Looking Super in All Phases

After struggling at times through the first eight games, the Packers have been thoroughly dominant. The defense leads the league in scoring, the offense has found its groove and the team is playing with winning fundamentals. It's a recipe for big, big things.

Before the season, the Green Bay Packers openly embraced talk of getting to the Super Bowl. And now, that talk doesn't seem like so much hot air.

The Packers have rebounded from a 3-3 start with a four-game winning streak. The first two wins were driven by the defense, and now the offense – a bit belatedly -- has gotten onboard. By throttling Dallas before the bye and Minnesota on Sunday after the bye, the Packers have outscored their last two opponents 76-10.

"I just told the defense, when they play like that, we're not going to get beat," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "The way we're playing on offense and the improvements that we've made, when they give up three points against a high-powered offense like that, there's no way with the kind of firepower that we have on offense that we're going to get beat."

Green Bay is following the time-tested way to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

Suffocating defense

How about this number: Over the last 199 minutes of game action, the Packers have allowed 10 points. Yes, 10 points. Total. None in the final 19 minutes in Round 1 against Minnesota, a shutout against the Jets, a touchdown against Dallas and a field goal on Sunday against the Vikings.

It's not just the scoring – though that's the key thing – nor is it the 12 turnovers forced during the last 13-plus quarters. What's impressive is how the defense has stood tall when faced with adversity. They did so by holding off Minnesota last month and beating the Jets with no help from its offense. On Sunday, the Vikings were driving to potentially tie the game at 10 when Tramon Williams made the play of the game by picking off a pass intended for Percy Harvin.

"I knew exactly what was going to happen. Exactly," Williams said. "I read the formation, read the No. 2 receiver (Visanthe Shiancoe) – he did an out route – so I knew the slant was coming. I was just playing off and not going too fast so he wouldn't throw it. When he threw it, I just broke on it."

Green Bay and Chicago are allowing a league-low 14.6 points per game. The Packers have given up four touchdowns in five road games, headed into next weekend's battle for NFC supremacy at Atlanta.

"We're just playing good, sound football," said Charles Woodson, who forced a turnover by stripping Toby Gerhart in the second quarter. "This game's about fundamentals and we've been pretty fundamentally sound, for the most part. On top of that, we've got a bunch of guys that just fly around and give it up on every play. You have those two things together, good things happen."

Productive offense

If there were any doubts about the Packers after putting 45 points on the board against a Dallas team that had quit playing for then-coach Wade Phillips, there are no doubts anymore. After gaining merely 12 yards and a first down on their first three possessions against a still-formidable Vikings defense, the Packers posted a field goal and three consecutive touchdowns spanning the second and third quarters.

Rodgers completed 22-of-31 passes for 301 yards, with four touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 141.3. It was Rodgers' first 300-yard game since the loss to Miami on Oct. 17, his most touchdowns this season and a season-high passer rating. Greg Jennings was the beneficiary, with seven catches, 152 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. His juggling, 47-yard catch set up the Packers' first score and ignited the offense.

The Packers showed no mercy, just like the Steelers and Cardinals showed no mercy against the Packers' secondary last season. Minnesota has an elite cornerback in Antoine Winfield, but he can't cover everybody. The Packers continually went after rookie cornerback Chris Cook, and when he was benched at halftime, they turned the focus to second-year corner Asher Allen.

"We knew that if Winfield played us in the slot, the outside guys were going to be able to take care of business," said Donald Driver, who caught four passes after sitting out against Dallas because of an injured quad. "Our guys played well: Greg and James (Jones) and Jordy (Nelson). We have a great receiving group and those guys can make plays on anyone, and they took advantage of those guys. That's what you do. You want to put your not-so-talented guys out there to cover our guys, then our guys will hurt you. We say that week in and week out that we've got the best receiving group in the league."

Opportunistic and fundamentally sound

It seems like a lifetime ago when the Packers were penalized on seemingly every play at Chicago in Week 3. The Packers have eliminated those mental errors, and on Sunday they were flagged just once for defensive offside.

"Really? That's pretty damn good," guard Josh Sitton said about the offense not earning a single flag despite the crowd noise. "Coach talked about penalties yesterday and spoke on how we've been playing pretty disciplined the last few games and he made an emphasis for us to keep playing disciplined. I guess we did."

On Friday, coach Mike McCarthy said his goal was for the team to finish at least-plus 10 in turnovers. Well, they're plus-12 in the last three-and-a-half games alone, with the offense not giving it away once since the first half of the first Minnesota game.

"The big thing, if you look at the last three weeks from our standpoint, we haven't turned the ball over," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "You don't have any penalties. You're getting the ball 12 times or whatever, if you've got some good players, you've got a chance to get the ball into the end zone."

Put it all together, and the Packers are flying high into next weekend's game at Atlanta. The Falcons are the only team in the NFC with two losses. If the Packers continue their all-around strong play, they'll be right in the thick of the race to earn homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

"We're 7-3 and that's the facts," McCarthy said. "We're a good football team, we always knew we were a good football team. You know, we've got our foot on the gas, hands on the wheel we're looking straight ahead. So, that's what you have to do in November. This is the best time of year for football. November football is critical because it gets you into December when it counts."

At this rate, the Packers are going to play a lot of games that count.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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