Four games is four games.
It’s a sample, a taste. And whether a team’s start is atrocious, fantastic, or somewhere in between, four games is not enough to determine how things will go the rest of the way.
But it is enough to paint a picture of what kind of team you have.
The Green Bay Packers - a team now standing at 3-1 after Sunday’s 28-26 win over the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field – are a portrait of a team firmly entrenched in an area between fantastic and the middle. The needle moves quite frantically, though, the Packers shifting between overwhelming - and overwhemingly disappointing – on a seemingly minute-to-minute basis.
Sunday’s contest was a perfect example of that. More than a bit maddening, yes, but still a perfect example.
The offense is, to borrow one from “The Blues Brothers”, powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline – at times. Against the lowly, but quickly improving and vastly irritating Lions (0-4), the Packers managed to throw 21 points on the board in the first half, despite only having the ball for just over 10 minutes. The three scores all came on beautiful plays made by Aaron Rodgers, the young signal-caller connecting with Donald Driver, Jermichael Finley and Greg Jennings.
In the second half, the opportunities were just as limited, but far less successful. Rodgers threw two picks, the first his fault and the other completely on Jennings, and things just fell out of synch. Just then, however, when naysayers like myself were assuring a Green Bay loss, the unit jolted itself back to life, smashing Detroit in the mouth over the final six minutes to put the game away.
Sound familiar to the three games that preceded it?
That’s not even mentioning the run game. While the ground attack was good with the few chances it had - John Kuhn and Brandon Jackson combining for 72 yards on 18 carries, a 4.0 average, the gold standard – it sure doesn’t seem enough to make defenses respect it. That needs to change, Mike McCarthy’s hatred of the ground game or not.
Green Bay’s defense provides another fine example of the needle’s rapid movement. The majority of the group played with little fire or intensity Sunday, though even if it had, it wouldn’t have mattered due to the extremely poor, stubborn playcalling of defensive coordinator Dom Capers. The blitzes were not working, but that meant nothing to Capers. He continued spinning them, even as journeyman backup Shaun Hill proved more than willing to sit back and simply dump off to his backs/tight ends (25 catches for 222 yards from that group). Hill turned in an outstanding day outside of that, also, accouting for 384 yards of total offense.
As bad as all that was – and dear God, was it bad – the defense found a way to step it up when it mattered most, getting great play from the corners, Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams. With lesser corners in those spots, the Packers lose this game. Bank on that. Those two were instrumental in holding the Lions to four second-half field goals which, combined with Woodson’s pick-six early in the third quarter, ultimately made the difference in the victory.
Up. Down. Down. Up. Again, does any of this sound familiar?
Throw in another mostly down showing from the special teams – that’s two weeks good, two weeks bad, if you’re keeping score – and it becomes official: the Packers change their tone faster than the weather.
What this means the rest of the way is anyone’s guess.
Glass half-full: Green Bay hasn’t come close to playing its best game yet. When the Packers reach full break in their stride, they are more than capable of running away with a slightly down, wide-open NFC.
Glass something less than half-full: This team is dodging a ton of bullets. With a schedule that gets exponentially tougher from now through the end of November, this team will get crushed more than once if it keeps this up.
Honestly, this writer comes down somewhere in between. Yes, the Packers are, and will be, supremely talented to most teams they line up against. And, sure, they will be terrifying once they play their best game. But, quite honestly, they’ve given us little or no indication that that’s going to happen anytime soon. Until they pull it together for 60 minutes – not 30, or 20, or 50, but 60 – it’s not unfair to be skeptical.
The Packers can’t decide which team they want to be, so why would you?