Gray: Packers making progress

Former Packers safety Johnnie Gray assesses Green Bay's performance against the Minnesota Vikings, and comments on the progress that Green Bay has made throughout this season.

The Green Bay Packers and their fans get no respect. Games lost are an indication of how bad this team is, but win a game and it is classified as ugly or worthless.

The Vikings defense has proven all year how tough it is against the run and it has the stats to prove it. The Vikings front four and an active linebacking corp gives up an average of 55 yards a game. Defenses like that with some semblance of an offense usually are in the Super Bowl.

The Packers had their way in the passing game, but unfortunately the same mistakes of dropped passes, turnovers and ill-timed penalties cost the Packers points that would have changed the offensive thinking of the Vikings. By not scoring those points, it kept Vikings rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson in a comfort zone. There was no need to panic or adjust the game plan as long as the Packers were unable to score. The Vikings had eight straight three-and-out series. With the Packers' defense playing solid for the third straight week, it made for a great defensive battle. I did not see missed tackles, receivers blatantly wide open or a comedy of errors. It was a clean, hard-fought football game.

For a young team, each time it can pull off a victory it will make it that much better, including the coaching staff. In the closing minutes of the Rams game, a fumble cost the Packers a win. It was an interception in the Bills game. This time, McCarthy played conservative by running the ball. He then put the ball into another player's hand, or foot, and Dave Rayner delivered. Everyone is learning from their past mistakes and it has paid off for three wins in a row, and a bit of a swagger going into the Bears game next Sunday.

This team is better than last year when the season started and has gotten better since then. Improvement from every position was the primary goal with the exception of Donald Driver, and what better way to gain some more valuable experience than by getting into the playoffs. If they don't, just by having that carrot hanging there and knowing what could have been creates a completely new philosophy for the Packers' off-season.

We all know that injuries are part of the game, but Bears coach Lovie Smith does not want to lose any more starters for their playoff run. The pressure is on to not get embarrassed like last year so with ten days rest, a healthy Mark Tauscher, a focused Bubba Franks (was hurt early in last year's game) and with an outside shot of getting to the playoffs, I am going with the Pack.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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