5 Quick Things: GB vs. DAL

After re-watching Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, here are five six things worth knowing:

1) It’s no coincidence that the offense finally came to life on an afternoon when Christian Watson gave the Packers a true No. 1 wide receiver for the first time all season. While the rookie from North Dakota State had some ugly moments – two drops and a poorly tracked deep ball – his four catches for 107 yards and three touchdowns, including two from long distance, kept the Cowboys’ defense honest and helped Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon combine for over 200 yards on the ground. If this was truly Watson’s coming out party; the offense might actually be fun to watch for the next seven games.

2) You know this game meant a lot to Aaron Rodgers because he was willing to play a supporting role. The reigning league MVP threw only 20 passes and allowed Jones and Dillon to literally carry the load. But when Rodgers did let it rip, his accuracy was the best it’s been all season. His two deep balls to Watson were things of beauty. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer is a very proud man who was obviously embarrassed by his terrible performance against the Lions a week earlier and didn’t want a repeat with his former head coach (Mike McCarthy) standing on the opposing sideline. If Rodgers plays this way going forward, the rejuvenated Packers might just be able to make the month of December interesting.

3) Rudy Ford was the defensive player of the game with a pair of interceptions in the first half that led to 14 points, but it’s fair to wonder if he would’ve still been on the bench had Eric Stokes not gotten hurt the week before. That injury provided clueless stubborn coordinator Joe Barry with an excuse to finally move struggling free safety Darnell Savage to the slot. Both positions were better on Sunday. In addition to the picks, Ford played extremely hard and made a few really nice tackles in the open field. As for Savage, he looked more comfortable lined up closer to receivers. And while his overall performance was far from great – he allowed five catches (on six targets) for 75 yards – it was somewhat encouraging.

The speedy Ford (#20) came from about 15 yards off the line of scrimmage to make this tackle, holding the running back to a 3-yard gain.

4) Jarran Reed had already proven himself to be worth the relatively small price ($3.25 million) general manager Brian Gutekunst paid for his services, but against the Cowboys, the veteran defensive end looked like the bargain of the year. The former Alabama star was physical at the point of attack and very disruptive as a pass rusher. His seven pressures were more than double his previous high this season. It was easily his most complete game as a Packer. On two of the game’s biggest defensive plays, Reed forced quarterback Zak Prescott to throw incomplete. He easily beat veteran left guard Connor McGovern both times, first on 3rd-and-9 in the middle of the fourth quarter and then on 4th-and-3 in overtime.

5) Green Bay’s defense continues to get gashed on the ground – Dallas rushed for over 150 yards minus Ezekiel Elliott on Sunday – and one of the biggest reasons has been the disappointing play of $18 million per year nose tackle Kenny Clark. The former UCLA star hasn’t looked like himself since September. Clark isn’t defeating double teams, and even more alarming; he’s not winning 1-on-1 matchups on a consistent basis. The Cowboys ran with great success between the tackles. Ironically, things would’ve been worse had it not been for third-string inside linebacker Isaiah McDuffie. The second-year player from Boston College made a couple of tackles that kept Tony Pollard from exploding into the secondary.

6) Speaking of bargains, Keisean Nixon had a very productive game against the Cowboys. Not only did he play a few snaps in the slot on defense, but he also returned five kicks and two punts and covered six kicks and four punts. Prior to Sunday, the former South Carolina star had never returned a punt in either college or the NFL. That’s how desperate the Packers were to replace Amari Rodgers, whose fumble in the third quarter led to a Dallas touchdown that broke a 14-14 tie. Whether Nixon retains that job going forward remains to be seen. While he handled his chances without any major problems, watching him catch one of the balls over his head inside the five-yard line had to give the coaches agita.

OVERALL: We won’t have to wait long to find out what this thrilling win actually meant. If the Packers beat Tennessee on Thursday night, it meant the team finally righted a ship that had been slowly sinking for weeks. If the Packers lose to Tennessee on Thursday night, it meant a mediocre at best team won a game at home, which happens all the time in the NFL. Either way, making the playoffs is still unlikely, thanks to those very disappointing losses to Washington and Detroit.


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Michael Rodney

Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for over 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2004. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey and covered the Philadelphia Eagles for WTXF-TV. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published, and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.

10 thoughts on “5 Quick Things: GB vs. DAL

  1. Imagine, running the ball and passing off of play action works ? The coaching staff finally realized what the fan base has known since July. If they had stuck with this in earlier games they’d be 6-3 right now.

    Who’s the genius that came up with the Squib kick on the kickoff ? Why not just forfeit 3 or 7 points and let our defense rest.

    This incompetence is only exceeded by the absolutely amateurish 2 minute drill we ran at games end. I think there’s 1:48 on the clock, two timeouts. We need about 35 yards for a FG try. Two up the gut, run the play clock down to 1 second and then let another 30 seconds run off. Pee Wee teams run better 2 minute drills. LaFleur needs to get his face out of that call sheet and COACH THE TEAM.

    I still see little to no drop off {outside of Gary and his pass rush} as backups replace injured starters on D. McDuffie plays with energy as do Nixon and Ford. Refreshing to see. McDuffie is waaaay better against the run than Walker.

    Savage’s attempt to strip Dak on 4th and 1 was incomprehensible. Barry tried sending him on blitzes. His first blitz yesterday he got stood up by a 210 pound RB even though Savage had a full head of steam. Next blitz he runs way wide of the RB to avoid ANY contact and runs 6 yards behind Prescott. To compound this, Barry blitzes on 3rd and 6 and Alexander plays 10 yds off his guy. Easy 1st down. Just cannot imagine a pro player and coach coming up with this. This is basic high school stuff.

