Packers 21 Texans 13: Game Balls & Lame Calls

The Green Bay Packers returned to Lambeau Field in a snow globe game against the Houston Texans and finally came alive in the fourth quarter to log their second-straight win.  They put together two scoring drives to pull away despite a late score by Houston.  It was the type of old school scene you expect to see in Green Bay in December.  Snow all day and players fighting for yards and points.  Fortunately for the Packers, they did more and evened their record to .500.  

On to the day's best and most forgettable.

Game Balls

Morgan Burnett

Burnett was all over the place early in this game.  He came up with the fumble recovery and return on Houston's first possession and filled in at middle linebacker when Jake Ryan went out with an ankle issue.  Burnett has been an unsung member of this defense this season and this game was another example of how his maturity is helping him continue to play well.  He's also the elder statesman of a Packers defensive back group that has forced to play extremely young and inexperienced guys.

Jordy Nelson

Nelson looks like he continues to return to form and is still the smartest receiver on the field.  His ability to find spots and give Aaron Rodgers a safe option on long down-and-distance is such an asset.  He made a really nice catch of a well-thrown ball by Rodgers on the sideline with a safety bearing down on him.  Nelson was able to make the catch and get below the potential hit.  It reminded me of things we used to see pre ACL injury.  He also had the incredible grab on third down over the cornerback to extend another scoring drive.  His best move of the day, however was getting behind Houston's secondary for the Packers' second touchdown of the game, capping a 98-yard drive early in the fourth quarter.  Nelson had a game high eight catches for over 100 yards and a touchdown.

LaDarius Gunter

Two big pass break up's, one in the fourth quarter as the Texans were driving after the Packers go-ahead score.  The young corner has been in the starting line up since week one when Sam Shields went out.  He's had his struggles and he may have had an assist from the weather conditions in this game, but he did a solid job against one of the best receivers in the game in DeAndre Hopkins.  

The Snow

Both teams struggled at times due to the weather but I have to believe Houston missed a few plays because of it.  In honor of Green Bay's opponent next week (Seattle Seahawks) I am deeming the snow today as the Packers' 12th man.

Lame Calls

4th Down Call in 3rd Quarter

Yes, I'm "play calling guy" if even for one day.  Whether it was a called run to fullback Aaron Ripkowski or Aaron Rodgers checked into it, it was flat-out awful.  From the TV broadcast, it appeared that Rodgers made this call so at least resist the temptation to jump on head coach Mike McCarthy until we know for sure.  Houston had it stuffed all the way.  Were it not for a bad drop on third down by DeAndre Hopkins, the Texans likely make the Packers pay for giving up the ball near midfield.  Teams have to be able to get a few tough yards when most needed.  Fortunately it didn't cost the Packers the game and Ripkowski got in later in the fourth quarter to soften the blow of this particular play.

Run Defense

Houston ran the ball 27 times if you include three Osweiler scrambles and racked up 123 total yards.  Jonathan Grimes carried five times for an average of 8.6 yard per carry.  Alfred Blue carried five times for 7.6 yards per carry.  Twice, Houston converted third-and-long via the ground.  Really?!  The Packers run defense is officially not fooling nor scaring anyone.  I haven't watched any film yet but I had to think Clay Matthews' injury and his having to move around might be a big factor.  Not a great day for this area.

James Starks

Starks just can't do it as the lone back anymore.  He started both the game and first half, for what reason I don't know.  Based on McCarthy constantly saying things like "this guy deserves more snaps" or "he's earned the right to be on the field more", I have to think Starks had some built up credits?  Maybe I need to give part of this lame call to the head coach for making this personnel decision.  Starks takes the hand off and stops nearly every time he gets the ball.  It's like he has forgotten what to do with it or he doesn't have the vision to see a running lane.  He can still help as a pass catcher but his days as a pure tailback appear to be behind him.

Aaron Rodgers' Hamstring

Rodgers tweaked his hamstring on a first down run early in the fourth quarter.  This injury is the type that is going to continue to be an issue the rest of this season.  Much like we saw the calf injury manifest itself time and again in late 2014, Rodgers won't be as mobile as he has been so far this season.  That will affect the team's offense and is a decent-sized loss for the typical game plan.

