World’s Best Preview: Fixing the Packers’ Offense

The World's Best Preview is overflowing with news and notes, stats and quotes we promise you haven't seen anywhere. We have notes on what could be defining wins for the Panthers, plus Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Josh Norman, father vs. son, Carolina's horrendous passing game and much, much more.

The Green Bay Packers’ offense is in a four-game funk unlike almost anything endured during the Aaron Rodgers era at quarterback.

Green Bay has scored 78 points in its last four games, the lowest output since scoring 70 in Game 5 through Game 8 of the 2010 season. Since then, Rodgers has ascended to the top of the leaderboard for highest scoring average for any quarterback in NFL history.

This offensive nosedive crashed into the Rocky Mountains on Sunday night at Denver. In their 29-10 loss, the Packers managed just 140 yards, the fewest with Rodgers as a starter. Green Bay’s 2.0 net yards per passing play was the lowest figure achieved by any team in the NFL this season. Imagine a Rodgers-led offense being a part of that indignity.

How do the Packers get things turned around? Coach Mike McCarthy all week has pointed to the need to run more plays. But that’s more chicken than egg. The egg part of that equation is an offense that’s converted 31.1 percent of its third-down plays the past four games. Against Denver, the Packers’ average third down required a gain of 10 yards. That’s a losing offensive formula, no matter how potent the passing attack.

“When we can’t keep ourselves in manageable down and distances, it keeps the offense out of rhythm,” right tackle Bryan Bulaga said on Friday. “When you’ve got third-and-8s and third-and-9s all of the time, especially when you’re going against a good defense like Denver or like a good defense like Carolina, you’re putting yourself in bad situations.”

Some schematic tinkering no doubt would help to avoid those third-and-longs. But players, not scheme, win championships. After all, did Bill Belichick suddenly learn how to coach after being fired by the Browns? Or did Tom Brady become his quarterback with the Patriots?

If players win games, the Packers need to ride their best offensive players not named Aaron Rodgers.
First, that means running the football. That’s something McCarthy and Rodgers acknowledged this week. Even with Eddie Lacy’s disappearance vs. San Diego and the blowout at Denver, Green Bay ranks 12th in rushing, including a sixth-ranked 4.5 yards per carry. The offensive line was a strength of last year’s top-ranked scoring attack, especially during the second half of the season. Bulaga and right guard T.J. Lang are another week past their injuries, and this group has now had a couple weeks to practice together.

“We’re a better offense the more balanced we are,” Lang said on Friday. “We’ve shown that in the past. The games that we’re successful running the ball seem to be our best. It’s something we talked about all week is establishing the run and stop putting so much pressure on our receivers to keep getting open and putting pressure on Aaron to just make plays by himself. It’s something that we put a great emphasis on this week.”

Second, that means getting the ball to Randall Cobb. God bless James Jones. Where would the Packers be without his six touchdowns? However, he’s also caught five passes in his last three games and lacks the explosion to consistently get open against quality defensive backs. Maybe Davante Adams will live up the immense promise that’s been mentioned countless times by Rodgers and others, but he’s yet to prove he can be a consistent difference-maker and needs time to get going after missing a month with an injured ankle. Tight end Richard Rodgers is a nice complementary piece but probably nothing more.

So, for this passing game to flourish without Jordy Nelson, it’s going to have to be Cobb leading the charge.

“I feel like it’s my fault,” Cobb said on Wednesday. “I feel like it’s on me. I’ve got to make more plays when I get opportunities.”

In the first three games, when Green Bay’s offense was humming along at 32 points per game, Cobb caught 20 passes (28 targets) for 245 yards (12.3 average) and four touchdowns. Over the next four games, Cobb caught 16 passes (28 targets) for 132 yards (8.3 average) and no touchdowns.

The last time Cobb seemed so upset was after the loss at Detroit last season, when he caught three passes for 29 yards. The next week, Cobb caught seven passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns at Chicago. He had a streak of six consecutive games with at least one touchdown. He recorded six games of at least six catches and five games with at least 100 yards.

“Randall just needs to go in and be Randall and do what he usually does and we’ll hopefully get him more involved as we move forward,” receivers/quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said. “He comes to work every day, he does everything you ask of him.

