Let's start with coaching. The coaches have improved and become smarter on both sides of the ball. On offense they have gone back to what they had promised they would do, which is run the ball. When Mike McCarthy was hired he talked about running the ball, which would take the ball out of Brett's hands, which would control turnovers, and look at what's happened. In the losses there were turnovers. In the wins, there were no major turnovers that hurt. It's really that simple.
Also, because of their success running the ball, they have been able to set the tempo and allow the young offensive linemen to attack instead of retreat, which eliminates a lot of their thought process and allows them to just play. Another thing that has happened is that Brett has bought into what Mike McCarthy has asked of him, which is to manage the game and not try to win it by himself. If you look at what he is doing in the game you must realize that the play-calling gives him the best chance to be successful. Mike McCarthy and staff are utilizing his strengths, which are the bootleg passes (getting him out of the pocket) as well as lately they have been using the play-action more, which I have always said is one of the things that Brett does as good as any other quarterback in the league.
Also they are getting the tight ends in the game plan, which reminds me of how Mike Holmgren used Keith Jackson and Chewy back in the day, with Martin being Keith and Bubba being Mark. Trust me they aren't them, but I think you understand what I am saying. Also, think about how many slants they are running? Those are the quick throws that Brett excels at completing.
Now to the offensive line. The zone blocking scheme is allowing the young linemen to practice one style of run blocking, so every time they do it they get better. As we have seen because they just keep improving game after game. Now they have game film of themselves doing it wrong and doing it right. They can critique and improve. They don't have to look at Denver or Atlanta. They can talk between themselves about what they saw, what they did, and can go out and improve on the technique, which is a huge bonus. The running game has been about the offensive linemen, not the running backs, even though they have run hard. When the offensive line is blocking like it has, it doesn't matter what back is back is in the game. Green, Morency or Herron - it doesn't matter because the line has opened holes, especially as of late for anyone that has the ball.
Coaching has been as much of the problem with the defense as the players. Some have been good and some has been awful. The communication problems on defense have cost this side of the ball as much as some players starting slow. I have wondered what would be Bob Sanders identity? I was wondering if he would coach like he was scared to gamble or be aggressive? Early on this year, he was very timid, I thought. But lately he seems to have realized that he has athletes that can play the game and he has changed some of his style. He has put Al Harris and Charles Woodson on islands and sent more rushers to get to the quarterback, which is what he needed to do because Aaron Kampman can't do it by himself. He has to stop waiting for Kabeer to show up.
Kampman he has been playing outstanding and my hat's off to him. He is starting to make me a believer. Not that I didn't believe he was a good player, but he has raised his level of play from being more than just a hard-working guy to a guy that teams now have to put a plan together to pay attention to him and where he is on the field. He has taken that role from Kabeer in the passing game.
Another reason that they are doing better on defense is that they are getting turnovers and causing problems, especially at the linebacker position because of the improved play. A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett and Brady Poppinga are the strengths of this defense at this moment. They allow this defense to have so many combinations to attack an offense. In the secondary Harris and Woodson have been impact players. I don't care what anyone thinks, but the ability to have corners that can cover guys like Holt, Chambers, Boldin and Isaac Bruce and not let them beat you only helps the defense.
Those are some of the reasons that this team has done better than some would have expected during this rebuilding time. The things that I have mentioned are positive things and we can't forget another reason that this team is 3-4 and that's because their wins have come against teams that are just plain horrible. Every team that they have beaten has only won one game. The Lions, Dolphins and Cardinals are teams that shouldn't even be in the NFL, but they are and they were on the schedule, and you only play the teams on your schedule. I understand that. But when you ask yourself why things are going so well and they are improving, we must look at all the reasons WHY THINGS ARE THE WAY THEY ARE!!!!!
Editor's note: Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.