To be blunt, the battle of the unbeaten teams was simply a beating. The Denver Broncos thoroughly dominated the Green Bay Packers in their 29-10 win on Sunday night at Sports Authority Field.
The Broncos are now 7-0, while the Packers are now 6-1.
There is no sugar-coating about how bad the Packers looked in the game.
The Broncos had 500 total yards, while the Packers had just 140. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who seemed to be under intense pass-pressure all night long, had one of the worst games of his career, as he passed for just 77 yards.
The defense of the Packers was nothing to write home about either. The Broncos moved down the field with ease against the Pack. The Denver offense was balanced, as Peyton Manning threw for 340 yards, while the running attack gained an additional 160 yards.
The best players on the field for the Packers on Sunday night were kicker Mason Crosby and punter Tim Masthay.
What does that say about the performance of the Packers?
There was one very interested observer who attended the game in Denver. That would be former Packers great Jerry Kramer.
Kramer knows how the Green Bay players are feeling after the way they were systematically taken apart by the Broncos on Sunday night.
Kramer was also part of an undefeated team in 1962 for the Packers. That team was dominated in a similar fashion by the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day that year.
That 10-0 Green Bay team was taken to the woodshed by the Lions on Turkey Day, as the Packers lost 26-14. The final score was not a true indication as to how badly the Packers played that day.
Going into that game against the Lions, the Packers had outscored their opponents by a 309-74 margin.
Jim Taylor, the NFL MVP in 1962, was held to just 47 yards rushing.
Starr threw two interceptions, while the Packers also lost the ball three more times on fumbles.
The Packers were losing 26-0 going into the fourth quarter. Green Bay scored 14 points in the final period to make the score look more respectable.
I was able to talk with Kramer on Tuesday, and he gave me his reflections about that Thanksgiving game.
“Detroit guessed right all the time in that game,” Kramer said. “Alex [Karras] was on the move all game long. Sometimes he would line up over me. Other times he would line up in the gap, while other times he would line up over the center.
“The Lions were twisting and doing all sorts of stunts and it was like they were pulling everything out of the bag to beat us. They gambled a lot in that game and were on a mission to get the quarterback.
“They guessed correctly that day and came out and kicked our ass. That being said, it was not a normal type of game, as they took a ton of chances.”
The Lions had been looking forward to that game against the Packers, as they felt they had given away a win in Green Bay earlier in the year.
The Lions were winning 7-6 late in the game, when quarterback Milt Plum threw a pass which was intercepted by Herb Adderley. No. 26 returned the pick 40 yards, which set up the game-winning field goal by Paul Hornung.
Bottom line, the 8-2 Lions were chomping at the bit when the undefeated Packers came into Tigers Stadium on Thanksgiving Day that season.
Even with that stunning loss, the Packers recovered and never lost another game that season.
Kramer talked about how head coach Vince Lombardi reacted after games like the one the Packers played on Thanksgiving that year.
“After a game like that one,” Kramer said, “Lombardi would say, ‘Put the films away. Let’s not look at them. That was an aberration. That wasn’t us. Just put those films away and let’s get ready for next week.’
The Packers did get ready for the next week that season, as they whipped the Los Angeles Rams 41-10 at old Milwaukee County Stadium 10 days after they lost to the Lions.
The Packers finished out the 1962 season with road wins against the San Francisco 49ers and Rams to finish with a 13-1 record.
Then in the 1962 NFL Championship Game against the New York Giants at frigid and very windy Yankee Stadium, the Packers won 16-7. Kramer scored 10 points by himself (three field goals and an extra point) in the game and was awarded a game ball for his efforts.
Kramer see some similarities between the 2015 Packers and some of the great teams he played on in Green Bay.
“This Packer team reminds me of my team,” Kramer said. “Because for quite awhile we would do whatever we had to do to win. We didn’t seem to get real pumped for some games and if we got behind, we would go score.
“And if we did get a couple of scores, we would kind of relax and the opponent would score. That used to drive Coach Lombardi nuts that we wouldn’t put a team away.
“This Packer team seemed to do the same thing in the weeks leading up to the Denver game.”
Kramer then talked about what he saw during the Packers-Broncos game.
“For one thing, Aaron [Rodgers] was obviously not Aaron,” Kramer said. “Peyton [Manning] seemed to be ten years younger than the way he has played recently. He had a hell of a day. He was quick and his passes were sharp. He was moving well too.
“That whole team [Denver] was emotionally charged. They were really ready for our ass. We [the Packers] came out there with an attitude of let’s see what happens. But the team never caught up to the style of play by the Broncos. The team seemed to be on their heels early in the game and they never recovered.
“The Packers were reacting instead of acting. They were trying to protect instead of going on the attack.
“The Denver defense was awesome. They were pretty good leading up to the game, but they weren’t that dominating.”
So, what to the Packers need to do in Week 9 as they get set to take on another undefeated team, the 7-0 Carolina Panthers in Charlotte?
“The Packers need to realize that this is sort of a critical moment in their season,” Kramer said. “They have to respond. They have to have an emotional interest in the outcome of the game. I mean, extreme emotion.
“The Packers have to get ready to play and they have to play their ass off. Because if they don’t, we don’t know where the hell they are going from here. I would expect that Coach McCarthy will do a little ass-chewing to get the team ready to play.
“I think this will be an interesting game to see how the Packers respond. Are they champions? Or are they pretenders? Are they going to take care of business? Was the game in Denver an aberration?
“This game is critical for the Packers and it could determine how the team plays the rest of the season.”
Kramer has been in the same boat that the current Packers are now in. That 1962 team under Vince Lombardi responded quite well after the dominating defeat they suffered on Thanksgiving Day.
That Packer team never lost another game and also won the NFL title.
We shall see how the 2015 Packers respond after a similar beat down by the Broncos.
The game against Carolina is much more important than the one that Packers played on Sunday night. The Panthers are a NFC opponent, not an AFC opponent like Denver was.
This game could help determine which team might get home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs.
Kramer said it best when he said this about the Packers:
“Are they champions? Or are they pretenders?”
We will find out Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium.