4 Downs: Keep an eye on Perry hand injury
Every week I’ll share four observations the day after the Packers' game. Here they are after the Packers’ 21-13 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday:
First down: A big injury development to watch this week, assuming Aaron Rodgers (hamstring) and Clay Matthews (shoulder) come in Monday no worse for having played, is outside linebacker Nick Perry’s hand. Perry has been one of the Packers’ better defensive players this season even if his pass rushing suffered while Matthews was out. He tried to return from the injury to play a few snaps in the third quarter while wearing a huge club on his left hand, but didn’t last. If he can’t play through it in the season’s final month, it will cost the Packers their best edge setter in run defense and a guy who gets occasional pressure as a pass rusher. Though even if he can play, you have to wonder how effective he’ll be wearing a club. Perry, who will be a free agent in the offseason, never has been healthy enough to play every game in an NFL season. We’ll see if that streak continues.
Second down: Without having seen the game video yet, it looked like safety Morgan Burnett had one of his best games this season. It’s not just that he led the Packers in tackles (nine). He also made a few plays that caught the eye. Burnett had a pressure and hit on quarterback Brock Osweiler on a third down in the first quarter that ended one Texans’ drive. He also tackled tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz a yard short of a first down on a third-and-five in the second quarter. And of course there was his fumble recovery on the game’s first series.
Third down: One of defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ interesting decisions was to not match up with Houston’s best offensive weapon, receiver DeAndre Hopkins. If Sam Shields weren’t out for the season, you have to think Capers would have put him on Hopkins on most plays no matter where Hopkins lined up. Against Atlanta earlier this season, even with Shields and cornerback Damarious Randall out because of injuries, Capers matched LaDarius Gunter against Julio Jones and then gave him help over the top on most snaps. But Capers covered Hopkins with the cornerback on whatever side of the field he lined up. Maybe Capers didn’t think Gunter or Randall (who’s back from his injury) had any advantage over the other in covering Hopkins, and even Quinten Rollins ended up on him a time or two. Whatever the reason, it worked. Hopkins had only three catches on eight targets for 58 yards, so he wasn’t dominant in any way. He did catch a 44-yard TD late in the game when he found a hole in a deep zone along the sideline between Randall and safety Micah Hyde. But the Packers recovered the ensuing onside kick.
Fourth quarter: Don’t look now, but punter Jacob Schum appears to be settling in and might have a future with the team beyond this year. He had another solid game in the bad conditions of a game-long snow Sunday. He averaged 43 yards a punt with a 35.8-yard net and landed three of his five punts inside the 20 that were either fair caught, downed or went out of bounds at Houston’s 11, 11 and 12. That’s a good game on a day when bad conditions put a premium on field position.