“Randall’s young in age but not in experience and leadership abilities. He’s definitely now, with Jordy’s injury, he’s the leader of the group. He sets the example every day in the room and on the field at practice and on the field on game day. He’s done a tremendous job.”

RIVERA HAS PANTHERS ON RISE

In 2010, the Panthers finished 2-14 and hired Ron Rivera as coach. After back-to-back NFC South championships, the Panthers are 7-0 and coming off two memorable victories – 27-23 at Seattle in Week 5 and 29-26 at home over Indianapolis on Monday.

For a team that’s trying to ascend into a true championship contender, those could be defining games. At Seattle, Newton led the Panthers 80 yards in 1:48 for the winning touchdown, connecting on 6-of-7 passes – the lone incompletion was a clock-killing spike – and a 26-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen to win the game. Last week, the Panthers blew a big lead but won in overtime as Luke Kuechly’s interception set up the game-winning field goal.

“It’s all about the perception,” Rivera, the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 2013, said during a conference call on Wednesday. “The big thing you talk to the players about is being able to go into a hostile environment in Seattle and win a game like we did with a last-second touchdown. It’s how you look at the perception of the other night against Indy. Hey, we gave up a lead, we were able to take the momentum back and make a couple plays and win it in overtime. It’s just about how you want to look at it and how you want your players to understand it. For us, I think it gives us a little something different that we can do those things. In years past, we might not have been able to do those things.”

This year’s success started to build last season, when Carolina overcame a six-game losing streak to emerge as the best of the worst in the dreadful NFC South. The seven-win start to this season has extended the Panthers’ regular-season winning streak to a league-best 11. To win at Seattle and then overcome Andrew Luck’s comeback last week should be experiences to build upon down the road.

“You can’t manufacture experience. You can only experience it yourself,” Rivera said. “That’s kind of what happened for us. We’ve been able to go out and we’ve been able to do these things and have success. I think that’s something for us to build on as a football team as we move forward. This is our fifth year. We’ve gone through an awful lot. We’ve been through the ups and downs, we’ve been through the winning and losing. What’s happened now is we have core-leadership guys that have been here all five seasons with me and I think they understand. I think they get it now. It’s been a little bit of a growing process for not just them but for me, as well.”

Rivera’s road to 7-0 started with another great team. He was a linebacker for Mike Ditka’s Chicago Bears, who went 15-1 in 1985 and won the Super Bowl as one of the most dominant teams in NFL history. He doesn’t have Ditka’s personality but he’s built a team that revolves around running the ball and playing excellent defense.

“He was a very heads-y kind of player, very much of a team leader at that point,” said Packers tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot, who was drafted by the Bears in 1989. “He was later in his career by the time I got to Chicago but very calm, wasn’t real fiery one way or the other. He wouldn’t get manic nor would he get overly depressed, stayed very consistent. Very smart guy. Not overly talented but certainly did a lot of things with his head. I just remember practicing against Ron and he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. It wasn’t like he was outrunning anybody out there but he certainly knew where to be.”

BEFORE HE WAS SUPERMAN

Cam Newton is one of the most talented quarterbacks in NFL history.

But he wasn’t the quarterback on a youth football team in College Park, Ga.

That honor went to Morgan Burnett.

On Sunday, these two longtime friends will battle in a critical NFC game, with Newton quarterbacking the undefeated Panthers and Burnett playing safety for the one-loss Packers.

They weren’t dreaming of this big stage back then.

“When you’re young, you’re not thinking about anything. You’re just playing, having fun,” Burnett said. “We used to do a fullback dive and we’d bring Cam in. Cam was our linebacker so when we’d do a fullback dive, we’d give it to Cam and he’d bust up the middle. He was bigger than all the other kids so no one could tackle him.”

From that perspective, not much has changed. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton is the first player in NFL history with 3,000-plus passing yards and 500-plus rushing yards in each of his first four seasons. In his fifth season, he has 28 games with a passing touchdown and rushing touchdown. Steve Young owns that NFL record, but it took him 15 seasons to amass 31 such games. Barring an injury, Newton has a good chance of eclipsing Peyton Manning’s record for most total yards in his first five seasons. Manning had 21,174 yards. With 18,806 yards, Newton needs 2,369 yards in the next nine games. That’s 264 yards per game; he is averaging almost 260 yards per game this season.

