Come out firing: It was probably no coincidence that the Green Bay Packers threw passes on their first seven plays from scrimmage. Surely, coach Mike McCarthy wanted to prove that their offense does not have to -- and will not -- change just because receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones were out with injuries. Aaron Rodgers completed five of his first seven passes, including a 26-yard completion to tight end Jermichael Finley to set up Finley’s touchdown catch on the first series, and a 15-yard completion to fill-in starter Jarrett Boykin on the second series before finally settling into a more balanced plan of runs and passes. McCarthy did not shy away from using his preferred three-receiver set package just because two of those three receivers were out. Boykin and rookie Myles White joined Jordy Nelson in that set. White played 47 of 71 snaps, Boykin played 69, and Nelson 66. So before asking how the Packers' offense might change if Finley can't come back anytime soon from the neck injury he suffered in the fourth quarter, think about how the Packers opened the game.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have shown they're not afraid to throw the ball no matter who is in their lineup catching passes.
Timely audible: Last week, offensive coordinator Tom Clements said Rodgers was nearly perfect on his decision-making when checking out of plays at the line of scrimmage. It looked like Rodgers hit on another audible in the first quarter. On third-and-5 from the Browns’ 22, the Packers were spread out in a three-receiver set and in the shotgun. Rodgers appeared to change to a running play, and Eddie Lacy found a huge hole for a 13-yard gain for a first down that set up a touchdown. When asked whether he changed the play at the line, Rodgers said: “Possibly, yes. Can’t give away all the secrets, but possibly, yes, that was.”
Pass-rush prowess: The loss of outside linebacker Clay Matthews has not significantly slowed down the pass rush. With three sacks and eight quarterback hits on Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden, the Packers have combined for eight sacks and 14 quarterback hits since Matthews had surgery on his broken thumb two weeks ago. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers might have had to dial up more blitzes, but so far he has been able to keep the pressure coming. And it has come from a variety of sources. A week after linebacker A.J. Hawk had three sacks, linebacker Jamari Lattimore recorded his first career sack. Part of it might have had to do with Weeden’s penchant for holding the ball too long, but the Packers also deserve credit for disrupting him.
House call: A week earlier, Davon House broke up three passes in the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens, but then saw his playing time as the third cornerback in the nickel package reduced to almost nil. On one of those breakups, he dropped what should have been an easy interception. Given another chance against the Browns, House delivered three more pass breakups, but this time he came up with his interception -- the first of his career -- and played 57 of 71 snaps. House continued to make a push for increased playing time even when nickel cornerback Casey Hayward returns from his preseason hamstring injury. The Packers’ depth in the secondary is impressive. A week after safety Jerron McMillian struggled in coverage against the Ravens, the Packers replaced him in the dime package with Hyde, who played 22 snaps on defense.