Yes, it pains me to write it, but Bob Sanders deserves a ton of credit for how he implemented and called the Packers defensive gameplan yesterday.
This Notebook bit from the Green Bay Press Gazette does a good job if illustrating how Sanders planned on using Brandon Chillar exclusively in Nickel and on Dallas Clark, even though it meant having the former 5th overall pick A. J. Hawk on the sideline. And according to Hawk, the switch had nothing to do with his groin injury, which he says is fine.]
I doubt most fans realize what a huge deal this is. Hawk is clearly less than pleased, but his deficiencies in coverage just can not be overlooked anymore, and Sanders (and McCarthty) did the right thing in sitting him in favor of Chillar, who played a fantastic game, especially in coverage against Clark. It is a great move, and one that is in keeping with the Packers' "team first" preachings. Hawk really shouldn't be surprised - all he had to do was look at the backup quarterback job going to the seventh rounder rather than the much-more-heralded second round pick, to know that draft status means very little when McCarthy is putting together his lineups.
It's also a testament to Ted Thompson, who saw his team having nothing but trouble against talented tight ends last year and quietly went out and got a player in free agency who could help immediately with this particular trouble spot. And that's the thing - people give Thompson grief for sticking to the draft to build his team, but he has done exactly what he needed to do in free agency, and apart from Woodson, hasn't broken the bank doing it. (Even the Woodson contract has become Packer-friendly after the initial $10 million hit)
Getting back to Sanders - I was just shocked that, after the initial Colts drive, which played out exactly as I thought the entire game would, he stopped blitzing almost all together, recognized that his corners were up to the task of covering Wayne, Harrison and Gonzalez with deep safety help and that his front seven could control the smallish offensive line of the Colts, and used a surprising amount of 'Cover Zero' at times, lining up his entire team on the line of scrimmage. It was a surprising display from a coordinator that had seemed in over his head not two games ago.
Now, is Sanders absolved for all his past transgressions? Hardly. It would seem he ran into a perfect matchup personnel and scheme-wise, which favors his talented group. But this was a Colts team that absolutely took apart one of the leagues best defenses just last week. No one in football, fan or media, coach or player, gave the Packers defense a chance yesterday. Bob Sanders got the last laugh.
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