One might look at that headline and assume I’m just talking about a really big win. That’s not what I mean. I don’t mean a win against an elite team. I don’t even mean mean a win aganst an elite quarterback. I’m not trying to use this win to satisfy any of the misplaced narratives used by people to downplay the success of the 2014 Green Bay Packers. I really do mean a completely different kind of victory.
This year’s Packers have lost 3 games. All of those losses can be “explained”. What an explanation is is really an excuse for losing. That’s fine. This team wasn’t going 16-0. Going undefeated hasn’t happened since 1972. In Seattle the game was competitive until Bryan Bulaga went out with an injury. Derek Sherrod gave up a sack on a 4th down and then gave up a sack in his own end zone, effectively ending the game. The Lions game never really got going as a first-play-of-the-game Eddie Lacy fumble turned into a touchdown and the Lions set the tone for the rest of the contest. In New Orleans, the game was tied, Green Bay was in the red zone to take the lead and Aaron Rodgers got hurt. The QB having to play on one leg backed by a defense missing 3 starters (2 in the secondary) wasn’t able to keep up with a red-hot Drew Brees. All of those losses are understandable.
What I want to talk about is the wins. There are 9 of em. There have been 5 drubbings. 5 times the Packers have handed in anywhere from a B+ to an A game and the talent gap between the two teams resulted in a win of 21 points or more. Twice against Chicago, once against Minnesota, and Lambeau Field destructions of Carolina and Philadelphia. There have also been two come from behind victories, at home against the Jets and at Miami. There was even a grind-it-out road victory in Minnesota to complete the 5th consecutive season series victory over the Vikings. All of those outcomes were more or less generated by the offense.
This game against New England, despite the fact that the Packers were able to score 6 times (and miss a 40 yd field goal) was determined by the defense. In a game featuring possibly the two best quarterbacks I’ll ever see compete against each other in person, the defense decided the outcome. I said words I will not publish here after Davante Adams dropped that game-sealing slant. I thought for sure that Brady was going to march down the field and score, setting up the Packers on their own 20 with 2:30 left and either a 1 or 3 point deficit.
I was a little bit excited. I thought, man, Aaron Rodgers leading a last minute drive to dramatically defeat the legend Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck’s Patriots. It was a great narrative, and there wasn’t anything that the Patriots pass defense could have done to stop that from happening. They didn’t get enough pass rush on Sunday to stop Rodgers on 4 straight passing attempts.
Then it happened. 1st round pick HaHa Clinton-Dix broke up a long pass to Rob Gronkowski (something his predecessors would have just looked stupid trying to do) and it became 3rd and long. Then Mike Neal, who God bless him hasn’t made a play all season (PFF’s 47th ranked out of 47 3-4 OLB) beat Nate Solder and made Terrific Tom step up into Mike Daniels, who had been laying waste to men all day long. The two sandwiched Brady and threw him down and the Lambeau Field crowd went insane. The defense held.
All the offense had to do is get one first down and the game would be over. If they didn’t the Patriots would still have needed to take the ball with about 1:50 on the clock with no timeouts from inside their own 20 down more-than-a-field-goal. The offense, however did their job. Eddie Lacy ran the ball twice setting up a 3rd-and-manageable and Rodgers hit Cobb to seal the victory.
I can’t remember the last time that the defense won a game for the Green Bay Packers. It’s probably been since the 2010 win over the heavily favored Jets on the road. This defense isn’t quite that defense but it’s getting close. I know a lot of people are pointing to 2010 and that this team has the feel of a Super Bowl contender, but like Tramon Williams said: I don’t remember ever being 9-3 in 2010.