It just goes to show you how deceiving statistics can be in the National Football League.
Run through the box score in the Green Bay Packers’ 38-28 victory Monday night over the Kansas City Chiefs and you’ll quickly notice that running back Jamaal Charles rushed for three touchdowns. Quarterback Alex Smith finally connected on a TD pass to one of his receivers, Jeremy Maclin, to end an 18-game drought in that department. Maclin wound up with eight catches for 141 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Travis Kelce snared six passes for 80 yards. Charles caught another seven for 33 yards.
To read the stats, you’d swear the Chiefs really put up a big fight in this game.
You’d be wrong.
This game was all but over midway through the third quarter, with the Packers in command, 31-7.
Going into this contest, the Packers had some reason for concern as safety Morgan Burnett was inactive with a calf injury. When he sat out Week 1 against the Bears, Matt Forte ran roughshod over the defense. With Burnett out once more, Micah Hyde stepped to fill the void and, for the most part, Green Bay’s secondary made plays when it had to, essentially stopping the Chiefs cold on third downs (KC converted only 2 of 10 third downs, just 20 percent) and made Charles work for every one of his 49 rushing yards.
One huge key to the secondary’s success was the tremendous pass rush Green Bay delivered up front, as coach Mike McCarthy pointed to the defense’s seven sacks.
“I remember a number of players that played big time,” said McCarthy. “Clay Matthews, Mike Daniels. The pressure from our front was what you’re looking for. We continue to fight, scratch and claw running the football and stopping the run because things like the pass rush, our passing game, those are the things we feel we do very well.”
Stopping the run without Burnett shaped up as a big task in preparing for the Chiefs.
“It was a big week and we practiced a lot (to fill in if Burnett was out of the lineup),” Hyde said. “We also used different player combinations in the preseason to prepare for this kind of situation. Morgan is a very important part of our defense but when he steps out we have to have the next man in. We do a good job of rotating and that’s what the coaches get us ready for. When one guy goes out you just have to step up. That’s what we did today.”
Hyde singled out two of his younger teammates, Damarious Randall and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, for special praise.
“Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Damarious Randall are ballplayers,” said Hyde. “That’s why they’re here – to make plays. They both showed it today. They both went out to make big plays, big hits. It was fun to watch them play.”
Clinton-Dix and Randall displayed an aggressive style, to say the least. With the Packers leading 38-14 in the fourth quarter, Smith pitched a short pass to Maclin over the middle at the Packers’ 9-yard line. Clinton Dix read the play all the way and arrived at the same time the ball reached Maclin, blasting him with a high shoulder tackle that smacked of good, old-fashioned football. Unfortunately for Clinton-Dix, the refs saw things differently. He was flagged for unnecessary roughness, which set up Charles’ 4-yard touchdown run on the next play.
“I thought it was a good play but the refs get paid to ref and I get paid to play,” said Clinton-Dix. “So you really can’t make any excuses about that. We’re just glad to be 3-0 and now it’s on to the next step. We got a win today and now it’s on to the next game.”
Randall also had a strong outing, blanketing and matching receivers step for step. He also lowered the boom with a ferocious hit on Charcandrick West later in the fourth period. As soon as West got his hands on a short screen pass from Smith, Randall had him in his sights and blasted him to the turf.
“We were up in a Cover-2 and I was just kind of playing the play,” Randall explained. “I saw the quarterback dump the ball into the flat and I just wanted to make a play on it.”
Understatement of the evening.
While Hyde didn’t make any eye-popping plays of his own, he was a steadying influence on his younger teammates and generally kept communications on track in the secondary. Veteran cornerback Sam Shields noticed that Hyde kept things running along smoothly when the game was actually on the line.
“Things happen like that,” said Shields, who also contributed a beautiful interception in the third stanza. “A vet like Morgan Burnett goes down (and) you have a Micah Hyde stepping in. He did a wonderful job and that’s what we need. Anytime a guy goes down, somebody has to step up. Micah did that and Chris Banjo as well came in and helped out. Also, Quentin Rollins and Damarius Randall came through for us. That’s what we need for the rest of this year.”
Certainly, they have no time to start feeling satisfied with Green Bay’s 3-0 start because McCarthy has other ideas.
“Well, 4-0 is the goal,” said McCarthy. “That’s a fast start in the first quarter. That’s what we’re looking for. We’re on a short week. We’ve got a football team that’s coming off a hard loss. We’re going out to their place, a West Coast trip, all those types of things. We’ve got to clean this game up and get on to the 49ers on Wednesday morning.”