The Packers offense has put up plenty of points during the 7-game win streak, but the defense deserves credit for delivering the goods early to start things on the right foot.
Green Bay has given up a grand total of 16 first quarter points since Thanksgiving, and has not allowed a first quarter touchdown since the Eagles game that started the run.
Conversely, the Cowboys have scored 6 opening-drive touchdowns this year, including one against the Packers back in October.
Green Bay must avoid a similar fate Sunday and keep up its recent trend with hot starts.
“We plan to go out there and start fast,” said Packers defensive back Micah Hyde. “Hopefully we can do that again on Sunday.”
“That’s a big part of big games, coming out with great energy and playing hard,” said rookie defensive lineman Kenny Clark. “We have to play with good effort and just go out there and make plays.”
Since Aaron Rodgers said he thought the Pack could Run The Table, the defense has forced field goals instead of touchdowns twice as often as it did during the 4-game losing streak.
“I mean it is obviously 4 points that is the difference,” said coach Mike McCarthy. “In reality you look at it as a win, when you hold other teams to field goals with the red zone defense it is just so important. You look at the way we have played of late in the red zone, that’s the way we need to play this Sunday.”
“3 points is a lot better than 7 points,” said inside linebacker Jake Ryan. “It’s always huge for us forcing a field goal instead of being in the red zone and them actually scoring.”
“When you go back and look at the first half of the Giants game this past weekend, even though we were down 6-0, you know those stops were big as it was only a matter of time until the offense gets rolling,” said veteran Clay Matthews.
Against Dallas in the regular season, the Packers offense traded field goals for touchdowns the other way, falling behind. They can’t do that this time, and they need to start faster than they can’t wait until the 2nd quarter to score like they have the last 2 weeks.
“It is about momentum,” said 2-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. “When you play on the road you expect a loud environment and expect a difficult environment. You want to start fast against them, but the key is to have a surge, and then withstand the counter. You know there’s going to be the initial surge of emotion, but you have to have a response. We have to start the game well and respond when they come back at us.”
This time around it is the Cowboys that feature the #1 run defense in the NFL. Big D is also #2 in time of possession. The Packers offense knows the ground cannot be ignored in trying to stem the tide in Dallas.
“It’s huge,” declared right guard T.J. Lang. “Coming in Monday and talking about keys to the game we knew we would have to be able to run the ball affectively. We have to limit their opportunities on offense and also note that their defense can thrive when they make you one dimensional. When you are forced to pass the ball and play catch-up. That is something we talked about, getting off to a fast start and running the ball effectively and making sure that we are converting on our opportunities.”
Overall, as you know, it will be an uphill climb for the Packers to win. Yes, they have scored 35 points per game during their last 5 contests, but the Cowboys are the only NFC team this year that boasted a top-5 scoring offense, and a top-5 scoring defense.
The Packers recently put up matching 38-point totals against the #2 scoring defense of the Giants and the #3 scoring defense of the Seahawks, but on the other side of the ball the Packers improved defense has not faced a single team ranked in the top 15 in scoring offense during the 7-game win streak.