    Wyatt has talent but it takes a little while for DL’s to figure it out. Once Wyatt does he has very good potential.

    Tennessee will run Henry about 50 times so I expect Barry to play 2 high to guard against the deep ball.

    One has to think if things keep progressing that Watson #1 , Doubs #2 and Toure a #3 or #4 might be pretty potent in the future. Long ways to go for that but there is definitely some hope.

    The OL came to play yesterday, I’m not sure I even heard Micah Parsons name called. Plus another 200 yds rushing against a very good defense. Just an excellent effort. LaFluer stuck with the run and the play action froze the Cowboys. I thought when the Pack went down 28-14 we’d see nothing but spread and playground but he stuck with the plan.

    If you want excellent film breakdown follow ex Packer Mike Wahle on Process2Perform on Youtube. He’s often joined by Ahman Green. Just terrific insight from these two.

  2. It was great to see what a true run-first game looks like- every time they flashed Rodgers’ passing stats in the 2nd half I was shocked by the low number of attempts.

    And Jones can definitely put this team on his back, so great to see him battle for an extra 3-4 yards or find invisible holes. I wish Dillon broke more tackles- he actually reminded me of Starks, two runners who, if they happen to break through the line, just put two arms on the ball and run straight ahead until taken down- good for ball security though.

    I feel so bad for Amari Rodgers but hopefully, finally, we never have to see him under a punt again. Nixon just makes play after play no matter where he is and whether that lasts into other years or is just pure energy and luck doesn’t matter right now. Same for Ford.

    Watson still looks shaky to me but here’s hoping something interesting comes out of the rest of the year. Maybe we can even reach that well-worn packers path of making the playoffs, maybe knocking out one pretender, then getting stomped by the eventual NFC champ, which causes all the pundits to wonder whether Rodgers is “clutch.” I guess it would have to be a 9-8 seven seed- but hope is eternal.

  3. it has been articulated elsewhere; however, the Alan Lazard “fake-a-block-and-run-a-sick-route” routine has been great to watch.. i do not recall anyone in the league who has done this as well as Lazard. it has tended to work later in games and often on 3rd or 4th-down and short.. when teams are expecting a run. this may be a new level of football subterfuge.

    i think that the Packers can make the playoffs with a 10-win season. they now own a potential tie-breaker v. the Cowboys. it looks like the Giants and Eagles are in for the NFC East; probably the Niners and Seahawks in the West. we need the Commanders and Cowboys to lose several games for the Packers to secure the 7th seed in the NFC.

    if it can be done, it would be great to get an early big lead v. the Titans. this could reduce Derrick Henry’s game significantly. without Henry, the Titans offense looks feeble. does the offense have more magic to create?

    just a “hindsight is 20-20” aside:
    without Rashan Gary for the rest of the season, wouldn’t it have been nice (to have been in the financial position) to have kept Zadarius Smith on the roster?

  4. It was great to see the Packers commit to the run, but the key to the success on offense was having, at least for one game, a true No. 1 WR. Regardless of how good the running game is, no offense is going to be consistently productive with Allen Lazard as its top WR.

  5. Who knows whether this team is any good, but it was just amazing to see Christian Watson look like a legit weapon as Treylon Burks, Skyy Moore, Alec Pierce, and George Pickens do basically nothing on Sunday. It was just one week but boy was that sweet. I’m looking forward to seeing what Burks does on Thursday. I know you were down on him, Michael, and so far your take seems right.

  6. The thing I notice most about Watson is he’s much better catching the ball with his head turned facing the line of scrimmage than tracking the ball over his shoulders. The 1 over his shoulder for the touchdown looked shaky as well, why don’t they use him more horizontally like they did on 2 of his touchdowns ( not many backs can stay with him). There’s more than 1 way to use his speed. Just an amateur talent scout from the Leland Glass days.

    1. Watson struggled tracking the ball in college. That, along with too many drops, is why I didn’t think he was worth what Gutekunst gave up for him. If he can improve in those two areas, he could be really good. But those are big ifs.

  7. Christian Watson’s coming out party could have occurred weeks ago had Aaron Rodgers forgone his silly “trust” issues and just thrown to his talented rookie WR. Wins will always trump stats and Rodgers denying Watson touches benefits no one. And in this case it contributed greatly to a 5 game skid. There’s a formula now the Packers can use to win games. Run the ball 55 to 60% of the time, take your shots down the field to Watson to keep the defense honest, and use Allen Lazard over the middle to move the chains. Essentially using Rodgers as a game manager. You could win a lot of games that way. The question remains will Aaron Rodgers stick to such a game plain? It’s not likely the further away we get from the Detroit game if success continues. He’ll want to do it his way. He’ll want to be the hero. Then we’re right back to square one. You get the impression that it was Christian Watson that was pushing back on Rodgers pointing the finger at the WR’s just last week. As Watson continues to emerge as a playmaker, it will be interesting to see how their dynamic plays out. I bet there’s tension between the two.

  8. I thought Savage was fine when he wasn’t asked to cover Lamb. That’s a matchup he’s never going to win. I still don’t get paying Alexander over $20M and not having him follow the other team’s best receiver. I know Barry has his reasons, but I’ve seen it done by plenty of DCs. I’m not sure this defense is nearly as talented as people like to think, but I’d love to see what a real DC could do with this group of players.

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