Confident Packers Possess Air of Greatness

While the style of play the Packers bring to the football field has morphed over the past four decades, Len Pasquarelli says Vince Lombardi would be proud of the sense of greatness GM Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy have imbued in Green Bay.

Outside of Lambeau Field, a statue of the sainted Vince Lombardi stands as a silent sentry to the Mecca of Packerland, but also as a kind of graphic reminder of just how much the game has changed.

Those weren't your father's Green Bay Packers on Thursday night. And certainly not your grandfather's team, either. The legendary frozen tundra? It's more like an airport tarmac these days, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers serving as the air traffic controller, deftly directing the Packers' flight patterns.

"So many weapons," said New Orleans safety Roman Harper, shaking his head, after the Saints' defense had been strafed by the diverse Green Bay attack.

Actually, so many more weapons in 2011.

Good enough last season to have secured its first NFL championship since 1996, Green Bay may be significantly better this time around.

Rodgers' confidence seems to have grown noticeably since the Super Bowl XLV victory. Tight end Jermichael Finley, injured for all but five games in 2010, is whole again and creating all kinds of mismatch problems for secondaries. Second-round draft choice Randall Cobb, the former Kentucky standout about whom some wondered how he could fit in with the deep Green Bay receiving corps, is a tremendous playmaker. Wide receiver Greg Jennings has cemented his status as one of the game's great pass-catchers.

Sure, the defense surrendered more than 400 passing yards to Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, but it stood up when it had to.

One of the seminal moments of the Lombardi Era was the grainy video footage of the legendary coach diagramming the blocking assignments for the famed and feared "Packers Sweep." Green Bay didn't run many sweeps on Thursday night. Instead of stodgy, the Packers are sleek and streamlined. Green Bay doesn't so much tread on its opponents anymore so much as it does traipse through them.

In a long bygone era, the Packers set the pace, emanating toughness. In this latest evolution of the game, Green Bay might be the frontrunners as well, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

It was good, as well, to hear Rodgers in his postgame comments take a verbal swipe at those who criticized the Packers for not being among the legion teams who conducted player-organized practices during the lockouts. Ironically, the Saints were arguably the most publicized groups to have done so.

The outcome of the Thursday night contest aside, New Orleans figures to be a force, and certainly looked like a playoff team as well. Still, all those unofficial practices weren't enough to keep up with the Packers.

Credit general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarty for not only developing enviable depth but imbuing the Packers with a sense of greatness. And for completely comprehending the need to continually evolve.

More than four decades after he coached his last game in Green Bay, it would have made Lombardi proud.

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Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.

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