Game Preview Notes: 21 Things You Don't Know

Aaron Rodgers and the Broncos' pass defense know about all about 100-passer-rating games. That doesn't mean Rodgers will pick apart the Broncos on Sunday, though. That and 20 more things you need to know in the best game preview you'll find anywhere.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has passer ratings of 100-plus in 11 of his last 14 games, including all three this season to give him a league-high rating of 120.9 this season.

Meanwhile, this week's opponent, the Denver Broncos, rank 30th in opponent passer rating at 106.8. They're the only team without an interception, and they're 26th with a completion percentage allowed of 67.7.

Then again, Denver's top three defenders are expected back — 2009 sacks king Elvis Dumervil, ageless cornerback Champ Bailey and the NFL's top tackler since 2004, D.J. Williams.

With Dumervil providing pressure and with Bailey in the secondary, Denver's pass defense should be better. Bailey, with 48 career interceptions, trails only Ed Reed (55) and Charles Woodson (49) among active players.

"They can't help but improve their defense," Rodgers said. "D.J. was their No. 1 tackler last year, Champ is in his 13th season, he's been doing it at a high level for a long time. Obviously, Dumervil is a difference maker off the edge."

Protecting Rodgers

In a drastic improvement over Rodgers' first three seasons as the starter, the Packers are tied for seventh in the NFL with five sacks allowed. However, they're in for a big challenge this week with left tackle Chad Clifton and fill-in right tackle Marshall Newhouse facing defensive end Dumervil and No. 2 overall pick Von Miller. Dumervil led the NFL in sacks with 17 in 2009, with Rodgers comparing him to the Colts' Robert Mathis. Miller led the nation with 17 sacks as a junior and added 10.5 as a senior for Mike Sherman's Texas A&M team. He has two sacks and two forced fumbles this season.

"They're good. They're good," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "We haven't seen as much of Dumervil because of the (shoulder) injury. Von Miller's got some dip in him, he can move — he can move. He's quick, he's explosive. It looks like he enjoys rushing the passer. He's made some impactful plays. He made a great play knocking the ball loose from (Matt) Hasselbeck the other day. He's very slippery. He's got really good bend, can get skinny and dip around an edge. You combine that with his athletic ability and his passion for the game, it's a pretty good combination. Dumervil is an established player and a very good player in his own right. It's a good combination, those guys."

First start

Newhouse held up well against Julius Peppers last week but allowed a sack to Henry Melton after a missing stunt. He'll need a big game while seeing plenty of Dumervil, Miller and 2009 first-round pick Robert Ayers.

"He's going to have to rely on his fundamentals," Philbin said. "There's going to be no magic in blocking. It doesn't matter who lines up across from him. You've got to trust your technique and fundamentals, and you've got to operate within the scheme. And you've got to trust your partner, the guy next to you, that he's going to do his job. All in all, when it really gets down to it, you've got to have faith and confidence in yourself and your preparation and stick to your fundamentals. If you rely on that to get yourself through a game, you've got a chance."

Turning turnovers into points

In each of the last three seasons, the Packers have ranked in the top five in points off of turnovers. Since Rodgers took over as quarterback, the Packers have scored a league-high 392 points off of takeaways, considerably ahead of Baltimore's 358.

The Packers have been on a roll at Lambeau Field, turning 17 of their last 19 takeaways into points. That's good news, because after scoring a touchdown off of the Saints' turnover in Week 1, Green Bay settled for three field goals on four takeaways against Carolina and punted and fumbled after turnovers at Chicago.

Denver is tied for 29th at minus-4 in turnovers while the the Packers are tied for fifth at plus-4.

Dominant on run D

The Packers rank No. 1 in the NFL with 55.0 rushing yards allowed per game. That figure was aided by 13 rushing yards yielded against Chicago — the fourth-best day in franchise history and the best since allowing 13 yards against Carolina on Dec. 12, 1999. Moreover, Green Bay ranks first in the league with 2.3 yards allowed on first-down carries.

