Pack Wins Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest

For me, the Pack's victory over the Texans felt like a plate of kung pao chicken with a side of fried rice. Satisfying in the moment, but leaving you feeling a bit empty and hungry for more an hour or so later.

Yes, the snowy conditions made things difficult on both sides of the ball and Aaron Rodgers was clearly not close to 100%, but this game felt like so many recent games at Lambeau, where inferior teams hang around and find themselves in position to steal a game late.

Let's start with the defense. Brock Osweiler was overmatched from the start, unable and unwilling to throw the downfield until he was forced to play catch up. For the most part, the defense did what we expected them to do. Nick Perry and Jake Ryan left the game early with injuries, but both returned in the second half. Dom Capers was aggressive, but the constant blitzing got his unit in trouble. Time after time on third and long, the Texans handed off and converted: third and eight, third and nine, third and 12. They converted six out of 15 third downs--it felt like they were more successful than that.

But overall, the defense was okay and will need to be much better next Sunday--more on that in a bit.

With Aaron Rodgers limited, the offense lacked the explosiveness it showed last week. The running game was stuck in neutral until McCarthy finally gave up on James Starks and put Ty Montgomery back there. Those maddening wide runs with Starks on third and short are hopefully officially in mothballs.

The Packers offense awakened in the nick of time when it orchestrated a beautiful 98 yard drive that started near the end of the third quarter and ended early in the fourth. They finally converted on a third and one when Montgomery broke loose for eleven yards. The drive included three catches by tight ends and was punctuated by a 32 yard touchdown pass to Nelson, aided by a corner who slipped on the route.

The Pack D forced a punt and then another impressive touchdown drive gave the Pack a 14 point lead and we could all exhale. This time it was an eight play 89 yard drive. Two catches by Jordy Nelson totaling 50 yards were the highlights, with Rip bulling ahead for the final three yards. On the heels of Davante Adams' emergence in recent weeks, Nelson was the offensive star of the game, making big catches all afternoon.

So after slogging along for nearly three quarters, the offense awoke in the nick of time, but there were causes for concern, like the third down play calling and the bizarre decision to go for it on fourth and two in a tie game in the second quarter. It appeared that Rodger changed the play ro a run at the line of scrimmage. In a game of field position, where the team was struggling to convert on short yardage, it seemed highly questionable decision.

So it was a win with warts, but at this point we'll take what we can get. Rodgers' streak of winning December home games of eight years and counting is still alive, but it will be tested in a big way next Sunday when the Seahawks come to town. Their Sunday night demolition of the Panthers will have everyone on their bandwagon, but they've been a different team on the road and for the Packers it's more of a playoff type game than it is for Seattle.

Detroit's surprise performance in New Orleans has them in control of the North and the Packers know they're running out of wiggle room. For Week 17 to determine the North, the Pack needs to keep winning and hope the Lions slip up either at the Giants or the Cowboys on a Monday night.

NBC put up a stat on Sunday night that the Seahawks are just 2-2-1 this season when one of their big three on defense misses the game (Sherman, Chancellor and Thomas). The broken leg suffered by Earl Thomas means the big three won't be intact next Sunday afternoon. So we got that going for us, but the Seahawks' offense was in rhythm and the Packers will need to play their best game to get past them. They opened as 2.5 point road favorites.

Rodgers' hamstring will get as much attention as a mall Santa this week as we all hope he's closer to 100% next Sunday and play more like the surgeon he was in Philly last Monday before he tweaked it.

He said he thought the team could run the table and they're 2-0 since. But next Sunday will be the toughest test before what we hope is a Week 17 play-in game.


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