What a difference a month makes. After the first quarter of the season, the Packers had a 3-1 record, but that was about the only good thing that could be said about it. They had just barely survived an overtime game against Atlanta. They were beaten, pretty solidly, by New Orleans. They almost allowed themselves to be caught from behind by the Lions. And then only a blown chip-shot field goal saved them from going into overtime against the Panthers. So, their 3-1 record was not far removed from a possible 1-3 or even 0-4 record.
And now, four games later, the Packers have a 7-1 record, the best record in the NFL, and a commanding four game lead in the NFC North. Despite an incredible spurt of injuries, especially on defense, the play of the team has improved from week to week in the second quarter of the season. The best part about these last four wins is the way that the backups stepped forward to make things happen, especially on defense. Darren Sharper, who returned to the field last night, even commented on this on ESPN, saying something to the effect that the backups had showed the way, by playing like starters, and now that the starters are back, it is up to the starters to keep it rolling.
There were three things about last night's game that were really special for me. First and foremost, the look of happiness on Favre's face during the game, and on the sidelines after he was taken out of the game in the fourth quarter, to cheers of "MVP" from the crowd. It is hard to imagine that there is anyone playing the game today who is such a kid at heart. I do wish he would stop head-butting and slapping around his teammates (especially Donald Driver) - someone could get hurt! Second, the return (in a HUGE way) of the screen pass. Because of Favre's knee injury, it makes sense that they would rely more heavily on the screen pass, but I hope they continue to do it even after his knee is fully healed. The screen pass has long been well-executed by the Packers, and the one that went for a 23-yard touchdown was a textbook example. Finally, the looks of unhappiness, throughout the game, on the face of Cris Carter (the sanctimonious one). I did not realize that most Packer fans feel the same way about him that I do until I heard the boos every time he caught the ball (or fumbled it, or popped it up for the interception).
As the second half of the season starts, everything now turns to the home field advantage in the playoffs. The Packers will win the division - only an Oakland Raiderian collapse could prevent the Packers from being the champs of the NFC North. But every game is still critical, in order to play at home in January.