Front-Running Packers Display Killer Instinct

With an 11-game winning streak in which the average margin of victory has been 12.9 points, the Packers are closing in on some NFL history by turning games into three-quarter contests. It's a perfect marriage of aggressive play and coaching adjustments.

Do the Green Bay Packers have a killer instinct?

"What do you think?" was Ryan Grant's reply.

The answer is an overwhelming yes.

According to Scott Kacsmar of ColdHardFootballFacts.com, the Packers are closing in on some impressive history. Including the playoffs, the Packers enter Sunday's game against winless St. Louis with an 11-game winning streak. They didn't trail in any of those games in the fourth quarter. The Washington Redskins in 1942 and 1943 didn't trail in the fourth quarter during their 13-game winning streak.

"That's a new stat for me," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said on Friday.

The Packers are built for their front-running style. Offensively, coach Mike McCarthy likes to play with his "foot on the gas," to borrow one of his favorite phrases. Being ahead turns the opponent into a one-dimensional offense, which plays to Capers' favor.

During their 11-game winning streak, the Packers have won by an average of 12.9 points. Just once during the streak — the second game, a 10-3 win over Chicago in Week 17 of last season — were the Packers even tied in the fourth quarter. The tie didn't last long, with Aaron Rodgers' short touchdown pass to Donald Lee with 12:42 remaining in the game snapping a 3-3 stalemate.

The Packers weren't always great closers. The 2008 debacle had heads rolling. They gave away games in every way imaginable, going 0-7 in games decided by four points or less en route to a 6-10 finish.

"If you were betting on the Packers in the fourth quarter in 2008, you were going to lose," Grant said. "That was a mentality we wanted to change, and in 2009, we did that. For me, the turning point for us was that playoff game in 2009. Just seeing the character of this squad, I think Mike will tell you as well, in that game with how things went early on, for us to stay on track and guys just kept fighting. Unfortunately, we didn't win but I think we showed we were on the right track."

Right track, indeed.

During their six-game dash to the championship, the defense slammed the door on a 10-3 win over the Bears in Week 17, a 21-16 win over Philadelphia in the wild-card round, a 21-14 win over the Bears in the NFC Championship Game and a 31-26 win over Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.

It was the same story in Week 1 of the regular season, with a goal-line stand as time expired clinching a 42-34 victory over New Orleans.

Actually, it wasn't the same story, because the offense did its part. The Packers made it a two-score game when John Kuhn capped a 93-yard touchdown drive that gave Green Bay a 42-27 lead with 11:50 remaining. In Week 2, Morgan Burnett and Clay Matthews made back-to-back plays to keep Carolina out of the end zone, and a moment later, Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson for an 84-yard touchdown to give the Packers a commanding 30-16 lead. In Week 3 at Chicago, Rodgers' third touchdown pass of the game to Jermichael Finley made it 27-10 with 12:49 to go.

While six of the 11 games were decided by eight points or less, the other five were decided by 10, 11, 26, 27 and 28 points.

In the 45-17 victory over the Giants in Week 17, the Packers led by seven at halftime. In the 30-23 victory over the Panthers, Green Bay trailed 13-7 at halftime. In the 49-23 romp over Denver a couple weeks ago, the Packers scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to put away the Broncos. And last week at Atlanta, the Packers trailed 14-6 at halftime to win 25-14.

"It's got to say something that we're pretty good at making second-half adjustments," Rodgers said. "We haven't panicked. I want to say we haven't turned the ball over in the fourth quarter but that's not true. The defense has played great in the second half, that's the big thing."

With Rodgers boasting a 106.6 passer rating with 19 touchdowns and four interceptions when trailing since the start of the 2009 season, the Packers have rallied to win games. And with Rodgers and Capers applying knockout punches, they've taken leads and pulled away. That's no small feat, considering a record seven teams have rallied from 17-point deficits to win this season.

"When you're ahead, it gives you a comfort zone," Donald Driver said. "You still know that you've got to go out and make plays because anything can happen. As long as you've got time left on that clock, anything can happen, regardless if you have 4 minutes or 2 minutes or 30 seconds. You've got to have that mind-set that you want to go out there and score points."


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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.


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