In a 16-game schedule, moral victories are usually worthless or reserved for average to below-average teams. But, for this Packers team, Sunday’s performance was a moral victory.
The Packers were shorthanded (as they always seem to be) without Burnett and Hayward, and were starting a rookie LT and second-year, undrafted RT against arguably the best front-seven in football. Yet, despite a minus-2 turnover differential and a really poor day in the return game that left the offense in precarious starting field positions, the Packers held a lead at the halfway point of the 4th Quarter. They were just hanging ’round – alligator blood.
It was a resilient effort – which explains the moral victory. The Packers absolutely shut down the 49ers rushing offense, which was the 4th best last season. The front-seven played with tenacity and energy that has been sorely lacking in recent years. Claymaker was playing with reckless abandon (which ultimately proved costly with the late hit), Raji and Pickett were plugging the middle and making plays down the line, and Nick Perry was setting a hard edge. And I’d be remiss not to mention Jolly’s presence and solid play. It’s hard not to notice the energy he brings not only on the field, but also being a leader on the sideline.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers got nothing going in the run game – which, frankly, wasn’t all that shocking against that defense. But, I’d still call it a successful day for the young line. The biggest indicator of this is the fact that MM did not have to devote another blocker or two to help the young tackles. As a result, the offense was allowed to run their normal offense with multiple receivers sets and not worry about Rodgers getting blasted. And, let’s be honest, for the most part, Rodgers had time to make plays. With that being said, it was disappointing seeing that Sitton proved to be the biggest downfall at times – three penalties from him is unacceptable.
Ultimately, the downfall was our secondary – which, ironically enough, was hailed as our deepest position group coming out of the preseason. I’ll be the first to admit, this onslaught caught me off guard. Boldin is a nice player, but he’s not a 200-yard WR type. He absolutely killed us in the slot, abusing McMillian, Hyde, and Jennings. We simply did not have an answer.
Post-game comments suggest it could have been the result of our game plan to contain the read-option. Maybe. But, I think it had more to do with our inexperience in the back-end and he/them taking full advantage. The losses of Burnett and Hayward proved to be the difference. And unfortunately, both have hammy issues that seem to be the multiple-week variety.
So, the Packers start the season 0-1 again. But, Packers fans have to feel pretty good coming out of this loss. The Packers showed an intensity and resiliency that have been missing. A finesse team showed grit and toughness. And that bodes well going forward.