While Spitz was relegated to backup duty following the first week of the season (partly due to a calf injury and partly due to the elevation of Junius Coston), Colledge has clung on to his spot at left guard. This week, McCarthy made it a point, though, to say that Colledge needs to play better.
The message got through.
Colledge, along with the rest of the Packers' offensive line, responded big-time on Sunday against the Vikings, spear-heading a 34-0 victory at Lambeau Field.
"It's a public business," said Colledge. "They pay us well to come in here and play football, and if you're not performing at the level they expect, the media and the coaches have every right to call a player out… I know every single week that if I'm not doing my job somebody behind me is going to try to do my job."
Sunday's blowout of the Vikings could go a long way in stabilizing the guard position for the Packers. Not only did the entire Packers' offensive line play its best game of the year, but Colledge and Spitz did more than just lend a hand to center Scott Wells in all but making one of the NFL's best defensive tackle tandems - Kevin Williams and Pat Williams – a non-factor. Kevin Williams had just four tackles and one quarterback hit, and Pat Williams had just two tackles. Vikings' backups Spencer Johnson and Fred Evans, who saw significant playing time, fared worse, not even posting one tackle.
The Vikings changed up their run defense, according to quarterback Brett Favre, from the first meeting with the Packers this year, which proved to be a big mistake. Coming into the game rated second best against the run (allowing just 70.4 yards per game), the Vikings let the Packers become the aggressor. Behind the hard-charging running of Ryan Grant, the Packers used a number of power running plays to control the game.
"I'm not used to seeing the ball run on our defense that way," said Vikings' head coach Brad Childress. "Generally what happens when someone is running the football is they are exerting their will on somebody and somebody is not exerting it back."
The Packers set the tone on offense on their first drive. Spitz made a nice trap block on a third-and-three to enable running back Vernand Morency to take a shovel pass for a first down, and later in the drive, he got his defender on the ground on Grant's 30-yard touchdown run behind a pulling Wells.
Grant rushed for 49 yards on the first drive leading to a 119-yard rushing day, the best individual total by a Packers' back this season. It also marked the first time this season the Vikings have given up a 100-yard rusher.
"Grant's doing a heck of a job hitting the holes and running," said Spitz.
Run-stuffer supreme Pat Williams went one-on-one with Wells for much of the game, but where Colledge and Spitz were most effective was sealing off interior defenders on misdirection plays and screen passes to the running backs.
They were a little less effective in the second level, especially considering the play of linebacker E.J. Henderson. Henderson had 11 tackles and a quarterback hit, on a play when he came free as a blitzer.
Colledge and Spitz know they still have room to improve, but both played a big part in limiting the Vikings' pass rush to merely a push. The Vikings were credited with just three quarterback hits and had no sacks. A fourth-quarter, 17-yard touchdown pass to Ruvell Martin was only made possible with great pass protection.
"They're an extremely, extremely talented group," said Spitz of the Vikings' defense. "Obviously you can tell by the statistics. It was a hard-fought battle today. Obviously I'm proud for the team."
As for his own play, Spitz took a step forward in gaining his starting spot back, even when Coston comes back totally healthy.
"You always have a point to prove. It's a ‘show-me' world in this business," he said. "You have to come in and play every single day."
Colledge moved out to right tackle in the fourth quarter after Mark Tauscher had to leave due to injury. Rookie Allen Barbre, who has also been in the practice rotation for a starting spot, took over for Colledge at left guard.
"I'm trying to get better," said Colledge. "I'm a young player and I've got a lot of stuff to work on. I'm by no means the player I want to be yet, so I'm going to keep doing that every single week. I'm going to go out this week and fight like my job's on the line, and try to improve, and try to find a way to help this team win more games."
Rouse adjusts to a starting role
Rookie safety Aaron Rouse, making his first career start, saw limited action come his way, but when he did, it was an eye-opening experience.
"The speed of the game was a lot quicker than I expected," he said. "It kind of caught me off guard a little bit. Other than that, I felt like I did great, communicating and getting my team on the same page."
Rouse, a big, hard-hitting player for his position, missed two tackles badly and was blocked well on a 50-yard pass play to Chester Taylor in the fourth quarter. On all three plays, the speed of the game - and two good backs in Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor - seemed to get him more than his technique.
Rouse whiffed in trying to take down Peterson on the Vikings' third offensive series of the game allowing the rookie to gain 11 yards and a first down. He also missed Taylor on a long run in the fourth quarter, though the Packers already had the game in hand, leading 27-0. Where Rouse played well was in pass coverage and communicating with his teammates. There were really no harmful big passing plays from the Vikings and no defensive breakdowns from the Packers.
Rouse primarily spent the game playing deep safety, away from the line of scrimmage in more of a read-and-react role. He nearly had an interception converging with cornerback Charles Woodson to break up a long pass intended for Aundrae Allison and also picked up a crossing route effectively on a third-and-10 to help lead to a Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila sack.
Fellow safety Atari Bigby played near the line more in run support to help stuff Peterson. The Vikings' star rookie, coming off an NFL record 296-yard rushing performance, was limited to just 45 yards on 11 carries before leaving the game with a knee injury. Rouse was in on the play that forced Peterson out of the game late in the third quarter. He was attempting to tackle Peterson high when Al Harris hit him low, injuring Peterson's knee.
"To get him out of the game like that, we definitely didn't want to hurt him, but to get him out of the game was definitely a plus for our team," said Rouse. "And our defense showed up, too."
Matt Tevsh is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.