“He does a great job, not only using the pocket and with his arm strength but also outside the pocket when he’s going to run,” Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. “Just a big guy that’s hard to tackle. You look at even when linebackers are tackling him, he’s falling forward for a few extra yards. He does some things that I don’t think many coordinators are comfortable with their starting quarterback doing as far as the hits he takes, where there’s no one in essence (blocking for) him. You wouldn’t see us doing that with (Rodgers) around here. A special athlete, though.”

That special ability was on display during the Panthers’ muddy Monday night win over Indianapolis. On a six-man rush, Newton spun away from defender and broke a tackle before taking off running. About 7 yards downfield, he hurdled a defensive back to cap a run that converted a third-and-5.

“It just shows you the athleticism in him and the passion he has for the game,” Burnett said.

That athleticism was apparent long ago to Burnett whenever he handed the ball to the uber-talented but miscast linebacker-fullback. They started playing together in the 60-pound division but went their separate ways in high school, with Burnett playing quarterback at North Clayton High School in College Park and Newton playing quarterback at Westlake High School in Atlanta. (A third area kid, All-Pro safety Eric Berry, played quarterback at nearby Creekside High School.)

“Cam was shotgun, dropback and he was throwing a good 30 times a game,” Burnett said. “As far as me and Eric Berry, we were shotgun, drop back and if I’d see green grass I was running.”

INSIDE THE PANTHERS

— How on Earth are the Panthers 7-0? One of their best defenders, end Charles Johnson, is on injured reserve-designated for return. Their best receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, is on injured reserve. Newton hasn’t been great. The offense has been awful on third down. Their special teams have been outplayed.

“You find a way to win,” Newton said.

How?

“I think the team is pretty good. We’re undefeated,” he said.

With that mastery of the obvious, here are three quick reasons, with more in-depth answers to follow.

One, a cushy schedule to open the season. The Panthers started against Jacksonville, Houston, New Orleans and Tampa Bay. Those teams are a combined 12-18. Only New Orleans, which is 4-4, is .500 in that group, and the host Panthers needed a second-half rally to win that game.

Two, turnovers. Carolina is fifth with 16 takeaways.

Third, running the ball. Carolina is No. 1 with 144 rushing yards per game and 33.3 rushing attempts per game.

— Without a legit starting receiver, it helps to have Greg Olsen at tight end. Olsen has been tremendous with 33 receptions for 518 yards and four touchdowns. His 15.7 yards per reception trails only Rob Gronkowski at the position.

“I’ve been with Greg going on five years now and he’s been a person that’s producing as consistent as anybody,” Newton said.

What’s particularly impressive is everyone knows where Newton is going with the ball. Olsen has almost as many receptions as the top two receivers (Ted Ginn, 20; Philly Brown, 14) combined.

“It shows you his savviness as a veteran,” Burnett said. “He runs good routes. You can’t really pick up on what he’s doing right away. Even though he could be covered up, he has great hands. You see it on field when he’s covered up. There’s not much more a DB can do (but) he’s still capable of catching the ball. It’s not like Cam is lobbing it. He’s zipping it in there. I feel like Greg Olsen has one of the top hands at the league at the tight end position.”

The Packers gave up big numbers to Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, San Diego’s Antonio Gates and Denver’s tandem of Virgil Green and Owen Daniels. However, against each team’s No. 1 tight end, the Packers have allowed 28 completions in 49 targets (57.1 percent) for 319 yards. That’s pretty darned good. Over 16 games, that translates into 64 receptions, 729 yards and 4.6 touchdowns.

“He’s a legitimate threat in the passing game, and one that Cam likes to go to,” Matthews said. “We’ll have our hands full because he’s definitely a very athletic tight end who can get open and make plays as you’ve seen week in and week out.”

— With more and more towering receivers entering the NFL every year, Josh Norman is the type of cornerback teams crave because he’s 6-foot 1/4 with 32 3/4-inch arms. However, he played at Coastal Carolina and he ran only 4.66 at the 2012 Scouting Combine, so he tumbled into the fifth round of the draft.

Norman has blossomed into a star this season. He was the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Month for September and has four interceptions on the season. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s allowed a 25.5 passer rating – no other cornerback in the league has allowed a rating of less than 40. Based on PFF’s best guess at coverage responsibilities, Norman has allowed 21-of-46 accuracy (league-best 45.7 percent) for 159 yards (league-best 7.6 yards per reception).

