Monday, November 17, 2014

Packers' superlative performances at home continue as Eagles play latest victim

The final score of the Green Bay Packers vs. Philadelphia Eagles game at Lambeau Field yesterday was...a bajillion to who-the-heck cares. When a team dominates another -- especially a division leader (7-2 coming into the game) -- like the Packers did, well, scores are pretty irrelevant. Just as was the case a week earlier when the Pack disemboweled an even more pathetic Chicago Bears team. (But just in case you are obsessive-compulsive about this stuff, the final scores were 53-20 and 55-14 respectively.)

The biggest challenge for the Packers over the past two weeks could be said to be having sports pundits and bloggers run out of ways to describe an almost super-human performance on both sides of the ball. We're in the rarified atmosphere of record-setting performances for consecutive weeks. And it doesn't seem to matter whether the Packers are playing a good team, as the Eagles supposedly are, or a division bottom-feeder, such as Da Bearz. We Packer fans better savor these times, because they are rare indeed. Don't ever take them for granted, Packer fans. This stuff is not normal. Really. It is extraordinary.

We won't recount all the stats as your eyes would glaze over. One of note, however, is that for the first time in the looooong history of the Packers the team scored 50 or more points in two consecutive games. In fact, in the history of the NFL, this has only been accomplished four other times. Speaking of four, the Packers are 4-0 when they wear the 1929 Championship team uniforms.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in full-on assault mode.
Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

As fans are also well aware, QB Aaron Rodgers is playing like a man possessed. He has thrown 29 touchdowns at home without an interception (18 this season), the longest such streak in NFL history. He's actually thrown 322 consecutive passes at home without an interception, blowing well past Tom Brady's old mark of 288 and -- wait for it! -- the longest such streak in NFL history. Again, the numbers just become mind-numbing at some point. In the last seven games, Rodgers' passer rating is 132.3. Incredible. He and the Packers offense, with much credit due and given to his offensive line, have been so prolific in the first half of their home games they are outscoring opponents 128-9 over the last four games. This is a good reason why we haven't seen Rodgers play a fourth quarter in the last two games (he did have one series yesterday in the fourth, but still...).

Wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have also been stellar. RB Eddie Lacy is not only a legitimate running threat but has also developed into a trusty receiver this season, actually ranking as the third best on the team in terms of yardage, most of which has come after the catch. Case in point, Lacy's epic screen pass catch-and-run for a touchdown where he would not be stopped.

As good as the offense has been, which we pretty much expected, one of the things we didn't expect was the resurgence of what was a sieve-like defense at the start of the season. They are now dominating other teams, with turnovers a key; the defense has generated 22 takeaways so far this season, including plus-4 in turnover differential yesterday and plus-14 overall (22 takeaways minus 8 giveaways). Also, is it merely coincidence that these last two extraordinary wins have coincided with the move of LB Clay Matthews from the outside to inside where he can freelance a bit more?

If the Packers make a deep run into the playoffs this season, the improved performance of the defense will be key. We know the offense is loaded with talent. They can and will score...big. But 14 points yesterday came directly as a result of a pick-6 and a fumble recovery by the defense. That's huge.

As for special was a mixed bag yesterday for the Packers: a 75-yard punt return by Micah Hyde, but a muffed extra point hold, a blocked extra point, a missed field goal (long, granted), and a blocked punt. So with all the good bits out of yesterday's game, special teams just shows there is still much to work on. If the Packers ever get back into a tight game -- and reality says they will -- they can't afford those errors; the game and the season could turn on such things.

But for now, Packer fans...let us rejoice and be glad. The Packers are tied for first in the NFC North after Arizona defeated Detroit yesterday. The ViQueens are next up, on the road. Then back home for one of the tougher remaining games on the schedule against New England. There's six games to go. A lot can happen. But what's happening now is the stuff of legend. Yes, it is. And the stats prove it.