A.J. Hawk, Aaron Rodgers, Clay Mathews, Darren Sproles, Donald Driver, Drew Brees, Green Bay Packers, Greg Jennings, Jabari Greer, Jermichael Finley, Jimmy Graham, Jordy Nelson, Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints, Patrick Robinson, Pierre Thomas, Randall Cobb, Tramon Williams, Zach Strief
Wow, what an opening. Two teams locked in a shoot out, college football style, with neither blinking right down til the end… when Sean Peyton blinked at calling gutsy plays when it counts.
I guess I was wrong about how the lockout would affect team preparedness. I felt that offenses would struggle week 1 while they got their timing, chemistry, and feel down. Both these teams, who planned this off-season very differently from each other, looked electric on offense.
Boomer Esiason made a good point on the radio while I was driving to 7-11 at the start of the 2nd half – “This game is going to come down to conditioning.” Both defenses were spent by half time. B.J. Raji came out in the 2nd half, hands on hips after 2 plays. The Saints could not keep up with the high-octane offense which led to poor positioning and resulting in bad tackling, which wasn’t even exclusive to them.
At any rate here’s 5 observations from last night.
1. Aaron Rodgers is elite. The man was on fire coming out. At one point, I believe he was about 10-11 and his one incompletion was a throwaway after scrambling for 10 seconds searching for a target. And how many back shoulder throws did he complete last night?! It’s often talked about as a ‘indefensible pass’ and Rodgers showed exactly why, picking on poor Patrick Robinson over and over with it. I think Jabari Greer may have deflected one of his back shoulder passes all night, and he did it by waving his arms blindly because the receiver made a catching motion a bit early. Rodgers will only get better as he mature and gains more experience, but we’re looking at the heir for the Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees’ of today’s game. Speaking of Brees…
2. Drew Brees was great, but his slow start and the defenses slow everything put the team in a hole it couldn’t climb out of. His timing was off on his throws. The ball was arriving late which led to some incompletions and deflections where he had a guy open. He was behind his targets a couple of times over the middle. He had a nice 30 yard gain over the middle to Jimmy Graham, but Graham had to slow up to catch the pass and the defense caught up. That being said, he warmed up as the game went, and frankly if the first quarter was an off quarter for Drew Brees, 28 NFL franchises would love to have that. His final drive was classic. He was poised and precise the whole drive. The only complaint I would have is that he should have clocked it on the 20 yard line and gave himself several shots at the end zone. The wasted time and dump off to Sproles killed their opportunities at the end. On the whole, Brees was incredible last night, but because Rodgers came out on fire and it took Brees a quarter to warm up, the Packers built a lead that ended up being insurmountable by the Saints.
3. The Packers defense looked bad at times, but frankly this is one of only 4 or 5 teams that could make them look so. Watching A.J. Hawk try to cover Darren Sproles was comedic at times. Sproles was running wild all night and the Packers seemed to have no answer. Likewise, Brees found targets in the middle of zones regularly. The Saints are just a team that matches up well with this defense, which prefers a team to run at them and limit how many targets the quarterback has. Brees spread the ball around, utilized mismatches at tight end and scat back and put up a nice 35 (with a Sproles kick return thrown in). The Packers defense will be fine. Good actually. Clay Mathews was embarrassing right tackle Zach Strief repeatedly. He has so many moves that the only time he didn’t get to Brees was when he was double or triple teamed. The young corners continue to look good in this defense. Like the Steelers, the Packers don’t need elite man cover corners, but it does so happen they have one or two in Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams. And Woodson is still running with the best of them.
4. Darren Sproles is going to be dynamic on this offense. He’s everything Reggie Bush was supposed to be. He’s Marshall Faulk without the inside running ability. He creates massive mismatches on linebackers, and maybe even safeties. Mark Ingram looked strong on the inside, and Pierre Thomas made some ridiculous Beast Mode runs last night. The three-headed attack is going to do a lot of damage, and ensure Drew Brees doesn’t have to take the load all on himself.
5. Is there anyone deeper at receiver than the Green Bay Packers? Greg Jennings was phenomenal. The battle between him and Calvin is on for best WR in the division. Jordy Nelson was a perfect slot guy, finding holes and converting 1st downs. Donald Driver is the veteran and safety valve if they’re in a pinch. He’s consistent, if not explosive, and he doesn’t have to be because they have Randall Cobb, who is faster than everyone on the field. James Jones wasn’t too bad last year either. They may have some offensive line concerns down the road (though they looked good last night), but they are loaded at the receiver positions… oh yeah and Jermichael Finley is a beast at tight end, maybe best in country. Good luck defenses.