I know there weren’t any time machines in my living room Sunday, but as the game between the Green Bay Packers and Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens transpired, I felt as though I was an 11-year-old watching the 1966 edition of the Packers taking on the Baltimore Colts.
The Packers defense was nothing short of brutal against the Ravens. In fact, on nine of Baltimore’s 21 designed runs yesterday, they were hit in the offensive backfield by Packers defenders. Leading the charge in that blitzkrieg were the Packers linebackers, most notably A.J. Hawk, Nick Perry and Jamari Lattimore.
Not only did the Packers defensive line and linebackers simply punch the Ravens’ offensive attack, for the third straight week, that unit showed significant improvement – and they did it without three of their front line linebackers: Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, and Robert Francois. All three were out with injuries Sunday, thus clearing the way for Lattimore, Mike Neal and Perry to steal the limelight.
But it wasn’t only the defense that reminded me of those rough and tumble 1960s Lombardi-coached teams. The offense, though inept at times against Baltimore’s own talented defense, did enough to win a ball game on the road and in the Super Bowl champions’ own stadium.
Yes, the team is still mired in the inability to score points when they get in the red zone; yes, coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t make the best calls; yes, the Packers are perilously thin at wide receiver with the injuries to James Jones and Randall Cobb – but despite those issues the Packers are still finding ways to win the tough games.
With a pounding running attack, with a defense that is probably moving toward the top 10 of all defenses in the league and with enough timely passing the Packers are playing like a team from the 1960s. We all know that defenses win championships and if this unit continues to play like the championship teams of the 1960s then we all know there is a hug upside facing this team.
There is plenty of season left, but the Packers are beginning to hit a stride at just the right time. Pieces of their slow, inconsistent start to the season are still visible, but if they can continue to stuff offenses and improve their scoring abilities in the red zone, this is going to be a team with which to be reckoned.
And with a stretch of games coming up (Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, and Chicago Bears) now is the time to pack away some wins that should help this team toward another NFC North Division championship.