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Hopes were high for the Green Bay Packers heading into this season. Maybe an astute prognosticator could have forseen the 6-1 record and a share of the NFC lead. But who could have predicted the circumstances that led the Pack to where they are, or the woeful performance of the rest of the division?<P> The secret to the Packers' success under pressure lies firmly with the "no-excuses" philosophy that starts with coach Mike Sherman.<p>

The Packers are off to their best start since their Super Bowl title season despite losing seven starters to injury. A look at that list reveals an even bigger challenge as the Packers have been without key elements of their team including the highly respected duo of offensive linemen Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton. Add a rash of injuries to the secondary which claimed Mike McKenzie, Antuan Edwards and Darren Sharper, plus a season-ending injury to top free agent Joe Johnson and the long-term loss of veteran Vonnie Holliday, and you've got a recipe for trouble.

The injury that caused the most angst hasn't even produced a missed start: the sight of Brett Favre being carted from the field still makes Packer fans' blood run cold.

With all of the above happening before the regular season reaches the half-way point, the Packers' perch atop the division -- WAY atop the division -- is even more impressive.

"Winning like we have just speaks volumes for the backups and the coaching staff that prepares us," Sharper said."

The key to the Packers' success has been a no-excuses attitude that starts at the top with Mike Sherman and permeates this team.

"When you're playing with (backups), your foundation and your philosophy are really important, because that's what you hang on to," defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said. "This is proof that Mike Sherman has a philosophy that is sound. When those guys who haven't gotten a lot of snaps get in there, they know enough about it and his constant messages that they play well."

Sherman has made it clear that he expects his backups to perform as well as the starters. Losing a step is not part of the plan when a starter goes down.

"Conventional wisdom saiys when a guy goes out, the next guy doesn't do as well. We have done as well," said backup QB Doug Pederson, who performed admirably under dire circumstances last weekend. "That's not supposed to happen. That's just a compliment to those individuals and to the other guys around them helping them out. It's a team thing.

"That comes directly from Coach Sherman, and no one's going to make excuses. If you make excuses, you don't have a job," Pederson said.

"It's essentially peer pressure," said center Mike Flanagan, who turned his first start at left tackle into a chance to shut down Bruce Smith.

"The coaches don't treat you any different whether you're a backup or a starter. You've still got to do what you've got to do. Nobody's here just because they're nice guys.

"Everybody in this group has high expectations of themselves and whoever is next to them," Flanagan said.

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