Taking a closer look at the Green Bay Packers’ 38-20 victory over the Washington Redskins Sunday at Lambeau Field, a game in which the Packers did something they’d never done in franchise history:
Thumbs up: Aaron Rodgers downplayed his 480-yard passing game by saying that most of it came on yards after the catch by his receivers, and he wasn’t kidding. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Packers racked up 283 yards of YAC Sunday, or 59 percent of Rodgers’ passing yards. Those 283 YAC yards were the most by any National Football League team since the start of 2008 season.
James Jones, who finished with a career-high 178 receiving yards, gained 90 of those after the catch. Then came Randall Cobb (128 yards, 78 YAC), Jermichael Finley (65 yards, 59 YAC), James Starks (36 yards, 41 YAC), Jordy Nelson (66 yards, 10 YAC) and Andrew Quarless (7 yards, 5 YAC).
“I just saw the stat sheet now, and it’s amazing, it’s crazy,” Finley said. “All of them guys had an awesome game today.”
Thumbs down: Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather not only knocked Packers running back Eddie Lacy out of the game with a concussion and then knocked himself out with one of his own, but once he finally gathers his wits, he’ll find himself having absorbed a hit to the checkbook, too. Given Meriweather’s history – he incurred a $50,000 fine in 2010 for helmet-to-helmet hits while with New England – it’s a safe bet he’ll be fined and possibly suspended for his hits Sunday – neither of which he was penalized for.
Meriweather’s first hit came just 2 minutes 3 seconds into the game, when he launched at Lacy as Lacy was leaping through a hole at the end of a 10-yard gain. While Lacy initially got up from the helmet-to-helmet collision, he was wobbly and had medical staff by his side immediately.
Meriweather’s second hit came on Lacy’s replacement, Starks. As Starks broke into the open along the Packers sideline, Meriweather came in and collided with him, again with helmet-to-helmet contact. This time, it was Meriweather who bore the brunt of the hit, as he crumpled to the turf and appeared to have been knocked unconscious. He eventually sat up and was helped off the field and didn’t return.
“I didn’t know how bad he was first,” Starks said of Meriweather. “At first I was amped up, but after I saw that he was down, you don’t wish that on nobody’s life, so I kind of bowed my head and prayed to God that he was OK.”
While it was good to see Meriweather get up, the truth of the matter is that his lead-with-the-helmet style puts him – and his target – in harm’s way.
Asked about the hits, Packers coach Mike McCarthy replied, “I really didn’t have a clean look at the contact with him and Eddie, and the one on Starks, it looked like he got himself in a bad position. I don’t know what the outcome was. Hopefully he’s OK.”
Play of the day: On a day when there were great catches galore, and yards after the catch by the bushel, one play stood out. To start what would turn out to be the Packers’ fourth touchdown drive, Finley caught a pass to the left at the line of scrimmage – the Packers’ 40-yard line – and broke several tackles on his way to a 27-yard gain, all of them qualifying as YAC yardage. The catch epitomized the Packers receivers’ approach.
Finley, who was on the injury report with a toe injury and also left to get an IV because of cramps, finished with six catches for 65 yards and a TD, but Rodgers called that catch “unbelievable.”
“We were on,” Finley said of the offense as a whole. “We came out playing with a chip on our shoulder. We had a couple players that came out fast – James Jones, Cobby – and it was just amazing to see it. We’ve got to keep it going, though. We’ve got to keep it consistent.”
Player of the game: McCarthy and Rodgers were unaware of just how close the quarterback was to the franchise single-game record for passing yards, which made it all the more remarkable that Rodgers finished with exactly 480 yards passing after his final completion, a 14-yarder to Jones during the Packers’ final, clock-absorbing drive. While that was plenty for Rodgers to break his personal regular-season (408 vs. Denver in 2011) and overall (423 vs. Arizona in the 2009 NFC Playoffs), it left him tied for the single-game franchise record with Matt Flynn, who set the record in the 2011 regular-season finale when Rodgers served as de facto offensive coordinator for the first half.
