Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson is swarmed by three Green Bay defenders during Sunday's 34-0 shutout at Lambeau Field.
Folks of all types surrounding the Packers' organization - coaches, players, media, fans and the like - have been waiting for the team to play a complete football game.
If Sunday wasn't it, it was about as close as anyone could expect.
The Packers thoroughly dominated NFC North rival Minnesota with an efficient, ball-control offense and stifling defense to blow out the Vikings 34-0 in front of 70,945, the largest regular-season crowd ever at Lambeau Field.
"It's not as good as it gets, but it's as good as we've been this year as far as that goes," center Scott Wells said. "It's close."
With the win, the Packers improved to 8-1 for the first time since 2002 and remained in first place in the division, two games ahead of the Detroit Lions, who lost to Arizona to fall to 6-3. The Packers also remained tied with the Dallas Cowboys, winners over the New York Giants in a key NFC East matchup, for the top record in the NFC.
The defense recorded Green Bay's first shutout since Dec. 22, 2002, a 10-0 win over Buffalo, while McCarthy also improved to 4-0 against Minnesota in the most thorough whipping the Packers have given any opponent in his two-year tenure.
Green Bay's six scoring drives (four touchdowns, two field goals) averaged 77 yards in length and 5 minutes, 50 seconds of possession time, as the Packers piled up huge advantages in total yards (488-247), number of offensive plays (80-44) and time of possession (40:40 to 19:20).
"That's definitely as complete a game as a team that we've had," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "We made great plays on special teams, made great plays on offense and defense. I don't know what else you can ask the offense to do. They moved the ball, kept us off the field. That's a big part of the shutout."
The blowout was a welcome respite from the several down-to-the-wire finishes that had become the staple of this season, and the fact that the Packers didn't have to fight tooth-and-nail to the very end to showed another step in the evolution of the 2007 team.
"We feel that this is the first time we've had the opportunity to seal the deal and we've done it," Wells said. "It feels good to be able to go out there and control the game."
Offensively, the Packers did that both passing and running the ball.
Quarterback Brett Favre was superb once again, completing 33-of-46 for 351 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions for a rating of 115.4, his sixth 100-plus rating of the season. He was complemented by the hard-charging runs of Ryan Grant, who became the first 100-yard rusher this season against Minnesota's second-ranked run defense with 25 carries for 119 yards and a score.
Grant's 30-yard TD run on the game's opening drive began an onslaught during which the Packers scored five of the first six times they touched the ball to take a 27-0 lead late in the third quarter.
"Our offense is consistent when we execute," said Grant, who had his second 100-yard game in the last three weeks. "It opens up our passing game, opens up our running game. I think we can be a very well-balanced offense. As long as Brett keeps throwing like he's throwing, good things are going to happen."
Meanwhile the defense, happily enjoying a reduced workload thanks to the offense's ball-control, set the tone early by containing Minnesota's rookie running back sensation Adrian Peterson.
Linebacker Brady Poppinga and safety Atari Bigby burst through the line to stuff Peterson for no gain on third-and-1 on the game's opening possession, and the defense went on to hold the Vikings to 0-for-8 on third downs and 0-for-3 on fourth downs. Peterson, who rushed for more than 500 yards combined against Chicago and San Diego within the past month, was limited to just 45 yards on 11 carries (4.1 avg.)
"We have a tough defense," defensive tackle and prime run stuffer Ryan Pickett said. "That was their game plan was to run the ball, and that's how they run their team. We took it as a personal challenge, stood up and played tough."
Third-string quarterback Brooks Bollinger also struggled, completing just three passes for 7 yards in the first half. By the time Bollinger took the first of three sacks in the game on the first possession of the third quarter, a shutout looked like a distinct possibility and became a noteworthy goal for the defense.
"We talked as a team, it was time to shut somebody out," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's very important to our defense and it's the reflection of a football team focused on improving. We improved today."
Minnesota did have three chances to score late but was turned away each time.
On the Vikings' first substantial drive of the game, late in the third quarter, a 35-yard pass to former Packer Robert Ferguson put the Vikings inside the Green Bay 45-yard line for the first time all day, and an 11-yard completion to Peterson finally put the Vikings over 100 yards of offense.
Peterson was injured on the play, absorbing a diving tackle at his legs by cornerback Al Harris, but he appeared to be OK a few minutes later on the sideline. Linebacker A.J. Hawk then tackled Ferguson for a loss of 1-yard on a fourth-and-10 pass from the Green Bay 26 with 51 seconds left third quarter.
On their next possession, the Vikings moved all the way to the Green Bay 7, but on first-and-goal Bollinger's pass deflected off running back Mewelde Moore's hands and into Charles Woodson's. It was the veteran cornerback's third interception of the season, and second in the last two games.
"I knew I would make the tackle so I knew it wouldn't be a touchdown," Woodson said. "It was one of those things where you're Johnny-on-the-spot. Those are the kind of picks as a defensive back you want, because you don't have to work too much to get them."
The defense still had to work to preserve the shutout, though. On Minnesota's final attempt, a 50-yard screen pass to Chester Taylor got the Vikings into scoring range again, but sacks by Johnny Jolly and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (his second on the day) helped stall the drive with under a minute to go, and the Packers blanked the Vikings for the first time in the 94 installments of the rivalry.
"I think we have that confidence that we'll go out there and stop people when we've got to stop them," Woodson said. "Today was just one of those games. You're not going to get too many of them."