The Packers are united in their goal, which is another Super Bowl championship, but the specter of an undefeated season looms larger for some than it does for others.
“It means a lot,” Donald Driver said in speaking for the faction of players who have a fascination for the goose egg on the right side of the Packers’ record. “We’re the one team that’s undefeated. In my career, little league to college, I’ve never been undefeated. This is something I’m going to cherish for a long time.”
Meanwhile, wide receiver mate James Jones, representing the just-win-the-big-one crowd, said the Packers’ undefeated record “just means we’re 9-0 and every win puts us closer to the playoffs. We have to keep on playing hard. The ultimate goal is to win the championship. If we do it 10-6 again, it doesn’t matter. Don’t ever approach a game saying you want to lose.”
So it is with both approaches that the Packers step into Week 11 of the 2011 season with the longest winning streak in franchise history, 15. With a win at Lambeau Field against 4-5 Tampa Bay on Sunday, the Packers will reach double-digit wins, considered to be a significant mile marker in the season by Head Coach Mike McCarthy. With 10 wins, the postseason enters the picture.
Sunday’s game is also somewhat of a mile marker in that it introduces late-season weather. Temperatures are forecast to be in the 30s on Sunday, by far the coldest weather in which the Bucs will have played this season, and with the colder temperatures could come a slightly more conservative brand of football, even for the pass-minded Packers.
“Conventional wisdom is that when the elements get challenging, it’s better to have balance. Any time you have balance, it helps,” Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin said. “Wind can be a great equalizer.”
Will the Packers lean a little harder on their running game and running backs James Starks and Ryan Grant, neither of whom has hit the 100-yard mark so far in this season?
“We’ve been scoring a lot of points. We’ll see. We are what we are. We know what we are. We think we have balance. We never said we want to be 50-50,” Philbin said.
On the other side of the ball, Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers is keeping an eye on the weather forecast, because he knows that weather dictates style of play late in the season.
“It has to do that to a certain degree. If we had to play out there today with the way the wind is, we’d have to have alternative plans,” Capers said following practice on Friday. “You never know what you’re going to run into.”
The Packers are running into a Tampa team that’s struggling on both sides of the ball. They’ve lost three in a row and four of their last five, and they were thumped in two of those losses by a combined score of 85-12.
One player, however, has Capers’ attention: running back LeGarrette Blount, a powerful inside runner to whom Capers drew comparison to Giants big back Brandon Jacobs.
“He’s a big, physical, downhill guy,” Capers said. “What do we have to take away, and that changes every week? Last week, you didn’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to know you had to take away (Adrian) Peterson and (Percy) Harvin.”
That’s exactly what the Packers defense did in what was its best performance of the season. Can it put two strong outings back to back?
“We’ve had a good week of practice. This game is about having confidence,” Capers said. “This is what I tell our guys: If it works, you’re going to keep getting it.”
Through nine games, it’s been working for the Packers. One more week of it would send the Packers to Detroit 10-0 for a long-awaited, NFC North, Thanksgiving Day showdown. Additional coverage - Nov. 18