“I watched him (Wednesday) for about an hour on film,” said Packers receiver James Jones, who has five catches in his last three games. “He’s having a good year. Having a good year. He’s long, he’s fast, and he’s smart. Very good defense in front of him as well. So, he’s playing with a lot of confidence, too. He’s seeing things extremely fast right now, like understanding route concepts and stuff. It’ll be a good challenge for us, but he’s having a big year. He’s having a Pro Bowl year for sure. Good player.”

It’s an amazing leap forward for a player who started 12 times as a rookie but just 10 times in the next two seasons combined. In his first three seasons, he had three interceptions and 18 passes defensed. This season, he’s got four picks and 12 passes defensed.

“He’s a very confident football player,” Rivera said. “He works hard at his craft. It wasn’t easy with him when he first got here because he had a lot of success in college at Coastal Carolina, a smaller program. It carried over initially. I think the hardest thing for him was adjusting to the strictness with the way we do things. You have to play within the scheme and there’s not a lot of opportunity to do your own thing. I think once he adjusted to that, he’s really starting to flourish. He understands the whole concept of what we do on defense. He’ll make an occasional mistake but, I’ll tell you, he’s probably one of the most confident football players I’ve ever been around.”

— While the secondary might have some holes with 34-year-old cornerback Charles Tillman and 32-year-old safety Roman Harper, the front seven is superb even without Johnson. The stud is defensive tackle Kawaan

Short, a budding star in his third season out of Purdue. Packers center Corey Linsley battled him a couple times while at Ohio State.

“He played a pure nose tackle there so he was kind of a different player there,” Linsley said. “This defense, the position he’s playing now allows him to use more of his tools. When I played him, he was just a pure two-gapping nose tackle. I think the position that he’s in right now suits him best. He’s very strong. He’s got a good, quick first step and he’s pretty good with his hands, too.”

Among interior defensive linemen, Short is tied for second in the NFL with five sacks and seven tackles for losses and is tied for first with four passes defensed.

HISTORY LESSONS

— Sunday night’s loss at Denver continued an awful streak we mentioned in last week’s World’s Best Preview. In games started by Rodgers, the Packers have lost nine in a row on the road against teams with winning records since earning a win at Chicago in Week 15 of the 2012 season. (This is assuming the undefeated Broncos finish with a winning record.)

Packers offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett looked stunned when relayed that dubious history.

“Any time we go on the road – for that matter, even playing at home – we’ve got to be fundamentally sound, we’ve got to take care of the football and we’ve got to execute,” he said. “Certainly, when you go into a hostile environment, you have to do a good job of communicating and being on the same page, and when we get our opportunities we’ve got to make them count. That’s really the bottom line when you travel.”

The Panthers, obviously, are well on their way to finishing with a winning record and won’t be a pushover for a Packers team looking to rebound. They’ve won a franchise-best 11 consecutive regular-season games. That’s the longest current streak in the league.

— If that’s viewing the glass as half-empty, this factoid will have you viewing the glass as half-full: The Packers haven’t lost back-to-back games with a healthy Rodgers since losing in overtime against Washington and Miami in Weeks 5 and 6 of the 2010 season. Why have these guys been the Bounce-Back Pack?

“Because of the men in that locker room and the men in this building, in general,” Bennett said. “With the amount of pride that goes into it, with the amount of effort and attitude that goes into it. It’s having an understanding and knowing what it’s going to take in order for us to be successful and play our standard of football. I think a lot of guys (after the Denver game), the first thing they did was look in the mirror. We all did. The goal is to always improve. With that attitude, we’re able to make our corrections and benefit from them.”

— Newton was the first overall pick of the 2011 draft. In his second career game, Newton threw for a whopping 432 yards and rushed for 53 more but tossed three interceptions and had a rating of 72.0 in a 30-23 loss at home against Green Bay. Rodgers’ 84-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson with 2:14 remaining put the game away.

Last season, Green Bay rolled to a 38-17 win at Lambeau Field. As was the case so often at Lambeau, the game was over early, as the Packers stormed to a 21-0 lead in the first 13 minutes and made it 28-0 late in the first half. Rodgers had as many touchdown passes (three) as incompletions (19-of-22 for 255 yards with three touchdowns and a near-perfect 154.5 passer rating). Newton went 17-of-31 for 205 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a 72.6 rating.