Others to mention:

  • I pondered Ty Montgomery for a game ball simply because he always seems to do good things with the ball in his hand, but gave the nod to Gunter for bigger plays.  That said, Monty has been a versatile asset whose numbers don't tell the whole story
  • How is Jake Schum not punting terribly in cold and snow?  I'll just not complain about it but his kicking has defied all logic and physics this season
  • Dean Lowry may not have been blocked much, but he still made Houston pay.  He logged his first sack of the season
  • Jake Ryan returned. . then left. . then returned again.  And he's got my vote of confidence.  He's a gamer and a grinder.  Made a few nice plays in the backfield.  He also was Osweiler's biggest concern as he was constantly calling out Ryan's number pre snap
  • I get that the Packers tend to go into the "bend but don't break" in the end when preserving a lead because of young corners who aren't as good but opposing offenses always make it too close for comfort and take advantage.  If Green Bay wants to win a big game, they'll have to impose their will and make stops on their own
  • Any time the Packers successfully recover an onside kick, it deserves mention.  Nice job, Davante Adams
  • Jeff Janis, sweep.  Just when it looks like it's all but over for him, he does a thing

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Comments (23)

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EdsLaces's picture

December 05, 2016 at 06:14 am

Gunter HaHa and Jordy top 3 for me. These guys played their hearts out yesterday ...

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Savage57's picture

December 05, 2016 at 06:35 am

Neither a lame call or game ball, but I'd have thought a game in conditions like this was tailor-made for Jared Cook to have a huge game.

Nope. 3 catches for 19 yards.

Head not itchy, but bloody from all the scratching.

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Nick Perry's picture

December 05, 2016 at 06:44 am

He did have a key 3rd down catch on a day the Packers were struggling to convert 3rd downs. Not the "Stats" we were hoping for when he was signed, but both Philly and Houston are 2 of the best teams in the NFL when defending the TE position.

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RCPackerFan's picture

December 05, 2016 at 07:04 am

Didn't he have 2 key 3rd down catches?

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Nick Perry's picture

December 05, 2016 at 10:05 pm

You're right RC, I stand corrected. The one in the 4th quarter was fun!

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dobber's picture

December 05, 2016 at 07:06 am

More evidence for why a big, athletic, game-changing TE high in the draft would be a wasted pick on this team...

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egbertsouse's picture

December 05, 2016 at 07:18 am

Is it just me or does Cook look like he's playing the game at half-speed? Looks like he's dogging it on a lot of plays. I think that Ted should think about getting a real FA, not another teams' reject.

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dobber's picture

December 05, 2016 at 07:45 am

Vernon Davis? Good in all phases, can still run, by all accounts is a good locker-room guy, probably won't break the bank on a 2-year deal?

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carusotrap's picture

December 05, 2016 at 07:56 am

Excellent idea. And we all know it will never, ever, ever happen while Ted is running the show.

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croatpackfan's picture

December 05, 2016 at 08:35 am

It is not on TT. It is on Redskins and Vernon... Besides his age...

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dobber's picture

December 05, 2016 at 01:56 pm

He can still run and is known for keeping himself in top shape. He could add 2-tenths of a second to his draft 40-time and still be faster than 3/4 of the TE in the league.

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carusotrap's picture

December 05, 2016 at 07:55 am

That's the coaches, not the player. The McCarthy thing is almost always to design a complicated, over-thought, rigid game plan regardless of the skill set of the players on the field. Last week, they executed a "perfect" plan because what they designed for PHI happened to mesh exactly with the GB skill set. This week, we were back to long passes and weird play calls. And we've seen time and again that McCarthy doesn't react and adjust to a game.(Hence, Starks being the #1 back in spite of the fact that he is simply not very good.) Cook wasn't part of the game plan, so even if he does do something early, that's not the plan.

The good news is that unlike the debacle of October, our young talent is developing, Aaron Rodgers is playing like his MVP self, Jordy is finding his mojo, and Adams and Monty have become clutch. So, at least now the McCarthy plan is starting to have players who can make it work.

And they won!

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croatpackfan's picture

December 05, 2016 at 06:42 am

I would like to add Ha-Ha to game balls.

Also, some of you wanted to call referees on not calling OPI on 1st Texans TD, but really, everything was ok. It was just mismatch in Packers D. Rollins is to weak and to small to cover Griffin 6-6, 235 TE. Similar push last week made Jordy to get completion on 3rd and long against Eagles.

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sheppercheeser's picture

December 05, 2016 at 06:53 am

Game balls- Lowry, Nelson, Burnett
WTH- Guion- hate him for the penalties, but love his energy.
Lame calls- Micah Hyde OMG, MM's prevent defense (prevents them from winning).

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RCPackerFan's picture

December 05, 2016 at 07:04 am

Game Balls:
Aaron Rodgers - playing on a bad leg, he still managed to make the plays he needed to.

Ty Montgomery - Simply put, when he touches the ball, good things happen. He touched the ball 8 times yesterday and averaged 7 yards per touch. That's not including the 39 yard kick return he had.

