Packers are model of consistency

BY foxsports • November 7, 2011

Finally, with 10:36 remaining, after a 64-yard completion that put Green Bay just 4 yards from yet another touchdown, a chant could be heard at the Chargers’ stadium:

“Go, Pack! Go!”

“We’ve come to expect it everywhere we go,” Clay Matthews said of Green Bay’s king-of-the-road status. Nevertheless, as the Pack was matched against another first-place team (at least, in the technical sense), the composition of the Qualcomm crowd still came as a surprise.

Added the star linebacker: “A lot more fans in green and gold than even, perhaps” — here, he paused to be polite — “more than Chargers fans.”

Indeed. Perhaps they were only trying to pay off their season tickets by selling one date. More likely, they knew something. I mean, would that many Chargers fans take a pass if they really thought their team had a chance to beat the best team in football?

Of course not. The Chargers are nothing new. They’ve been disappointments for the better part of a decade now. Their fans, some of whom watched them lose 45-38 on Sunday, understood what this represented: the most maddening team in the league versus the best.

Then again, with half a season now in evidence, the Packers are more than the best team. They are the only elite team in the entire NFL.

The state of the league is one that confuses parity with mediocrity. Seriously, name another elite team. New Orleans? New England? That was last month. The Jets and the Cowboys? That was last summer. San Francisco? The Giants? You’re better going with Cincinnati. Point is, on any given Sunday, each and every franchise (hear this, Kansas City?) has proved itself capable of, well, sucking.

Except for one. And that would be the Packers, who scored two plays after the 64-yarder from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson. It was such a perfect pass, a perfect play, really: 4 yards to Greg Jennings.

Quentin Jammer defended it as well as he could, as well as anyone could, to be fair. But the ball was there, on Jennings’ outside shoulder, at the precise moment he turned.

That sent the many thousands of Cheeseheads in attendance — this was, after all, the third-largest crowd in the history of Qualcomm Stadium — into a state of frenetic delight. The score was now 45-24, Packers.

“Made some great, great throws in some tight spots, tight coverage,” Jammer said of Rodgers.

“His decision-making is clearly at the highest level,” said Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy. “ . . . If the defense tilts one way, he goes away from it . . . He has been very precise with the ball placement.”

Ball placement. I love that phrase. In this case, however, Rodgers is best described in quantitative terms. Still just 27, he went into Sunday’s game with a 125.7 passer rating — and actually managed to raise it, to 129.1. You don’t like passer ratings? Try these numbers: 21 of 26, four touchdowns, no interceptions. That gives him a completion percentage of 72.5 this season — the record is 70.9 — 2,619 yards, 24 touchdowns against three interceptions. Tom Brady, by comparison, has 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Oh, yes, one more number: The Packers are now 8-0.

“We’re not going to turn a blind eye to the negatives that went on today,” said McCarthy, referring to San Diego’s attempted and typically ill-fated comeback.

Still, as the coach himself pointed out, the Packers remained undefeated, 5-0 on the road. And if not for Green Bay, there’d be no standard by which to compare the rest of the league. The AFC West is a case in point. There can be no greater testament to mediocrity than the fact the Denver Broncos are a game out of first place. That leaves a three-way tie atop the division: the Chiefs, the Raiders and, of course, the Super Chargers.

And for all their self-congratulatory talk of a comeback, that was all San Diego could take from its encounter with Green Bay. “Three teams deadlocked at 4-4, that’s the bottom line,” said Philip Rivers.

Yes, but the Chargers are more culpable than their division rivals. Once again, they have managed to do less with more. They can run with Mike Tolbert. They can defend, as evidenced by their four sacks on Rodgers. And, of course, they can pass. You could see it in the beginning of the game, what with Rivers taking them down the field, 80 yards on eight plays for a touchdown lofted into the arms of Vincent Jackson.

But then Rivers went and threw those interceptions. There were three: two by Charlie Peprah, and another by Tramon Williams. In aggregate, they accounted for 159 yards and two touchdowns. But it might as well have been three TDs, as Peprah returned the last one 76 yards on the next to last play of the game.

Norv Turner, who presides over the annual underachieving in San Diego, seemed to think his quarterback was pressing. The media has speculated he’s hurt.

“I appreciate everybody trying to come up with a theory and a reason, but I’m not hurt,” said Rivers. “I’ve thrown a handful of picks that I normally don’t throw and I’ll probably throw some more throughout my career, and there won’t always be a reason why.”

He’s a good guy, Rivers. But his numbers, like those of Rodgers, define his team. He’s on a pace for 5,000 yards and 28 interceptions.

Still wondering why those Chargers fans sold their tickets?

Go Pack, go.

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