The Green Bay Packers improved their record to 3-0 on Sunday with a 27-16 win over the Denver Broncos at rainy Lambeau Field. The Packers defense led the way again with six sacks and three takeaways while Aaron Jones ran for a pair of touchdowns for Green Bay.
Here are 10 things we learned from the Packers win in Week 3:
1. The Defense Made Big Plays Consistently
The Packers defense continued to make big plays throughout the game. The Pack came up with six sacks and harried Joe Flacco consistently throughout the contest, forcing three turnovers. When you hurry the quarterback and take the ball away, it’s tough for offenses to be effective.
Preston Smith was credited with three sacks, Za’Darius Smith added two more and rookie first-round draft pick Rashan Gary was credited with the first sack of his NFL career and also came up with an important fumble recovery.
Jaire Alexander may have trouble catching interceptions, but he made a key play when he stole the ball from a Denver receiver after the catch to create a big turnover that changed the complexion of the game.
As of the conclusion of Sunday’s game, the Packers led the NFL in takeaways and that’s how defenses can win games in the modern, wide-open NFL.
The Packers big-play defense is by far the biggest reason they are 3-0 and it’s encouraging to see that after three weeks, the Pack has only allowed 35 points on the season.
2. The Offense Made Some Progress, But…
The Packers offense showed some improvement but remains a work in progress. Despite the short fields set up by the defense’s takeaways, the offense was again inconsistent overall.
For the second straight week the scripted plays worked early, and Green Bay scored on their first drive on a 40-yard bomb from Aaron Rodgers to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. But after that, it was hit and miss as the offense got by on a few big plays and the turnovers created by the defense that gave them a short field.
The Pack struggled to gain 312 yards of total offense and after three quarters, Rodgers had completed less than half of his passes.
The offense did not turn the ball over which is a big plus and had a few moments, but the Pack needs more from this unit if they hope to contend for the playoffs this season.
3. Jamaal Williams Showed What He Can Do
Jamaal Williams is not going to make too many “pretty” runs, but he is smart, consistent and determined player and his contributions were important today. Coach LaFleur said he wanted to get Williams more involved in the offense this week and we saw why. Williams led the Packers with 59 yards on 12 carries for a 4.9-yard average and added two receptions for 27 yards. Williams is a vital asset to the Packers even if he isn’t a human highlight reel.
4. Aaron Rodgers Is Still Not Comfortable in this Offense
We still haven’t seen vintage Aaron Rodgers yet this season. He is not yet fully comfortable in this offense and he continues to make inaccurate throws that are frustrating to watch.
This week, Rodgers had a lot more time to throw and was not sacked but he still wasn’t particularly accurate with the football.
On the plus side, Rodgers has yet to throw an interception this season and he’s gutting things out and doing enough to win the first three games. But right now, the Packers aren’t winning games because of Rodgers and the offense. That will have to change at some point as the schedule gets tougher.
5. Rashan Gary Showed Why He Was Drafted
Rookie Rashan Gary made some big plays for the Packers in this game. He recorded his first NFL sack and showed some great hustle to recover a fumble after a strip sack.
Gary finished the game with four total tackles and the sack. He showed the athletic ability, football smarts and hustle that made him the Packers top pick this fall. That is a good sign for the Packers and their defense.
6. JK Scott Continues to Shine
When your offense is inconsistent, having a strong punter is vitally important and JK Scott proved that again with another strong performance against Denver.
On a rainy day at Lambeau, the Alabama alum punted four times for a 53-yard average including a 66-yard boot that helped change the field position at a key time. Scott also placed three of his four punts inside the opponent’s 20.
You can make a strong case that Scott has been as important as any player on this roster through three games.
7. The Smiths Are Proving to Be Excellent Signings
Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith have both proved their worth so far this season. Preston was in on five total tackles and had three sacks while Za’Darius made three tackles and two sacks.
Za’Darius and Preston have helped improve this defense in so many ways. The consistent pressure coming off the edge allows Mike Pettine to dial up many more of the defensive calls he likes to use. The fact that the two new edge rushers can line up in several different positions also allows Pettine to disguise his defenses and helps keep opposing quarterbacks off balance.
The Smiths are doing more than just getting consistent pressure on opposing quarterback though. They have helped change the mind set of this defense. You can see the defensive players are having fun out there and have a positive attitude. There is no doubt that the newly acquired Smiths have had a large part in that change.
8. The Packers Safeties Played Well
Darnell Savage came up with a big interception that was confirmed on replay review and played another strong game. Adrian Amos was in on seven total tackles and also played well. The upgrade at safety over the past few years is very noticeable and has helped the defense’s overall performance.
9. Blake Martinez Was Everywhere
Inside linebacker Blake Martinez led the team with 12 total tackles including eight solo stops. He made some big hits out there and showed excellent anticipation blowing up plays in the flat for losses.
Martinez is a leader on this defense and his strong play in the middle keeps things grounded. The Packers need him to continue to play well.
10. The Offensive Line Did a Good Job of Protecting Rodgers
After struggling a bit against Chicago and Minnesota, the Packers offensive line did a solid job protecting the quarterback against Denver. The Broncos didn’t sack Rodgers once during the game and weren’t able to get too much pressure on him either.
Elgton Jenkins made his first start at left guard and did just fine. The duo of Bradley Chubb and Von Miller were not a major factor in this game and that is an encouraging sign for the Packers as they host the Eagles in a short week this Thursday.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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