Xtra Points: Get used to Green Bay's new normal
Another week has passed, and that makes three games in a row in which Aaron Rodgers hasn't thrown for 350 yards and three touchdowns.
It raises the question: What's wrong with the Packers offense?
Nevermind that Green Bay's won two of those three games or that the Packers are really catching on to this new offensive concept called “running the football.” If you're keeping track, you know that's four games in a row with a 99-yard rusher after 44 games went by without a triple-digit Packer back.
And nevermind that the defense—even without Clay Matthews—is creating havoc for opponents that try to run the ball.
And nevermind that Mason Crosby, the goat of 2012 that had to fight off preseason competition for his job for the first time in his career, is now 13-for-14 on field goal attempts in 2013.
No, Aaron Rodgers isn't doing what he did in 2011 when he won the league's MVP award. It's hard to replicate one of the best passing years of all-time, and it's silly to expect him to do so.
The fact of the matter is that since Super Bowl XLV, we've been spoiled by Rodgers and Co., coming to expect outputs that, up until a few seasons ago, were far less common than they are now.
Consider: Dan Marino and Brett Favre, the statistical juggernauts of the last couple NFL eras, had 67 and 66 career 300-yard passing games, respectively. Rodgers is halfway there with 33. Marino played for 16 years. Favre for 19. Rodgers is in year six of being the Packers starter.
It was only a matter of time before defenses caught up and found a way to slow Rodgers and the 2011 Packers down. The Kansas City Chiefs were able to do it in the one regular-season loss that year, and the Giants did it again in the lone playoff game Green Bay played. The personnel is different, too. Over are the days when the Packers had four or five quality wideouts to call upon.
In the last two weeks, the Packers have found their new normal with Eddie Lacy punishing those who dare to tackle him and a defensive front seven that gets meaner and meaner—despite one of the key guys up there being named Jolly. And who knows? Maybe that recipe—one that worked in the run-up to Super Bowl XLV, by the way—is the one to get the Packers back on track in the postseason.
It's just up to Packer fans to readjust their expectations and embrace the new normal of watching their team play in 2013.
Mini-thoughts from Sunday's game
• Hopefully Jarrett Boykin and Aaron Rodgers can get some reps together in practice this week. There were multiple plays where the backup receiver was a good yard away from where Rodgers expected him to be.
• A.J. Hawk, the subject of scorn for many a Packer fan since he was drafted No. 5 overall, had three sacks and numerous tackles for loss against Baltimore.
• The next time you might feel compelled to question a team that kneels on the ball with 15 to 40 seconds left in the first half instead of trying to engineer something, think back to this game and remember what happened to John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco and the Ravens at the end of Sunday's first half: incompletion, lost fumble, Packer field goal with 2 seconds left.
• No game in the NFL is a gimme, but the schedule finally softens up a little bit from here. The next five for Green Bay: Cleveland at home, at Minnesota, Chicago at home, Philadelphia at home, at New York Giants. That's an 11-18 combined record compared to 15-12 for the Packers last five opponents.