Green Bay Packers finally find their top form : Packers Insider

Green Bay Packers finally find their top form

November 8, 2010 by  
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Nov 9, 2010 ~ by Bob McGinn, Journal Sentinel

~Green Bay — Two famed football franchises met in ideal weather conditions Sunday night at Lambeau Field.

The Green Bay Packers covered themselves with glory.

The Dallas Cowboys covered themselves with shame.

Turning in their finest overall performance since a 37-3 rout of Chicago on the same field in mid-November 2008, the Packers butchered the Cowboys, 45-7, to enhance their image as a bona fide Super Bowl contender.

“We played a complete football game tonight,” coach Mike McCarthy said after the Packers beat a final-eight playoff team from last season for the third week in a row. “You’ve got to play your best football in November and December, and we’re definitely headed in the right direction.”

Green Bay (6-3) remained one-half game ahead of Chicago (5-3) in the NFC North. The Packers are tied for third in the conference one-half game behind Atlanta and the New York, both 6-2.

“And we play both of them,” said center Scott Wells, referring to games against the Falcons (away, Nov. 28) and the Giants (home, Dec. 26).

Dallas lost for the fifth time in a row and slipped to 1-7, a rudderless team under embattled coach Wade Phillips that had nothing to turn to on offense and whose defense covered and tackled at an amateurish level.

“They’ve got some good character guys,” nose tackle B.J. Raji said. “But we knew if we got up on them early it’d be pretty hard.”

Once again, the Packers were without seven starters because of injury, and then lost an eighth, defensive end Ryan Pickett, to an ankle injury in the second quarter.

It made no difference. The Cowboys rushed for merely 39 yards and had just 140 in all until they tacked on 65 yards in garbage time to creep past 200.

“We’re very good,” Raji said, referring to a defense that ranked fourth in points allowed entering the weekend. “We’re one of the best in the league. We stop the run pretty well. Then it’s tough when a team becomes one-dimensional.”

Once the Packers stuffed the Cowboys’ ground game dead in its tracks, they were able to tee off on backup quarterback Jon Kitna, who started a second straight game for Tony Romo (broken collarbone). Kitna was sacked four times and seldom had time even to look downfield. His passer rating was 63.6.

“When you stop the run, we played an aggressive game tonight,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “We probably pressured as much as we had this year. These last three weeks have been a good stretch. We’ve bounced back and answered some questions.”

On offense, tackles Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga throttled outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, holding them without a sack or quarterback hit.

Another solid game from veteran left tackle Chad Clifton. Pro Bowl OLB DeMarcus Ware didn't get a sack on the night, and neither did the other OLB Anthony Spencer, who was usually blocked by rookie Bryan Bulaga

With the prime rushers neutralized, Aaron Rodgers could calmly make crisp decisions and throw with tempo. His rating was 131.5.

The Packers converted 10 of 15 third downs.

“The defense just swarmed all over them, and the offense just got into a rhythm,” McCarthy said. “I really like the way our run-pass ratio was tonight. Third down was the key. I thought Aaron played outstanding on when to come out of the pocket.”

Phillips said the Packers “whipped us about every way you could whip somebody. We haven’t been able to play man-to-man very well . . . when we play zone they hit us on everything.”

Using a ball-control offense to perfection, the Packers piled up 16 first downs and 256 yards for a 28-7 lead at halftime. The Packers held the ball six seconds short of 20 minutes and limited the Cowboys to one first down before the final two minutes and four in all.

The Packers converted three straight third downs to open the game before the Cowboys made one of their only good plays on defense when Rodgers was sacked for minus-12 on a slot blitz. Mason Crosby then booted a 54-yard field goal attempt that was blocked by nose tackle NT Jay Ratliff because of a protection problem on the left side, according to special-teams coach Shawn Slocum.

Later in the first quarter, Kitna tried to go deep to Miles Austin, but Sam Shields, the rookie nickel back, played it well and swiped the interception away with his left hand.

“As soon as he turned around the ball was there and he came down with it,” general manager Ted Thompson said. “Nice play.”

The Packers, who entered the game ranked 26th in third-down efficiency, converted two more on their next possession. On third and 6, Rodgers read a blitz and took off on a scramble inside that was worth 27 yards.

“He made a couple plays doing that,” said Thompson. “That’s a very aggressive team. I think they’re a very formidable bunch, especially that front. They’re tough to block. But I don’t necessarily like to see him run.”

The drive was capped on third and 2 when Brandon Jackson faked out linebacker Sean Lee on a check-down pass for a 9-yard touchdown pass.

More of the same occurred in the second quarter, with the Packers mounting sustained touchdown drives covering 80 and 93 yards.

The big plays on the 80-yard march were back-to-back passes to James Jones covering 22 and 31 yards. On the first, cornerback Mike Jenkins, in the midst of an awful season, simply fell down and let Jones get past him down the sideline. On the second, Jones beat veteran Terence Newman on a double move.

The 93-yard drive featured a 17-yard run by John Kuhn on third and 2 and a 33-yard pass to Jennings on third and 3 in which he beat Jenkins on a sideline go route. Jenkins was close to Jennings but never turned back for the ball, which was perfectly dropped over the top of him.

Jennings got the touchdown on an 8-yard in cut when Rodgers looked left and came back right. Free safety Alan Ball, who ended up matched on Jennings after he cleared linebacker Keith Brooking in the slot, had little chance because the ball was thrown so precisely.

“That’s a tough route,” Thompson said. “It’s one of those bam-bam deals. There’s not much window.”

On the ensuing kickoff, rookie Bryan McCann fumbled when stripped by Jarrett Bush, and Nick Collins recovered in midair, returning it 26 yards for a touchdown. McCann’s knee appeared to be down before the ball came out, but because coach Wade Phillips had wasted all three timeouts he was unable to challenge it.

As impressive as the offense was in the first half, the defense was just as good. The Cowboys obviously came in expecting to run, but two failed third-and-1s and an inability to protect forced them into a hitch-pass mode with little hope for success.

Full story from the great Bob McGinn HERE   (subscription required)

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