Make no mistake, there is only ONE thing that wins championships and no, it is NOT defense. That cliche’ needs to go the way of all things, and fast. I am by no means taking away from the importance of great defense but the statement is simply not true. No, defense doesn’t win championships, if it did…the Texans would have had a couple championships in recent years, or at least have gone to the playoffs.
There is one thing and one thing only that wins championships and it is the same thing that wins games because, after all, the Championship is nothing more than the final game of the season (post-season) presumably between the best team in the NFC and the best team in the AFC (in the Super Bowl era). And before the championship game was head-to-head the champion was determined by who won the most games.
Yes, there is one thing that wins championships…and that one thing is…
Yes, points win championships just like they win every regular season game and have since the game of football was invented. Points are the reason that the unsound cliche’ “Defense wins championships” came about. Because points are so difficult to get against a great defense that even a mediocre offense with a great defense has a chance in any game. I think of the way the Ravens beat the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. The Ravens offense scored 34 points but the way the defense played, they could have kicked a field goal after the first touchdown and called it a night.
But the reverse is true also. Any team that can score 30+ points a game can make up for some serious defensive issues. Packers’ fans have been surprised for three weeks by a Packers team that has not been scoring over 30 points a game but in which the defense has been stingy to say the least. The expectation before the season began was that, since the defense had lost starters, that the Packers would win games by keeping the ball on offense, getting plenty of offensive plays, and putting points on the board with regularity, if not with ease.
Football is a game, a game won or lost by points. Thus the one and only taunt that has no comeback in any game is the good old lilting taunt…”SCOREBOARD….SCOREBOARD…SCOREBOARD!” And since the Championship is a game (or previously a record of games) then the truth is that “Points win Championships.” Even special teams can win championships because they can score points. But special teams score so rarely that we will never have a cliche that “Special teams wins championships”. But remember Super Bowl 31? Who was the MVP? Desmong Howards kickoff return for a touchdown was the play that gave the Packers the points that really made it seem that the game was out of reach for the Patriots. And Reggie White responded with a couple of sacks that ensured that they wouldn’t get points on the board either. Reggie (Rest in Peace, O’ Minister of Defense) is in the Hall of Fame and Howard is known more as a commentator than a player. Special teams rarely scores and so it doesn’t get noticed for it’s contribution to the game.
So if Packernation is all on the same page about what wins games, and therefore Championships…let’s take a look at the Packers’ season so far with respect to this most critical of statistics.
There has been a lot of talk of how the Packers’ offense has “stalled” in the last few games. While there is an element of truth to this, the Packers may not be nearly as bad as it seems on Sunday. The Packers’ offense ranks 5th in points per game and while that average does not determine whether any one game would have been won or lost, we all know that the Packers are 6-0 so it has been enough even though it is a dropoff of just over 3 points from last year (1st in the league). This, however is good company with other playoff contenders like the Panthers, Bengals, Cardinals and Patriots. Notable, though is that the Patriots are almost ten points above the Packers, averaging 36.6 points to the Packers’ 27.3.
The loss of Jordy Nelson has made the difference between this year’s Packers team dropping 40 burgers on people and what we currently see…a team that is in the upper eschelon for scoring but needs the defense to be stingy against the best opponents. The Packers face the Panthers just the second week back after the bye so we look forward to the return of Davante Adams and hope that the negative X-rays on Ty Montgomery mean that he will be available.
As Jeff Janis gets more chances to be involved on the offense, Ty Montgomery gets more reps, and Randall Cobb (and Eddie Lacy) gets healthy, I would expect to see an uptick in the Packers ability to score points on the offensive side of the ball. Yes, there is a drop-off, but over 27 points is a very good average considering the competition the Packers have faced. It doesn’t get any easier though.
While the offense has slipped in the rankings from last season, the defense has improved significantly. Giving up an average of 21.8 points per game in 2014, the Packers were middle of the pack. But in 2015 they rank 3rd through six games, giving up only 16.8 points on average which is better than the Patriots, Bengals, Panthers, Cardinals, and Eagles among others.
Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers have become a force and the Packers’ young defensive backfield is getting it done even though they are willing to give ground between the 20’s. The Packers defense even showed it could put up points in the game against the Rams and would expect that to continue when faced with a struggling Peyton Manning in two weeks.
We all know that the bye week came at a great time for the Green Bay Packers this year. If the Pack had to play the Broncos and Panthers before the bye, it could have been difficult. The team has a chance to get healthy and hopefully won’t get out of sync with the rest. Key players look to return and the Packers have showed themselves to be among the best in the league when it comes to the most important aspect of the game of football, points.
With a little improvement on offense and continued dominance on defense, the Packers have a real shot at doing special things in the last half of the 2015 season. The stakes are high and the expectations are out of this solar system. With extra time to analyze the shortcomings of an offense that hasn’t seemed to be in sync even though they are scoring points for the most part, Mike McCarthy and the coaching staff should have a plan moving forward.
One thing I will say…Davante Adams had not made much of an impact when he was healthy, but when he gets back…we need him to come back with a vengeance. Adams was expected to be a force in his second year and he will need to become a meaningful contributor to this offense and a viable complement to Randall Cobb and James Jones. If he does that, and the young players continue on their trajectory…this year’s Packers team could be special.