Free Head Exam: Green Bay Packers

After the Green Bay Packers’ 45-17 victory against the New York Giants, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. In discussing the explosion of the Packers’ passing game Sunday, I didn’t spend enough time noting how well the Packers protected quarterback Aaron Rodgers against the team that entered the game leading the NFL in sacks. Rodgers was sacked twice and hit on three other occasions in the course of 41 dropbacks. By most accounts, left tackle Chad Clifton controlled Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, and the Packers smartly rotated help to right tackle Bryan Bulaga, limiting pass rusher Justin Tuck to one sack. Tuck got decent penetration on a second-and-goal play in the third quarter, but on that occasion, Rodgers calmly stepped up in the pocket and found tight end Donald Lee for a key touchdown. "My initial reaction is that our guys did a nice job," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. By the way, Rodgers became only the second Packers quarterback to throw for at least 400 yards and four touchdowns in the same game. The other was Don Horn, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It was also the first time since 1953 that the Giants had allowed an opponent to do it.

  2. I’ll let Packers receiver Greg Jennings explain what is so fun and interesting about the rise of backup tailback John Kuhn in the Packers' offense: "The thing about John Kuhn is that when he [enters] the game, the fans know he’s getting the ball. The defense knows he’s getting the ball. And he never disappoints them." Indeed, Kuhn has been a nearly unstoppable conversion machine of late. Sunday, he touched the ball eight times. Six of them resulted in first downs and three went for touchdowns. In his past two games, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Kuhn has 11 first downs on 17 touches. He also made a smart move after an 8-yard scoring run in the second quarter, encouraging the Packers’ extra-point team to hurry onto the field because he thought his knee might have hit the ground before he crossed the plane. The Packers obliged, and the Giants missed an opportunity to challenge.

  3. Yes, you saw it right: Rodgers made an exaggerated "safe" sign after sliding at the end of a 15-yard run in the first quarter. His failure to do so two weeks ago, of course, played a role in his second concussion of the season. "I got a lot of texts the last two weeks from friends and family," Rodgers said. "Slide was the main subject there." Afterwards, Rodgers pointed at Dr. John Gray, one of the Packers' team physicians. Rodgers: "I basically was teasing Dr. Gray all week -- really the last couple of weeks -- because he's been talking about being smart outside of the pocket. So I slid and did the safe signal and pointed over at Dr. Gray that I was thinking about what he had told me."

And here is one issue I still don’t get:

Even after 16 weeks of the season, I'm not sure whether I trust Jordy Nelson or James Jones as the Packers' No. 3 receiver. Both have made huge plays this season, including Nelson's 80-yard touchdown reception to open Sunday's scoring. But both have also made huge mistakes that could ultimately make the difference in a playoff victory or loss. Sunday, Nelson fumbled while trying to extend for a first down, his third lost fumble of the season. And Jones dropped what would have been a long touchdown pass. They are both dynamic playmakers in their own right, but it would be nice to see them tighten down as the playoffs approach.