The Packers' 17-7 victory over the NFC-East-leading Dallas Cowboys couldn't have come at a better time. After heartbreaking (Vikings) and pathetic (Buccaneers) losses, the Pack needed to make a big move to save their season. With a win over the Cowboys, the Packers' record returns to a winning one (5-4), all thanks to an effective and blitz-happy performance on D.
The defense, which was responsible for five sacks and three turnovers, held the No. 3-ranked offense scoreless until 38 seconds left in the game. With veteran cornerback Charles Woodson in charge of takeaways and tackles, there's no question that defensive coordinator Dom Capers is out of the doghouse after the team's shoddy performance against the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. Woodson was responsible for two forced fumbles and an interception, and he was credited with a team-leading nine tackles. The Dallas offense was held to only three of 12 third-down plays, and Tony Romo's good looks couldn't keep the Packers' linebackers off his tight end. After five sacks, the all-star was forced to scramble to avoid the blitz, resulting in a season low 278 total yards on offense.
Aaron Rodgers awoke from the coma-like state he played in last week against the previously 0-7 Bucs. He went 25-of-36 for 189 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions, which is a drastic improvement from the game-high three interceptions he threw in Tampa the week before. It wasn't all positive on offense, however, as the offensive line still allowed four sacks on our battered but beloved quarterback. Over the course of the season Rodgers has now been sacked over forty times, a number that many websites are comically recording with the Aaron Rodgers Sack Tracker. According to this online tool, Rodgers is on track to be sacked 74 times this season, only 30 less than the NFL record held by the Eagles in 1986. Ouch. For some perspective, the Packers did not give up more than 40 sacks in any season during Brett Favre's 16 years with the team.
Equally problematic is the team's ever-present penalty problem. The team racked up 12 penalties on Sunday for 100 yards ... yes, that's right 100 yards. That's more yards than the Packers put up in the first half of the ill-fated game against the Vikings at Lambeau on November 1. Put simply, Coach Mike McCarthy has got to find a way to control his players. Sloppy mistakes like personal fouls and holding calls are crippling the team. And mental errors, like the multiple false start penalties (which are inexcusable for a team playing at home and able to actually hear their quarterback's snap count), have continuously put our offensive in difficult positions. Despite the penalties, the Packers played a good game and deserved to win. But we might not always be so fortunate.
With seven games to go, our hot and cold green and gold team needs to continue to win the big games. With matchups against respectable teams like the 49ers, the dwindling, but always challenging Chicago Bears, and highly ranked Pittsburgh Steelers, the remainder of the season will surely be an uphill battle. The Packers are now tied for fifth, along with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Atlanta Falcons and the New York Giants, in the race for six NFC playoff spots.
If the Packers can get healthy and figure out their offensive line, they are on course to stumble into the playoffs, where they could be a dangerous team. And if the playoffs aren't motivation enough, every Packers fan in the country would love to get another crack at Brett Favre and a chance to end the Minnesota Vikings fairytale (vomit) season.