While a good portion of preseason game #3 was devoted to personnel evaluation (read looking at young guys), the Packers still, by and large, played their starters for the first half. Since these are the players who will be determining the outcomes of games when they start counting, we'll begin with them.
One of area of concern involves the play of Chad Clifton. He was beaten for a pair of sacks and also had a holding penalty that brought back a touchdown. Dwight Freeney had the sacks, and he's a big- time rusher, but the flag came against John Chick, a backup defensive end, and it was a legit call. That's a bad day at the office for an offensive lineman, especially for a pass blocking left tackle, and Clifton admitted as much after the game.
Since Aaron Rodgers came out of it healthy, and it was "just" a preseason game, you could say case closed but the nagging concern is what if Clifton has hit the wall? He is 35 years old and has been playing with bad knees and who knows what else for years. It can happen fast. Freeney is a special rusher but that's what Clifton's hole card has always been - blocking special rushers. Usually, one of the first things to go is a blocker's knee bend, which is where a lot of his power and ability to anchor get their start. Clifton can still bend his knees, so that's encouraging. While he hasn't practiced a lot, he has practiced pretty well, and his play in the previous 2 games was fine. Probably just a bad night against a good player, but only time's going to tell on this one.
The Packers starting secondary is one of the strongest positions on the team but it sure didn't look that way against....Curtis Painter? The guy has a 42.4 QB rating going into the game and comes out of it with a 111 plus performance. Green Bay can match up with anybody physically, but it didn't look like its collective head was in Indianapolis last night. Case in point, Painter's 57 yard touchdown pass to a wide open Reggie Wayne. Sam Shields was playing zone, as he should have been, but Morgan Burnett was not. He's jumping an underneath route and that left Casper the Ghost playing deep. Nick Collins and Jarrett Bush also made some interesting decisions in reacting to balls in the air - just not a very sharp game mentally.
Moving to the young guys, the players who are fighting for roster spots, and the first name that comes to mind is Vic So'oto. He got a lot of reps against the Colts and made the most of them. The OLB scored a sack which caused a fumble that led to a field goal. So'oto also hustled downfield to strip another ball but the runner was ruled down by contact. Regardless, it was an excellent effort. Other than his sack, So'oto applied consistent pressure and played the run fairly well. He also showed up in practice last week. So'oto has got good size (6'3" 263) and strength, and he gets it. If you are an undrafted free agent, with plans of making the final roster, do exactly what you're coached to do and do it with all-out effort. So'oto's sack was the result of executing a move just the way Kevin Greene has been coaching it since camp began.For the second game in a row, Graham Harrell displayed some of the mystical "it" required to play quarterback in the NFL. With just over 4 minutes left in the game, Harrell throws a very ugly pass that's intercepted and returned 39 yards. One play later Indy has a 21-13 lead and the Packers are marching Harrell and the third string offense, which has done next to nothing, back on the field. If you were thinking game over, you had plenty of company, including yours truly. Harrell responds by leading the shock troops on an 11 play, 73 yard drive capped by a TD pass to Ryan Taylor. Then he hits Taylor again for the 2-pointer. After the onside kick was recovered, Harrell completes a pair of passes for 20 yards that put Mason Crosby in position for the game-winning field goal. Just 4 minutes out of a 60 minute game, but they said an awful lot about Graham Harrell.
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