The Packers lead the all-time series 9-4, including the 1996 NFC Championship Game. They have topped 30 points in nine of the 13 games.

— Newton completed 45.7 percent of his passes in last week’s overtime victory over Indianapolis. That, incredibly, is nothing new. In nine career starts in which he’s completed less than 50 percent of his passes, Newton boasts a 6-3 record. More on Newton’s inaccuracy in a moment.

NUMBERS WORTH NOTING

— Of the 33 quarterbacks who have enough attempts to qualify in the league rankings, Newton ranks 32nd with a 54.2 percent completion rate. The only quarterback ranked below him is Ryan Mallett, who was released by the Texans. Accuracy never has been Newton’s strength, with a career rate of 59.0 percent, but it’s another step backward after hitting on a career-best 61.7 percent in 2013.

That doesn’t detract from his effectiveness as an overall weapon, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said.

“He can make all the throws,” Capers said. “This guy can throw the ball any place on the field because he really has a strong arm. And he can zip those slant routes in and all that. He probably does as much as any quarterback in the NFL in terms of the run game and his ability to keep the ball and run with the ball, get out on the perimeter.

“I think (the completion percentage is) a combination of things. Guys, if they’re just dropping back and sitting in that pocket and doing those things, might have a higher percentage. But overall, he creates a lot more problems because of his style of play and he has the ability to hit the big play on you.”

— Of course, it doesn’t help that Newton has to have the worst wide receiver corps in the NFL. Combined, Ginn (20 receptions, 47 targets, 343 yards), Brown (14 catches, 23 targets, 175 yards), Jerricho Cotchery (10 receptions, 15 targets, 108 yards) and rookie Devin Funchess (seven receptions, 21 targets, 90 yards) have combined for 51 receptions in 106 targets (48.1 percent) with six touchdowns and seven interceptions. That equates to a 62.0 passer rating.

Rivera, however, sees the glass as half-full as they’ve had to carry on without the towering Benjamin, who had a 1,000-yard season as a rookie.

“I think the biggest thing is our quarterback targeting seven, eight different guys a game,” Rivera said. “Was Kelvin his favorite target? Yeah, we get that, but now he doesn’t have his favorite target so he’s been able to spread it around. The wide receivers are catching three, four, five balls each, the tight end is catching three, four, five balls, the backs are catching three, four or five balls. In the past, you could look at the line and Kelvin would have 15 targets and 10 catches or something like that and you may see one or two other guys. Now, you see six, seven, eight guys have all been targeted. I think that’s been a big part of his development.”

What the Panthers can do is stretch the field against defenses hell-bent on taking away the No. 1-ranked running game. Even at age 30, Ginn can stretch the field like few other receivers. He’s averaging 17.2 yards per reception. Brown can move, too. Newton’s average pass travels 10.6 yards, the second-longest in the league.
“Those two receivers they have are really speed merchants, so you always have to account for them going up the field, because he can scramble around and throw the ball over the top and they’ve got the speed to get behind you,” Capers said.

— Even with Green Bay’s NFL-record 22-game first-quarter scoring streak ending last week, the Packers remain the best first-quarter team in the league. They have a league-best plus-50 scoring differential, with only one other team (New Orleans, plus-35) at more than plus-25. Defensively, both defenses have set the tone early. Denver has allowed a league-low zero points in the first quarter, followed by Carolina (2.1 per game) and Green Bay (2.3).

“We’ve scored on four of our first seven possessions with touchdowns, so that’s a good start for us,” Rodgers said. “You look at those numbers – the first possession in the first half and the second half -- and you like to be very efficient with those two numbers. They do a great job. I think they’re No. 2 in the league in least amount of points on opening possessions. It just comes down to execution when there’s two really good football teams on the field.”

— The Panthers, despite being undefeated and playing at home, are 2.5-point underdogs. For his career as a home underdog, Newton is 2-11.

FOUR-POINT STANCE

— Sunday’s game potentially will have a huge impact on playoff seeding. These teams have the best records in the NFC. If Carolina wins, it will be two games ahead of everyone else in the conference. If Green Bay wins, it will draw even with Carolina (and own the tiebreaker), be at least one game ahead of everyone else and own a 5-0 conference record.

