Butler: Real Game, Real Packers


This is another reason why I tell people that if you go 1-3 or 0-4 in the preseason, it's not something that you need to be worried about. The preseason really doesn't have anything to do with the regular season, and the Packers proved that Monday night against Carolina.

Fans were nervous following the preseason, and starting the season with a tough opponent on the road. This goes to show that the Packers have some real pros on their team.

The game was dominated from the start by a group that I have to mention right off the bat, a group that is one of my favorite parts of this team, and a group that showed last night that they are one of the best in the league, and that's the offensive line.

The offensive line went against what is potentially the best defensive line in the NFL and dominated them. If they did that to one of the best defensive lines in the league, I would have to say that they are right up there for being the best offensive line in all of football.

The Packers linemen played very well. They are very big and very athletic and offensive line coach Larry Beightol has a blocking scheme that is sometimes hard for defenses to figure out. I don't think he always gets enough credit for coaching this group of five guys and getting this kind of performance out of them.

It's great to see an offensive line that doesn't care about stats, doesn't care about money, and doesn't care about any of that stuff. They just want to do their job and protect Brett Favre and open holes for Ahman Green.

Ahman Green got more carries than he's ever had in his career Monday night, and he's proven that he can carry the load. He overpowered tacklers and he has great vision. His touchdown catch was a thing of beauty. Ahman's been waiting to be unleashed all preseason, ready to carry this kind of load.

When you play on Monday night, you've got all day Sunday to watch what everybody else in the league does. Ahman saw LaDainian Tomlinson, Priest Holmes, Curtis Martin and everybody else get off to a good start, and he was eager to play. Monday night was a perfect example of why Ahman is one of the top three backs in the league.

Brett Favre statistically didn't have a wonderful game, but man was he efficient. He made some great throws. Donald Driver had a good game. He caught the passes, and then made guys miss to get extra yardage. Bubba Franks had a great game, both catching passes and blocking in the running game. The receivers did a great job of blocking on the night, including David Martin.

I think the offense is pretty much at the top of their game, and they looked about as good as you could expect them to look in the season opener. Scheme-wise and being able to score in the red zone, you really couldn't ask for much more.

The ability to score in the red zone is one of the reasons why the Packers' offense is one of the best in the league.

I think the play-calling was great Monday night. Offensive coordinator Tom Rossley did a lot of things that kept the Panthers' defense off balance. He called a number of perimeter runs, counter plays and bootlegs to get Brett on the move outside the pocket. I think Rossley did a great job of managing that game.

I think people have got to be excited about the defensive scheme that Bob Slowik brings. Once again, his defense confuses quarterbacks.

Jake Delhomme was confused by the fronts that he saw, he was confused by the blitzes the defense came with and he was also confused by the coverages. The good thing about it was, you can't really run the ball on a defense that is going to be so aggressive.

To hold the Panthers under 50 yards rushing as a team was very good. Not many teams have done that in recent memory. I think people were nervous about the defense being so aggressive, that it might open up a running game, but obviously that didn't happen.

The interception by Nick Barnett was a thing of beauty. When you hit a guy on earlier play and then he comes back and kind of short-arms the ball, that's the aggressive style coming out again. I think that play was the turning point of the game.

I think Michael Hawthorne proved to people that he can play when the real bullets are flying. He had a good game, even though I think that interception fell just out of his reach.

It seemed like Carolina's whole game plan was to stay away from Darren Sharper. He blitzed a few times, and they rolled away from him, but Mark Roman stepped up and made plays. He had a sack, and it looks like the Pack has finally found a replacement for the "Old Guy." Roman played great.

He got knocked out of the game when Hannibal Navies hit him and knocked the wind out of him, but he came back. That's what we call friendly fire. I was holding my breath while he was out, but it was good to see him back on the field so quickly.

I think the cornerbacks were very aggressive, very in-your-face. Al Harris showed why he got that new contract. Ahmad Carroll got a taste of an NFL offense game plan. The Panthers ran a wheel route - which is where two receivers go up the field and switch routes - and they scored a touchdown.

The game was out of reach at that point, so it didn't matter too much. You have to communicate and call out to each other if you're going to switch on that. That's a tough play for a veteran, and it's an even tougher play for a rookie who may not have seen that before, and definitely hasn't seen it at NFL speed.

If he can learn from that play, I think that taking his medicine like that will actually be good for Carroll as he progresses and learns this season.

On special teams, if you didn't see Robert Ferguson's one-hand take-down on the kickoff team, you missed a treat. He was running full speed and he grabs the returner with one hand and slings him down. He's just a monster on special teams.

Not many starting receivers can go out and play special teams the way he does. I think there could be a Pro Bowl berth coming his way on special teams because nobody is better on covering kickoffs than Robert Ferguson.

Overall, this was a great game to win to start the season. Going into the defending conference champion's stadium and dominating them like that gives you hope for great things to come. But just like Brett Favre has always said, 'You never get too high with a win, and never get too down on a loss.'

Don't look up until it's time. You keep kicking along and going one week at a time. I'm really proud of the Green and Gold for going down to Carolina and manhandling those guys.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is again providing exclusive analysis to Packers.com beginning with training camp and later with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays, followed by a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays during the preseason and regular season.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website, leroybutler36.com.*

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