Everybody Panic? Win Provides Building Block

CB Charles Woodson (Jeff Hanisch/USP)

So much for all of that doom and gloom. It wasn't always a thing of beauty, but the Packers made a statement not just by beating the Bears on Thursday night but by how they beat their rivals.

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers sensed the doom and gloom.

The panic, however, never permeated the walls at 1265 Lombardi Ave., other than using it as a punch line.

"You guys had some worry and we were kind of feeling some of the panic," Rodgers said following Thursday night's 23-10 victory over the Chicago Bears. "We showed a clip in one of our meetings of the scene from ‘Semi-Pro' when Will Ferrell's fighting the bear and the bear gets out of the cage and he's yelling, ‘Everybody, panic.' That's kind of a joke, just because inside the facility, there wasn't any panic. Outside, I think people were worried if we lose to Chicago, you're kind of putting yourself behind the eight-ball a little bit."

If there's one tried-and-true way of thinking, especially September, it's that it's never as good as it seems and it's never as bad as it seems. To think the Packers were down and out after losing to a participant in the NFL's version of the Final Four was ridiculous. A team featuring Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Clay Matthews, Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson might not get to the Super Bowl every year but it sure as heck isn't headed toward oblivion after one loss.

Not that the Packers punched their ticket to the Super Bowl by smacking around the rival Bears – "Once again, it's one game," coach Mike McCarthy said – but they sure as heck showed that reporting of their death had been greatly exaggerated.

The Packers were a one-dimensional team last season in riding Rodgers to a 15-1 record. If there's an overriding cause for optimism following Thursday's game, it's that maybe they're not so one-dimensional.

Matthews has been … is there a stronger word than dominant? After recording six sacks last season, he's got six sacks in two games – including 3.5 of Jay Cutler. When Matthews is rolling, the rest of the defense follows suit. Nick Perry got the start at the other outside linebacker spot but Erik Walden was outstanding with one-half sack and two quarterback hits. D.J. Smith got the hit parade started with a sack on the first series. Rookies Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels added sacks. Walden and A.J. Hawk had hits on Cutler that resulted in interceptions.

With seven sacks, it was shades of 2010, when the Packers finished one sack behind Pittsburgh for the league lead. With Cutler ducking for cover and throwing passes off his back foot, it was easy pickings for the Packers' secondary. It's amazing how good the coverage can be when the quarterback doesn't have time to go from his first read to his second read, enjoy a sandwich, and then go to his third read.

Williams, coming off a miserable season stemming from a season-long shoulder injury, has been outstanding. After a quiet opener against San Francisco, Williams was given perhaps the biggest challenge of his career against the Bears: shadowing Brandon Marshall everywhere but in the slot. Williams, giving away almost 6 inches and 40 pounds to the powerful Marshall, didn't allow a completion to Marshall and grabbed two interceptions.

Woodson was typical Woodson, and Sam Shields had a quiet game in coverage as he moved back into the starting lineup.

With Chicago's passing attack limited to 74 net yards, pass rushers coming from everywhere and the defense consistently getting off the field on third down (5-of-15), Woodson seemed prescient when he said last week that the defense would be just fine in time.

"You just have a feeling about things," Woodson said. "I had a good feeling about last week. We played well. We played well enough to win. We just had a couple of mistakes where guys had to know where to be, and if they're where they need to be, they don't put up 30 points on us. That's a fact. But the rest of the game, we played with a lot of energy, we had fun out there and I thought that was a learning exhibition for us. And I thought we'd get better – immediately."

Offensively, the Packers seem surprisingly out of sorts given Rodgers record-setting performance from last season. In two games, the offense has scored four touchdowns in 22 possessions. Plays that were made so routinely last season haven't been made at this early juncture of this season, including Rodgers just missing a 53-yard touchdown pass to Nelson and a 23-yard touchdown pass to Jones.

When Rodgers said, "Hmmmm, yeah, pretty close," when asked if the offense is just a little bit off, it sounded as if he thought the offense wasn't close at all.

Still, a win is a win, especially when it comes against a quality club like the Bears, who were being talked up as Super Bowl contenders entering the season and especially after last week. After getting "kicked in the ass four days ago," as McCarthy put it, the Packers did the ass-kicking on Thursday.

It feels good to win. It feels good to win again. The interviews this week had a lot of worry in them in the questions they were asked – not necessarily my weekly at my locker but a couple of the other interviews were, shall we say, a little negative about our team. We played a real good team in Week 1, played a good team in Week 2. We're going to keep trying to improve. It's good to be 1-1.

"We're 1-1, but still we have a lot of work to do," McCarthy said.

And that's good news for a team that needs to be save its best for last.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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