None of that, however, is on anyone’s mind as the season approaches its midpoint.

“I don’t even know why you would want to do that,” McCarthy said of discussing the postseason ramifications.
Added defensive tackle Mike Daniels: “You can’t get caught up in that. I’ll be thinking about the playoffs and then, the next thing I know, I’m on my back looking at the sky. I have to focus on the guy I’m playing against. Everything else will take care of itself.”

Rivera is downplaying the playoff potential, as well, even though his team could seize complete control in the NFC race.

“Perception is this could be another football game or the perception is this game could mean everything as far as home-field advantage in the playoffs,” he said. “You still have nine games left to play and after this one you’ll have eight. To start thinking in those terms, I think, is a huge mistake, at least that’s my perception of it. To me it’s a big game. It’s a big game because we’re both good football teams. It’s a big game because it’s the one we’re about to play. To get ahead of yourself I think would be a huge mistake. You’ve got to take care of the task at hand. Right now it’s Green Bay.”

— For the second time in his brief career, Packers tight end Richard Rodgers will be on one sideline while his father, Richard Rodgers Sr., will be on the other as an assistant coach for the Panthers.

“It’s going to be fun, like it was last year. It’ll be a little bit different this year,” the Packers’ Rodgers said.

This time will be much different. Last year, Rodgers Sr. was an assistant special teams coach for the Panthers. This time, he’s an assistant defensive backs coach – meaning father will be helping to plot ways to stop son.

The two usually talk after games and a time or two per week before games. This year, the line of communication has gone silent. Before last year’s game at Lambeau Field, the two played catch. Not this year.

“The first time, it was special,” he said. “This time, it’s business. I’ll say ‘What’s up?’ to him before the game. We’re trying to get a win.”

— It’s a love-hate relationship between the Packers and Tillman. McCarthy called Tillman one of his “favorite players to watch.” However, he’s made a tremendous impact against the Packers in his career.

Tillman, who missed most of last season, signed with Carolina after a superlative 12-year career with the Bears. For his career, he’s forced 42 fumbles and intercepted 37 passes. Since the NFL began tracking forced fumbles in 1994, he’s one of three players with 30-plus interceptions and 30-plus forced fumbles; Charles Woodson and Brian Dawkins are the others. In 20 career regular-season games against Green Bay, Tillman has intercepted four passes and forced seven fumbles.

“I love Peanut. Peanut is a good friend, a great guy. He’s great in the community,” Rodgers said. “He’s been playing at a high level for a long time. He changed defenses over the years with his ability to knock the football out of the ball-carrier’s hands. He just understands. He has his strong points and he has incredible awareness. He plays to his strengths out there. He’s a great tackler. He has very good ball skills. He has good timing. He’s a talented player.”

— After back-to-back big games from Tim Masthay, Green Bay’s punting unit, which leads the NFL with 4.0 yards allowed per return, will be wary of Ginn. He’s averaging 9.7 yards per return with a long of 37 this season and boasts a career average of 11.0 yards with four touchdowns.

“The thing about him is he’s got a jet. He is fast,” special teams coordinator Ron Zook said. “He can turn a 20-yard return into (a big play) like that. He got one the other night. He’ll bring it back across the field. He wants to get on the edge. He’s not a guy that likes to go up the middle. He wants to get on the edge and he can go. He’s eight or nine years in the league and it still looks like he run like he did in college. He’s a guy that you have to be able to cage in and get him down.”

THE LAST WORD GOES TO …

Capers, the former Carolina coach, on what this game means for a franchise that is 7-0 for the first time:
“There’s no question we’ll be going into a hostile environment. They’re off to probably as good a start as they’ve ever had. I don’t know if they’ve ever been 7-0 before. They’ve won games, they’ve won games in different ways. They’ve hung in there and won that overtime game Monday night. It’s a good, well-rounded team, so there’s obviously going to be a lot of excitement. No question what type of environment we’ll be going into, but the Number 1 think always is focus on what we do. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready to go in and play our best football game. We know their record speaks for itself. It’s an NFC game, so we know the importance of it. We’ve got to do everything we can to get ourselves ready to go in and block out all the peripheral distractions that come with a game like this and go to work and find a way to do what it takes to win a football game.”

Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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