12

December

Packers vs. Raiders: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 46-16 Win over Oakland

Photo courtesy of Green Bay Press-Gazette

Using five forced turnovers and a balanced offensive attack, the Green Bay Packers (13-0) raced out to a 34-0 lead over the Oakland Raiders (7-6) before finishing their 19th straight win overall, 46-16, Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. Fast start

This game, which some thought could be the one where the Packers would fall for the first time in 2011, was over within the first 20 or so minutes. Following an interception from D.J. Smith on the Raiders’ initial possession, Ryan Grant took the Packers’ first play from scrimmage 47 yards for a touchdown. The vision in the hole and burst at the second level reminded some of the running back that racked up consecutive 1,200-yard seasons from 2008-09. The Packers would score on their next four possessions to go up 31-0 with 7:06 left in the first half. Game, set and match. The rest of the game was played on cruise control.

2. Ground game gets going

After a stretch of games where he was either ineffective or invisible, Ryan Grant had his best game of 2011 on Sunday with 85 yards rushing and two scores on just 10 carries. While the interior of the Packers’ line and the Raiders’ 28th ranked run defense were important factors, it has to be encouraging this late in the year that Green Bay’s offense can run the football with some success.

On his long touchdown to kick off the game, Grant set up middle linebacker Rolando McClain to the right in the hole, then burst past the secondary to get into the end zone. It was classic Ryan Grant in both areas. John Kuhn also added 46 yards as the Packers ran for a 136 yards, a number that ties their season-high (San Diego). As the weather turns more winter-like in Wisconsin, the run game will increase in importance. Sunday was a confidence-building effort from that unit.

3. Takin’ it away

While the Packers’ defense gave up north of 350 yards again, this was far from a poor defensive performance. The majority of the yards came when the Raiders were down by four or more scores. The defense again made their living by causing turnovers, which they did a season-high five times. Four more interceptions give the Packers an NFL-leading 27 this season, and a third quarter fumble recovery from Erik Walden resulted in another defensive touchdown. Say what you want about that side of the ball, but this is the winning formula the Packers defense has created for themselves in 2011.

11

December

Packers vs. Raiders Preview: 5 Things to Watch

The Green Bay Packers (12-0) and Oakland Raiders (7-5) face off in Week 14 of the NFL season Sunday.

The basics 

When: 3:15 CST, Sunday, December 11, 2011.

Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI.

TV: CBS; Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee); Packers Radio Network; NFL Sunday Drive.

Series: Packers lead, 6-5 (Packers won last regular season game, 38-7, in Dec. 9, 2007 at Lambeau Field).

Five things to watch

1. Slow…Down

The Raiders’ speed, a feature their entire roster is built around, took a big hit on the offensive side when Oakland announced that Darren McFadden, Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Taiwan Jones would all miss Sunday’s game. In all fairness, these aren’t just your run-of-the-mill “fast guys,” either. You’d be hard-pressed to find a faster set of four players in the entire league. All but Jones were major contributors on offense, too.  Darius Heyward-Bey (4.25-second 40-yard dash) is healthy and should start at one receiver position, however.

Without several of their most important speed guys available, it will be interesting to see how the Raiders cope. They struggled last week in Miami.

2. Grounded

Even without McFadden in the lineup for the better part of two months, the Raiders running game has remained among the NFL’s elite. Oakland averages 140.1 rushing yards a game, which is good for fourth in the league. Backup running back Michael Bush has been a big reason why the Raiders’ running game hasn’t missed a beat since McFadden went out, as Bush has rushed for 548 yards and three scores over the Raiders’ last six games. A big back at 6-1, 245 pounds, Bush should be a major focus of Dom Capers’ defense on Sunday.

Big backs like Bush (think Mike Tolbert, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Jacobs) have had success against the Packers’ run defense this season. They’ll again be without leading tackler Desmond Bishop because of a calf strain, and rookie D.J. Smith will start in his place. Without Bishop and A.J. Hawk last week, the New York Giants ran for 100 yards on just 20 carries. While I’m not convinced that the Raiders can win the game solely on the ground, they can definitely control the pace with a strong showing from Bush and the running game.

 3. Another test