Brett Favre and the offense started off a little shaky, but settled down after the first drive. Favre played very well. Any questions about his ability were answered Saturday night. He was accurate, used all of his weapons and capitalized on third down. He even made some blocks. The play calling was pretty decent. The Packers were never dominant in the run game but they kept doing it, which is good. Too often in the past, the Packers would run the ball with limited results and abandon it as a tactic. The team and its fans better hope Ahman Green comes back in good form, otherwise the running game could be mediocre at best. They used a lot of max protection to give Favre time to make the reads and complete passes. Donald Driver had a good game with seven catches and a nifty trick play that went for 19 yards. Greg Jennings had a breakout game.
The offensive line did what it had to do and even though the rushing game was underwhelming, it was there when the Packers needed it.
In the first half, the Pack passed 20 times and ran it 15 more. A 58-42 ratio of run to pass is not ideal, but it is not scandalous, especially when the quarterback completes 75% of his passes, is 71% on third down conversions, and does not get sacked. If Favre can play like he did Saturday night, the Packers have a chance to play with most people.
More than anything else, they caused turnovers, three of them to be exact. The Packers committed one turnover, so they had a plus-2 turnover ratio which was a rare event last year. Green Bay was near the bottom in both take-aways and turnover margin last year, so anything positive is welcomed.
One of the turnovers, an interception, was returned for a TD by Jason Horton. Another pick by rookie Johnny Jolly set the Packer offense up at the Falcons 12 yard line and led to a touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Zac Alcorn. Even though some of the turnovers were later in the game when the second teamers were in, it is a positive, because turnovers are created as much by attitude and effort as they are by ability.
The Packers did a good job tackling and about the only negative I saw was that the first team did not get much pressure on Mike Vick.
Dave Rayner, who is now the only kicker on the roster, distinguished himself well. He had a 30-yard field goal and made all five of his extra point tries. None of that is all that spectacular or unexpected, he should accomplish that. What I did like is that almost every one of his kickoffs (five of six) went into the end zone. Field position so important in football and if Rayner can get it to the end zone consistently that would be great.
The Packers probably won't have to pick up another kicker as camp goes on, if Rayner can do what he did on Saturday night and every game day.
The punters had an uneventful night, only kicking three times. B.J. Sander had a 61 yarder, but it rolled into the end zone. He hit his other one only 32 yards, but it had decent hang time. Jon Ryan fumbled his punt attempt, but still got it off. His one punt traveled 42 yards. Nothing special in this group. I could easily see Green Bay picking up another punter, if they see one they like on the free agent market.
I was happy to see the Packers play so well throughout the game, in all facets. The Falcons are expected to be good and even though preseason is not always a good measurement of what to expect from a team, a good performance is always better than a poor showing. Next week will probably not give this team any better indication of where it stands. Cincy QB Carson Palmer is questionable for the game. Anthony Wright, Palmer's back up, will not test the defense like Palmer could when he is healthy.
The Packers should gain confidence with their victory against Atlanta. With the Bengals not at full strength and the last preseason game against the Titans always a throwaway, the Packers could live off Saturday night's game and it will carry them a long way. Assuming they do not get blasted in either of those games, the victory could be an important moment for a rookie coach and a young team.
Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at email@example.com.