Win and they are in – everything has gone the right way for the Green Bay Packers in their quest to make the playoffs, and now it all comes down to Week 18.
Their 41-17 blowout win over the Minnesota Vikings was as big of a statement as the Packers could make, showing that while the start of the season was a rough one, they have had plenty of time to string wins together when it mattered the most. All three facets of the team were working together, probably the first time all season the team played complementary football.
While the stat line for Aaron Rodgers and his receiving core doesn’t necessarily show it, the passing attack did well against the Minnesota secondary – but it was all set up by their success running the football.
159 passing yards and a score is a pretty low day stat-wise for Rodgers, but the 163 rushing yards certainly helps explain that outlook, while showing that the offense had a very balanced game plan that they stuck to. Going away from running the ball has been a problem at times for Matt LaFleur, but he committed to it and stuck to it against the Vikings, to much success.
Aaron Jones (111 yards) and AJ Dillon (41 yards, 1 TD) handled the load on the ground for Green Bay, who also received a rushing scamper from Rodgers in the game. This team is reliant on a balanced offensive attack, and if what happened Sunday is a sign of things to come, this offense may just be reaching its peak.
Kirk Cousins was uncomfortable all night, only throwing for 205 yards while throwing 3 interceptions. Darnell Savage, Rudy Ford, and Adrian Amos were the lucky recipients, with Savage taking it back 75 yards for the team’s second TD of the day.
The defense also sacked Cousins twice, including Kenny Clark getting the defensive trifecta (strip-sack fumble recovery) on one play. Boxing up Cousins forced him to make plays with his legs, which shows why his QB rating of 10.3 was as low as it was.
Jaire Alexander also helped shut down Justin Jefferson, who only caught one of five targets for 15 yards in the game, a performance that pales in comparison to his monster showing to open the season. While it was not just Alexander on his own, he was able to more than back up all of the talk he threw out to the media this week, and if the defense has its swagger working, watch out.
This part of the team is typically not included in this recap article, but since they actually did something very impactful, they deserve a shoutout.
Keisean Nixon has been probably one of the biggest revelations that the Packers have signed off the scrap heap in the last 10-plus years, and the fact that he was stuck behind Amari Rodgers is even more confusing.
His 105-yard kickoff return for a TD helped turn the tide in the favor of Green Bay early on, scoring just after the Vikings’ only scoring drive of the first half resulted in a field goal. With Nixon returning kicks, there is finally an added element for this team to rely on, something they have failed to have for the longest time.
Oh, and Mason Crosby hit a 56-yard field goal to go into halftime – what more can you ask for? Well, probably not another blocked punt like they had, so technically not everything was perfect.
A matchup with the Detroit Lions is what the Packers must face next in a win-or-go-home situation – needing to put everything on the line to make it back to the playoffs, which version of the Green Bay roster will we see show up on Sunday?뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23