“I don’t mind sharing that with an old buddy of mine, Matt Flynn,” Rodgers said. “I’m sure I’ll get a text later about that from him.”
McCarthy said he didn’t go to the pass after back-to-back Starks runs to start the drive because he wanted to get Rodgers, who completed 34 of 42 passes and threw four touchdown passes, the record. Rather, it was fullback John Kuhn’s hamstring injury that prompted McCarthy to go to the air, which led to Rodgers completing six straight passes for 79 yards during the drive.
“I don’t really (pay attention), and if I did know he had 480, I wouldn’t have known that was the exact number Matt Flynn had,” McCarthy said. “I’m not that in tune with the numbers. Once in a while, the PR department informs us of those things. That was not the case today.”
Inside the game: McCarthy likely would have had even more to say about the Packers snapping a 44-game regular-season streak without an individual 100-yard rusher, but some knucklehead interrupted him as he was answering a question about it. That said, what the coach did get to say was a doozy of an answer.
McCarthy, who has endured plenty of questions about his commitment – or lack thereof – to the run game, was asked what it meant for Starks to snap the streak with his 132-yard effort.
“If I didn't do a very good job the last 40-plus games illustrating that I really didn't care about it,” McCarthy replied, and he didn’t appear to be entirely kidding, “then I apologize.”
Starks actually had a 123-yard game in the 2010 NFL Playoffs in the Packers’ NFC Wild Card victory over Philadelphia, but McCarthy wasn’t really worried about any of those particulars. While he’d promised a more productive run game before the season, he made it clear – after the interruption – that he never has and never will give himself a predetermined number of running plays
“Really run and pass balance, in the past, you really paid close attention to it. Personally, it’s more about the things you’re able to stay in at the line of scrimmage, particularly clean plays,” McCarthy said. “When you’re in no-huddle, I’m not looking to try and hurry up and run it 10 times and throw it 10 times. It’s really with the ability we have at the quarterback position and particularly our perimeter, we don't get as caught up in it. But when the opportunity comes and the runner has clean looks, then we expect production and that’s what we had today.”
In case you missed it:
· As impressive as the Packers’ offensive output might have been – their 580 net yards were the second-most yards in team history – they didn’t start in dominant fashion, getting Rodgers sacked three times in a four-play span. After reaching the Redskins’ 9-yard line on first-and-goal, the line surrendered back-to-back sacks to Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who appeared to beat right tackle Don Barclay and center Evan Dietrich-Smith (on a stunt) on the successive plays. The Packers settled for a field goal on that drive, and then on the second play of the ensuing drive, tight end Andrew Quarless was left to block Brian Orakpo one-on-one, leading to a 12-yard sack. By unofficial count, Rodgers was hit on seven of his first eight dropbacks. The fourth sack came early in the fourth quarter when Rodgers said he wasn’t clear enough on a protection adjustment and cornerback Josh Wilson came unblocked for a 12-yard sack. “A couple of them we just got beat, one of them we missed protection adjustment there,” Rodgers said. “That was one of the frustrating ones because you see it on film and you look out, I knew that Wilson was coming both those times. Unfortunately I wasn’t on the same page with my back, probably should have done some over communication there. That’s one as a veteran quarterback you’re disappointed about but you still have to get some good production. We just got to clean some things up.”
· McCarthy admitted he let his foot “off the gas” after the team took a 31-0 lead, and after the defense was so dominant for the first 2 1/2 quarters, the Redskins were able to rally much like they did last week against Philadelphia on Monday night. “There was a point made at halftime, not taking away the production of the opponent, but that was the same game that they were in last week, so it was an emphasis for us,” McCarthy said. “We have to do a better job as a team putting teams away. That’s one of the things that we’ll learn from. We were still in control of the game in the second half, but that’s why you watch the video, that’s why you correct it and that’s why you hold each other accountable and you have a chance to get better as a team.”