It’s doesn’t get much better than this for the Green Bay Packers.
Their 45-7 thrashing of the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on Monday night was about as close to perfect as a team can get. Fittingly, the Packers remain perfect in the standings at 9-0.
“It’s important to have a vision and strive for the type of performance that you want to hit week in and week out,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Tonight we got a pretty good picture of what we were trying to hit.”
For anyone wondering what would happen if the Packers played well in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams — they received a decisive answer in this game, and it was the overwhelmed Vikings that served as the helpless victims.
There can be no doubt that this was the Packers’ best overall performance of the season. There can also be little doubt that if they play like this, no opponent can stop them in their quest to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
“Tonight is the way we need to play,” cornerback Charles Woodson said. “If we do that we’ll be fine.”
Fine as in four touchdown passes by quarterback Aaron Rodgers in yet another one of his flawless performances.
Fine as in a defense that held the NFL’s best running back, Adrian Peterson, to just 51 yards rushing and would have pitched a shutout if not for a fumble deep in Packers’ territory.
Fine as in rookie return man Randall Cobb electrifying the sellout crowd of 70,519 with an 80-yard punt runback for a touchdown in the first half and a 55-yard kickoff return in the second half.
That is what you call dominating every phase of the game. When that happens, no team is capable of keeping pace with the Packers, least of all the Vikings.
“For a team to come out and beat us, they’re going to have to play pretty well,” Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji said.
All season the Packers have talked about leaving something on the field each week and striving for improvement.
But how can they possibly improve upon their dominating performance against the Vikings?
“It’s the way we know we can play and the way we expect to play,” Woodson said.
And yet, the Packers also know they can’t stop now, even with a three-game lead in the NFC North and the inside track for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
They will break down the game film like they always do and find things that went wrong.
“When you win like this it’s fun to nitpick,” Woodson said. “So we’ll nitpick a little bit.”
Maybe the Packers can beat themselves up because they didn’t pitch a shutout, although the Vikings’ lone score came on a 14-yard drive following a fumbled punt by Cobb.
Maybe they will get mad because the offense didn’t score every time it had the ball — would you believe Tim Masthay had to punt two times?
There was also a dropped interception by Woodson that he could have returned for a touchdown.
“You don’t get that one back,” lamented Woodson. “I wish I had that one back but you don’t. I’ll remember it tonight. I’ll be having nightmares about it tonight.”
Yes, the Packers can afford to fret the small stuff and worry about winning by “only” 38 points instead of 45. That’s what champions can afford to do.
“I heard Doc Rivers say once that pressure is for the privileged,” Woodson said. “We feel privileged to be in this position. So I mean for us we’re just going to go out there and continue to play football the way we know how to play football.”
For the defense, which has been much maligned in recent weeks, this kind of victory was especially sweet.
“We just played with an edge tonight, a chip on our shoulder,” Woodson said. “We’ve been taking a lot of shots lately. It’s been warranted. We know we’re better than the way we’ve been playing. Tonight we showed we’re a dominant defense. Tonight was fun.”
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.