Things didn’t come easy for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon, but against a turnover prone Carolina Panthers outfit at Bank of America Stadium, coach Mike McCarthy could have made good use of the phrase “great teams always find a way to win”.
For two weeks in a row now, Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton has felt the raw end of the NFL stick. On one side, he torched what appeared to be a flawless Packers defense for 432 yards, but on the other, he threw three interceptions on the day – two of which sailed in the Charles Woodson direction.
The Packers, well they looked remarkably lost for much of the first half, and after leaving fans with that familiar ‘cliffhanger’ feeling in the fourth quarter, a 30-23 win over last season’s bottom feeders was just enough to satisfy the lowest of expectations.
Here’s the grades for Week 2:
If things keep up, Aaron Rodgers is on path to secure his third straight 4,000-5,000 yard season. On Sunday, Rodgers made McCarthy’s play calling look somewhat genius, especially when it came time to slice open the Panthers defense late with an 84-yard zip to Jordy Nelson.
The no huddle seemed to work well for the Packers late in the first half, a testament to how versatile Green Bay’s offense has become. Rodgers did have trouble getting the ball into the endzone however, a fault he admitted in post-game interviews.
Running Backs: A
There appears to be little room for Ryan Grant on the ground with James Starks finding holes on just about every drive. Against the Panthers, Starks clocked up 85-yards, but it was John Kuhn’s resiliency that impressed me the most. After dropping a ‘gimme’ on second down, Kuhn’s ability to pound the ball into the endzone on the very next play makes Rodgers’ job all that much easier.
Wide Receivers: C-
There was notable concern from McCarthy at half time after the Packers wide receiver core was kept silent for the first two quarters. Greg Jennings made up for it in the third, but relying on Jordy Nelson next week against Chicago isn’t a sound plan. Sooner or later we should here from the disgruntled James Jones, but zero first downs in the first quarter against the Panthers is worrying. That, and the fact that the Packers missed three opportunities in the redzone to score a touchdown leaves some work to be done in the air.
Tight Ends: A-
I hate to think what would have happened last season if the Packers wide receivers decided to fall asleep without Jermichael Finley around. Luckily No.88 was around against Carolina though, and a 39-yard completion more or less turned on the lights for the Packers offense and seemed to change momentum.
Offensive Line: A
The problems of two years ago still remain, but all of Ted Thompson’s focus in the draft room at least seems to be paying off up front. Rodgers was sacked once against a Panthers defense that ranked second in pass yards coming in, and the blocking lanes for James Starks have been strong. The Panthers also had linebacker Thomas Davis’ verbal assault on the Super Bowl champs to add to their confidence, but that didn’t work out so well.
By the way, the Packers haven’t committed an offensive turnover so far this year.
The safety position has been an area of concern for a while now, but Morgan Burnett’s performance on Sunday should give Packer fans some hope for a stronger secondary in the weeks to come.
Although Newton carved up 432 yards a week after Drew Brees went to town on Dom Capers 3-4 scheme, Burnett’s return to form couldn’t have come at a better time with Nick Collins being carted off on a stretcher.
Tramon Williams was sorely missed this week, and it was evident after the Panthers outplayed the Packers in ball possession 12:33 to 2:27 in the first quarter. But just when Charles Woodson looked in for a tough one, he came through with two interceptions, and the rest of the defense was able to keep Newton frustrated in the redzone on three separate occasions. You wouldn’t know it, but Jarret Bush posted six tackles on the day. Still, LaFell and Steve Smith’s sideline separation should be taken seriously.
Is it me, or does Clay Matthews still seem a little quiet? He was involved in several big plays in the end – much like in Week 1 – but it seems the Packers linebacker corp is missing that leadership right now (at least when it comes to stopping the run). As for sacks, Matthews and Desmond Bishop were the only two LB’s to bring Newton down. In the end, it was a tackle from Matthews that saved the day – but you’d expect that against a rookie quarterback.
Defensive Line: B-
I’m at loose ends when it comes to grading the defensive line. At times it has struggled immensely against the run, but when the Packers go into cliffhanger mode in the fourth quarter, the d-line is normally responsible for some solid pressure.
If anything, it’s nice to see the majority of the Packers lineman steer clear of penalties – although the same can’t be said for the offense.
Special Teams: C
Randall Cobb was disappointing this week, but it’s hard to expect a consistent week to week performance from the Packers return game. Realistically, Mason Crosby made up the grade for the special teams this week after kick returns were only good for 53-yards. In the end, Crosby’s three field goals more or less was the difference on the scoreboard.
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