Go to the game with Event USA!
Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on Christmas Eve. We can get you to the game & more!
» Go to the game
By CHRIS HAVEL
Green Bay controls its playoff fate with 30-27 victory and Lions’ loss
It remains to be seen if the Packers are indeed destiny’s children, but this much is clear: Despite all of the highs and lows this season Green Bay controls its own fate.
With wins over Minnesota (7-7) on Saturday and at Detroit (9-5) the following Sunday, the Packers (8-6) will have completed a six-game winning streak to capture the NFC North title.
The Packers’ 30-27 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field was a microcosm of their season. It wasn’t always easy or pretty, but the outcome was gratifying and much-needed.
On a frigid day with sub-zero wind-chills howling off Lake Michigan, the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers gave double-meaning to the term “ice in his veins.” Rodgers delivered the decisive blow in the clutch after four quarters of dealing with a pulled left hamstring, an aggravated right calf and an ornery Chicago Bears defense.
Rodgers’ brilliant 60-yard completion to Jordy Nelson in the final seconds set up Mason Crosby’s last-second, game-winning 32-yard field goal to capture the victory.
Satisfied but not done yet
Afterward, the Packers seemed satisfied but far from finished.
“I think we have a lot of grit as a team,” Rodgers told reporters. “We stick together in adverse situations. There wasn’t any finger pointing after 27-10 turned into 27-27 for either side. We just knew we had to go out and make something happen.
“It’s fun to be standing here at 8-6. We all know what 4-6 felt like. It was tough.”
So was the Packers’ defense when it ultimately had to be.
Trailing 27-24 in the waning minutes, Bears quarterback Matt Barkley drove Chicago deep into Green Bay territory. Only a Micah Hyde goal-line deflection on third down forced the Bears to settle for the game-tying field goal.
That didn’t last long. The Packers faced third-and-11 at their own 26 when Nelson beat Bears rookie cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc deep down the middle for a 60-yard completion.
Rodgers hustled the team to the line and clocked the football with three seconds. Crosby then came on to nail the decisive 32-yard field goal.
Rodgers finished 19 of 31 for 252 yards and an 87 passer rating. He was sacked four times but despite his pre-existing injuries and the extreme elements he handled his business.
The run game arrives
He certainly got help from the running attack. Ty Montgomery had a career-high 162 yards rushing on 16 attempts and two touchdowns. Christine Michael chipped in with 45 yards on four carries keyed by a 42-yard TD gallop.
The Packers ran the football 20 times (not counting Rodgers’ three rushes), but converted nine first downs on those attempts. They finished with a season-high 226 yards rushing. It appears the running game has arrived just in time for the holidays, not to mention the playoffs. Nelson was impressed with Montgomery’s performance.
“Ty had a heck of a game,” Nelson said. “He’s worked his tail off to be in this situation. Obviously it’s not ideal for you to be at this level of football and then switch positions in the middle of a season. To take that head on, it shows you the kind of person he is.”
A legit running attack to go with Rodgers’ arsenal in the passing game should make Green Bay a difficult out in the playoffs. That’s especially true because of the offensive line’s stellar play, although right guard T.J. Lang and others were heaping a majority of the credit on Montgomery.
“Honestly I felt like half of Ty’s runs, he was just breaking tackle after tackle,” Lang told reporters. “It seemed like we didn’t’ really have to block anybody in order for him to squirt out of there. It’s just a huge day for him.
“He’s a guy who’s gotten better every single week.”
The Packers’ defense also had its moments, including Julius Peppers’ strip sack and fumble recovery that led to a field goal and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s two interceptions, one of which set up a touchdown.
If there’s a concern coming out of the Chicago victory it’s that the Packers’ defense couldn’t hold a 17-point fourth-quarter lead in adverse weather against a ho-hum Bears’ offense. They allowed Alshon Jeffery to dominate with six catches for 89 yards in the fourth quarter and Chicago came storming back.
Ultimately, the Packers finished the job in the Windy City.
Green Bay plays host to Minnesota in a noon, Christmas Eve game at Lambeau Field. If the Packers can get the win over the Vikings, it’ll set up a Packers-Lions showdown in the season-finale at Detroit to see who wins the NFC North Division.
How nice would it be if the Packers opened the playoffs with a home game?
Amazingly, winning out at this point is not only possible but probable. Who would’ve thought that a month ago?
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.