Doug Farrar:Brett Favre enjoyed perhaps his greatest regular season as a passer in 2007. What are the primary differences between the Favre that Mike Holmgren coached a decade ago, and the Favre we'll see this weekend?
Todd Korth: Favre is less mobile than he was during the mid-1990s when he won three straight MVP awards, but his arm is just as strong. Heck, he’ll be able to roll out of bed when he’s 65 years old and throw it the length of the football field.
A big difference between his season this year, when he played under Holmgren, and even recent seasons, is that he is making more high-percentage passes – slants, curls, screens – and letting his receivers take it from there. Thus, he finished the year with his best completion percentage of his career (66.5%) and the Packers were No. 2 in the NFL in passing.
DF: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, over half of Green Bay's passing yards this season -- a league-best 2,294 total -- came after the catch. Has general manager Ted Thompson gone out of his way to acquire receivers that have good hands and are tough when they get the ball? Has this been the plan under Mike McCarthy all along? What can you tell us about each starting receiver?
TK: Donald Driver was on board prior to Thompson's return to Green Bay in 2005, but Thompson did select Jennings in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft and James Jones in last April's draft in the third round. All three have are very instinctive players and strong runners after making the catch. Neither of the three will wow anyone with their 40-yard dash times, but they do possess 'football speed,' which they utilize well to separate from defensive backs. Same goes with No. 4 and No. 5 receivers Koren Robinson and Ruvell Martin. Both of those players have good size and strength. They are more role players, but have the ability to break away from defenders.
DF: When the season
began, Green Bay's obvious Achilles' heel was the running game. In the Packers'
first six games, the opposing team's featured running back gained the most yardage
on the ground. But in the next seven, Ryan Grant came out of nowhere and led
all backs who played the Pack. What's Grant's story, and what are the attributes
that have made him such a dangerous addition?
TK: Grant's acquisition from the Giants will go down as one of Thompson's all-time steals. Nobody, probably not even Thompson, would have guessed that Grant would be this productive this quickly. But credit Grant making the most of his opportunity when the door was open.
Three other running backs - Brandon Jackson, DeShawn Wynn and Vernand Morency - had chances to seize the starting role, but they either were unproductive or wound up on injured reserve. Grant came off the bench in Green Bay's Monday night overtime win over Denver, rushed for 104 yards, and has never looked back. He has proven to be durable, has excellent forward lean and runs downhill all the time. He has proved that he can break a long run on any given attempt, like his TD runs of 62 yards against Dallas and 66 yards against Chicago, and has adapted to the Packers' zone-blocking scheme where others have fallen short.
We know a bit about Aaron Kampman, but what else can you tell us about Green
Bay's defensive line? Why have the Packers been experiencing a sack drought
in four of their last five games?
TK: The interior of the line has been hit by injuries, which probably has affected the ends getting to the quarterback. Defensive tackles Johnny Jolly and Colin Cole were placed on injured reserve in late November and early December. Plus, starting defensive tackle Ryan Pickett sustained a groin injury and missed the final two games.
The Packers have put pressure on quarterbacks in many cases, but not enough to get sacks. Pickett is the foundation of the defensive line, and he makes a big difference when he's on the field. He often occupies two blockers, which frees up others to get to the quarterback.
The Seahawks bring perhaps the NFL's best 4-3 linebackers to Lambeau. How do
the Green Bay 'backers compare?
TK: We'll see on Saturday, eh! Seattle probably has the edge on the Packers at that position, but Green Bay's linebacker corp is no pushover. Middle linebacker Nick Barnett was named as a first alternate for the NFC squad in the upcoming Pro Bowl. Barnett led the team in tackles for the fourth time in five years and also had 3.5 sacks and two interceptions during the regular season. A.J. Hawk has been steady and has improved greatly with his pass coverage. He finished second on the team in tackles. Strong-side linebacker Brady Poppinga is one of the more intense players you'll ever see and a great quote, but he can be vulnerable in pass coverage. Many teams have tried picking on Poppinga with their tight ends, especially early in the season. Poppinga, however, to his credit, has improved in the latter half of the season, so it will be interesting to see if Mike Holmgren tries to utilize Marcus Pollard as much as possible.
How much of a role has the secondary played in Green Bay's ranking of sixth
in scoring defense?
TK: Safety Atari Bigby (5), and cornerbacks Charles Woodson (4) and Al Harris (2) have accounted for 11 of the team's 19 interceptions, including one touchdown. They have played a big role in the team's scoring defense with their ability to cover receivers and allow the defensive line and linebackers to either sack or pressure opposing quarterbacks.
Harris was named to the Pro Bowl for his first time this season, and it can be argued that Woodson deserved the honor as well. Bigby has been a big-time upgrade over former Seahawk Marquand Manuel at strong safety.
Mike McCarthy seems to have this team firmly in hand. In his first two seasons,
he tied Mike Sherman for the franchise best in winning percentage. He seems
to be a no-nonsense kind of coach who has the respect of the veterans and is
able to establish a culture of discipline with the younger players. Are things
as good as they seem, and how well does McCarthy work with general manager Ted
Thompson, who just got a five-year contract renewal?
TK: McCarthy and Thompson obviously have been on the same page from the get-go. They meet frequently each week, fine-tuning the depth chart, and assessing personnel. McCarthy and his staff's ability to produce a Super Bowl contender out of the youngest roster in the NFL has been nothing short of spectacular. If not for New England's perfect record this year, McCarthy easily would have been named coach of the year in the league.
Things definitely are as
good as they appear in Green Bay. Brett Favre is playing well, as are the players
around him, the team is winning, and it appears that it will be in position
to continue to contend for years to come. Look for the team to extend McCarthy's
contract, which is scheduled to expire after the 2008 season, within the next
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Behind Enemy Lines series tomorrow!