Fall Foliage Report: Peak Conditions, Especially Inside Lambeau

Sometimes we're treated to the perfect October Sunday. For those fortunate enough to be at Lambeau and for the many more of us who watched or listened, the Packers provided a pitch perfect masterpiece in a 38-17 rout of the Panthers. It matched the absolutely beautiful day we were treated to in the Twin Cities (and I'm guessing, most places).

It was 38-3 early in the fourth quarter when Aaron Rodgers gave way to Matt Flynn. He exited with a near flawless paser rating of 154 plus, engineering touchdown drives the first three times he touched the ball. The Pack led 21-0 after the first quarter and outgained the declawed Panthers 172-5 in total yards. 172-5. For Rodgers, it extends an incredible stretch since he urged us to relax. The Pack is 4-0 and he's thrown 13 TDs and no picks during the streak.

As sharp as the offense was early, the defense held up its half of the bargain. The big, early lead allowed the pass rush to tee off on Cam Newton and they harassed him all afternoon. His favorite targets, rookie Kelvin Benjamin and eternal Packer nemesis Greg Olsen got their numbers in the end, but virtually all of it came in garbage time, after the game had long been decided.

When Newton did complete his passes, the Packers were nearly always there to make the tackle immediately, led by Sunday's leading tackler Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, who's developing into a Nick Collins-type--precisely what the doctor (and Dom Capers) ordered. And once again the Pack finished on the plus side of the takeaway column, thanks to Casey Hayward's pick.

It was the second laugher in the last three weeks for the Packers who have one final test before the midseason bye and they'll face a shell-shocked and desperate Saints team next Sunday night, one looking to show the world that they're not as bad as they've looked, especially in a division without a team with a winning record.

But we'll worry about the not ready for prime time Saints in a few days. For now, we can appreciate a completely dominant performance against a slightly better than average team. One that is admittedly struggling on defense, but one that ran up and down the field in Cincinnati a week ago.

The Packers defense is improving by the week, even without starters Sam Shields and Datone Jones. And what can you say about the offense? Rodgers is in an MVP zone and the unit is humming along as smoothly as any other team in the league (except maybe the Colts). The only negative on the day was seeing James Starks limp off the field. He's a terrific complement to Eddie Lacy and gives the Pack a nice lift whenever he spells him.

Otherwise, it was a picture perfect October Sunday. And the Packers provided as much color as the fall foliage currently on display throughout the beautiful state of Wisconsin. On days like these, winter seems like a long ways away.


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