Obviously, there are many differences this time around. There are key personnel differences on both sides of the ball for both teams and both defenses are playing much better football.
One thing that hasn't changed is the key trio of Aaron Rodgers, Scott Wells and Brandon Jackson as the three main components in setting the pass protection for the Packers' offense.
When these two teams last met, the Packers' first series was a disaster. Rodgers, the offensive line and running back Ryan Grant did a terrible job sorting out even the simplest blitzes. Indeed, on one play Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau sent the cross blitz that we've seen the Packers run a thousand times and the offensive line and Grant didn't pick up either linebacker.
It was an inauspicious beginning to the game, to say the least.
After that initial series however, Rodgers and company started to settle down. And after Rodgers hit Jennings for the Packers' first touchdown (a play which included a block by Chad Clifton that could have been called a hold) McCarthy basically shelved the running game and went to his 3rd down personnel almost exclusively. Brandon Jackson proceeded to have arguably his best game as a pro, and he barely touched the ball. Again and again Jackson identified the blitz packages LeBeau was throwing at them and again and again Jackson picked up the free rusher. Center Scott Wells, working with Rodgers, sorted out the various looks LeBeau was giving them and went to work.
McCarthy went so far as to offer unsolicited praise for all three during his Monday press conference following the game:
I thought Scott Wells and Aaron, just from an adjustment standpoint in our protection scheme, did an outstanding job. I thought the protection unit was outstanding, starting up front with the offensive line. I thought Brandon Jackson played as well as any running back I have seen in pass protection. I thought he played at a very high level.
While I would caution against expecting the Packers offense to have the same level of success it had last December against the Steelers, Packer fans should feel pretty good about the fact that Wells and Jackson will be helping Rodgers once again when it comes to pass protection.
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