Pressure? What pressure?
If the Green Bay Packers are feeling the heat of living up to heightened expectations after an 8-0 start, they’re disguising it well.
Confidence oozes all around the locker room, and team members are seemingly oblivious to the increasing scrutiny that can sometimes stifle a reigning Super Bowl champion.
Players remain focused but at the same time are loose and relaxed.
As they were stretching before a recent practice, guard Josh Sitton gave a hint of the mood on this team.
“He’s kind of a guy that says stuff that you probably wouldn’t say,” said linebacker Desmond Bishop of Sitton.
“He said, ‘Man, could we please finally lose a game so we won’t have so much pressure to beat the Lions?’ “
The Packers have a nationally televised NFC North showdown against Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, but before that must play Minnesota and Tampa Bay at home.
Rather than feeling burdened by their unbeaten record, the Packers are joking about it.
“To me personally, the guys around here, there’s no pressure because to us we’re not really doing anything spectacular,” said Bishop. “We’re just going out and playing Packers football every day and that’s easy. I’m not saying it’s easy to win, but it’s easy to go out there and be ourselves. And if that adds up to 8-0, then that’s what it is. I don’t think it’s any pressure.”
Packers football these days means winning football. They have strung together 14 straight victories, including playoffs, which is seven shy of the NFL record. They haven’t lost since last Dec. 19 at New England. In games when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was healthy, they haven’t lost since Nov. 28 at Atlanta. In games at Lambeau Field, they haven’t lost since Oct. 17, 2010.
“It’s kind of a momentum, you get on that train where you can’t stop it,” said linebacker Erik Walden. “Either way you always find a way to win. It might not be pretty. Of course, there’s a lot of things we have to work on and correct, but at the end of the day, when the chips all fall and it’s on the line, we find a way to lock in and get it on.”
The Packers display a well-deserved swagger, but over-confidence hasn’t been an issue so far.
“I think we have enough things to work on that coaches are going to stay on us,” said receiver Jordy Nelson. “We’re going to keep grinding at it and not get comfortable. I don’t think anyone is comfortable and we’ve got the right leaders here that make practice competitive. That’s the key. We work hard in practice because if you don’t people get on you and that translates to the game.”
The problems encountered by the defense, which ranks third-to-last in yards allowed this season, might actually be giving the Packers a psychological edge.
“It’s interesting because here talking to (the media), we’re 8-0 and a lot of the questions are like we’re 0-8, which is not all a bad thing,” said defensive coordinator Dom Capers. “But I think that’s part of the attitude and atmosphere in the meeting room. There’s nobody in that defensive room that’s satisfied with being 8-0.”
As the Packers’ victories mount, so does the determination of opponents. The Minnesota Vikings could salvage something from their sorry season by taking down the Packers on Monday night at Lambeau Field.
“The more you win, the more people are looking to knock you off,” said defensive lineman B.J. Raji. “And also the more film you’re putting on for people to see and take advantage.”
On paper, the second half of the season looks more difficult for the Packers. One of their final eight games comes against a team with a losing record.
“We absolutely are going to get our opponents’ best shot,” said Walden.
But they seem ready for the challenge.
“It’s uncharted territory for a lot of people (on this team),” said linebacker Frank Zombo. “Not many teams can go 8-0. It’s hard to do, especially in the NFL. I guess we’ll see how we handle success.”