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Cheese Curds, 10/12: 3rd downs drive Packers’ hot start, but can they sustain success?

The Packers’ offense is off to an incredible start,

NFL: Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers have started 4-0 three times in the past decade and a half. None of those hot starts resulted in Super Bowl appearances, however, for a multitude of different reasons.

Twice, the Packers ran into a hot New York Giants team in the postseason after starting the regular season with a bang. 2007 and 2011 ended with very different feels — overtime of the NFC Championship in one case, a disappointing performance as the NFC’s top seed in the other — but both of those teams largely maintained their early successes through the remainder of the regular season. The 2015 team was a very different story, but that team still managed to win a playoff game after the wheels fell off a bit following a 6-0 start.

This year, however, there are reasons for optimism that the team can build on their early successes and end up with a Lombardi Trophy. For one thing, the offense is on a truly historic run, putting up numbers that beat even the stellar 2011 team through four games. That team posted 1,717 total yards of offense and scored 148 points through the first quarter of the season, but the 2020 squad has 1,782 and 152. This year’s team is also more balanced, with great success running the football to go along with exceptional ball security, and they are converting third downs at an elite rate.

Matt LaFleur’s offense looks poised to beat teams in any number of ways instead of just through exceptional play by Aaron Rodgers. That, perhaps more than anything else, should have Packers fans excited to see this team continue its early run.

For Packers, 4-0 starts used to produce championships | Packers.com
The last time the Packers started 4-0, it didn't end particularly well. That was in 2015, when the team played well early en route to a 6-0 start before the bye, but Denver's defense laid the blueprint for stopping the Jordy Nelson-less offense. Before the NFL-AFL merger, the Packers won the NFL title every time they started 4-0, but they haven't done so since.

Packers see big improvement on third down to start 2020 | Packers Wire
This stat might be the most telling about the offense's shocking improvement this year. In 2019 the Packers converted just 36 percent of third down chances; that is up to 51 percent so far this season.

The Smiths, Act II: Za'Darius' big game gives Packers' defense a boost - ESPN
Despite two sacks in the first three games, Za'Darius Smith and Matt LaFleur felt like the pass-rusher wasn't off to a great start in his second year with the Packers. He blew up that narrative with a Player of the Week-caliber game against Atlanta, recording twice as many pressures in that game alone as he had the previous three weeks.

Robert Tonyan is rising, Preston Smith is falling in Packers stock watch – The Athletic
But while Z was a surprise no-show on Friday's Zoom calls, the other Smith has been eerily quiet on the field all season. Pro Football Reference has him down for just three pressures through four games and a half-sack, a far cry from the 34 pressures and 12 sacks he had a year ago.

Packers safety Adrian Amos' fight against Alzheimer's is personal and in honor of 'Grama' | Green Bay Press-Gazette
Amos' family has a long history with Alzheimer's, as two older relatives suffered from it. That includes his grandmother, who passed away this summer.

Tourist returns stolen artefacts from Pompeii 'after suffering curse' | The Guardian
Has this woman never watched a movie before? In all seriousness, though, this woman has gone through some very unfortunate circumstances, including two bouts of breast cancer.