Incredible Season Continues; Packers Clinch NFC North Title
The Green Bay Packers demolished the Oakland Raiders Sunday by a score of 38 - 7 to bring their season record to 11 - 2. The victory captured the divisional championship and ensures the Packers a trip to the NFL playoffs. Absolutely NO ONE predicted this much success from the NFL's youngest team.
With Brett Favre nursing his throwing-arm elbow injury that he suffered in the Cowboy game and the temperature in the mid-teens at Lambeau, the Packers' brain trust decided it prudent to give the Raiders a heavy dose of the Packers' recently-found running game spearheaded by Ryan Grant. Ted Thompson traded a lowly sixth-round draft pick to the New York Giants for Grant early this season and what a brilliant move that was.
Grant has emerged over the last six weeks or so to THE most productive running back in the entire NFL. Before Grant's rise to prominence, the Packers' running game was abysmal and required Favre to score points with his arm. Grant contributed against the Raiders with his finest performance to date, rushing for over 150 yards and a touchdown. Grant has a quick, no-nonsense north/south running style with a nice, decisive cut move. He is a fine football player and exactly what the Packers need now that the bad-weather season has arrived.
The Pack got another boost against the Raiders with an incredible special teams performance by Will Blackmon. Blackmon has been injured most of his short two-year Packer career, but has displayed flashes of exceptional ability. Midway through the second quarter Blackmon fielded a punt in full stride and blew by defenders and scored on a 58-yard run. Blackmon later recovered a fumble in the end zone to give him two special teams touchdowns on the day.
Though Favre admitted after the game that he was not able to put his normal laser- velocity on his passes, Favre was still able to throw for over 250 yards and a couple touchdowns. The Packers have a whole set of playmakers who excel in making yards after the catch. Donald Lee and Greg Jennings are two of the best with that skill and they got the aerial touchdowns this day.
The Packer defense smothered the Raiders. Middle linebacker Nick Barnett is having an incredible season and should be an All-Pro this year. Safeties Nick Collins and Atari Bigby responded nicely after sub-par performances at Dallas. I suspect both are feeling the heat from rookie Aaron Rouse's eye-catching recent performances. Competition truly does bring out the best in everyone's performance.
Life is good these days in the Land of Cheese. Next week the Packers head to St Louis where they will be heavy favorites against the Rams. The once-potent Rams offense is a mess this year. Now that the playoffs have been assured, Mike McCarthy will no doubt stress to the team the importance of winning the last three regular season games to maintain momentum.