Though they were favored by ten whole points, the banged-up Packers faced anything but a walk in the park against the Browns. And while the game was much closer than the score would suggest, Green Bay’s fast-improving defense helped pull out a solid win at home. After giving up 27 points to the Bengals in Week 3, the defense has since allowed an average of 13 points per game without the services of Clay Matthews.
Sam Shields was nothing short of spectacular against Josh Gordon for four quarters, holding Cleveland’s star receiver to 21 yards on two catches. Equally impressive was third-year cornerback Davon House, who made two key pass breakups deep in Packers territory. With Casey Hayward expected to return from a hamstring injury next month and a host of young cornerbacks playing at a high level, one must think Tramon Williams’ days in Green Bay are numbered.
With all of the high-profile injuries on the roster, it has been easy to ignore that of Brad Jones, who has been one of the most underrated players for the Packers since transitioning to inside linebacker. And with Jones sidelined against the Browns, Jamari Lattimore made the starter’s absence as painless as possible, collecting nine tackles and helping limit the Cleveland offense to only 83 yards on the ground. In such a thin spot on the roster, Lattimore’s strong performance and all-around versatility is comforting.
Mike McCarthy could not have been pleased with how often his quarterback was forced to scramble versus a good – but not great – defense. With a makeshift wide receiver corps taking longer to get separation from defenders, the O-line simply must provide Aaron Rodgers with more time in the pocket. Just as troubling is the number of holding penalties that the unit has drawn since the season’s beginning.
Short on pass-catching options coming into the game, the one player that the Packers could not afford to lose was Jermichael Finley. Unfortunately for Green Bay, Finley suffered what looked to be a serious injury that could sideline him for the rest of the season. In their short time with Green Bay, tight ends Ryan Taylor and Andrew Quarless have shown next to nothing as receiving threats. However, with knowledge that 2013 would likely be Finley’s last season in Green Bay, the organization clearly has hopes of one of these names emerging by 2014.