Upon Further Review: Packers vs. Broncos

For most of his 15-year NFL career, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has had to bail the Green Bay Packers out with some immaculate performance or miracle play.

That was not the case in Green Bay’s 27-16 win over Denver. We might be seeing a new era of Packers football.

Wearing blue and yellow throwback jerseys from the 1920s, the Packers’ defense set the tone with three turnovers and limited veteran quarterback Joe Flacco to dinking and dunking down the field. Besides allowing 5-foot-8 running back Phillip Lindsay to scamper for 130 total yards and two scores, it was nearly a perfect game for Mike Pettine’s unit.

Green Bay’s offense made the most of what was given to it, scoring twice immediately after a turnover. Rodgers threw for 235 yards and one score — an early 40-yard strike to wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

Aaron Jones found the end zone twice but only managed 19 yards on 10 carries. It was teammate Jamaal Williams that carried the freight in the running game, taking 12 carries for 59 yards.

Here’s a recap of Sunday’s game.

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PLAYER OF THE GAME

Three games in, linebacker Preston Smith is living up to the four-year, $52 million deal he signed as a free agent over the offseason. Smith had his biggest game yet Sunday. The 26-year-old tortured Flacco all afternoon, sacking him three times while also notching two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. All three sacks came in big moments. His first sack ended Denver’s opening drive in a three-and-out, the second sack resulted in a Flacco fumble and the final quarterback takedown was on a desperate fourth-and-17 with two minutes to play. Game over.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME

Let’s not forget about the other free-agent signee Smith. Za’Darius Smith also terrorized the Broncos for two sacks, three quarterback hurries and two tackles for loss. His first sack was crucial. Late in the second quarter, Denver faced a third-and-goal from the Packers’ 2-yard line. A touchdown would give the Broncos a 14-10 lead. Green Bay only rushed three guys on the play, but Smith beat two linemen and ripped Flacco to the ground for a big loss. The Broncos settled for a field goal and would never take a lead all afternoon.

THAT MOMENT

Behind by a touchdown, Denver had a bit of momentum on its first drive of the second half. It appeared Flacco connected with rookie tight end Noah Fant, the 20th overall pick in April, for a first down. But as Fant was falling to the ground, scrappy cornerback Jaire Alexander ripped the ball away from Fant’s chest and ran away with it. The review clearly showed Fant’s knee wasn’t down before the ball was stripped, so the Packers’ offense took over and scored a touchdown four plays later. Boom.

THIS NUMBER

Green Bay leads the NFL with a plus-six turnover differential. The Packers have now forced four fumbles and four interceptions while coughing up the ball twice (both fumbles). Only the lowly Miami Dolphins have a worse turnover differential (minus-six) than Denver (minus-five).

THEY SAID IT

“This is one of the cleanest games my jersey has ever looked. I took basically one shot; I hit the ground one time. I’m ecstatic. I’ve been at this for a long time. To go home with my body feeling this good is a credit to the offensive line.” – quarterback Aaron Rodgers

“It was the dog crawl, I was eating and then I got full.” – linebacker Za’Darius Smith on his sack celebration

“They’re a tough group. We can get after the passer; we can cover very well. … It’s good to be 3-0 and watching those guys get after the passer, knowing we don’t have to play against them.” – Rodgers on the defense

WHAT’S NEXT

Green Bay will play its second prime time game in four weeks when it lines up against the 1-2 Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night. Philadelphia has played in three tight games. The Eagles were in a great position to steal a win Sunday against Detroit when Malcolm Jenkins blocked a field-goal attempt with under two minutes to play, but Philadelphia’s offense stalled and lost 27-24.