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Game Observations: Packers smoke Panthers

The Green Bay Packers easily outpaced the Carolina Panthers in Lambeau Field on Sunday, winning 38-17.  The game was not as close as that 21-point margin of victory, as the Packers jumped out to lead 28-0 at halftime.  Here are my thoughts on the game.

What I liked: Everything

The Packers won this game with absolute ease, and were better than the Panthers in all facets of the game.  Aaron Rodgers played suburb football before sitting out the fourth quarter.  His final stat line of 19 for 22 for 255 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions, continues Rodgers’s very efficient 2014 season.  He should move ahead of Philip Rivers to lead the league in quarterback rating.  Rodgers also ran the ball 3 times for 21 yards, two for first downs.  He wisely, and safely, used his feet to enhance the Packers’ chances of victory.

Rodgers would not have been able to perform so well without excellent play from the Packers’ offensive line.  He was sacked twice, once when tight end Andrew Quarless proved unable to handle defensive end Charles Johnson, and later in the game on a play where Rodgers had plenty of time to throw the ball.  He was hit just two other times, and had a nice pocket to work from all day.  The Panthers did little to confuse or otherwise beat the line, and paid.

Jordy Nelson (4 receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown) and Randall Cobb (6 receptions, 121 yards, and one touchdown) continued their strong play, and rookie Davante Adams also caught another touchdown pass.  Eddie Lacy had a fine day, but ran only 12 times.  He was able to gain 63 yards and score.  Lacy split time with fellow running back James Starks, who also scored and also was able to average over five yards per carry.

Defensively, the Packers line and outside linebackers caused Carolina trouble all day.  Clay Matthews was everywhere, getting credit for just half a sack, but creating another and generally disrupting play.  He also consistently played the read-option correctly, which is not always the case for Matthews.  Julius Peppers had 1.5 sacks of his own, and Nick Perry also had a sack, and arguably should have been credited with half of Julius Peppers’s fully-credited effort.  The Packers had six total tackles for a loss and hit Cam Newton another four times.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Newton was erratic all day.  Cornerback Casey Hayward was able to take advantage of one Newton misfire, and had an interception for a second straight game.  Tramon Williams and Davon House each saw time opposite rookie Panther wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, and held him to 3 catches for 61 yards.  Benjamin was able to use his size to muscle Williams aside and catch a touchdown pass, but on the whole corner play was very good.  Safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Sean Richardson each played well against the run.  Morgan Burnett was solid at the back.

What Concerned Me

Not much.  Picking nits, the Packers middle linebackers were poor in coverage, a long-term issue.  They were not alone in being responsible for Greg Olsen’s big day (8 catches for 105 yards), but they do have their share of blame.  On the other side of the ball, not only was Quarless beat for a sack, but he caught just one pass.  Rookie Richard Rodgers and fellow tight end Brandon Bostic also caught a ball a piece, but Rodgers played a dubious role in an incident that sent off Panther linebacker Luke Kuechly, and Bostic had a bad drop.  The tight ends for Green Bay have been very limited this year.

Final Thoughts

The Packers improve to 5-2 on the season, and travel to New Orleans next week.  After that, the Packer enjoy a bye week.  They are very well positioned for a run at the playoffs, and continue to go head-to-head with the Lions for the division lead.  The offense played as well as it has all year, and the defense has been quietly improving after starting off poorly, especially against the run.  There is a lot of room for improvement, but Green Bay appears to be finding its stride.