Firing on all cylinders

Panthers no match for Packers' top-ranked passing attack

You might say that Thanksgiving came a bit early to Green Bay. Brett Favre and his receiving corps were more than happy to oblige, carving up yet another opponent, much to chagrin of the Carolina Panthers and the delight of the Lambeau Field faithful.

Consider the numbers. Favre completed 22 of 30 passes for 218 yards, 3 touchdowns, no interceptions and a glittering 126.8 quarterback rating. Even more impressively, Favre again spread the ball all over the place to six different receivers. Greg Jennings snagged seven passes for 48 yards while Donald Driver and Donald Lee caught five apiece. Lee also scored two touchdowns, the first time that's happened in his career, while Jennings caught the other touchdown pass.

Some critics are still stuck on the "Green Bay can't run" theme but even that sentiment is subsiding every time Ryan Grant touches the ball. Grant piled up 88 yards in 20 attempts – just enough to keep Carolina off balance. The way Favre and company are playing, it may be a moot point.

"They've made plays all year, really," said offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. "Donald (Driver) has obviously done that over the long haul so that's not a surprise. A healthy Greg Jennings has been very productive for us. James Jones has been a consistent player for a rookie and you've got to be impressed with what he's done. Koren Robinson's contributed, Ruevell Martin's contributed. (Receivers coach) Jimmy Robinson has done an excellent job with those guys."

And then there's the emergence of tight end Donald Lee who took over when Bubba Franks got hurt and hasn't looked back. "He's really stepped up," said Philbin. "On all ball clubs, they preach about guys taking advantage of opportunities. I don't know that he's a dominating blocker at the point of attack but he's been very effective and he's done what we've asked him to do. He's always been a hard worker. That work ethic and the opportunities have emerged as of late and he's making so many plays."

There may be some who are still surprised with the effectiveness of Green Bay's passing game but Greg Jennings certainly isn't among them. "No, I'm not surprised at all with the receiving corps," Jennings said, flashing a big smile. "We knew what we had here. It's all about being on the same page with Brett. He's spreading the ball around, having fun and making plays. We knew what we can do out there and that's all you see, us making plays and being who we are."

Green Bay's five receiver set has been a particular eye-opener in recent weeks and the Packers used it generously against the Panthers on Sunday.

"The five receiver set has been something that we've had on the back burner, I guess, until the last few weeks," said Philbin. "When you look at our roster, we feel very good about those guys. They're healthy, number one, and productive, number two. They make some plays when we give them chances. Sometimes, based on what we think we can get from an opponent, it may be more useful on a weekly basis than others. It's not a common personnel grouping. Sometimes defenses may have one standard check and we may be able to exploit that check. I don't know if we'll use it every week but we may use it every week, depending on how it fits that particular game plan."

"You see they call time out every time we bring it out there for the first time," said Jennings. "It just gives us a different look. Everyone that's out there brings something different to the table and once we get the ball in our hands, who knows what's going to happen?"

"It's definitely a good thing but the main thing is that, as close as the receiving corps is, we have no individual guys on the team," added James Jones. "So to see all five of us out there together out there and winning makes it all more fun. Just to know that we can all count on each other, man, you can't ask for anything better than that. We know it gives tough match-ups for other teams. For us to be out there together, that's the main thing."

So call it ‘Pass to Daylight.' Or call them just plain ‘pass-happy.' The bottom line is that the Packers find themselves atop the NFC North with a 9-1 record. For such a young team, they're also doing an excellent job of staying focused from week to week.

"I'm just proud of us, man," said Jones. "All these games haven't been a breeze. We've overcome a lot of things and we've stayed together, as a receiving corps and as a team. But 9-1 don't get you a ring so we know what we're trying to get and we know where we need to go."

Next stop: the Motor City.


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