Green Bay Packers: 6 Positives We Can Take from Their Amazing 2011 Run
The Packers' season ended in heartbreak, as it has so many times in recent years. But to think that it would happen twice against the New York Giants? That just stings, and there's little the Packers fans can hope for to compensate for it except a Giants loss to the Niners.
So how do we deal with a season's end? Well, we start by doing the hardest thing of all. We look at the positives.
Sure, the negatives are what we feel like focusing on, obviously because the Packers lost and we need a good reason to know why in order to give ourselves a sense of understanding. But that's the wrong thing to do in my opinion.
The Packers are getting better every year, so let's look at what they were able to accomplish this year.
Defense Can Still Turn the Ball over
It was ugly against the Giants, but it was beautiful during the regular season. The Packers still had more interceptions than any other team in the NFL and were second in turnover differential at plus-24.
As bad as their defense played in 2011, one thing remains clear. They will almost always win the turnover battle.
The Offense Simply Looked Unstoppable
The Packers don't have much need offensively to worry about this offseason.
They have the best group of receivers in the league, they have three young running backs in James Starks, Alex Green and Brandon Saine, and they have a potent offensive line.
If the Packers offensive line can just manage to stay healthy next year, there's really nothing much to address this offseason. The only concern in my opinion is left tackle, where Clifton will be 36 years old and Derek Sherrod will miss the entire offseason of workouts. But again, that's really the only concern.
When you averaged 35 points a game, it's hard to contend that there are any "leaks" on your offense.
Penalties Reached a New Low
From 2007 to 2009, the Packers were one of the most penalized team in the NFL, with an average 113 a year. In 2011, they had the fewest penalties in the NFL with only 76 flags for 591 yards.
Penalties were one of head coach Mike McCarthy's biggest problems in first few years in Green Bay, but discipline is something he's emphasized more heavily in recent years and it's showing.
Mike McCarthy Moved Away from Being Too Conservative
Early in the season, McCarthy decided that he didn't want to risk giving up too much tape to his opponents and decided to take his foot off the gas pedal. This is reminiscent in his first game, where he had a 15 point lead on the New Orleans Saints and let it come down to a goal-line stance.
Against Denver in Week 4, he went full throttle and never looked back. He was aggressive on fourth downs, called a few surprise onside kicks, and kept calling for big plays. The Packers scored the second-most points in NFL history which equated into a 15-1 season.
I believe the Coach of the Year award should go to Jim Harbaugh, but McCarthy should land somewhere in second or third place.
Special Teams Improved a Great Deal
Green Bay's special teams have been mediocre at best in recent years, but the unit came together in 2011. The only big return they gave up all year was in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints, where Darren Sproles returned the ball 70 yards for a touchdown.
They never let another play like that happen again all season.
Rookie return man Randall Cobb had two returns for a touchdown this season, and was explosive with big returns. Cobb also had a bad case of fumbleitis, but hey, he's a rookie.
Tim Masthay started off slow, but quickly returned to last season's form, kicking the ball deep inside the 20. Masthay should be considered one of the top five punters in the NFL.
Kicker Mason Crosby had a comeback year and hit 24 out his 28 field goal attempts, including a game-winner in week 13.
There were fewer mistakes and much more explosiveness this season on special teams.
Aaron Rodgers Had Phenomenal Season and Probably Will Win NFL MVP Award
I understand that there's no substitute for winning the Super Bowl, but there are a handful of things that ease the pain. Outside of Skip Brainless, most now believe that Aaron Rodgers is a top-three quarterback in the NFL, and probably had the best season of any player in the NFL in 2011.
Rodgers threw 45 touchdown passes to just six interceptions, giving him the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history. Along with that, he broke the NFL record for passer rating with 122 and set multiple franchise records, including most yards, completion percentage and yards per attempt.
We can gladly and confidently boast that we have the best player in the game in Aaron Rodgers.