Game Preview Notes: 21 Things You Don't Know

After a down period under Mike Sherman, the Lambeau Field mystique has returned since the Packers lost at home to Minnesota in 2009. That and 20 more items in the best game preview you'll find anywhere. Not a subscriber? Take our free one-week test drive to see what you're missing.

For the final few years of the Mike Sherman-Brett Favre era, the Lambeau Field mystique had lost its magic.

In 2003, the Packers went 5-3 at Lambeau. In 2004, they started 0-3 at home but rebounded to finish 4-4. And in 2005, the Packers dropped four of their first five at home and finished 3-5.

Coach Mike McCarthy replaced Sherman in 2006, but the early returns weren't any good, either. The McCarthy era started with a thud, with back-to-back home losses to Chicago and New Orleans. After a two-game road trip, the Packers returned home but lost to the Rams. Finally, in McCarthy's fourth game at home, Ahman Green and Vernand Morency each rushed for 100 yards as the Packers beat the woeful Cardinals 31-14.

Now, the Packers are on the best home roll in the league. Green Bay enters Monday night's game against Minnesota with an eight-game home winning streak and is 14-1 at Lambeau since losing to the Vikings on Nov. 1, 2009. Only the Patriots can match the Packers' success at home over the last 15 games.

Moreover, McCarthy is 12-3 in division home games since taking over in 2006. Only Indianapolis (13-2), New England (13-3) and San Diego (13-3) have been better at home against division rivals.

"You really should at home, especially when you play in the environment that we play here in Lambeau Field," McCarthy said. "We have a great homefield advantage created by our fans and our whole stadium environment. So, didn't get off to good start my first year in 06. Frankly, we got better as a team as we moved forward. It's a big emphasis. Those are games we really enjoy playing in. The field, the history, the fans. Your training regiments are very much in line. So we're very blessed to have a great environment to compete in. We should be a good home team."

Can the best get better?

Not only does Green Bay lead the league in scoring, but it tops the chart by scoring on 50 percent of its possessions (29 touchdowns and 15 field goals in 88 possessions).

What if the Packers had a running game to accompany Aaron Rodgers' prolific passing numbers?

Green Bay followed up its run-out-the-clock performance at Minnesota by rushing for a season-high 136 yards at San Diego. That the Packers' running game is hitting its stride at midseason really isn't unexpected, with the lockout depriving the linemen and backs from building the continuity necessary to make the running game go.

"Overall, the offensive line has done a good job of opening up lanes and giving us some options to run the ball in, and for the most part, we've done a good job of making good reads and hitting the hole," first-year running backs coach James Fontenot said. "I'd always like to see us breaking more tackles and I'd always like to see us making things happen at the second level better. But overall, it's been productive and we're heading in the right direction."

The Packers rank right about the middle of the pack — 15th — by losing yardage on 9.1 percent of their rushing attempts. As we wrote earlier in the week, James Starks and Ryan Grant have been as different as black and white. Starks entered this week's games among the worst in the league by losing yardage on 14 of 96 carries, while Grant ranked among the best by losing yardage on three of 61 carries.

"The big thing we made an emphasis during our off week is we had too many 0-yard gain runs and negative-yard runs and we didn't have any negative runs (vs. the Chargers)," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "I thought the guys ran hard. I thought we made some progress."

"We've taken a lot of emphasis on getting more production in the run game the last couple weeks," added left guard T.J. Lang. "Against Minnesota, we ended the game the way we wanted to by getting a couple first downs. Last week, we were in the same situation but it was a little disappointing not to do the same. I think we're taking more pride in executing the run plays that are called. We sat down last week and we understand that in order for us to get this offense hitting on all cylinders, we've got to get the run game going."

He's pretty sweet

In nine career games against the Packers, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has rushed for 982 yards and scored six touchdowns. Of the 14 teams that Peterson has faced at least two times, his 5.2 yards per carry against the Packers trails only San Diego (8.6 yards in two games) and Detroit (5.3 yards in nine games).

