Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Packers find lost mojo in 27-13 win over Eagles

With a day or two to reflect upon the Green Bay Packers' 27-13 win Monday night over the Philadelphia Eagles, what are your thoughts, Packer fans? Here are a few from yours truly, in no particular order of importance.

According to prognosticators, pundits and oddsmakers, the win was an upset as Philly was as much as a four-point favorite ahead of the game. Yes, that's how low expectations were for the Pack going into this game. And why not? They hadn't won in a month, were on a four-game losing streak that showed no signs of letting up, and had many opining that this was the season in which Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy crashed the team and, as a result, changes needed to be made after the season's close. The latter may still hold true, although I for one wouldn't bet the farm -- or even a farmette -- on that happening. As Hub Arkush of Pro Football Weekly told 620WTMJ radio in Milwaukee the day of the game, the reputation of both Thompson and McCarthy around the league is that they are one of the best GM-head coach combinations there is. He reminded us that getting to the playoffs even a few years in a row in the NFL is no small feat, and the Packers have been there seven years in a row. Let that sink in, folks. Oh yeah, a couple NFC championship games in there, as well (where arguably the Packers should have won at least one or two more than they did), plus a Super Bowl win. Not bad. But, still, it might be a good time to make some changes; that's this writer's opinion, by the way, not that of Arkush.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was dialed in during
the Pack's win vs. the Eagles.

Photo by Jim Matthews, USA Today Network-Wisconsin

Secondly, and more to the point of the game itself, QB Aaron Rodgers looked like the Rodgers of old. We haven't really seen him this sharp from the get-go to the end of the game for about the last year-and-a-half. He made two remarkable throws to Davante Adams, who made equally remarkable catches on those passes. His other throws, just as good overall. He finished with more than 300 yards passing and a 116.7 passer rating. He also ran effectively to extend drives, at least until a hamstring issue seemed to halt that aspect of his game. But for anyone who had begun to think that Number 12 had lost "it"...he didn't. And by showing that he also reminded folks that as long as he's good to go, so are the Packers. For more on Rodgers' performance, check out this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Let's also give credit to Rodgers' receivers who seemed to be making up for all of their drops during this season. There was also just enough of a rushing game, coming out of multiple personnel formations, to keep the Eagles from concentrating entirely on the Pack's passing attack. Give coach McCarthy credit for designing and executing a great game plan that kept the Eagles off balance all night long.

Credit must also be given to the Packers defense who finally came to play. After being shredded to the tune of historically bad proportions in recent weeks (not hyperbole, fact), they held the previously unbeaten-at-home Eagles to just 13 points. A pass rush was present and apparently the return of Damarious Randall to the defensive backfield gave the Pack enough confidence to take care of business versus Philly's receivers.

The Packers had their backs against the wall going into this game and came out with an energy on both sides of the ball that we hadn't seen in quite a while. It was the closest to a complete-game performance we've seen going back probably to early last season. This despite still having to deal with injuries to key players: JC Tretter, T.J. Lang, Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez, Sam Shields, Eddie Lacy and more. Give the coaching staff credit for creatively using their personnel and getting the team ready to play.

Still, we must also recall that the Packers -- even with this inspiring win -- are still one game below .500 and are two games behind NFC North Division leader Detroit. At 5-6 and with five games remaining, including the final three against division rivals Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit, the Pack can't allow any more games to slip through their grasp. Next up is the Texans at home followed by Seattle also at Lambeau Field. Then it's off to Chicago to beat Da Bearz, back to Lambeau for a Christmas Eve tilt against the ViQueens and then a regular season New Year's Day finale in Detroit. If the Pack can "run the table" as Rodgers predicted prior to the Eagles game, or even come out of these five games at 4-1, it's possible that January 1 game against the Lions could be for the division championship.

That's a long way away. Perhaps overly optimistic. And the Pack's problems aren't necessarily solved by the win in Philadelphia. But there's a glimmer of hope. Each week from here on out requires the same level of performance we witnessed Monday night. Clearly, the Packers are capable of that level of performance, even with all the injuries. It's up to the players to bring it each week. We'll see if they are up to the challenge -- and the reward -- beginning this Sunday against the Texans.

Go Pack Go!!!