As a reporter, the Green Bay Packers are my dream team. They come through. They do what they say they will to help you carry out your assignment. As an organization, they are first class from top to bottom.
I think of this because of a question I posed to linebacker Clay Matthews during my sit-down interviews with the 5-0 Packers for the feature I’m doing for the FOX NFL Sunday show. I almost asked him if Green Bay’s fourth-ranked offense and top-rated quarterback ever confronted his bunch, which is 21st in total defense, and demanded they pick it up.
In other words, get their stuff together.
But I remembered who I was talking to and didn’t waste my breath. It would have been the wrong question to ask in that form and they don’t really talk to each other that way.
"It’s not the offense vs. the defense in this case," Matthews said to a question I phrased more along of the line of each part of the team pulling each other along in times of struggle.
"And there’s been plenty of games where the defense has bailed out the offense, now it seems like the offense is bailing out the defense. But there’s no panic on either side of the ball," Matthews said.
Panic. It’s a word that kept coming up.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he loved that there was no panic when the Packers got down by 13 points to the Carolina Panthers in Week 2. "We didn’t trail by more than seven points all last season," Rodgers said.
Wide out Greg Jennings used the same word about the locker room again this past Sunday, after Atlanta jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the raucous Georgia Dome. Jennings said it makes them proud that they’ve learned to handle the adversity from last year’s injury-plagued season the team fought through, all the way to a Super Bowl victory.
Rodgers calls the 5-0 mark "exciting," but then in the next breath tells you about all the things that could have been done better. He’s a perfectionist and often goes home after a win (the Packers haven’t lost a game since Week 15 of last season vs. Patriots) and goes over plays he probably thinks he murdered, but really only bruised. His teammates marvel at his cool under pressure.
"Are you ever out of … " Jennings jumps my question and flashes a huge grin as I’m trying to get the words out of my mouth "out of a game with Rodgers at quarterback? Absolutely not, absolutely not."
"We jokingly talk about it briefly as a wide-receiver group. He is great," Jennings said of Rodgers. "He continues to raise the bar and raise the level of play, not for himself but for those around him."
High standards are demanded for the Packers.
That means the team, the coaches and the front office. While 5-0 is nice, it’s also how everybody believes it’s supposed to be.
Matthews, who kept talking about the nap he was dying to take after he left our interview, because obviously at 25 years old, he needed his beauty sleep, is an example of someone with high standards whose numbers as a pass rusher (only one sack) don’t speak to his contribution or value to the defense. He hasn’t brought the quarterback down this season like he’s shown he’s capable of (23.5 sacks in his first two seasons), but said he’s mighty proud that he has 16.5 quarterback knockdowns and hurries, which means that he’s always coming — relentlessly so at that.
This week Green Bay hosts the winless Rams and are smart enough to not, publicly, at least, lick their chops.
Who beats you, I ask Rodgers. "Ourselves," he said. "No disrespect to any team, but we go into the game expecting to win."
"I think that we realize it’s going to be a week-to-week grind," Jennings said. "They (other teams) can say, `Oh, they can overlook this team.’ No, we can’t.”
I believe him.
For Pam’s complete interview with the Packers, tune in to FOX NFL Sunday for America’s No. 1 pregame show at noon ET / 9 a.m. PT