Play keep away with passable running and conservative passing, rough up the opposing team's receivers as much as you can to throw off their timing routes, try to play decent run defense, don't give up a big play on special teams. That seemed to be the idea yesterday afternoon in the Packers' 34-14 win over the Indianapolis Dolts, and, boy, did it get played close to perfection. Consider:
- The Packers held the ball for 34 minutes, and it would have been more had the offense not turned especially conservative in the fourth quarter.
- 35 rushing attempts, not for a great average, but nearly all those runs kept the clock moving and helped wear out the Indy defense.
- 21 incomplete passes thrown by Manning.
- Tons and tons of dump passes by A-Rodg, with only 7 incompletions, and only one stupid throw-- the forced pass to Jennings that was almost picked when Lee was wide open for at least a five-yard gain.
- Dozens of frustrated faces made by Peyton Manning, as he pissed and moaned about his receivers being held, interfered with, and illegally contacted. It only takes one game against the Colts, with all of these shots of Manning whining to the refs (Did you see him interrupt the ref calling the penalty? No other guy in the league would do that) to understand why fans of other AFC teams dislike him so much. In the words of the immortal Sean Connery: Suck it, Trebek.
- One lucky break on the Reggie Wayne tipped pass, then great presence to make the pick and wonderful creativity by Nick Collins in running it back for six. He's finally putting it all together this year, and, at last, showing why the coaching staff thought enough of him to give him LeRoy Butler's old number. If he keeps this up, it will be an absolute crime if he doesn't make the Pro Bowl. Go here and vote immediately.
- Then, with Manning and the Dolts offense pressing hard, Aaron Rouse making a heady, clean play to swoop in front of a desperate Anthony Gonzalez (who didn't come back for the pass because he was trying to back into the end zone), and race the ball back for a "game over" interception. A few moments later, my CBS feed switched to the Jets losing to Oakland in overtime. (No commentary about Favre's alleged Benedict Arnold act until the claims have been proven up.)
Huge kudos to McCarthy and the rest of the coaching staff for coming up with a fine game plan. Congratulations for the rest of the team, especially the defensive backfield, for pulling it off. There was little pass rush, but the coverage frustrated and discombobulated the Dolts so much, it often didn't matter. Will Blackmon, Trammon Williams (despite his three penalties), Charles Woodson, Collins and Rouse are the stars of this game.