October 15, 2012
The Green Bay Packers were swirling in their own filth entering a tough week six battle with the Houston Texans. Losing at home to start the season to the San Francisco 49ers wasn’t horrible, but it didn’t look pretty, either. Neither did losing to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football.
But it only got worse. True, the Seahawks didn’t really “win” that game, thanks to the now infamous “Toucherception” ruling, but the Packers gave up eight first-half sacks and arguably didn’t play well enough to win. And of course, there was last week, when they blew a 21-3 lead on the road against the Indianapolis Colts. Surely the 2-3 Packers wouldn’t stand a chance against the mighty 5-0 Houston Texans.
Actually, they did, and don’t call me Shirley.
Not only did the Packers come to play on the road against the unblemished Texans, but they ran Houston out of their own stadium. Aaron Rodgers was red-hot from the get-go en route to a 21-10 half-time lead, and eventual 42-24 thrashing.
Call it a statement game. Call it a comeback. Call it what you will; I call it the 2011 Packers returning to slap the 2012 Packers around and leave them dead in a ditch. Yes, I believe the ream we saw last night is the real version of the Green Bay Packers, and yes, I believe they’re here to stay.
Let’s take a look at the key notes we came away with from this “contest”:
1. Aaron Rodgers is Back, but He Never Went Away
Yes, A-Rod went crazy against a formerly elite Texans defense. In fact, his awesome six-touchdown day saw the Texans give up more touchdowns in one game than they had all season. That’ll hurt the ol’ pride, to be sure, but the stats weren’t the worst part; it was how effortless Rodgers made it look at times. You would have thought this was the expansion Texans, not a Houston team trying to talk about the Super Bowl.
But with all the hype coming out of this game about Rodgers storming back and getting back to his 2011 form, I can’t help but point people to the past two weeks, and really the season as a whole. Yes, the Packers haven’t been winning all of their games like they did for the most part a year ago, but this has still been the same Rodgers.
His offensive line is shaky, the matchups have been brutal, and Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley have both battled injuries, but this is still the same dude.
Seven touchdowns in his last two games entering week six tells me that. I was a believer entering this game, and now I’m standing from the mountain tops screaming in joy: Rodgers is still Rodgers, and the Packers are once again for real.
2. The Texans Miss Brian Cushing…Already
I know J.J. Watt is a beast (and we’ll get to him in a second), but middle linebacker Brian Cushing is somehow a vastly underrated part of the Houston Texans’ elite defense. Without him, it’s tougher to cover the middle of the field, and Houston’s run defense suffers. He may not make every single play, but if you watch the tape he’s one of the first guys to the ball, and he almost always get s a hit in.
Unfortunately, he’s lost for the season due to a torn acl he sustained a week ago, and it’s already showing. Green Bay didn’t really run the ball that well; mostly because they’re not good at it, but they otherwise operated as they pleased on offense.
I know it was a must-win game, but you can’t tell me the Packers strolled into Houston and wiped the floor with their vaunted defense, and Cushing’s absence had nothing to do with it. I can’t help but wonder if Cushing would have had a huge impact on this game had he been healthy.
3. Packers Run Defense Steps Up
We learned two things here: Green Bay can stop the run when they put their mind to it (even without B.J. Raji, mind you) and the Texans seem to implode when their ground attack isn’t on fire.
Green Bay allowed to short touchdown plunges by stud back Arian Foster, but otherwise contained him all night, giving up just 29 rushing yards on 17 carries. Not only did that mean an ineffective rushing attack, but it also killed Houston’s bid to run any play-action with success, and further hindered the development of the passing game throughout the night. Texans’ quarterback Matt Schaub ended the game with 232 yards due to playing catch up most of the night, but threw two interceptions and was constantly under pressure.
4. Jordy Nelson Returns
Almost as big as Aaron Rodgers’ huge night was the mammoth night by 2011 sensation, Jordy Nelson. Nelson scored 15 touchdowns last year and no one thought he’d come even close to that number this season. They looked to be right early in the year, as Nelson has just one score through his first five games. However, with three impressive touchdowns against Houston on MNF, Nelson now has 4 scores through six games, and is on pace for about 10 touchdowns. A far cry from 15 still, but getting 10+ for the second year in a row would be more than impressive and could vault him into “elite wide receiver” conversations.
5. No Swatt For J.J. Watt
Watt is a beast. Let’s get that out of the way right now. He impacts games in a variety of weighs due to his massive size and underrated speed and athleticism. He can bull-rush up the middle, use moves to the side, stuff the run, sack quarterbacks, or bat (or swat) passes down. He can do it all.
In fact, he did get two sacks on Rodgers in this game, and also racked up six tackles. However, Rodgers found ways to minimize his impact in the end, as the coined “J.J. Swatt” didn’t register a single pass deflection after getting several against the Jets the week prior.
Ultimately, this was an entertaining game that saw the Texans get humbled, and in several ways exposed. They really hadn’t had a true test yet on the road to a 5-0 record, and they failed miserably against their first one in Green Bay.
The Packers, on the other hand, got back to .500 and proved to people once again that they’re still playoff contenders, and should possibly still even be regarded as Super Bowl contenders.