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By CHRIS HAVEL
The game is over but the clock’s still ticking.
The Packers’ 21-13 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday at Lambeau Field didn’t save Green Bay’s season, but it did keep the team’s admittedly thin playoff hopes alive.
The Packers, 6-6, still trail the NFC North Division-leading Lions, 8-4, by two games following Detroit’s 28-13 win at New Orleans on Sunday.
Simply put, Green Bay needs to win out and hope the Lions lose one of their other three remaining games. Detroit plays host to Chicago before road games against the Giants and Cowboys.
If that happens, Green Bay, at 10-6, would be the division champion based on tiebreakers with Detroit and Minnesota.
On Sunday, the Packers and Texans tussled to a 7-7 tie through three quarters. That’s when the Packers got it going with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to seal the victory.
They put together back-to-back touchdown drives of 12 plays for 98 yards and eight plays for 89 yards to sew it up. It was the first time all day the offense truly clicked.
“Well, that was a good bad-weather win,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. “It’s a lot of fun to play in that type of atmosphere in Lambeau Field.”
Watching the Packers and Texans skate around on a slippery, snow-covered winter wonderland, I couldn’t help but wonder: How did it come to this? How is it that a team predicted to reach the Super Bowl finds itself at, of all things, the Lions’ mercy?
“I told the team this the other day, ‘Until you win 10 games in this league it is nonsense to talk about anything else,’ ” McCarthy said. “So we’re not worried about Detroit or any other team out there or what anybody’s record is. We have six wins, and we know we’ve got to get to seven fast.”
Randall Cobb, the Packers’ diminutive yet deadly weapon, caught a pretty 9-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to put Green Bay ahead 7-0 in the second quarter. After the score, Cobb celebrated by making a snow angel in the end zone before leaping into the stands.
He didn’t celebrate nearly as much after the game.
“We still feel like we have our backs against the wall,” he said. “As we get these wins, our season is still dwindling. The games are getting (fewer) so our opportunities are getting shorter.
“We’re really dialed into that.”
Rodgers was 20 of 30 for 209 yards and two touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 108.9. His favorite target was Jordy Nelson, who caught eight passes for 118 yards on 10 targets. His 32-yard touchdown catch gave Green Bay a 14-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Davante Adams was held in check with only one 17-yard catch in seven targets. But Cobb and tight end Jared Cook combined on six catches in seven targets to keep the chains moving.
The Packers’ running attack was minimal, although Ty Montgomery was the lead back with 40 yards on six carries. Montgomery’s runs spearheaded the Packers’ 98-yard TD drive.
Defensively, Green Bay caused fits for Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller. Osweiler finished 21 of 34 for 213 yards and a 97.6 rating, but that was impacted by a 44-yard TD pass to DeAndre Hopkins late.
Safeties Morgan Burnett (9 tackles, 7 solo) and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (7-5) led the way.
When a reporter asked Burnett about the field conditions, he replied: “Just how it looked – wet, cold and slippery.”
The Texans’ Miller was stifled on 14 carries for 22 yards. Julius Peppers registered a sack to move alone into fifth place on the NFL’s all-time list with 143 ½ sacks to break a tie with Michael Strahan. Ex-Vikings pass rusher Chris Doleman is next up in fourth place with 152 ½ sacks.
Seattle comes to Lambeau
Next up is the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday’s nationally televised 3:25 p.m. game at Lambeau Field. Seattle, at 8-3-1, walloped the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers, 40-7, on Sunday night.
The Seahawks’ offense looked potent, but its defense took a major hit when Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas exited the game with a broken leg. Thomas’ speed, range and instincts made him a difficult matchup for Rodgers and the Packers’ passing game.
Without Thomas, Green Bay may be able to stay TD-for-TD with the Seahawks come Sunday.
“We’re back to .500 but obviously would have appreciated a little help from the Saints,” Rodgers said. “But we still have a lot of things in front of us. We’ve got a very good opponent coming in (Seattle) next week that’s going to be coming off a Sunday night game. We’re moving in the right direction.”
The Packers appear to be coming together.
But is it a matter of too little, too late? Rodgers was asked if he should’ve played the “we can win out” card sooner.
“We were backs against the wall at 4-6, obviously struggling, but there was something in the locker that I felt and I saw that made me feel like saying I think we could run the table. You can’t run the table if you don’t win today, so we were fortunate to get this one today.”
It sets up a great matchup Sunday at Lambeau Field. If the Packers win they are certain to keep pace with Detroit.
Still, I can’t help but ask myself in wonder, “How did it come to this?”
Let’s see what happens Sunday.
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.