The Green Bay Packers put together their first complete performance of the season against a capable but beatable opponent. A week later, they displayed the ability to thrive in adverse conditions to overcome an AFC-division leader at home.
Both performances demonstrated improvement on the part of Green Bay. However, neither gave adequate warning of the tour de force the team had in store for Sunday night.
The Packers not only knocked off the Seattle Seahawks -- one of the NFL's premier squads over the last five seasons and a Super Bowl frontrunner again in 2016 -- but they effectively ended the game shortly after halftime. Aaron Rodgers' 66-yard dime to Davante Adams on the third snap from scrimmage represents the type of splash play largely absent from the offense since 2014.
And yet, it proved to be the first of many such moments for Rodgers, who started out 12 of 13 for 202 yards and two touchdowns and never let up. On the day, he finished with a 78 percent completion rate on more than 10 yards per attempt, numbers reminiscent of his MVP seasons. The short throws that gave the quarterback fits earlier in the season appear routine again, as do the how-did-he-fit-them-in-there passes that only a handful of humans can make.
Even playing through a bum hamstring and now an injured calf, this Rodgers can lift the Packers into title contention.
Credit the coaching staff
But Rodgers alone doesn't explain Green Bay's turnaround. Head coach Mike McCarthy, the center of considerable scorn for the team's slide this season, gave a tour-de-force performance against Seattle. His offensive game plan all but negated the Seahawks pass rush while finding myriad ways to create matchup problems for the linebackers and secondary.
On the other side of the ball, Dom Capers took a still undermanned defense and produced five interceptions and yielded just 10 points with the final seven coming in garbage time. The trio of second-year corners Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, and LaDarius Gunter combined for three of the team's five interceptions. While some came off fortuitous bounces, Capers put the defensive backs in position to make the plays.
An impressive showing from McCarthy and his staff doesn't excuse the Packers' early season struggles. However, they did manage to remind everyone that they didn't forget how to coach, and the team can still win another title with them.
Lessons on the Seahawks
Should the Packers face the Seahawks again this season, the rematch would most likely take place in Seattle. Certainly, playing a road matchup against a good team presents greater challenges than the home game Green Bay just played.
Still, many of the factors that played to the Packers' advantage exist regardless of location.
Throughout Sunday's game, defensive tackle Mike Daniels ate Seahawks lineman Justin Britt alive. Britt, a failed tackle turned failed guard turned center, lacks the strength of bend to beat Daniels in a leverage game, resulting in Russell Wilson's pocket collapsing from the inside out. Even on the faster track of CenturyLink Field, Britt has little hope of holding up over a full game against Daniels.
Likewise, the Packers can take advantage of the Seahawks' weaknesses on the outside of their offensive line. George Fant may possess impressive physical tools, but he struggles badly with speed off the edge and, like Britt, lacks the strength to handle a bull rush. Assuming he can hold onto his job for the duration of the season, Green Bay could have another big day against him (especially if Nick Perry returns in time).