Nelson - On his comeback trail Nelson ranks 9th currently in receiving yards with 872 yards. He is tied for 2nd in TD's with 10. (Adams is tied for 4th) Nelson may not have the explosive plays like he had in 2014 but he has given Rodgers his reliable target he missed last year.

Burnett - He led the team in tackles with 7, and also had the fumble recovery.
Clinton Dix- He was second in tackles with 6. The 2 safety's are probably the strength of the defense. As the CB's get healthier it is showing how good these guys can be. If Burnett didn't recover the fumbler Clinton-Dix was right there to recover it.

Rollins - He is getting healthier and it is showing. He really played well and was one of the guys that caused the fumble on the opening series.

Gunter - The snow I think really helped Gunter out. He may become a really, really good winter CB. Where speed isn't as much of a factor.

Lame Calls:
James Starks - He had 7 snaps in the game. Mostly the first 2 drives of the game. After that he essentially was pulled in favor of Montgomery and Michael. Understandably so when you simply look at his stat line. 4 rushes 1 yard, with a long of 4. Essentially he had -1 yards rushing on 3 runs.

Micah Hyde- The TD pass to Hopkins looked like Randall was playing zone expecting Hyde to be over top and he wasn't. Then when he gets there he doesn't come close to even making an attempt to tackle Hopkins.

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Bedrock's picture

December 05, 2016 at 12:31 pm

Jordy's sideline catch is one he usually slips back inside as the safety comes and then it's off to the races. But, either the weather, or Rodgers/Nelson timing, or just that play...it was a small tick of a second away from Jordy having the ball soon enough for him to take it to the house.

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RCPackerFan's picture

December 05, 2016 at 12:46 pm

Yeah, I agree. I am not sure which it was. If I had to guess probably the timing by 1/2 a second.
Also that was the play that the Safety tried taking off Nelson's head.

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Handsback's picture

December 05, 2016 at 07:58 am

That long drive for a TD, was a thing of beauty. The Packers are hurting on the defense side and may be exposed sooner than later. Yesterday, the team stood tall and won.

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carusotrap's picture

December 05, 2016 at 08:05 am

Someone please make James Starks go away. Give him a nice cake and some punch and a farewell party. I've never liked the WR as RB thing, but Monty is the real deal, and Rip is quickly turning into something. And if Michael can ever get more than one snap in a row, he seems to have something as well. Starks is at best the 4th best rusher in terms of skills, yet there he is, dancing his way into another 1 yard gain.

James Starks is the Jeff Janis of running backs...they keep them both for reasons beyond understanding. (And yes, I saw the end around...anyone could have gained yardage on that play, it was so open).

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Mojo's picture

December 05, 2016 at 03:11 pm

In fairness to the coaches playing Starks , or any player for that matter, requires you give them a fair amount of snaps to know if they've still got it. Starks has been fairly productive for his career and he really didn't get much PT until Lacy went down.

Including yesterday, he's received a decent amount snaps (over 60 for the year). The evidence points to either a lack of talent or decision making or some combination of both on Starks part. I think the staff has accumulated enough data and will be willing to move on as soon as they deem someone else is ready.

In fairness to any new running back you have to give him snaps too to know what you've got.

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Razer's picture

December 05, 2016 at 09:00 am

They Packers game wasn't broadcast in my area so I was forced to watch some other games. I saw a good Detroit team bottle up Drew Brees and an excellent Seattle team destroy the Panthers. Even with a poor O-line, Russell Wilson and company are able to generate yardage and sustain drives.

I come here to get a sense of what the Packers did at home, against a Houston team missing Watt and Clowney and I hear all the same moaning. On offense we can't run the ball, can't get playmakers involved in the game, always looking for the long ball, can't control the time of possession, yada, yada, yada. Now on defense we can't even stop the run, Hyde is still missing his assignments and the middle of the field was probably wide open all day long.

Let's just blame the weather for our inconsistent team and hope the Seattle plane gets highjacked.

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Rossonero's picture

December 05, 2016 at 10:07 am

Same for me, couldn't see the game in my area. I heard one local bar with direct TV lost the signal after the first quarter due to weather. Followed updates on my phone.

I was really happy with the win, but we must get some running game going. Seattle will just sit back in coverage because they know we can't run and Rodgers can't run either because of his hamstring. That's a recipe for disaster.

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Mojo's picture

December 05, 2016 at 02:51 pm

As far as Osweiler calling out Ryan's number it has more to do with identifying the Mike LB than anything else. He was probably indicating to the o-line where the center of their blocking scheme should be. As is the case with most QB pointing and number calling, It's the position, not the player they're concerned about.

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