The 2012 Green Bay Packers season began with three loses in their first five games and filled with all kinds of speculation as to why a team that was predicted to return to the Super Bowl was struggling so mightily. Now the Packers have won three straight games and all of those empty seats on their band wagon are beginning to be refilled by those who jumped off of it following the 30-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in week five.
For starters before I even begin to breakdown their fine play over the past few weeks, let’s just truly understand that even those three loses shouldn’t have signaled the end of the world for the Pack. The first lost came by eight to one of the more dominant teams in the NFL (San Francisco 49ers, 30-22), the second one was taken away from them thanks to the replacement referees at the end of the game (Seattle Seahawks, 14-12) and the third to Indy who were playing fired up for their head coach Chuck Pagano who had just been diagnosed with leukemia.
Grant it if they would have played better on both sides of the football they could have pulled out a victory in each of those three games but that is what they are doing now. Playing well on both sides of the ball has this team now on a three game winning streak in which they destroyed a previous unbeaten team (Houston Texans, 42-24) on Monday Night Football, defeated another competitive team on the road (St. Louis Rams, 30-20) and handled one of the league’s worst teams without much of a concern (Jacksonville Jaguars, 24-15).
The initial reason for this change in fortunes is the play of Aaron Rodgers who has looked like a reigning MVP in the Packers five wins this season (280.8 passing yards per game, 3.2 TD per game, 0.4 INT per game and 70.9% completion rate) while in the the Pack’s three losses he has looked more like an average quarterback (253.6 passing yards per game, 1.7 TD per game, 0.7 INT per game and 66.1% completion rate). In the past three games Rodgers has passed for 866 yards and 11 touchdowns with a completion percentage of 69.7% and not a single interception. It is that type of stellar play that can not only turn a season around for a team but also allow them to play through the mass of injuries which they endured this season.
Another key for Green Bay has been the fine play of their defensive unit. All season long the defense has been improved to the unit that gave up massive chunks of yardage each in every game which ultimately was their downfall during the postseason last year also. This season the Pack are ranked in the middle of the league in many of the major defensive categories including total offensive yards allowed per game (13th, 342.1 yards), passing yards allowed per game (19th, 238.3 yards), rushing yards allowed per game (12th, 103.9 yards) and points allowed per game (tied for 12th, 21.3 points) as opposed to be ranked near the bottom of the league in those same categories.
The defense is getting each and every member of that unit to step up and play ball; if someone is injured then they are using the next man up mentality to perfection and that is what any team that has true championship aspirations must do in order to keep the ship afloat.
The final element which has help cause this winning streak is the play calling. Even though the Packers still rank towards the bottom of the league in rushing yards gained per game (26th, 90.1 yards) at least they are running the ball slightly more which keeps opposing defenses off balance and allows Rodgers and the passing game to get more time to make things happen. Rodgers has been sacked 28 times this season (most in the NFL) however just seven of those have come in the past three games (2.3 per game) as opposed to 21 occurring in the five games prior (4.2 per game). That is a direct result of opposing defenses not being able to simply pass rush on almost every play since they now have to at least think about stopping the run.
The Packers still have a very difficult schedule remaining ahead of them with games at Detroit, at the New York Giants, vs Minnesota, at Chicago and at Minnesota but they seem more win-able then before this current three game winning streak began. Up next for Green bay is a home meeting with the fast-sinking Arizona Cardinals and then a bye week before they must endure on that difficult part of their schedule.
If the Packers can finish the season either 11-5 or 12-4 that should not only put them in the playoffs but possibly in first in the NFC North which would be exactly where many predicted them to be prior to the slow start this season.