Offensively, Denver ranks 28th in rushing, though getting Knowshon Moreno back from an injured hamstring will help. Moreno had 1,151 total yards and eight touchdowns last season and 1,160 total yards and nine touchdowns in 2009.

"They've got two good running backs that complement each other," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "Moreno's back and there's a reason why he was a No. 1 pick. He's got speed and elusiveness. (Willis) McGahee is more of their downhill, north-south runner. They've invested some high picks in their offensive line."

Going deep

Denver's Kyle Orton has played very much within the system under new coach John Fox. That means only a smattering of big plays through the air. Orton's tied for 22nd in the NFL with just seven completions of 20-plus yards.

"I would describe their offense as patient, efficient, the ability to mix the run and the pass, a controlled passing game," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "You don't see a lot of vertical production in their passing game, which leads you to believe this might be the week they try to go vertical. I think they've been patient and efficient as far as their game plan."

Orton has a big-play target with Brandon Lloyd, whose 18 receptions of 20-plus yards since the start of last season is tied with the Packers' Greg Jennings for second in the league behind Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace (21).

Lloyd's of London


Brandon Lloyd
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
Who on earth is Lloyd?

A fourth-round pick by the 49ers in 2004, he's the definition of a journeyman.

In his first seven seasons — with San Francisco, Washington, Chicago and Denver — he had a total of 15 touchdowns. Between 2006 and 2009, he caught 59 passes with just two touchdowns. In 2009, he finished with 117 receiving yards while being inactive for the first 14 games.

Last season, however, he led the NFL with 1,448 yards and added 11 touchdowns. That's the fourth-biggest single-season improvement in yardage in league history. Moreover, 93.55 percent of his receptions went for first downs. That's the third-best percentage in NFL history behind Henry Ellard in 1994 and 1996 with Washington.

This season, he's caught 10 passes for just 127 yards. He complained this week about not getting more downfield opportunities, which is perhaps why the Broncos' deep offense was on McCarthy's mind.

"He's attracting a lot of attention, there's no doubt about it and we haven't thrown that many shots," Orton said. "And sometimes just the flow of the game can cause that. It's tough to do that from second-and-long situations.

Final note on Matthews

On Friday, we wrote about Clay Matthews' dominating play despite having just one sack.

On Sunday, he'll face Orlando Franklin, the Broncos' second-round pick out of Miami. Franklin hasn't allowed a sack in three games, but at 6-foot-7, he had better stay low because Matthews has tormented tall tackles with his ability to get low and duck under the block. Of course, it's a good bet the Broncos will provide some help.

"We would anticipate that," Capers said. "I think they'll have different ways of dealing with Clay over there, like most people have. Those sack numbers don't concern me at all because that stuff all works itself out as long as you keep playing at a high level."

Red hot in red zone

The game will feature two of the NFL's best red zone quarterbacks. Rodgers leads all quarterbacks with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 61 to 2, or 30.5 touchdowns for each interception. Tom Brady is next with 23.38 touchdown per interception (187 to 8) and Denver's Orton is third with 18.33 touchdowns per interception (55 to 3).

Broncos blitz

— The Broncos are 1-2, with all three games decided by three points or less. So, maybe the lockout has hurt Fox as hard as anyone. "Everybody had to deal with it," he said during a conference call. "It's not so much the Xs and Os, that's part of it. I've seen teams be successful with five or six plays on offense, five or six defenses and five or six different schemes on special teams. It doesn't take you all those OTAs for the Xs and Os part. That's the biggest thing; getting to know your team and how they respond under pressure and pressure situations. Getting to know your players and their makeup has probably been the biggest detriment to the lockout for us."

— There's not many connections between the teams, but defensive end Jason Hunter played for the Packers from 2006 through 2008. His only career touchdown came in 2008.

"It was a fumble by the quarterback," Hunter told reporters ion Denver. "Kyle Orton fumbled it. He was playing with the Bears. The ball just slipped out of his hand. It was a slippery day. I ran it (54) yards. He might vaguely remember it. I won't even try mentioning it to him."

