After Green Bay’s 30-24 victory over San Francisco, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:
Coach Mike McCarthy confirmed the worst Monday: Cornerback Al Harris (knee) and linebacker Aaron Kampman (knee) are lost for the season. With a day to think about it, you wonder if this traumatic turn of events has accelerated an expected personnel succession on the Packers defense. Neither player was an ideal fit for the team’s new 3-4 scheme. Kampman is a pending free agent and seems far more comfortable as a 4-3 defensive end. Harris’ contract runs through 2011, but he will turn 35 in December. Tramon Williams seems to be a natural fit to replace Harris. I’m not sure if the Packers have an internal replacement for Kampman, but for now they’re looking at the combination of rookie Brad Jones and veteran Brady Poppinga.
I don’t think you can minimize how rewarding it must be for the Packers offense to have run out the final 5:50 of the game after the 49ers closed within one score. Their defense was staggered and there was every reason to believe the 49ers would score again if they got the ball back. But after regaining possession, Green Bay converted three first downs and forced San Francisco to use its final two timeouts. Tailback Ryan Grant ran for 27 yards on the possession, including a 21-yarder that assured the Packers good field position if they had been forced to punt, and made an important statement that he can be relied on in the latter stages of games that have significant playoff implications.
Through all of Sunday’s posts, we barely mentioned receiver Greg Jennings’ first 100-yard day since Week 3 at St. Louis. More than half of his yardage came on a 64-yard catch-and-run-touchdown in the second quarter. Jennings credited his position in the slot and the Packers’ increased use of slant patterns in recent weeks, but he also pointed out the return of tight end Jermichael Finley’s from a knee injury. The Packers believe they are a different team with Finley’s inclusion in the route tree. Sunday, they targeted him on a team-high 10 passes. He caught seven of them for 54 yards.
And here is one question I’m still asking:
Will the Packers seek out emergency veteran replacements for Harris or Kampman? New Orleans has signed two veteran cornerbacks in the past week, Chris McAlister and Mike McKenzie. Another available veteran is Patrick Surtain. Otherwise, it’s pretty slim pickings. Anyone who can cover someone and is in decent shape isn’t going to be available this time of year. The same is true at the linebacker position. It’s possible the Packers will bring someone in, but he isn’t likely to be a difference-maker.