As good as the Packers' defense was in Green Bay's 27-17 victory over the archrival Bears on Sunday, especially against the run, it remains difficult to remove the offense from center stage three games into the season. League observers agreed, heading into the season, that an even more potent attack could be established in 2011 with TE Jermichael Finley and RB Ryan Grant returning from injuries that knocked them out of the mix for much of last season. In Week One on a national stage against the Saints, the Packers' offense immediately confirmed that consensus, seemingly moving downfield at will with QB Aaron Rodgers masterfully directing traffic, looking like Isiah Thomas in cleats.
Fast-forward to the offense's first possession Sunday against the Bears, when the first four plays produced four first downs, starting with a 13-yard scamper by Grant over right tackle out of the shotgun and following up with three short passes to No. 1 WR Greg Jennings for 12, 19 and 11 yards. Rodgers dodged a bullet when his deep pass to Jennings was intercepted by Bears CB Charles Tillman, only to be nullified by an offside call on Bears OLB Lance Briggs. With new life, Rodgers continued to move the ball downfield until he found Finley in the endzone for the first of his three touchdowns.
The PFW Spin
In defense of opting to praise the offense instead of a defense that definitely came to play Sunday, it just seems hard to get past the fact that, at the end of the day, it's the Rodgers-led offense that will be the key behind a potential return to the Super Bowl in what has never seemed more like a QB-driven league. Watching this offense in the early going has been like watching poetry in motion, with Rodgers using everybody at his disposal.
Unlike last season at this time, when Finley was considered the ultimate go-to-guy, Jennings and Finley are equally wreaking havoc. While Finley was looking like a man against boys, scoring three touchdowns for the first time at any level against the Bears, Jennings was also having his way, catching nine of the 10 passes thrown in his direction for a team-high 119 yards.
But we're hardly talking about a two-trick pony here. Lurking slightly under the radar, capable of exploding for big plays at a moment's notice, are Jordy Nelson, who has quietly become one of the league's more productive receivers dating back to the Packers' Week 16 win over the Giants last year (including playoff games); 36-year-old veteran Donald Driver; and James Jones, who showed how good his hands are with one particularly impressive lunging grab among his four catches on the day.
All Rodgers has to do is pick his poison and let the bullets fly, many of which have been back-shoulder beauties that are almost impossible to defend.
What's different this year than last is a double-barreled ground game featuring Grant and James Starks that was operating on all cylinders Sunday against the Bears' cover-2, picking up huge chunks of yardage in the second half. In this game, Grant, who had previously been overshadowed by Starks, took the bull by the horns, bulldozing for 92 yards on 17 carries.
Who will be the big guns this coming Sunday against the Broncos? Jennings or Finley through the air? Grant or Starks on the ground?
Only Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy know for sure, as they orchestrate an offense that just might prove to be unstoppable — even if the defense shows some chinks in the armor every now and then.