Confidence Restored...For Now
What a difference a week makes. Last week the Packers were toothless defensively and a made a rookie quarterback look like a seasoned veteran. This week the Packers got aggressive and made a red hot Dallas Cowboys look like a one win team.
And through it all everyone kept their jobs. Well, most everyone.
What a difference it makes when you put pressure on the quarterback. Sacking Tony Romo five times is nice but there are residual effects when you get to the quarterback. Romo coughed the ball up twice, one of which was recovered by the Packers that set up the nail-in-the-coffin touchdown. The crisp Cowboys offense, which averaged 30 points per game during a four game win streak, couldn't get anything going until the final minutes. Miles Austin was held in check. Marion Barber never got going. Felix Jones was a non-factor. This was the best defensive performance since Week One and it makes me wonder why we haven't seen this since that Sunday night in September.
Dallas is dangerous because they have many weapons that can be used many ways. For all the talk about Romo's recent streak people may have forgotten that the Cowboys have a three-headed backfield that can grind you down and lull you to sleep. But you wouldn't have known it on Sunday. The Cowboys were blessed with good field position in the first quarter but couldn't do anything with it. It was a strange reversal from last week when it was the Packers who were unable to take advantage of good field position, ultimately opening the door for a shocking final score.
But for as good as the Packers looked defensively there's still a lot of work to do. Thanks to consecutive losses to the Vikings and Buccaneers the Packers are in a four-way tie at 5-4 with three more teams ready to pounce at 4-5. One of those 4-5 teams will be in Green Bay on Sunday and they will be well-rested off a Thursday night win. The Packers will face a tenacious defense at a time when offensively the Packers can't seem to do much right. For a second straight week Aaron Rodgers looked off his game and the Packers didn't seem willing or able to run the ball effectively.
It's a good win but it's one win. I said over the weekend the Packers must go at least 2-1 in this three game stretch against Dallas, San Francisco and Detroit to stay in the playoff race. The 17-7 win is a great way to start and the Packers are back in the conversation. But that will change if the defense disappears like it did after the Chicago win. This defense will only take the Packers so far. The offense needs to find a way to stay in control and those pesky penalties continue to be a problem. You can get away with that for one week but with five more playoff-worthy teams still to play the Packers need to start playing like a playoff team. Otherwise the confidence that is back will evaporate as quickly as the Cowboys did on Sunday.