*The story of the game, obviously, was the Packer defense. It was not only the best defensive performance of the year, but one of the best in a decade. Totally dominating. If this squad had played in Tampa last week we would have won by 50.
The tackling was good. The coverage was excellent. And the defense was opportunistic, as ever.
I think the key, though, was that the blitzes were both well-timed and well-executed. Tony Romo looked absolutely clueless all day. He had no idea who was coming and where they were coming from. And that, of course, is the entire point of the Pittsburgh style 3-4 defense. I didn’t see how well Brad Jones played, but I wonder if having him in coverage is an improvement over Aaron Kampman. (Still think the Packers should have moved him before the trade deadline.)
*Charles Woodson is unreal. As we complain about Ted Thompson’s unwillingness to get free agents, let’s remember that his acquisition of Woodson has to go down and one of the best free agency moves in the past five years. (Ryan Pickett was pretty darn good, too.)
*Ryan Grant seemed to run especially hard today. And while he doesn’t have the shiftiness that a lot of back do — or, say, even that Brother Andy does — he’s a strong straight-line guy and he can be tough to bring down.
*And while the offensive line had continued protection issues, they created some huge holes for Grant. He didn’t always make it through them, and sometimes he chose poorly, but there were running lanes for Grant today.
*Josh Sitton is very good. He’s not flashy — can guards be flashy? — but he’s solid and he seems very strong.
*Special teams was also good — or at least not awful. I must admit that after every Packer score I held my breath a bit assuming that the Cowboys would get a huge runback. That didn’t happen and it could have been the difference in the game.
Some other random observations:
*Horrible officiating — very lopsided officiating in the first quarter. On a screen to Marion Barber, Brad Jones was held badly by (68). Then, on an important third down, Greg Jennings was held badly by Mike Jenkins beyond five yards trying to get out of his break. (The hands to the face call on Jenkins could probably be called on about 50 percent of plays.) Later in the game, the refs called Al Harris for a very questionable face mask penalty — replays showed he got him on the helmet and didn’t actually grab the face mask. The previous third down play, Rodgers was sacked and was hit in the head by a stray hand. I don’t think refs should call that, but if they’re going to call Harris they need to call it on the cowboys, too. Terrible call in the early fourth quarter on Dallas. Illegal block in the back was clearly from the side. Cost them about 15 yards of field position. And then, of course, the refs blew the call on the Romo fumble when Felix Jones recovered.
*The Packers continue to play undisciplined. Spencer Havner’s late hit was inexcusable — Rodgers was five yards out of bounds when he threw his “block.” On Tramon Williams 18-yard punt return at the end of the half, Jarius Wynn hit a Cowboy well after the play was over. Could have easily been another 15-yarder. It’s almost pointless to even mention it. The Packers are going to be an undisciplined team as long as Mike McCarthy is the coach. Johnny Jolly could have had three roughing/unsportsmanlike penalties. He’s in an unbelievable moron.
*BJ Raji ought to do more than make one tackle before he starts soliciting applause. Play hard and shut up until you do it more than once.
*Chad Clifton seems to be holding when he doesn’t need to be. On several plays he wrapped his arm around a rusher — often DeMarcus Ware — when a nudge to the outside would have kept him from Rodgers. The wrap-around is one of the easiest calls for the refs to make. I can understand not wanting to allow Rodgers to get drilled. Preventing those kind of hits is smart. But just grabbing for the sake of grabbing is hurting the Packers.
*Interesting how out of touch Troy Aikman seemed today. He kept talking about how often the Packers run slant passes and screens. But to anyone who has been paying close attention to the Packers, the point to make is how few slants and screens the Packers have been running lately. It’s been striking, given just how often the Packers have relied on these plays in the past.
*I like Aikman as a color commentator. In fact, he would be a great third guy in the booth for Monday Night Football when Jon Gruden gets a job. (Or is fired — he’s incredibly annoying.) But why does he emphasize the GREEN in Green Bay? Hasn’t anyone ever told him that no one from Wisconsin says that? He’s em-PHA-sizing the wrong syl-LA-ble.
*At the beginning of the game, Rodgers did a good job of getting rid of the ball. As I watched on TV, it looked like he had internalized a sped-up rush clock. But by the middle of the second quarter, when he took a sack and fumbled, he was back to holding the ball way too long. That’s going to be a big problem for him until he corrects it. It may take an injury — I hope not.
*What kind of a play call was that at the end of the half? Short screen to Brandon Jackson? There are lots of times to run screens — that’s one one of them.
*One of Aaron Rodgers’ best plays came on a 2nd and 7, with just over 9 minutes to go in the third quarter. He calmly stepped up in the pocket, avoided the rush, and threw a ball at Greg Jennings’ feet. Incomplete. He was elusive and then quickly got rid of the ball. On the next play, he held the ball too long — must have been two whole seconds — and got sacked.
*When Mike Jenkins went down with an injury with about 5 minutes to go in the third quarter, the Packers should have gone after his replacement — Scandrick. Aikman said this. LeRoy Butler tweeted: “Whoever the new guy that comes in go deep on him next play.” Maybe the argument is that this is too obvious — after all two smart football guys and a fat blogger all had the same idea. But still seems like a good idea to me.
*Foolish challenge by McCarthy on the Jordy Nelson catch. Unless someone saw for certain that he was in before his knee was down — which wasn’t possible, since he wasn’t — he shouldn’t have challenged. The Packers had four downs to score from the 1. And losing not only cost him a time out but it was the Packers last challenge.
Overall, though, this was much better. Even though the Packers were undisciplined, it didn’t cost them. Some of that was luck. As I say, Johnny Jolly could have been flagged several more times. In other games, he will be — and it will hurt. But if the defense plays this way the rest of the year, the Packers could make the playoffs even with the protection problems.