Not only does Vikings coach Leslie Frazier say this is Peterson's best season, but Peterson ranks right up there with the best backs ever. Frazier would know, because he was a safety with the Bears when Walter Payton became the league's career rushing leader.

"Well, I played with the best ever and saw him have some dominant games and dominant seasons, where he just took over games and just continued to do it throughout the year, much like what we're seeing with Adrian," Frazier said. "We weren't always a very good team around Walter and he still performed at such a high level. Adrian is right on par with some of the things I witnessed with Walter."

No slow starts

Every week in the NFL, there's a head-scratching upset. Two weeks ago, the Rams beat the Saints. Last week, the Dolphins beat the Chiefs. This week, the Seahawks beat the Ravens and the Cardinals beat the Eagles

So, there's another reason to be in awe of what the Packers' offense has accomplished this season. Outside of a stagnant second half against St. Louis, the Packers' offense has been dominant from start to finish on a weekly basis.

"We keep it very similar every week," Rodgers said. "We have the same preparation, the same way we go about our weeks. Obviously, we're tweaking things within the offense and doing a lot of self-scouting. But I think the kind of matchup problems we can create and the way our defense has turned the ball over and we're not turning the ball over, it kind of breeds having success on Sundays."

Receiver Greg Jennings agreed with that assessment. Then again, last season, the Packers scored at least 31 points five times but 10 or fewer points in three games. So, why has there been consistency this season when it was lacking last year?

"When you go through adverse situations and you've overcome those and come out on top, you learn how to deal with those," Jennings said. "When we're in a tight game or we're down 7-zip, guys don't get tense. Guys aren't like, ‘Oh, shoot, we've got to score.' No, it's early in the game. Or whatever time in the game it is, just do your job. We feel like if each individual does their job, collectively as an offensive unit we're going to get our job done."

High-flying offense

— As we've told you on a weekly basis, Rodgers is the NFL's all-time leader with a career passer rating of 102.7. What's astounding is he holds a 5.9-point lead over Hall of Famer Steve Young's second-place career mark of 96.8. The space between Young and fifth-ranked Tony Romo (95.1) is just 1.7 points. This season, Rodgers' rating is 129.1. No. 2? Drew Brees at a distant 101.6.

— Slow starts have been few and far between, thanks to Rodgers' 13 touchdowns and no interceptions in the first half. Entering this weekend's games, the Packers led the NFL with 151 points in the first half. Houston was second with 148 points, but the Texans had played in nine games. New Orleans was third with 138 points, but the Saints also had played in nine games. Chicago, which has played in the same number of games as Green Bay, was fourth with 127 points.

— With 27.6 points per start, Rodgers trails only San Diego's Philip Rivers (27.7) for most points per start among quarterbacks with at least 50 starts.

— Of course, it's not just Rodgers. The Packers have four players on pace to finish with at least 10 touchdown receptions, which would be a first in franchise history. Jennings, who's fourth in the league with 48 catches and sixth with 723 receiving yards, has 43 touchdown receptions since the start of the 2007 season. Only Detroit's Calvin Johnson and Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald (44 each) have more. Jordy Nelson ranks second in the league with 19.7 yards per reception. James Jones leads all NFL receivers by catching 76.9 percent of the passes thrown his way. Jermichael Finley has five touchdowns receptions, one off the league leaders among tight ends (Buffalo's Scott Chandler and New England's Rob Gronkowski).

History lessons

— With McCarthy boasting an 8-3 record against the Vikings, the Packers have gained a little separation in the all-time series. The Packers lead 52-47-1 in regular-season games, and McCarthy is looking for his fourth sweep in his six seasons. The Vikings own a 4-3 edge on Monday nights.

— McCarthy's dominance over the Vikings highlights his 23-9 record in division games. Only New England (25-8) and San Diego (25-8) have better division records during his tenure, and only the Patriots' Bill Belichick can match McCarthy's feat of at least four division wins in each season since 2006.

