Packers 42, Texans 24
Strategy: The Houston Texans are one of the most balanced offensive teams in the league, and they want to run the ball with Arian Foster then make you pay with play-action. But they fell behind early to the Packers and had to rely more on quick passes while taking a few deep shots down the field. On defense, they are reminiscent of the Dallas Cowboys in that they use a 3-4 base defense and their cornerbacks use bump-and-run coverage down the field. Against the Packers, they weren’t afraid to send five or six rushers after quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Personnel: With star inside linebacker Brian Cushing out for the season, Tim Dobbins assumed the vacant spot in the base defense. But more pressure is on Bradie James, who becomes the lone inside linebacker in the nickel. Defensive end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Brooks Reed are a very scary tandem on the left side of the defense. James Casey plays both tight end and fullback for them, and they got creative with their formations in their two tight-end personnel.
What went right: Houston's front seven was solid. The Texans only had two sacks, but that's because Rodgers did well in scrambling out of their grasp. They shut down the run, though they do look to be a little vulnerable up the middle with Cushing out. Andre Johnson looked like his old self with eight catches for 75 yards. This team is not built to play from behind, but they did a pretty good job of staying balanced and won the time of possession battle by five minutes.
What went wrong: The Texans came out throwing the ball at the start of the game and were never able to establish the run (Foster had 29 yards on 17 carries), which resulted in a lot of pressure on quarterback Matt Schaub. Usually a disciplined team, they took a bunch of costly penalties. The defense had trouble keeping up with Green Bay’s hurry-up offense at times. But really, the real problem in this one was that they went up against an angry Aaron Rodgers. The reigning MVP picked on their man coverage, which wasn’t that bad, with six touchdown passes.
Turning point: The Texans fell behind, 14-0, and were playing catch-up the whole game. But the Packers pulled away for good on the first drive of the second half. A leaping penalty on the Texans during a field goal try gave the Packers a new set of downs and a personal foul after a third-down stop gave them another. Finally, eight offensive plays after the Packers entered the red zone, Rodgers hit wideout Jordy Nelson for a touchdown pass that gave them a 28-10 lead.
X-factor: In just his second season, Watt might be the best interior pass rusher in the NFL. He leads the league with 9.5 sacks in six games and will be a handful for the right side of the Ravens offensive line, though all five linemen will have to worry about his stunts. The Packers couldn't block him as he recorded two sacks and put pressure on Rodgers on a few other plays.