Just like we drew it up, right? Packers by 10? Despite the final score being of a 10 point victory, the entire experience of today’s NFC North division championship victory was not according to the script. The script, however was good enough for Hollywood. The Packers looked like the monster they always have been at home. Rifling down the field 3 times (losing it once on a fumble, once on a turnover on downs) and going up 14-0. It’s what happened on the second touchdown that defined the game, and the season.
QB Aaron Rodgers aggravated his calf injury right before flipping his 36th TD pass to Randall Cobb and slumped to the ground in a heap. For the first time I can ever remember the Packers PA system cut “Bang on the Drum All Day” short. Everyone
fell silent as QB1 was helped off the field in and then taken in to the locker room on a cart. The game appeared over, the season appeared over. Then Rodgers showed up in the tunnel in the second half. After a Matt Flynn 3-and-out Aaron Rodgers entered the game. Rodgers threw another touchdown and ran for another, putting the Packers back up by 2 TDs ending the game and securing a first round bye in the NFC.
1. Aaron Rodgers– what else can be said? He’s the Most Valuable Player in the league. We saw all of that today. You saw what the team could do without him. Very little. You saw what he could do when in the game. A passer rating over 139 on one leg. Surviving the calf. Surviving the stomp. Putting the team and the season on his back and prevailing against one of the best defenses in football. Beating a team that had held his offense to 7 points early in the season. He and the team weren’t going to make it through the playoffs if they had to go to Dallas next weekend (possibly Saturday). If the team was going to win the 14th World Championship in Packers history they had to win today, and win he did.
2. Defense- While very few people are talking about this (throwing out special teams points) the defense has allowed 12.33 points per game in the last 3 contests. The pass rush didn’t play as well as one would think, considering the weakness of the Lions offensive line. What did happen, though was solid enough run defense and a few well timed plays on the ball. Morgan Burnett continued to play well, as did Clay Matthews. If the team is going to win another title the Packers have to play well on that side of the ball. If the defense can continue to hold opponents to 20 points or less, it’s going to be difficult for opposing defenses to do the same.
3. Randall Cobb- Will someone please pay this man his money? The Lions had to know that he was getting the ball when Rodgers became immobile. The long developing stuff to Nelson was unlikely. The second reaction stuff outside the pocket was gone. Yet Randall Cobb went in the backfield and into the slot and shredded the Lions late in the game. He is invaluable to the team and it would be a good idea to give him his extension as soon as possible.
Honorable mention- Richard Rodgers played huge today.
1. Ndamukong Suh- The biggest jackass in all of professional football, Suh was up to his old stuff today. He had a decent impact on the game with 7 tackles and a QB hit, but what everyone will remember is the stomp. Suh tried to cleverly pretend that it was unintentional but he stepped on Rodgers twice. Not only did he do it twice, but it was clear he was stepping on something that wasn’t the field and he took all of his weight off the ground and onto what ever he was stepping on. There’s no place for that in the NFL and though I doubt it he’ll be suspended, it would be right.
2. Brad Jones- They guy who repeatedly made mistakes to open the season at Seattle looked for a moment like he would contribute to its end. Jones has been inserted into the lineup as the team’s dime linebacker. In this set the Packers play with 2 down linemen, 2 OLB and one ILB on the field with 6 defensive backs. Jones is the tallest ILB and covers the most ground in pass coverage, but he is not a useful player. The team likes to blitz him in the “A” gap but his effect as a pass rusher is not great. At the end of the half at a point where it appeared the Packers were going to have to hold on to a 14 point lead with their lives Brad Jones smacked Matthew Stafford on the head after he had just thrown an incompletion on 3rd and 12. The Lions would have punted. The very next play Stafford hit Calvin Johnson for a game-changing TD.
3. Shawn Slocum- what looked like a good day on special teams after Micah Hyde’s punt return TD went sour. The team had a problem with coverages and allowed their 7th blocked kick of the season. Slocum’s units have been sup bar all season and for much of his tenure with the Packers. I hate to encourage people to lose their jobs, but bringing in a new voice on special teams or promoting Coach Zook would probably be a positive direction for the team.
Bottom Line: The Packers won. They secured their 4th consecutive division title. In the 5 consecutive seasons that the Packers have been either Super Bowl or NFCN champions, the Packers have gone 9-1-1 against the Vikings, 7-3 against the Lions and an astonishing 8-2 against the Chicago Bears. That divisional dominance is what has defined the McCarthy Rodgers era. But division titles are not what will define the Packers. World titles define the Packers, they have since the team was put together. We will find out what defines this season in a few weeks. Enjoy a stress free weekend everyone and Go Pack Go!!