— The Packers are off to their fifth 8-0 start in franchise history. The 1929 team started 10-0, as did the 1962 team. In 1931, the Packers started 9-0. In 1930, they started 8-0. All four times, those seasons ended in NFL championships, with the league title based on winning percentage during Curly Lambeau's three-peat in 1929 through 1931.

— The defense's salvation has been its league-high 16 interceptions, two of which came off Ponder in Week 7. Since the start of the 2008 season, the Packers have 92 interceptions. That's 17 more than second-ranked Baltimore. Green Bay has scored 436 points off turnovers since the start of the 2008 season, 40 more than second ranked Baltimore, and ranks fifth this season with 60 points off of turnovers.

Vikings blitz

— The Vikings showed a new wrinkle before the bye. In his first seven games, Peterson had 13 receptions for just 49 yards. Last week at Carolina, Peterson had five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. "At times, it's tough to get Adrian through the line of scrimmage because there's a bunch of people up there jamming it," Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "Another way to do it is to throw him some good, catchable balls where he can get through that first line of defense and then let him do his thing."

— Last week, the Packers had their bye to get ready for San Diego. This week, the Vikings are coming off their bye. The Vikings are 17-5 in the week after their bye, including 4-1 the last five seasons.

— Expect a well-played game by the offenses. The Vikings are tied for second in the NFL with only seven giveaways. The Packers are tied for fourth with eight. However, the Packers are a third-ranked plus-11 in turnover ratio while the Vikings are tied for seventh at plus-4.

— Peterson is well on his way to a fourth consecutive season of 1,300 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Only Hall of Famer Earl Campbell has done that in league history. In fact, only Campbell, Peterson and Barry Sanders have done it in three consecutive seasons.

— It can be boom-or-bust against the Vikings' defense. They've created 60 negative plays (33 tackles for losses on running plays, 23 sacks, four tackles for losses on passing plays). Only Arizona, with 63, has more. The Vikings forced the Packers into seven negative plays in Week 7 — four sacks and three runs.

Four-point stance

— With 116 yards on interception returns last week, Charlie Peprah broke the old team record of 99 yards, which was held by Maurice Harvey (Dec. 13, 1981), Tim Lewis (Nov. 18, 1984) and Aaron Rouse (Oct. 19, 2008). Peprah's total, in fact, was the most in the NFL since Cleveland's Brandon McDonald had 122 yards against Philadelphia on Dec. 15, 2008. Highlighted by Rouse's big day, the Packers set a single-game record with 161 yards against the Colts. So, the Packers' total of 159 yards against the Chargers was the second-best in club history.

— Who's the Packers' most valuable player? OK, it's Rodgers, but the Packers are 14-1 when leading rusher Starks is in the lineup. The only loss was the Packers' last loss: 7-3 at Detroit on Dec. 12. Starks, a week after running for 73 yards in his NFL debut against San Francisco, was held to 8 yards on six carries by the Lions.

— Everyone talks about the red zone, for obvious reasons. But the Packers have a league-high 10 touchdowns from outside the red zone and are tied with the Lions with 81 points from beyond the 20-yard line. Last year, Green Bay scored 100 points outside the red zone. In 2007, the Packers ranked second with 150 points outside the 20.

 — The last word goes to Rodgers, on his receivers making the most of limited opportunities: "You don't know when it's going to be. James had one catch last week for a touchdown. I believe Jordy had one catch against Carolina for a touchdown. I'm just glad those guys run each route as though they're going to get the ball. The way the offense goes, it could be a different guy every week depending on how the defense plays us. I'm glad we haven't had any distractions because of the number of balls that are going a number of places. Guys know how I play. I go through my progression and try to find an open guy. I think a lot of those guys are enjoying their opportunities, making the most of them and hopefully having the kind of season they want."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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