Good teams win bad games said someone once. The final margin says the Packers won by 18, but the game felt closer and looked sloppier than that. No matter. Good teams win bad games, even when they’re missing half their roster.
In the end, it didn’t matter if the Packers suited up 46 players or 14 or 53. They were simply ready to step up, grind it out, and send the Browns back to Cleveland.
It may not have been pretty, but the Packers are 4-2 and on top of the NFC North. That’s good enough for me.
Jarrett Boykin (8 catches, 103 yards, 1 TD) - If ever there’s a poster boy for the “next man up” saying, it’s Boykin. He showed early on he’d earned the trust of Aaron Rodgers, and he used it (along with his athleticism and surprisingly big body) to rack up solid yards after the catch and score his first NFL touchdown. Boykin could be a good complementary receiver, although his lack of explosive speed might prevent him from being a showcased piece week in and week out.
Jamari Lattimore (9 tackles, 3 assists, 1 sack) - Pine no more for Desmond Bishop. His spiritual successor has arrived. Lattimore plays with ferocious intensity and his athleticism is on display on almost every play. He’s been fun to watch the last two weeks.
Davon House (3 tackles, 3 passes defensed, 1 INT) - For most of the last two years, Davon House has been merely a tease. Long and athletic, we’ve wondered what he could do if he ever got a chance. Now we know. House can play. He was good last week and he was great this week, breaking up three passes (including a terrific swat late in the game) and snagging his first career interception. He’s causing a logjam in the secondary, and that’s a good problem to have.
10 - Passes, of 35 thrown by Aaron Rodgers, targeted toward Jarrett Boykin. We already know what kind of a day he had, but the fact that he looked Boykin’s way so often says a lot about Rodgers, too. He may not have had many other options, but Rodgers showed no hesitation going to Boykin, regardless of the situation.
3 - Consecutive games in which the Packers have held their opponent to 17 points or fewer. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that you’ll win a lot of games if you’re keeping your opponents to two touchdowns and a field goal regularly.
117.8 - Aaron Rodgers’ passer rating this week. Yep, you read that right. Even with Jarrett Boykin, Myles White, and who knows who else lining up at receiver, Rodgers still got it done. It’s nice to have him around.
Kept Calm, Carried On - Injuries to two of the top three receivers? Not a problem. Missing two of the defense’s better pass rushers? No worries. Losing the best tight end on the roster to a neck injury on a frightening hit? We can deal with it. The Packers lived up to Mike McCarthy’s mantra this week and kept their composure even as things seemed to be deteriorating around them.
Healthy Secondary - Casey Hayward didn’t play again this week, but this time it could be for a reason other than his health. For the first time in recent memory, the Packers actually have too many good cornerbacks. With Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, House, Micah Hyde, and now Hayward back, they have a unique problem: options at cornerback. They’re no longer forced to just find the three guys healthy enough to play. Now they can tailor their secondary to their needs from week to week. Exciting!
Coverage Sacks – A strange thing happened two different times on Sunday: Browns’ quarterback Brandon Weeden was unable to find an open receiver, and before he could escape the pocket, he was sacked. That’s right, the Packers got coverage sacksI Mike Daniels and Jamari Lattimore both benefitted from great coverage downfield, and the signs the Packers’ defense has improved continue to grow. Still want to fire Dom Capers?
Blow to the Head - This is not so much a Packers-centric problem as it is an ongoing frustration for the NFL and its fans. Last week, the Packers lost one of their best offensive players after Baltimore’s Matt Elam made a point to not hit high. This week, the Packers benefited from a sketchy penalty after a Cleveland defender delivered what appeared to be a legal (but still fearsome) hit to Jermichael Finley‘s noggin, then the Packers lost Finley for the rest of the game and the foreseeable future thanks to an injury on that hit. All that from a play that looked for all the world like it shouldn’t have drawn a flag. What do we do as fans? Heck if I know. I don’t know what’s a penalty and what’s not any more, and I don’t know how to complain about the things that go wrong. It’s a hard time to watch some of the NFL.
Solomon Wilcots - As a broadcaster myself, I probably have higher standards for play-by-play announcers and color commentators than most people, but CBS analyst Solmon Wilcot’s performance during the aftermath of Jermichael Finley’s injury was unconscionable. Finley was lying motionless on the field, surrounded by frantic training staff personnel and concerned players, but Wilcots thought that it was the opportune time to launch a rant on how tough it is to play defense in the NFL in 2013. Literally as the cart was rolling on the field to take Finley away, Wilcots was complaining that the defender that delivered the hit that may end Finley’s season shouldn’t have been flagged. I even agree that he had a point…but it wasn’t the time. Not a good performance, Solomon.
Whither Johnathan? - Since his explosion in Cincinnati, Johnathan Franklin has been nearly invisible. Some of that has to do with Eddie Lacy‘s herculean effort in the backfield, but Franklin’s also fumbled twice in his last few carries. Still, you’d have to think there’s some opportunity for The Mayor to institute his agenda (or some other political pun). Maybe we’ll see more of Franklin next week?
Up Next - The Packers head west to the Metrodome for their first primetime performance of the year: a Sunday night game with the seemingly hapless Vikings.