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Packers' surging offense ready to tackle its next challenge

After November turnaround, Green Bay looks to build on past December successes


GREEN BAY – Jon Runyan always believed.

Even when the results weren't necessarily there earlier this season, the Packers' guard watched the offense in practice and saw growth from a unit high on potential but short on experience.

Coming out of the team's Week 6 bye, Runyan made a few headlines with a comment about how Green Bay's offense had "shades of" what the top-ranked Miami Dolphins were doing.

It was a lofty aspiration, but Runyan was confident in his quarterback, an emerging group of playmakers who could stretch a defense both vertically and sideline-to-sideline, and an offensive line that was gaining comfort with one another.

Today, the fourth-year veteran is looking somewhat prophetic after the Packers have notched three victories in their last four games. Green Bay is averaging 391 total yards during that stretch compared to 287 yards through the first seven contests.

"I feel like this has always been our potential and now people are starting to show it and now people are starting to believe in us," said Runyan after practice on Wednesday.

"As a core, as an offense, we knew we were capable of this the whole time and now it's really time to shine."

Runyan's belief stemmed not only from practice but also what he'd seen in postgame film review, which showed a loose end here or there standing between the Packers and explosive plays.

Coincidentally, since Runyan's remark about Miami, Green Bay has ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in explosive plays (12-plus yard runs and 16-plus yard passes) according to TruMedia.

What's more, the Packers have recorded at least eight explosive plays in each of the last four games (Weeks 9-12). Jordan Love has been exceptional during that stretch, amassing a 103.1 passer rating.

During last Thursday's 29-22 win over Detroit, the 25-year-old quarterback banked his third game with three touchdowns and no interceptions – the most for a Packers QB in his first 12 starts.

"I think we're growing, together," said Love of the offense's recent success. "Guys are feeling more comfortable in the system, understanding our roles, and now we're just going out there and playing, executing the plays, and guys are making plays. I think we have a better focus right now about how we're going to start the game."

The NFL's youngest receiving corps has been a big part of that. Led by rookie second-round pick Jayden Reed's 497 receiving yards, five different pass catchers have registered at least 20 receptions and 300 yards so far.

But helping set the table for all that production has been Runyan and a resilient offensive line that's found its footing after losing five-time All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari for the season.

Green Bay has mixed it up, including a steady rotation at left tackle between Rasheed Walker and Yosh Nijman, and with Sean Rhyan spelling Runyan for an occasional series at right guard. It's worked. On Thanksgiving, Detroit hit Love just four times – marked improvement from the Packers' Week 4 encounter with the Lions in which Love was sacked five times among 11 hits.

"You love that for Jordan," said left guard Elgton Jenkins after the win. "His first year being able to start, and being able to put up 250, 260 yards on people, and us being a part of that by keeping him clean and letting him be comfortable in the pocket and look at his reads and letting the receivers get open, it's definitely a pat on the back for ourselves and a pat on the back for Jordan, as well."

Back-to-back wins over the Lions and Los Angeles Chargers lead Green Bay into a critical Sunday night matchup with the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, who possess one of the league's most aggressive defensive units.

Fifth-year coordinator Steve Spagnuolo leads a unit that sits third in scoring defense (16.5 points per game), and fourth in both sacks (37) and in total yards (290.0 ypg). Per Pro Football Reference, Kansas City has called the sixth-most blitzes (150) while generating 111 total pressures.

Working in the Packers' favor is the fact this game – unlike Green Bay's previous two regular-season meetings with the Chiefs – will be played at Lambeau Field, with temperatures likely hovering the 30s.

"We know in this game that's what they're going to want to do," Runyan said. "They're going to try to put pressure on our young quarterback. It's going to be on us (as an O-line). We're not on the road like we were in KC in that loud environment. We're going to be at home and we're going to be able to communicate and we're going to be able to identify stuff and get it picked up. It shouldn't be too much of an issue as long as we're on the same page at all times."

Green Bay is a perfect 15-0 in the month of December under Head Coach Matt LaFleur, the second longest streak in NFL history behind only the Chargers' 18-game winning streak in December from 2006-2009.

Since LaFleur took the reins in 2019, Green Bay has allowed the fewest December giveaways (nine) while ranking fourth in scoring (28.1 points per game) and tops in time of possession (32:25).

That efficiency will be put to the test against Kansas City and the Packers know consistency will be required to keep that winning streak intact Sunday night at Lambeau Field.

"This is a long season and just trying to stay mentally fresh, as best you can, is an important part of that," LaFleur said. "I think the consistency, showing up on a daily basis ready to work, ready to put in the work and wanting to improve is really the key to that."

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