The Green Bay Packers Have Fully Evolved

We’re witnessing the fully evolved form of the 2022-2023 Green Bay Packers, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  

The 12-3 Minnesota Vikings strolled into Lambeau Field Sunday and were promptly demolished, 41-17. Both of Minnesota’s touchdowns were in garbage time when Green Bay subbed out almost the entirety of their defense.  

All three units are humming and contributing, perfectly exemplified in this extraordinary blowout of the Vikings. The Packers scored their first touchdown of the day off a 105-yard kick return touchdown by breakout returner Keisean Nixon. It’s Green Bay’s first kickoff return score since Randall Cobb took one to the house in 2011.  

The special teams weren’t all great, though, as the Packers had a punt blocked that set up the Vikings at Green Bay’s 1-yard line. The defense made a strong stand and only allowed a field goal. It’d be the only points Minnesota would put up until the game was far out of reach in the 4th quarter.  

Green Bay followed up with an interception returned for a touchdown by Darnell Savage. Savage has struggled immensely this season, being benched and seeing his snaps greatly reduced. He made a couple nice tackles in this game too. During what’s been a difficult season for Savage, it’s hard not to feel happy for him after a game like this.  

Kirk Cousins usually plays well against the Packers, but Green Bay forced four turnovers out of him Sunday. It’s the first time Cousins has had four turnovers in a single game since 2014. This game also continued the Packers’ incredible streak of forcing turnovers. Their defense has forced 12 (!!) turnovers in their last four games.  

Joe Barry might have officially saved his job after this game. There was a long stretch in the season where Barry seemed stuck in his ways, including not having Jaire Alexander follow the opposing team’s best receiver and sticking to a soft, vanilla defense. The Packers’ defense has played with so much more ferocity over the current winning streak and it’s absolutely a reason why they’ve been able to force more turnovers.  

Justin Jefferson torched the Packers in Week 1 with 9/184/2. Barry’s gameplan excelled in the rematch, as Alexander followed Jefferson all over the field and was often helped with a double team from a safety. Jefferson finished with a season-low one catch for just 15 yards. This is the guy who had a very realistic shot to break Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving yards record before this game.  

Not only did Alexander play great, but the perimeter defense for the Packers was also stellar all around. Rasul Douglas had one of his best games of the season, which helped to limit Minnesota’s number two receiver Adam Thielen to just one catch for 16 yards. Douglas also had the pass breakup that led to Savage’s pick six. Rudy Ford and Adrian Amos each had an interception as well. It’s about as good a day as you can have from a pass defense perspective.  

What’s even more impressive is that the Packers and their secondary accomplished this without a disruptive pass rush. The Packers had two sacks, one of which was a strip sack by Kenny Clark. Besides that, Cousins wasn’t under much duress for most of the game despite playing with a third-string center and a backup tackle. This team is sorely missing Rashan Gary. Defensive line will be one of Green Bay’s top needs to address this offseason.  

With such a dominant performance from the rest of the team, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense didn’t have to work too hard Sunday. They only had 315 yards of total offense due to the short fields and added scoring provided by the defense. Green Bay’s offense posted 5.2 yards per play – below league average – but made up for it by going 7/12 on third down. They kept drives alive and pounded Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon into the Vikings. Jones averaged nearly 8 yards per carry while Dillon handled most of the dirty work in short yardage situations.  

The Vikings sacked Rodgers just once despite their pass rush featuring former Packer Za’Darius Smith, who led the NFL in pressures coming into the week. Fifth-round rookie Zach Tom did an excellent job against Smith in pass protection. The Packers have struck gold on a late-round offensive lineman once again.  

The Packers had a few missed opportunities between Rodgers and Christian Watson that could have gotten the game out of hand even earlier. Watson burned Vikings defensive backs several times and was arguably held on a couple of them. Rodgers overthrew Watson a couple times and one ball slipped through Watson’s hands on a difficult contested catch. The connection isn’t all the way there yet, but Watson continues to prove there are very few defensive players in the league that can keep up with him. They’ll keep getting those opportunities.  

Is this version of the Packers, at what seems to be their peak of play, good enough to win the Super Bowl if they were to make the playoffs? Yes, if the defense can continue this miraculous streak of forcing turnovers. The offense significantly cutting down on mistakes paired with an opportunistic defense and a legitimate special teams threat has made the Packers a well-balanced and genuinely good team during their current four-game winning streak. 

The Packers get the Lions at Lambeau next week in a season finale that could determine who gets the final Wild Card playoff spot. I never thought I’d be saying this when the Packers were 4-8 and left dead in the water: They’ll probably have punched their ticket to the postseason this time next week.  

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Liam O’Donnell is a devoted Packers fan and an aspiring sportswriter from Milwaukee. He writes for PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @liamodonnell___.

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