There’s “bounce back” games, and then there’s “bounce off the ropes at the edge of the ring, go sprinting towards your opponent, clothesline him, then scream at him as he’s laying dazed on the ground” games. This was the latter.
The Green and Gold were about as perfect as you could hope to be in their drive-by-drive dismantling of the Washington Redskins on Sunday, and they’ve now evened their season record at 1-1.
Oddly, the Packers weren’t any better on third downs (still 4 of 10), still gave up a boatload of yards (422 total, including 107 on the ground for Alfred Morris and 143 through the air for Pierre Garcon), and only broke even on the turnover battle. Is it possible that as good as the Packers were on Sunday, they might still be getting better?
Keep in mind that the Packers have now split with two playoff teams (averaging 33 points per game as they did it), despite missing two of their top five defensive backs, not really integrating their stud rookie running back, and getting virtually no contributions from the pass rush (three sacks in two games) or significant turnovers (one takeaway in two games). Yes, I think it’s safe to say they could be better.
But they were pretty darn good on Sunday.
Aaron Rodgers (34/42, 480 yards, 4 TD) - There are so many different ways to describe Rodgers’ Herculean effort on Sunday. You could say it was record setting, since he tied the Packers’ all-time single game yardage record, a career high. You could say it was precise, since he threw just eight incompletions on 42 passes. You could say it was voluminous, since he averaged better than 11.4 yards per throw. Or you could just call it amazing, because that’s what it was.
It was almost as though the Packers’ offense was an instrument, and Rodgers was playing it to perfection. Kind of like this:
Why yes, I did come up with that metaphor just to use the GIF. I invite you to deal with it.
James Starks (20 carries, 132 yards, 1 TD, 4 rec, 32 yards) - In another career-high performance for the Packers, Starks ended the Packers’ long string of games without a 100 yard rusher with easily the best performance of his career. While this may not be sustainable, Starks certainly gives the Packers a little bit of a cushion in the backfield by showing he’s at least capable of still doing some good things. If Starks can be productive, the Packers may be inclined to allow Eddie Lacy to recover slowly from his concussion.
James Jones (11 catches, 178 yards) - Remember the hand-wringing when Jones was held without a catch last week? Remember how he said it wasn’t a big deal? Turns out he was right. Though Jones did have the only turnover of the day with his bizarre fumble/touchback thing to end the first half, he was scintillating aside from that. And if you’re scoring at home, Jones is now averaging 5.5 catches and 89 yards per game. Very respectable numbers. Shut outs are for the birds.
480 - Passing yards by Aaron Rodgers. While 480 yards is impressive on its own, 330 of this total came in the first half. THE FIRST HALF. Plus, he seems to have plenty of chemistry with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Preseason, shmeseason.
139 - Total rushing yards (132 from Starks, 10 from Lacy) for the Packers. Though Starks was impressive, it would be interesting to see how the Packers would have done in the rushing game had Lacy been available for the entire game. It would have been interesting to see how his pounding style played down the stretch as the Redskins defense tired out.
1 - Receptions by Andrew Quarless. The number isn’t significant so much as the fact that Quarless has now fully completed his comeback from a devastating knee injury in the 2011 season. The last time he made a catch? December 4, 2011 against the New York Giants. Quarless has been a jack of all trades so far this year, playing a little tight end and a little fullback. It’s good to see him back on the field.
Bounce Back - The blowout was great, but it’s even more important that the Packers simply picked up the win. Starting the season 0-2 would be disastrous, and with a tough schedule the rest of the way, wins are at a premium. Every one counts.
Runnin’ Down a Dream - Green Bay Packers, running juggernaut? Probably not, but every little bit helps. Starks, while a forgotten man for most of last year, has regained a little relevance in the Packers’ offense. Should he continue his productivity, the Packers could be downright dangerous when Lacy returns to full health.
Spreading the Wealth - Aaron Rodgers has always been masterful when it comes to spreading the ball among his receivers. Sunday was no different. Four different Packers pass catchers (Jones, Cobb, Nelson, and Jermichael Finley) had at least 65 yards on Sunday. The Packers’ passing offense is just fine, thank you very much.
Big Guys, Small Performances - Yes, the rushing game was impressive, but the Packers offensive line was woeful in parts of the first half on Sunday. They gave up four sacks and committed two holds and a false start. Things steadied as the game went on, but it only takes one big hit to wipe out Aaron Rodgers…and the Packers season. The pass protection has to be better.
Big Holes - The Packers defense got plenty of “attaboys” last week for their containment of the 49ers rushing attack, but this week, Alfred Morris quietly racked up 107 yards on 13 attempts. They did manage to keep Robert Griffin III in line, but you can never feel that great about giving up 100 yards on the ground. Perhaps things will improve as the Packers start to face more traditional offenses in the weeks to come.
“The Mayor” Not on the Ballot - I presumed when Eddie Lacy made his dazed walk to the sideline that Johnathan Franklin might at least see some action in the Packers’ backfield, but that proved to be a wrongheaded assumption. Franklin stayed firmly glued to the bench while the Packers had the ball. If a guy can’t get on the field when there’s only two healthy running backs around, that doesn’t speak well of what the Packers think of him at this point. Franklin has skills and certainly was promising in college, but it looks like he has a long way to go to gain the Mr. McCarthy’s trust.
Did You Notice?
Milwaukee Bucks big man Larry Sanders made his way to Lambeau Field on Sunday. He was joined in his luxury box by a guy in a Redskins jersey. Larry did not approve.
In addition, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant was on the sidelines at Lambeau. He’s a Washington D.C. native and seemed more than happy to see his team play.
Also, the Packers posted this pretty sweet Instagram time lapse of Lambeau Field filling up.