The Green Bay Packers shook off a slow start and held on to a late lead to record their second victory of the 2011 season beating the Carolina Panthers 30-23.
Not Exactly How It Was Drawn Up
After Panthers quarterback Cam Newton picked apart the Green Bay defense on Carolina’s initial drive, the Packers found themselves down by a touchdown. But when rookie Randall Cobb fumbled the ensuing kickoff, the Packers defense stiffened and held Carolina to a field goal. With the Packers offense unable to match Carolina early on, Green Bay found themselves down 13-0 early in the second quarter. Considering the Green and Gold never trailed a game by more than a touchdown last season, the Packers were in somewhat unfamiliar territory.
Capers Vs Chudzinski
Early in the game, it appeared that Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski was out-dueling Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, but alas, football is a game of adjustments and Capers – with the help of Charles Woodson – had the last laugh as the Packers defense stopped Cam Newton and the Panthers offense when it mattered most. Credit Chudzinski and the Panthers for going after a Tramon Williams-less defensive backfield, but kudos to Charles Woodson for forcing Cam Newton into making some rookie mistakes.
For the second straight week, Caper’s pass defense was gashed for over 400 yards. And with the Packers defensive line unable to generate much of a pass rush, Cam Newton calmly sat in the pocket with the poise of a veteran. One way or another, the Packers defense needs to find a way to get to the quarterback. If I were a betting man, I’d wager that Capers comes up with a creative solution.
A New Dimension
It’s still early in the season, but it’s painfully obvious that running back Ryan Grant is being outplayed by second year pro James Starks. Starks’ punishing running style is far better suited for the few carries a running back will see in Mike McCarthy’s offense. On Sunday, Starks only touched the ball 9 times but still rumbled for 85 yards. Not since Ahman Green have the Packers had a back who possesses the potential to turn every touch into a touchdown.
And since when does McCarthy run the ball inside the red zone? James Starks’ play has demanded the attention of the Packers coaches, and it’s only a matter of time before he becomes the feature back. Not too shabby for a sixth-round pick out of Buffalo.
Charles Woodson…Need I Say More?
Charles Woodson’s aggressive style of play will occasionally attract a penalty flag or give up a long ball to a speedy receiver, but when you intercept two passes and recover a fumble, all is forgiven. On a day when the defensive backfield started without cornerback Tramon Williams and ended without safety Nick Collins, Woodson came through in a big way. His pick with under three minutes to play in the first half was spectacular. Woodson duped Cam Newton into thinking he was covering the mid-flat area of the Packers zone coverage, but upon Newton releasing the ball, Woodson spun to the inside of the field and dropped into the deep zone, just in time to intercept Newton’s pass. If Woodson has lost a step over the years, he has more than made up for it with film study and deception.
A Little Perspective
Safety Nick Collins sustained a neck injury and was carted off the field after Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart’s leg came down on Collins’ head. Collins lied face down on the field for a number of minutes before the training staff secured him to a stretcher. Collins waved to the crowd as he was carted off, and it now appears that the injury was not as serious as initially thought. From the Packers via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
"Nick Collins has normal feeling and complete movement in his extremities. As is standard protocol, he will be kept in the hospital overnight for observation. When he returns to Green Bay, he will undergo further testing and evaluation."
It sounds as if Collins will be okay, but seeing any player carted off on a stretcher is a bit unnerving. Here’s hoping Nick Collins makes a speedy recovery.
The only other injury to report was to defensive lineman Ryan Pickett. Pickett suffered a sprained foot, but after the game, McCarthy did not have any specifics on the injury.
The Packers travel to Soldier Field to face their first divisional foe of the 2011 season. The Bears, with their ever-stingy defense, will be looking to erase the memory of last season’s NFC Championship, and as closely as Packers-Bears games are usually played, next week’s matchup should be a good one.