The offense seemed to be firing on all cylinders against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon. Not only did the Packers enter halftime with a 20-point lead, but they also ate up slightly over two-thirds of clock time (41:39). Clearly, they were in control of this game.
Even when the defense sputtered in the second half—partly due to critical injuries sustained by Al Harris and Aaron Kampman—the offense was able to leisurely walk the ball down the field on their last drive to close out the game and take the last five minutes and 56 seconds off the clock.
And this is all aside from the facts that Aaron Rodgers was only sacked twice while Ryan Grant ran the ball a stunning 129 total yards on only 21 carries. These two feats alone speak to the changes that have been made by Head Coach Mike McCarthy and the offensive staff.
Quick, high-percentage passes along with screen plays and a better dedication to the running game have helped to take some of the heat off quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
To put it in perspective: Rodgers has completed 57 of 81 passes over the last two weeks, with zero interceptions. That gives him a 70.4 percent completion rate. Rodgers seems to have grown in his duties as a game manager, due perhaps to the coaches giving him more responsibility and freedom on the field. Either way, the results are showing.
All of this success has put the Packers in strong contention for a Wild Card spot. As long as the team remains consistent with their increased level of play, there should be no reason why they can’t win at least three of their final six games.
However, McCarthy might need more than just a winning season to save face with not only the Green Bay management, but with the fans.
The Green Bay Packers community as a whole will not likely settle for anything less than a shot in the playoffs.
In order for McCarthy to save himself, the team needs to see continual improvement over the rest of the season. The special teams play was once again exploited by the 49ers late in the game when Josh Morgan returned a kickoff for 76 yards, setting up a Vernon Davis touchdown.
Even the Pittsburgh Steelers, defending Super Bowl champions, have experienced first-hand how detrimental a weakness in special teams can be. They have given up four touchdown returns in the past five games, contributing to some of their recent losses.
In addition, the loss of Pro Bowlers Al Harris and Aaron Kampman have upset the defensive game plan. Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers will need to find quick solutions to this problem in order to remain successful. (The team has already signed former Denver CB Josh Bell to add some depth to the position.)
And finally, the offensive coaches need to remain committed to their current game plan, which is looking more and more like the West Coast offense the Packers have committed themselves to.
As it stands after two solid performances, Head Coach Mike McCarthy is beginning to climb his way back out of the hole he dug during the first half of the season. Unfortunately for him, it might be for naught should the Packers miss the playoffs. And even then, continued success in the postseason might also be necessary to secure not only his job, but improve his reputation.