Kings of the North Once Again, with Bigger Goals Within Reach.Posted:Dec 14th, 2020 3:37 pm
At halftime on Sunday, with the score tied at 14, I thought about how I expected the third quarter to unfold. What surprised me most about the first half was the Pack's inability to get the running game going. I figured what they needed was a long, sustained drive, fueled by Jones and Williams to start to wear down the Lions defense.
We ended up getting two for the price of one in a near perfect third quarter that saw Aaron Rodgers on the field for all but around 90 seconds and the Pack was on its way to a second straight NFC North title, and 11th in the 19 years since realignment.
Feels like the right time to recall all the angst following the Packers' draft, when Packer fans and NFL experts were summoning their inner Lombardi: "What the hell's going on out there?!" It's tough to quibble about where the Packers are sitting nearly eight months later: 10-3, division champs and three wins away from securing the #1 seed and only bye in the NFC playoffs. Not to mention, the Pack has now won 10 of 11 division games under Matt LaFleur.
The Packers are far from perfect, as their defense and special teams remind us every Sunday, but in a season where there is not a dominant NFC team, and with Aaron Rodgers playing like the league's MVP, in complete command of his offense, you have to love where the Pack sits heading into Week 15.
The Rodgers-Adams connection is having the best season in Packer history. Adams passed the great Don Hutson with his eight straight game with a TD and is now the first player in league history with at least six catches and a touchdown in eight straight games. It's magical to watch these two play together and when we see the light bulb seemingly goes on for a guy like Marquez Valdez-Scantling, well, this offense is pretty tough to stop. And how about MVS, after going into witness protection since the Colts game, he caught all six balls thrown his way and his excellent, contested touchdown catch may have been his most impressive one yet.
The negatives in the seven point win over the Lions: let's start with the 12 penalties--many of them coming at most inopportune times. They have to clean that up, on both sides of the ball. That will get you beat when the competition is stronger. Once again, the special teams coverage units gave up a big return. Just moments after Mason Crosby stepped up and drilled a 57 yard field goal to give the Pack a 10 point lead, the Packers allow Jamal Agnew to scamper 71 yards to the Green Bay 33, allowing the Lions to kick a quick field goal and try an onside kick (which came way too close to working). Of course, it should have been a 52 yard field goal, but Elgton Jenkins got flagged, pushing the ball back beyond the point where LaFleur was comfortable trying a field goal.
But LaFleur went with his gut when Crosby told him he could make it. How far has he come since that day two years ago in this stadium when he missed four field goals and a PAT? He's missed a total of four in the two years since that game (let's see if the Vikings give their kicker a chance at redemption after he suffered a similar fate in Tampa).
Defensively, it was a quiet day for the Smiths; didn't really notice them. I did notice both safeties, Amos and Savage making plays all over the field. I noticed Lowry and Clark wreaking havoc up the middle and Rashan Gary looked frisky. Overall, a solid performance for the unit against an average offense (thanks to their QB), holding them to less than 300 yards and not giving up any explosive plays. We'll get a better idea of where this unit is at the next two weeks when they likely face Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry.
For now, we'll enjoy where things sit right now, division champs and the NFC's top seed. It looks like the team escaped any serious injuries as they prepare for a short week with the Panthers in town on Saturday night.
Two consecutive prime time games at Lambeau in December. Everything is in front of them. And their QB may be the MVP favorite right now. 2020 has been a terrible year in many ways, but the Packers are proving to be a very welcome silver lining.