Rodgers, Packers hit their stride
There is nothing in
"He's a gooooood quarterback," said one defensive coordinator who game-planned for Rodgers this season. "He can do it all."
In only his second season as a starter, the former Cal star threw for the second-most yards (4,434) in franchise history, posted the second-best passer rating (103.3) in Packers annals and had the second-lowest interception percentage (1.3) by a Green Bay regular. He also ranked fourth in the league with 30 touchdown passes.
The irony is that coach
But the remolding of the offense failed to materialize because, despite struggles to protect Rodgers for half the season, it was clear the Packers' best mode of travel was through the air. When the team re-signed veteran
"That was big," Rodgers said of Finley's return. "When he finally was able to come back, that's when our 'big' package came back, which was Jermichael,
"I don't care who we're going against, either Jermichael is going to be a mismatch, or Greg in the slot, or Donald in the slot. We saw what happens in Pittsburgh: You want to put your best guys on Donald or Greg to take them away, then James Jones is going to make plays, Jordy Nelson is going to make plays. When we were able to get that 'big' package back in, that's when things turned around for us."
Not coincidentally, the running game came around soon after.
Green Bay appeared to be anything but a contender after the loss to the Bucs on Nov. 8. The offense was searching for its identity and the defense was trying to adjust to the scheme change. But that defeat seemed to refocus the Pack, particularly on defense, where Capers dug deeper into his playbook and showed more trust that his players could handle the calls.
The Packers surrendered 30 points or more in four of their first eight games, but have allowed only one opponent to reach that mark since then -- even with veteran stalwarts
Several players admitted that things looked dark after the Tampa game, but Rodgers, who earned his first Pro Bowl berth, says he never felt the Packers were out of it.
"We had a good feeling coming out of training camp with the team that we had," he said. "I was looking at the schedule in the preseason thinking, 'We need to be 8-3 by the time we get to December if we want to (play for a championship).' I knew we would have five tough games that month: We had both Super Bowl teams, a Baltimore team that went to the AFC Championship, Seattle at home and Chicago on the road, where they had won three of last four meetings.
"When we started 4-4 there was concern. But I could see a light. After that game we just got on this roll. We found our identity on offense and the defense started playing lights out. They kept getting us the ball, and we kept doing things with it. You're not going to lose too many games when that happens."
Or when you have a quarterback as talented, confident and comfortable as Rodgers is entering Sunday.