After an ultra-impressive dismantling of the Minnesota Vikings, the newfound complementary football drives Packers forward on their improbable ride towards the playoffs. After nearly a full season of disconnect and the various parts of the team not playing in sync, Packers fans finally got to see what their team is made of. It’s a team locked in and feeding off one another. Each unit complements the other. Whether that’s offense, defense or special teams they are all surging at the right time.
Against Minnesota, it couldn’t have started off worse for this unit. A blocked punt downed at the Green Bay 1 is not how they drew it up. However, they pushed through and overcame the adversity the next time they stepped on the field. Keisean Nixon’s 105-yard kickoff return felt like the cultivation of a year’s worth of growth by the often-criticized unit. Later in the same half, Mason Crosby reminded everyone why he’s the Packers all-time scoring leader, drilling a 56-yard field goal.
Special teams are still a work in progress. But the culmination of the work to transform the unit into a competitive unit has begun to yield results. The Packers can have confidence that this unit won’t just not be a weakness for them, but instead is another weapon that opponents need to account for. They provide great field position for the offense and energy for the defense to feed off of.
The bye week ‘self-scout’ for the defense couldn’t have been fun for Joe Barry and his staff. The defense was in shambles, playing like 11 players who just met in the parking lot. Throw in a blitz heavy defense that couldn’t get home coupled with a passive secondary and there wasn’t much to get excited about. It felt like Barry was trying to overcompensate for Rashan Gary’s absence.
Coming out the bye, Barry surprised everyone. He threw out his predictable game plans and redesigned what the focus of the defense is. Instead of trying to blitz quarterbacks into predictable quick throws, the Packers play coverage and allow their pass rush to get home. So far this has worked wonderfully. Led by Jaire Alexander, the Packers secondary is playing inspired ball.
The caliber of the teams they will face will only get better from here on out. The Packers defense needs to continue to rise to the challenge, but now they have an identity that they can rally behind.
Finally, the offense has begun to embrace what they are. They are truly at their best when the two headed monster of AJ Dillion and Aaron Jones are driving the train. When they stray away from the run in any capacity, the offense studders. As the season has worn on, Aaron Rodgers has seemed to embrace this more fully, allowing the passing game to augment the run.
The ability to run the ball is essential late in the season. It allows the Packers defense to rest and wears out the soul of the opponent. As teams are forced to commit more resources to the run, it will open the rest of the playbook. Patience is key.
Rodgers can direct a lethal, efficient offense who nobody will want to face.
It all comes down to this.
Week 18. Sunday Night Football. Rival Detroit Lions. A place in the playoffs on the line.
Jordan is a lifelong Packer fan who grew up in Idaho and now lives in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on twitter at @jordantwolf.