Rewind back to 2008.
The Packers were concluding Favregate. A ton of pressure was on Aaron Rodgers, and there were mounting doubters that the offense could repeat the success it had with Favre under center in 2007. Coach Mike McCarthy, trying to deflect some of the glare on his new quarterback, made the somewhat infamous declaration, "I'm not worried about the offense. This team is predicated on the defense".
Well, we know now how that all worked out. Aaron Rodgers began his throw-first approach that led to the Packers having the 5th-overall ranked scoring offense. Meanwhile, that defense McCarthy boasted about fell to 22nd overall in the league and led to the axing of nearly every defensive coach following the season.
That trend continued even under Dom Capers in 2009, with the Packers offense ranking among the best in the league, overshadowing an improved defense trying to adjust to a 3-4.
Funny how expectations tend to turn on their ear sometimes, isn't it?
Kind of like 2010. You know, the score-at-will offense and Aaron Rodgers as potential MVP...remember all that preseason talk? There were even whispers of team and league records being broken. There was no discussion of this team being predicated on this defense. It was predicated on #12, #85, #80, and #88.
Meanwhile, the defense began a quick subtraction of starters, from Al Harris and Atari Bigby, to Morgan Burnett and Nick Barnett, to Mike Neal and Brad Jones. It was clear that it was the offense that was going to be carrying this team...after all, remember last year's playoff game against the Cardinals?
Again, fate as a funny way of turning your convictions against you. Week in and week out, with guys being signed off the street and thrust into rotational positions, the defense has held its own. Last week, it won the game outright, along with special teams....in SPITE of the offense.
But, expectations have a way of dictating how you play. Because the offense was viewed as being the best the Packers would be bringing to the field, opposing teams have worked harder to study tape and figure out how to defend it, and they've done a good job. They've bottled up the running game enough to the point where the Packers essentially give up on it, and then keep Rodgers unsettled just enough with a pass rush to upset his usually-deadly accurate passes.
On the other hand, most teams come in planning on playing against the standard 3-4 defensive scheme, but Dom Capers has managed to stay one step ahead all season long. No, the defense may not be a Super Bowl winner on its own, but its done enough to keep the Packers in every game. When the Jets thought they'd be able to run through the weakness of the Packer D, its injury-riddled front seven, they were surprised when that defense didn't show up. Instead, Capers brought a run-stopping defense that dared the Jets to pass, then generated enough of a pass rush to keep Mark Sanchez twitchy and allowed the secondary to play to its strengths: physical coverage.
Let it be noted: opposing teams are going to stop overlooking the defense and overplanning for the offense pretty soon. The win over the Jets is going to make teams take notice.
And then it will be up to the Packers to defy expectations again.