 – 13. The win vaulted the Packers into the lead in the NFC North Division for the first time this year.
From the get-go it was obvious that the Browns did not have the weapons to go toe-to-toe with the Packers. Aaron Rodgers hit Jermichael Finley on an early touchdown pass. Finley made three would-be tacklers miss, and the rout was on. Davon House intercepted a pass which was soon converted into an Eddie Lacy touchdown run and the Packers were up 14 – 0 in the first quarter.
The Packers’ run defense has been awesome this year and they were again Sunday. The behemoth guys in the defensive line have eaten up blockers to allow the Packers’ linebackers to make the tackles. Inside linebacker Jamari Lattimore, who was filling in for an injured starter, had a great game, as did A.J. Hawk. In all, six starters were on the shelf this week. Lattimore looks like he has a nice future in Titletown. The Packers’ defense held the erratic Brown offense to a mere 89 yards in the first half as the Packers took a 17 – 3 lead at intermission.
The Packers’ offense sputtered a bit in the second half, but Mike McCarthy’s theory of the next man up brought the spotlight onto wide receiver Jarrett Boykin. Randall Cobb and James Jones were injured and out for this game so the unheralded Boykin stepped it up with eight receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown.
With all the injured players, a number of the former special teams’ players were pulled from that duty and thus there were problems in that area. Special teams coverage has not been a Packer stronghold for a long time and there were numerous mistakes made on Sunday. Combined with some boneheaded penalties, the Packers were fortunate they were not playing elite NFL competition else wise the outcome may well have been different.
Jermichael Finley suffered an unfortunate neck injury in the fourth quarter which has Cheesehead Nation on edge. Finley was having a fine game and a fine year. He is playing out his contract this year for big dollars and the Packers need him. There is no other tight end on the squad with anywhere near his talent level.
The Packers now have a three-week winning streak and take the party next Sunday night to the Humpty Dump in Minneapolis to play the Vikings. The Vikings have major defensive issues this year and a quarterback problem. Vikings’ management reached badly two years ago when they drafted Christian Ponder and now they have second thoughts about him. Journeyman Matt Cassel was given a chance but they didn’t like him either. Enter Josh Freeman who was cut by Tampa Bay just a couple weeks ago. Freeman was clearly not ready Monday night against the New York Giants. Vikings’ management set Freeman up to fail and his pathetic performance should be on their shoulders, not his. There is a reason why the Vikings franchise has never won a world championship.
Even with the injuries, look for the Packers to be a touchdown favorite next week in Minneapolis. But beware, Cheeseheads, of the collapsing roof, artificial noise, and flying whiskey bottles. A plague lurks in the Humpty Dump.