But when you see Brett Favre high-five an official not once, but twice after a touchdown pass and a laughing Atari Bigby drinking coffee on the bench after intercepting a pass, one thing becomes clear: the happy, go-lucky Packers are back and they're on a roll heading into the playoffs. This peace of mind didn't exist last week but does now after Green Bay's starters (minus seven inactives) outscored Detroit 21-3 in the 34-13 blowout. Three drives, three touchdowns and probably three more hours of sleep at night for the entire coaching staff.
Here are some thoughts on Sunday's back-on-track game for your 2007 13-3 Green Bay Packers:
Robinson Comes Full Circle
One player who surely didn't treat Sunday as a preseason game was Koren Robinson. With Donald Driver and Greg Jennings safely bundled in winter gear on the sideline (good move, coach), Robinson saw extensive action. As he continues to get his life together off the field, Robinson is becoming a bigger weapon on it. He caught his first touchdown as a Packer in the first half on a – get this – slant pass from Favre. On the day he caught four passes for 47 yards.
In the playoffs, Robinson should see increased reps at wide receiver. James Jones has been solid through the 16-game grind with 72 receptions, 676 yards, 2 TD and hardly any drops, but Robinson is looking more and more like an ideal No. 3 receiver in the slot. As his knowledge of the offense continues to peak, Robinson's God-given athletic ability is doing the rest. He may be the most physically-gifted receiver the Packers have had since Javon Walker – and unlike the Drew Rosenhaus-infected client, Robinson is on good terms with Favre.
Make that great terms.
Favre's open arms have been well-documented. He criticized the league for banning Robinson from the team premises last year and as someone who abused alcohol himself, Favre may be the single-greatest positive influence on Robinson's turnaround. Now the gratification is translating to the field. One play on Green Bay's 98-yard scoring drive represented a clear sign of trust between the two.
On 1st and 10 at Detroit's 37, Robinson lined up in the left slot with Detroit corner Keith Smith providing a seven-yard cushion. The Lions brought heat with two linebackers blitzing, forcing Favre to release the ball before Robinson could turn his shoulder. Robinson was ready. He ran a crisp 15-yard down-and-out, leaving Smith in dust of his cut to the outside. Robinson turned, the ball was there and the Packers had another first down. That's chemistry.
Brandon Jackson entered Sunday with a 2.9 rush average. Against Detroit he chalked up 5.7 a pop, finally showcasing the shiftiness that vaulted him into the second round of last April's draft. His 113 yards on 20 carries, bumped his season rush average up to 3.6.
Jackson started the first three games for the Packers, but lost his job due to injury and performance. A shin injury sidelined Jackson for four games, but in three games as the breadwinning back, he was ineffective, failing to hit holes with purpose – the one trait needed in the zone-blocking scheme. By the time Jackson's shin healed, Grant had emerged as the obvious lead guy and the Nebraska product didn't see more than five carries in a game.
Against Detroit's mediocre 19th ranked rush defense, Jackson somewhat salvaged a disappointing season. Jackson's 46-yard run surely provides the team hope for his future. Jackson broke four tackles on the run, while displaying a burst he lacked as the early-season starter. He busted through the arms of Boss Bailey, Jared DeVries, Kenoy Kennedy and Greg Blue en route to Green Bay's third longest run of the season.
Even with the emergence of Grant, it's not time to give up on Jackson. Whereas Vernand Morency appears to be a career third-down back (and a good one; see: Sunday's 3rd and 10 screen pass in first quarter), Jackson could be a nifty change-of-pace back worthy of 8-10 carries a game. One thing's certain. Brandon Jackson was a different runner in the season finale than he was throughout training camp, the preseason and the first third of the regular season. He's obviously learning the offense and improving as a runner.
Other Game Notes
-- Give Mason Crosby an A for the day. No, not for his 10 points and two field goals. On the opening kickoff, Crosby was driven to the ground by Detroit's Buster Davis, yet swiped his left leg at Aveion Cason, possibly saving a touchdown. He was flagged 10 yards for tripping, but the heads-up play saved the Packers four points.
Detroit's offense stalled after six plays, kicked a field goal and the Packers offense responded with 21 unanswered points.
-- Give James Jones, Ruvell Martin and Shaun Bodiford A's also. Both receivers sprung open long plays with key downfield blocks. Jones sealed safety Gerald Alexander on Favre's 21-yard run in the first quarter, while Martin gave Grant a key block on the running back's 27-yard touchdown. Bodiford drove Lions CB Dovonte Edwards back on Morency's aforementioned screen pass. Without Bodiford's hustle block, it's an eight-yard gain and a field goal attempt rather than a first down and a touchdown.
-- Over the past four weeks, safety Atari Bigby has avenged his poor performance in Dallas, and then some. Bigby finished his first season as a starter on a rampage with five interceptions and four passes defensed. The 12 previous games? One and five.
Tyler Dunne, a student at Syracuse University, is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.