GREEN BAY – The challenge has grown larger, but the formula for victory hasn't changed.
Last week, the Packers – without their top three receivers – managed to knock off the previously unbeaten Cardinals on the road thanks to a game-controlling ground attack and a decisive edge in turnovers.
This week, with quarterback Jordan Love making his first NFL start in place of Aaron Rodgers, running the ball and taking it away remain the keys for Green Bay at two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City.
It's difficult to overstate just how effective the Packers' rushing attack has been lately. Opponents have held Green Bay under 130 rushing yards just once in the last five games. The Packers racked up 154 against a Bears defense normally stout against the run, and piled up 151 at Arizona with the receiving corps depleted.
Love will have no better best friend in his first start, in a loud Arrowhead Stadium no less, than the running game spearheaded by Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon.
"We always prepare in the running back room to be the spark," Dillon said. "I talk about that a lot. It's what we say. We're always prepared for one of us to break loose, stay ahead of the chains and get the offense going."
Breaking loose was a good description against the Cardinals, as Jones and Dillon "did a really good job at fighting through first contact," as Dillon put it, gaining the extra yards that keep a defense on its heels.
A struggling K.C. defense comes into Sunday ranked 22nd in the league in rushing yards allowed (121.8) and 28th in per-carry average (4.6), so the numbers point to more success for the Packers.
The Chiefs can try gearing up more to stop the run with Love at the controls vs. Rodgers, but that shouldn't alter the Packers' commitment. If the Chiefs dare Love to beat them, he'll have to take advantage of what's there, but the Packers also will have to do what they can to ease the burden on a young, inexperienced QB.
"Anytime any team is running the ball well, that takes the pressure off any quarterback," Jones said. "So I think if we come out and do that, it will help him tremendously and he'll be able to settle in."
The other major factor in the victory at Arizona was turnovers. Green Bay won that battle 3-0 and should have been able to win the game at just 2-0 by punching in a touchdown from the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter.
Kansas City leads the league with 19 giveaways, with QB Patrick Mahomes having thrown a league-high 10 interceptions.
"Obviously we have to do everything humanly possible to keep that trend going," said defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who is back with the team after missing a week due to a positive COVID test.
Barry added the Chiefs "live and die on the explosion play, on the big play," so the Packers have to limit those, which works hand in hand with takeaways because the longer it takes an offense to drive the length of the field, the greater chance a mistake will be made.
By the same token, the Packers don't want to deviate from who they are and what they do in some overzealous attempt to keep the Chiefs turnover-prone. The Packers have generated multiple takeaways six times during their current seven-game win streak by playing sound fundamentally and then capitalizing on their chances as they arise.
"Everybody's got to play their responsibility to the best of their ability and they either happen or they don't," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said regarding turnovers. "I think when you try to force them is typically when bad things happen to you as a defense.
"You've just got to play the game true and read your keys and play what you see."
What the Packers saw last week was how the combination of the ground game and turnover differential produced a 15-minute advantage in time of possession and limited an explosive Arizona offense to just eight drives in the game.
That'll carve out a path to victory against just about anybody. As Kenny Clark said this week, "This game's all about the ball."
Running it, keeping it, taking it away. It got the Packers a win many didn't expect last week. With the obstacles even greater, it's the way to get another one this week.