Packers much more than a one-man band
Donald Driver was well-covered on this play by the Vikings Asher Allen but still managed to come up with the catch (TANNEN MAURY/EPA).
On a 3rd-and-8 play early in the first quarter Monday night, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers unleashed a rope down the left sideline to Donald Driver.
It looked for all the world like Driver was covered when Rodgers let the ball go -- but sure enough, he managed to slam the brakes on his route, leap over Minnesota's defender and haul in the pass for a 22-yard gain.
What's an opposing defensive coordinator to do? You want to take away the Packers' run game? Big deal. Green Bay did absolutely nothing on the ground for the first 28 minutes Monday, led 17-0, and then sprung a 10-yard James Starks draw play on Minnesota on a 3rd-and-9 from its own 4.
You think stopping Greg Jennings is the key? Go ahead and try. Jennings had just three catches Monday night (though one went for a TD) and Rodgers still completed 23 passes for 250 yards.
Jermichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, Driver, Randall Cobb ... while defenses are looking at one player, five others are waiting to destroy them. Heck, it was 7-0 in Green Bay's favor Monday before Rodgers and his seemingly unstoppable offense even took the field, thanks to an electrifying 80-yard punt return score from Cobb.
This could have been a throwaway game for the Packers, who came into it with complete control of the NFC North and the meat of their remaining schedule looming. Instead, Green Bay buried Minnesota before the Vikings even knew what hit 'em, then piled on to finish the job.
Minnesota actually gave Green Bay one of its tougher tests of this season back in Week 7, when Christian Ponder nearly pulled off a fourth-quarter rally in his first NFL start. Ponder's fourth NFL start was far less thrilling -- he threw one pick Monday and could have chalked up at least a couple more, all the while running for his life from Green Bay's defensive front.
It's not his fault the game got away from Minnesota. And though you'd like to his team put up more of a fight than it did at Lambeau Field, it's hard to fault the Vikings either.
The Packers, right now, simply are too good.
An undefeated regular season won't come easy and a Super Bowl win, as the 2007 Patriots found out, is never a guarantee. But it's pretty clear, the more and more we see of Green Bay, that it is going to take a night of perfection from an opponent for this win streak to end.
Can it be done? Sure. A team with a front four dominant enough to create consistent pressure on Rodgers and an offense high-powered enough to hang 30 or 40 on the Packers' sometimes-suspect defense could pull off the trick.
There just are not that many teams out there even remotely capable of pulling the trick -- mainly because there are only a handful of franchises that can boast the cornucopia of talent that Green Bay has.
Rodgers is the centerpiece, there's no doubt about that. He is Green Bay's irreplaceable weapon. Take him out of the lineup and you have a solid collection of talent without anyone able to take full advantage. Rodgers makes every single player on his offense better, which is saying something, because these guys are so damn good in the first place.
A defense can have the perfect play called and be in perfect position, as Minnesota did and was on that Rodgers-to-Drive hook-up early in the first quarter, and the Packers just win the battle. Finley pulled off a similar moment of brilliance on a fourth-down play in the second quarter, readjusting to an underthrown pass from an off-balance Rodgers to make a catch in traffic for a huge gain.
Those are the types of plays, too, that demoralize Green Bay's opposition. The chances to stop the Packers offense do not come along often, so when those moments are right there for the taking, then get ripped away by a perfect Rodgers pass or an incredible catch, it stings more than it should.
The Packers know they're better than the teams they're playing and, at least thus far thisseason, they have gone out and proven it.
Somewhere, at some time, this magical Green Bay run will stop, whether it's against the Bucs or Lions or Giants in the regular season, in the playoffs or in the 2012 season. Even the greatest of teams cannot keep winning forever. With the Packers running wave after wave of talent onto the field, though, it's just hard to imagine how they're going to lose.