The Packers have had a handful of big victories, beginning with the season opener. They've had a number scenarios where they could have melted down, or rested on their laurels, the next week after a big win. A prime example: Playing at Kansas City after beating the Broncos in overtime at Denver on Monday Night Football. Or, how about coming from behind to beat the San Diego Chargers after winning on the road a week earlier against the Giants, and then playing at Minnesota in the Metrodome? There were many die-hard Cheesehead fans who didn't think the Packers would come out on top in that one, but the Packers came out on top in that one.
These young Packers have had a number of occasions already to cave in under the umbrella of success, but they haven't. Chemisty is so big in team sports, and it certainly seems that this team has the right mix of players who are determined to win. That attitude has mushroomed throughout the season. And everyone is chipping in.
The Packers continue to show week after week that they are focused on the game at hand - as a team. Most of the team is too young to look too far ahead, and the veterans on the team are too smart to fall into that trap. McCarthy and his staff has been doing a great job of keeping the team grounded, and the team itself has been too busy focusing on improving some obvious areas of concern, like the running game. Against the Vikings, they running game took a big step forward.
Brett Favre is in the running for another Most Valuable Player award because of his weekly preparation and determination to lead the offense as best he can. He seems much more rejuvenated over recent seasons, and it is obvious that players around him are playing for him and not with him. That's huge for quarterbacks.
The 2007 Packers are in a position where they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Nobody expected them to be 8-1, but they are. Just like no one expected the Bears to advance to the Super Bowl last year, but they did. McCarthy makes it clear that his objective is to win a championship, but nobody is giving him a chance to do so this year with the youngest team in the NFL. Still, they're on pace to advance to the Super Bowl, and the success they've had isn't getting in the way.
The Packers have already handled success well. There is no reason to think that the players and coaches will act or play any differently the rest of the season. There is a lot for the Packers to achieve and, so far, they haven't achieved a thing, other than extra love among the football world. So with each win, respect is mounting from the preseason doubters and so is success.
"I think it's human nature when people are throwing you flowers and saying a lot of nice things, you can kind of take a step back and have an attitude of trying to smell the roses," McCarthy said. "The roses in my opinion don't come until after Glendale, Arizona (site of Super Bowl XLII). And that's been our outlook since day one. I'm sure it's the outlook of every NFL team when they start the season."
The Packers have already had more success this season than anyone could have imagined. They've handled it well, and likely will continue to open eyes around the league as they gain more respect.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.