SAN DIEGO—The 16-0 talk will, no doubt, ramp up this week. Fans will dream. Talk-show hosts will debate. Inside the basement walls of Lambeau Field that house the Green Bay Packers, however, the focus will be more limited.
“We’re trying to be 1-0 every week,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said following a 45-38 win at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday. It marked the eighth time in eight tries this season that the Packers were successful at being 1-0.
Can they do it 19 times?
Head Coach Mike McCarthy won’t permit such talk for at least two more weeks.
“We don’t talk big picture until we get to double-digit wins. The big goal is to win the division, get into the big dance and win the Super Bowl,” McCarthy said.
So, should the Packers beat the Vikings and Bucs at Lambeau Field over the next two weeks, well, then big-picture talk will officially be on. Can you wait two more weeks, folks?
It almost was off against the Chargers, who rallied from a 45-24 deficit with 10:27 to play in the game to force the Packers defense to do something it rarely did on Sunday: stop the Chargers offense.
This one wasn’t a masterpiece, except for Rodgers, who built on his lead as the league’s most efficient quarterback by pitching a 145.8 passer rating at Philip Rivers and the Chargers. In the Packers’ now 14-game winning streak, Rodgers’ level of performance has been almost unfair to opposing quarterbacks.
Let’s review his list of victims: Eli Manning, Jay Cutler (twice), Michael Vick, Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger last season, and Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Cutler, Kyle Orton, Ryan, Sam Bradford, Christian Ponder and Rivers this season. Hey, that’s some list. It includes no fewer than five elite quarterbacks, a borderline candidate and the hottest rookie in the game.
All of them went down at the hands of Rodgers. He’s the best in the game. It’s without question. The only question is can he do it all the way through the Super Bowl?
Rodgers is no shrinking violet. This is not a guy who has mastered the fine art of poor-mouthing himself for the sake of gaining a competitive edge. If sliding all the way to the 24th pick of his draft gave Rodgers his chip on the shoulder, then maybe something after that (hint, hint) gave him his verve. The guy’s got some major mojo.
“I’d like to play flawless football: not turn the ball over, be good in the red zone,” he said following Sunday’s win.
How about four touchdown passes, no interceptions and three-for-three (touchdowns) in the red zone, if you don’t count that kneel-down at the Chargers six on the final play of the game?
Rodgers was sacked four times and forced to run eight times, which left him just 14 yards behind James Starks, the Packers’ leading rusher. Through eight games, Rodgers has yet to have a 100-yard rusher to aid his cause.
What it all means is that he is the most dominant player in the league and, without question, the leading candidate for league MVP honors. He’s the kind of quarterback a team needs to be able to dream of being undefeated. To be flawless, you need a flawless quarterback.
He needs one more thing: a staunch defense, which the Packers were not on Sunday. A year ago, they were, but this is a defense that has struggled through the first half of this season and as we approach big-picture day, all eyes are turning to Dom Capers’ unit. It is admitting as much.
“It’s a team game. Everybody fits within the scheme. There are 11 pieces. We need to get some pressure,” linebacker Clay Matthews said.
“I guess it wouldn’t hurt to get more,” linebacker Desmond Bishop said.
The Packers did not get much pressure on Rivers. They sacked him twice but too often he had time to survey the field.
Allowing big plays also continues to be a problem. The Packers defense is making big plays, but it allowed several “explosives,” to use the vernacular, on Sunday, and that is the no-no of all no-no’s in the game plan of defensive coordinators.
A new problem arose on defense Sunday. “We need to clean up some things communication-wise,” McCarthy said.
When the issues on defense get fixed, the dreaming may begin. Additional coverage - Nov. 6