After three painful and somewhat puzzling performances in a row, the Green Bay Packers look back on track in 2008. Dominating the Colts for four quarters at Lambeau Field in a 34-14 trouncing of the AFC powerhouse, showed just what kind of damage this team can do when they are assignment sure, and playing with confidence, tempo, and rhythm.
Now with two straight victories over playoff teams from last year, the Packers are tied for first in the league and have a bye week to not only get healthy, but prepare for the only undefeated team left in the league, the Tennessee Titans.
The most important thing for the Packers this season has been turnovers. In their three losses, the Packers turned the ball over six times and in their four wins, a combined two giveaways. To be fair, three of those turnovers came off of Aaron Rodgers interceptions against Tampa Bay when Rodgers played with a sprained shoulder. Rodgers has thrown just four balls to the other team this year, to go along with 12 TD’s giving him the highest touchdown to interception rate in the league and a top five QB rating.
Defensively, the Green Bay has been as good as it gets in the NFL at turn opposing quarterbacks over. The Packers defense has more interceptions than any team in the league this season and scored more defensive touchdowns than any team in the league by double over the second place teams.
Free Safety Nick Collins has enjoyed a break out year for the Packers, leading the league in interceptions and defensive touchdowns. Remarkably, he shares both of those leads with his running mate Charles Woodson both of whom have 4 picks and two touchdowns (No other team even have one player with two defensive touchdowns). The former Heisman Trophy winner has been nothing short of dominating this year and completely took Reggie Wayne out of the game. Even Tramon Williams, who has replaced the injured Al Harris, has made an impact and before the Colts game had an interception in three straight games.
On Sunday, that impressive group of DB's forced Manning into the fourth worst passer rating of his career as the Indy signal caller threw two pick sixes, completing just 21 of 42 passes. Amazingly, the Packers did it without a sack on Manning, as Bob Slowik’s defense barely blitzed at all.
The last two weeks also give us a glimpse into the Packers offensive philosophy moving forward. The offensive line has lacked continuity due to injury, and Ryan Grant has been similarly slowed with a hamstring injury. However, Grant has 64 carries the last two games, while getting into the end zone and breaking the 100 yard mark for the first time this season.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy has shown faith in his running game, and even though it hasn’t produced the kind of big gains Grant was used to last year, pounding a defense for four quarters keeps them honest while softening the interior, slowing the rush, and setting up play action.
That has allowed Aaron Rodgers to get comfortable in the pocket. He is getting the ball out quickly with accuracy and timing. Greg Jennings leads the league in receiving and has emerged as an elite play maker in the league. With Grant running hard and Rodgers getting the ball to his talented group of play makers on the outside, this offense can control the clock just as easily as they can score in bunches. They showed both on Sunday.
With Will Blackmon and Mason Crosby making the Packers special teams one of the best in the NFC, the Packers have re-established themselves as contenders in the NFC where the top teams have scuffled of late. The bye week will allow AJ Hawk, Atari Bigby, Charles Woodson, Justin Harrell and maybe even Al Harris to all get healthy on the defense, while helping Aaron Rodgers, James Jones, and Ryan Grant get back to 100%.
Green Bay will need the week off and all hands on deck when they face the class of the AFC in two weeks on their trip to Tennessee against Albert Haynesworth and the undefeated Titans.