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Game Review: A Solid Start In Shutout Win

It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was a pretty darn good start for the Packers’ top offensive and defensive units on Saturday night. The No. 1 offense scored touchdowns on both possessions Aaron Rodgers directed, and the No. 1 defense kept the Browns off the board as it unveiled the new 3-4 scheme in a 17-0 victory. - More Packers-Browns Game Center


It wasn't perfect by any means, but it was a pretty darn good start for the Packers' top offensive and defensive units on Saturday night.

The No. 1 offense scored touchdowns on both possessions quarterback Aaron Rodgers directed, and the No. 1 defense kept the Browns off the board as it unveiled the new 3-4 scheme in a 17-0 victory in front of 69,091 in the preseason opener at Lambeau Field.

"I thought as a whole for our football team, it was a good solid starting point," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "There were a lot of positives to come out of this game. And there are some negatives and we have to make sure we learn from that. The thing that I was most impressed with was the tempo that our team played with on both sides of the ball."

Statistically, the most startling numbers were two things the Packers would like to see carry over into the regular season - running the ball and stopping the run. Five different running backs combined to give Green Bay 230 rushing yards while the defense held Cleveland to just 59. That led to a domination in time of possession (39 minutes, 56 seconds to 20:04) that prevented the Browns from ever getting back into the game.

"As an offensive lineman, anytime you can put over 200 yards on the ground up, that's a very good feeling, absolutely," left tackle Chad Clifton said. "A lot of guys played well. The running backs ran extremely hard, and each group of O-line that went in there, they performed and busted their butt.

"The past couple of years we've kind of started off slow in the rushing category, so hopefully this year we'll just start running with it."

The night started in dramatic fashion for Green Bay, as Rodgers connected with wide receiver Donald Driver on a 53-yard touchdown pass less than 3 minutes into the contest. Facing third-and-10 on his own 47, Rodgers took a few steps up in the pocket as if he was about to scramble and then let fly with a deep ball. Initially, it was over Driver's wrong shoulder, but the veteran receiver spun around and hauled it in behind two Cleveland defenders for the quick score.

Rodgers' second drive was a little more difficult. He started with consecutive completions to tight end Jermichael Finley and wide receiver James Jones for a combined 20 yards. Then the Packers decided to go for it on fourth-and-5 from the Cleveland 37, and Rodgers' throw was incomplete, but Browns defensive back Corey Ivy was called for defensive holding, keeping the drive alive.

The Packers took advantage of the break, converting a third down with a 19-yard catch-and-run by tight end Donald Lee, and running back Ryan Grant took it the final 7 yards in two carries for another score and a 14-0 lead. Rodgers finished his night 5-of-10 for 102 yards and a score (119.6 rating), while Grant had six carries for 28 yards, with a long of 14, for a 4.7-yard average.

"I think it was a great start for us to be able to score on both of our possessions," Rodgers said. "I thought the line did a great job controlling the line of scrimmage the entire game. We ran the ball for 230 yards, and especially the first group, I had all day to throw. To be able to have three-plus seconds to throw the ball, you're going to be successful in those situations."

Meanwhile, the defense debuted the new 3-4 without allowing a point, beginning with the two series by the No. 1 unit. A breakdown on the back side led to a 29-yard run by Cleveland's Josh Cribbs on a reverse - a play that accounted for essentially half of Cleveland's total rushing output - moving the Browns into field-goal range. But when Phil Dawson made a 31-yard try, the Browns were called for holding, and Dawson missed the subsequent 41-yard attempt.

The top unit's second series was a swift three-and-out, with linebacker Aaron Kampman nearly causing an interception by hitting quarterback Derek Anderson and forcing a fluttering pass that eventually fell incomplete.

From there the defense, using a mixture of first- and second-unit players, took care of business with turnovers. On three straight possessions spanning the end of the first half and beginning of the second, the Packers snagged three interceptions. Cornerback Tramon Williams, safety Anthony Smith and linebacker Desmond Bishop got the picks, with Smith's coming in the end zone to thwart Cleveland's best scoring threat with 17 seconds left before intermission.

"These guys played big with the opportunities that were presented to them," McCarthy said. "With the turnovers, and to keep them out of the end zone, speaks volumes of your defense."

Before the end of the first half, backup quarterback Matt Flynn got the offense into scoring range twice but came up empty. A third-down sack pushed back Mason Crosby's field goal attempt to 60 yards, and the third-year kicker had enough distance but the ball hit the left upright.

Then on the next drive, a false start stalled another productive drive and led to a 55-yard try by Crosby, but this one was wide right. Flynn was an efficient 5-of-6 for 50 yards and a 101.4 rating and was helped by Brandon Jackson's eight carries for 41 yards.

{sportsad300}In the second half, third-string quarterback Brian Brohm overcame two interceptions on deflected passes to drive the offense into field-goal range in the fourth quarter. Tyrell Sutton and Kregg Lumpkin, who gave the backfield four runners with a long rush of at least 14 yards on the night, combined to rush for 61 yards on the drive, and Crosby's 45-yard boot made it 17-0.

For the game, Lumpkin added 48 yards on eight rushes while Sutton led the running back parade with 16 carries for 91 yards (5.7 avg.). Trying to make the team as a non-drafted rookie free agent from Northwestern, Sutton did his best to show he deserves the chance.

"A very instinctive football player," McCarthy said. "He's shown it college, he's shown it in practice and he went out and did it again under the lights tonight. He's very sharp with his reads. He's got a very good feel, especially in the zone schemes. I like the way he ran the ball, I like the way he bounced it outside and generated positive yardage when it didn't look like there was anything there."

The defense then capped the night with its fourth turnover, an interception by safety Charlie Peprah aided by one of Bishop's numerous pressures. From the Cleveland 30, Sutton ran the ball five more times to get it inside the 5, but McCarthy decided to take a knee with just over a minute to go and run out the clock.

"I've had some bad luck in the past with last plays of the half, last plays of the games, losing players to injury," McCarthy said. "That's why we took the victory stance and ended the game."

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