Matt Prater hasn't had a kickoff returned this season, going 13 for 13 on touchbacks. The new kickoff rule has helped, but he's second in the NFL over the last three-plus seasons with 80 touchbacks — just one behind Sebastian Janikowski. On a percentage basis, he's just ahead of Janikowski during that span at 35.4 percent.

"Sooner or later it's going to be windy and cold, all that stuff, and it'll be harder to get it in the end zone," Prater explained. "But I feel pretty good kicking everything so far, so as long as the weather permits, I think I'll have touchbacks all year."

— The Broncos own the best record in league history against defending Super Bowl champions, boasting a 15-10 mark. That includes a 5-6 mark on the road. That also includes Super Bowl XXXII, when Denver beat the Super Bowl XXXI winners 31-24.

— The Broncos are 399-366-10 and are looking to become the 10th franchise with 400 wins. Denver and Green Bay are two of four teams with three decades of 90-plus wins. The others are Miami and Pittsburgh.

History lessons

The Packers are 4-0-1 at home against Denver, with wins at Lambeau field in 1993, 1996 and 2003. All three of those were noteworthy.

In 1993, the Packers led 30-7 at halftime and hung on for a 30-27 victory against John Elway, who threw 59 passes. The win ended a three-game losing streak, and Green Bay snuck into the playoffs for the first time since the strike-shortened 1982 campaign.

In 1996, the Broncos sent their B team to Lambeau, with Bill Musgrave starting in place of Elway, and got crushed 41-6. The blowout helped the Packers clinch homefield advantage through the playoffs en route to the Super Bowl.

Maybe the most famous of all came in the 2003 finale. To get into the playoffs, the Packers needed to win — and they did, 30-3, as the Broncos again sent their B team and used nobodies Jarious Jackson and Danny Kanell at quarterback. They also needed the Vikings to lose to the woeful Cardinals, and they did. Arizona scored late, recovered the onside kick, then won on fourth-and-24 when Josh McCown hit Nate Poole for a 28-yard touchdown as time expired.

Extra points

— The Packers have won nine games in a row, dating to last season. That's their best stretch since winning the final eight games of 1996 to win the Super Bowl, then winning the 1997 opener.

— The Packers rank fifth in the offensive-happy NFL with 99 points. That's impressive but hardly the best start in team history. The 1996 team scored 115 points to jump-start their Super Bowl season, the 1945 club scored 102 points and the 1962 champions got out of the gates with 100 points.

— The Packers are allowing 3.54 points per opponent red zone possession, good for second in the league behind Carolina's 3.29.

Ryan Grant won't play because of a bruised kidney, but Grant (157 yards) and James Starks (147) are the only duo with to each have 145 rushing yards. "I don't like missing games," Grant said. "I missed 20 last year. I don't want to miss anymore. This is the first game that I've missed since I've been here … last year I missed the whole season, but that was because I couldn't walk, I had to have surgery. This is the first game that I'm going to be inactive, in that sense. I'm a competitor. Guys know, my teammates know, Aaron knows, all of those guys know I want to get out there. So, it's hard for me. And, as a back, I'll play with whatever, and I've played with whatever before in the past."

Jermichael Finley joined Keith Jackson as the only tight ends to have a three-touchdown game for the Packers. "More recently, when Antonio Gates was rolling," Fox said when asked to compare Finley to another tight end. "They've got tremendous size as well as athleticism. I'm not talking just straight-ahead speed, I'm talking about pure athleticism. He's a huge target in the red area. He's got all the skill-set and he's got a quarterback that can get him the ball."

— Hey, new guy: Newhouse will be the fifth right tackle to start next to Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton. Allen Barbre, Mark Tauscher, Daryn Colledge and Bryan Bulaga are the others. "Anytime you can play next to somebody for a while and build chemistry, it helps," Sitton said. "But, in this league, especially on this team, we know how it is with injuries. We've just got to adapt and play next to anybody. We might have to focus on communication a little more, but it is what it is."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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