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The Takeaway: Green Bay Packers 38, Carolina Panthers 17

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Green Bay boat raced the Panthers out of Lambeau on Sunday.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Rodgers may believe the Packers' Week 4 defeat of the rival Chicago Bears represents his team's most complete game, but the numbers from Sunday's trouncing of the Carolina Panthers beg to differ.

The contest marked the second time this season the Packers opened a game with 28 unanswered points, and the first time the offense generated all of the scoring. Rodgers outperformed even his own lofty standards, throwing three touchdowns and completing over 86 percent of his passes. Meanwhile, Eddie Lacy and James Starks each averaged over five yards per rush.

More importantly, the outcome of the game was never in doubt. The Packers simply dominated a team that currently leads its own division. Given that last fact, the tilt was indeed Green Bay's most complete performance of the young season, highlighted by successes by the offensive line and Dom Capers' much-maligned defense.

The Packers' offensive line may struggle with speed, but it wins with power

In Week 6's matchup with the Dolphins, the Packers' offensive line, or more specifically their tackles, struggled throughout against Miami's speed rushers Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon. In terms of protecting the quarterback, the line floundered in much the same way it had five weeks earlier against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. Pass rushers who can quickly turn the edge have enjoyed plenty of success against David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga.

The converse of this, however, is that the Packers' bookend tackles tend to win matchups with power rushers. That's exactly what happened Sunday against Carolina.

Without Greg Hardy, the Panthers generate most of their pass rush from Charles Johnson, Mario Addison, and Dwan Edwards. Of those, only Addison possesses the ability to burn past blockers off the edge, with Johnson and Edwards utilizing sheer force to get to the quarterback. Against the Packers offensive line, they were rendered mostly ineffectual.

The line gave up a sack early in the first half when Aaron Rodgers slipped on the turf, but outside of that no Panthers defensive lineman managed to touch Rodgers. Redeeming himself for last week's woes, Bulaga bullied Johnson throughout. Bakhtiari too anchored well in pass pro, yielding little in the way of pressure and opened up several holes for Eddie Lacy early in the game. Meanwhile, the interior of Josh Sitton, Corey Linsley, and T.J. Lang gave Rodgers plenty of space to step up into as he carved up the Carolina secondary.

While the Packers face several elite speed rushers later in the year such as next week's matchup with the Saints' Junior Galette, their offensive line shouldn't have many more poor days like they did against Miami. Instead, as the weather turns and the turf slows everyone down, the line's ability to push people around should come in handy for the dual threat Packers offense.

Capers' defense is playing its best football since the Super Bowl season

When the 2014 campaign first began, the Packers defense seemed poised for another poor year. Nose tackle B.J. Raji tore his biceps late in the preseason, creating a hole in the middle of the unit that seemed ripe for exploitation. That's precisely what happened early on, with the Seahawks, Jets, and Lions all enjoyed big days on the ground against Green Bay, reviving calls for Dom Capers' head.

Now seven weeks into the season, there's not a ton to complain about.

By traditional metrics, the Packers ranked 19th in yards allowed per game and 11th in points allowed per game. Considering the extent of their recent injuries (Sam Shields, Datone Jones), those figures will likely surprise some people. So will Green Bay's defense coming in at 13 in Football Outsider's DVOA. Capers has figured out how to keep the Packers in games, and under his watch several players are enjoying career years. Letroy Guion, a football sled for much of the team's first few games, has become one of the Packers better run defenders and even supplied some pass rush up the middle. Long-dismissed linebacker Nick Perry has found his niche as a reserve pass rusher. He now leads the team in sacks with three. Perhaps most impressively, a secondary missing its top cover man had little trouble holding back the Panthers' Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin before garbage time.

That's not to say the defense won't be a problem going forward. Guion's string of strong performances won't last forever, and when it ends the Packers will be left with Josh Boyd and undrafted rookie Mike Pennel to rotate in. Likewise, teams with good tight ends will abuse the inside linebackers. However, it cannot be said that Capers is holding back the team. Given the talent at his disposal, he's doing a more than respectable job.

Clinton-Dix has become the Packers' most valuable safety

When the Packers selected Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with the 21st overall pick this past May, most expected that he would one day become the team's top safety. The range and playmaking ability that the former Alabama safety displayed in college seemed the perfect fit for the Packers, who were still searching for a replacement for the long-departed Nick Collins.

Though the Packers elected to go into the season with Micah Hyde and Morgan Burnett in the base defense, Clinton-Dix established himself as a de facto starter, playing nearly 130 snaps in his first three games. While the rookie flashed several times during those weeks, including recording the team's first interception by a safety since 2012, Clinton-Dix also committed mental and physical errors. It seemed he would take more time to become a consistent defender.

Instead, starting with his game against the Bears, Clinton-Dix has consistently outplayed the Packers' other safeties, earning the lion's share of the free safety snaps as a result. Over the past three weeks, Clinton-Dix leads the secondary in tackles with 22, including several big-gain preventing takedowns. The Packers have used him in coverage more often than Hyde and Burnett combined, yet Clinton-Dix has yielded the fewest yards of anyone in the group. He's taken over centerfield, and allowed Capers to call a more aggressive defense. In short, he's given the Packers flexibility they haven't had since 2010.

Multiple entities can be credited with the improvement of Green Bay's defense. As mentioned above, Capers has found a way to make players out of Letroy Guion and Nick Perry. Still, it might have all been for naught without the contributions of Clinton-Dix, who's become the team's most valuable safety and one of its most important defenders.

Jason B. Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Company. He also serves as an SB Nation Newsdesk Contributor and writes for Sports on Earth.