Green Bay Packers Fans: Take a Deep Breath (Week VIII)

Christian Ponder

is sacked by

Mike Daniels

. Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Sunday night’s 44-31 Green Bay Packers win over the Minnesota Vikings was a wild affair, to say the least. A game-opening, 109-yard kickoff return touchdown by the Vikes’ Cordarelle Patterson loomed ominously over the proceedings – until the Packers’ offense took the field.

From that point on, Eddie Lacy and James Starks imposed their will on the ground, while Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson did so through the air in racking up piles of points, third-down conversions and solid trench play. Sustained drives and big plays made it a game to enjoy for Packers fans, who at times seemed to outnumber Vikings fans in the soon-to-be-empty Metrodome.

Of course, there was the problem of the Vikings simply not going away. When the Packers made it 24-10 shortly before halftime, it appeared the rout was on. Then Minnesota scored right before the break to make it closer than it really seemed to be on the field.

After the Packers vaulted to a 38-17 lead on a nifty Starks run early in the fourth quarter, it once again seemed to be over – only to have the Vikings take advantage of a Green Bay defense that always seems to bend just a bit too much in the fourth quarter, keeping them within a couple key breaks of making it a game.

It raises concerns. On one hand, the offense is doing amazing things without three of its top weapons. The defense is showing signs of dominance, and yet also experiencing mind-boggling breakdowns at times. Is this Packers team one of a championship caliber? At the moment, that’s a tough question. But the season is less than halfway home, so it’s far from time to panic.

Reason for concern: We let the Vikings score 31 points on us? The Vikings. Really?

Reason to take a deep breath: Yep, once again a team that seemed to be “put away” was most certainly not. It’s frustrating and perplexing that a defense can look so dominant on one series and so lost on the next. All I can say is that by Week 10, we should again have guys with names like Casey Hayward, Clay Matthews, Brad Jones and Nick Perry back in rotation.  With the young guys’ experience and confidence no doubt on the rise — have you noticed the play of Jamari Lattimore and Mike Daniels the last couple of weeks? — we could conceivably have one of the deepest defenses in the NFL by the latter point in the season.

Green Bay Packers running back James Starks (44) rushes for a 25 yard touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth quarter at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Reason for concern: Contributions from the tight end position were pretty much nil. It’s taken a dimension out of the offense, and Jermichael Finley will likely not return this year.

Reason to take a deep breath: Pretty sure I saw Andrew Quarless lay some pretty good blocks and catch a couple of passes. There’s a reason the Packers rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, and Quarless was a part of that. Don’t expect him to be Finley, and all will be well.

Reason for concern: Aaron Rodgers forgot how to slide.

Reason to take a deep breath: We should all be concerned to see plays like the one at the goal line in the third quarter when he got sandwiched by what looked like the entire Vikings’ defensive line and linebacking crew. I think I even saw a couple Vikings cheerleaders in that scrum, actually. My guess is Mike McCarthy will have Rodgers write, “I will not pretend I am Eddie Lacy” 100 times on the quarterbacks’ meeting room white board. That should fix it.

Reason for concern: It seems the only thing that could derail this offense now would be if we lost Rodgers – and with some of the hits he’s taken, there’s a chance that could happen.

Reason to take a deep breath: Hey, if he gets hurt, I’m sure Ted Thompson will just call the Ol’ Gunslinger, Brett Favre, and bring him in. Right? Wrong. When a reporter asked McCarthy after Sunday night’s game if that was a possibility, McCarthy reportedly gave the guy an incredulous look and said, “It was a helluva football game. I’m going to talk about the game.”