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By CHRIS HAVEL
Packers keep playoff hopes alive
While the impact is debatable, the result is undeniable: Aaron Rodgers called it like he saw it. And he was right on target.
The Green Bay Packers’ 38-10 rout of Seattle Sunday at Lambeau Field ran their winning streak to three. That’s three down, three to go, since Rodgers proclamation that the Packers “can run the table.”
Let’s be clear: Rodgers didn’t say, “We’re going to win out.”
He didn’t say, “We can’t afford to lose.”
Rodgers’ statement was neither a prediction of great things to come, nor a negative declaration of the obvious. What the Packers’ All-Pro quarterback said is what he believed.
Defensive tackle Mike Daniels also believed.
“When (Rodgers) said that about running the table, guys wanted to make (damn) sure they wouldn’t be the one to let him down,” Daniels said.
Whether that heightened sense of urgency and accountability was reaffirmed or rediscovered matters little. What matters is that the Packers (7-6) believe they are back.
Victories by Detroit (20-17 versus Chicago) and Minnesota (25-16 at Jacksonville) prevented the Packers from gaining any ground in the NFC North Division title chase.
However, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford reportedly has torn ligaments in the middle finger of his right (throwing) hand. He is going to wear a glove going forward, but admitted that the injury affected both his accuracy and velocity against the Bears.
The Lions (9-4) are at the New York Giants (9-4) this week. The Giants are fresh off a strong 10-7 victory over Dallas. Frankly, I’ll be shocked if the Lions escape New York with a win.
While the Packers prepare for the Bears (3-10) this week at Soldier Field, it’s with great pleasure that their fans savor a most impressive blowout of the Seahawks (8-4-1) on Sunday.
This is the Packers’ preferred way to play:
Get an early lead.
They were up 21-3 at halftime. Lightning struck when Rodgers arched a perfect pass to DaVante Adams, who outmaneuvered a defender and raced 66 yards for the touchdown to make it 7-0 Packers. The lead held up.
“Obviously it makes a difference,” Packers receiver Jordy Nelson said of the early lead. “It means we’re being successful, we’re scoring points. We saw what happens when our defense can play with a lead.”
Apply a controlled but steady pass rush.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked three times and harassed often en route to throwing a career-high five interceptions.
“Obviously we can’t turn the ball over and I put that on me,” Wilson said after the game. “That game was on me.”
If Wilson is willing to shoulder the blame, so be it. His errant throws suggest his acknowledgement is one of the few times he’d been on target all day. Wilson was an awful 22 of 39 for 240 yards with five interceptions. His quarterback rating was a minuscule 43.7.
Everyone from rookie Dean Lowry to Jayrone Elliott and Datone Jones got a piece of Wilson for a sack. Everyone in the entire secondary, or so it seemed, got their hands on Wilson pass attempts.
Damarious Randall had two interceptions – including a brilliant goal-line grab to turn a would-be touchdown into nothing – while Micah Hyde, Morgan Burnett and Quentin Rollins all grabbed one pick each.
The Packers’ secondary caught nearly as many passes (five) as Seahawks’ ace receiver Doug Baldwin (six for 46 on 11 targets).
Keep the offense on the attack.
This time, unlike the ill-fated 2014 NFC Championship game, McCarthy kept the pressure on. He threw everything at a Seahawks’ defense minus All-Pro safety Earl Thomas, who broke his leg last week and was sorely missed by the Seahawks.
Rodgers lit up the Seattle secondary with his great right arm and two bum legs. He came into the game with a pulled left hamstring and added a pulled right calf to the mix early on. He maintained he will play at Chicago this week. He also made it clear he intends to focus on the positives of a three-game winning streak and what it takes to keep it rolling.
Cleary, he didn’t want to talk about his injuries.
“That’s football,” he said. “You deal with injuries, you know? I’d like to talk about the win – you’re talking about my injuries. I’m not missing games so … we’ve won three in a row.”
Really, what matters is that Rodgers is going to do everything in his power to be ready to go at Soldier Field. Whether tight end Jared Cook will be OK is another following what appeared to be a rib injury.
Ty Montgomery excelled out of the backfield with nine carries for 41 yards and a touchdown. He also caught three passes for 45 yards with a long of 24.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy apparently planned to play Montgomery and Christine Michel on alternate series. However, when Montgomery and the offense clicked on the first drive, he should’ve stuck with No. 88. Instead, Michel blew an assignment and it cost the Packers a scoring opportunity on their second possession.
That can’t happen again. If it does Michel needs to go. Meantime, a rugged Clay Matthews fought through his separated left AC joint to contribute, while Joe Thomas and the entire secondary were marvelous.
Can the Packers maintain their roll?
Absolutely, they can, and in fact they will.
While it doesn’t have the cache of Rodgers, “We can run the table,” I’m feeling certain it’ll be just as accurate.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.