GREEN BAY—Either way, this Sunday’s game will provide the answer to a question. Which question will it be?
Can the Packers win without
Will the Packers have to win without Rodgers?
Should the Packers have to play without their star quarterback in Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, it would mark the sixth consecutive game they would be without him. They have won none of the previous five games.
The drama has become daily.
It’s time for a new drama. It’s time for this team to win for all of the reasons other than the quarterback. It’s time for everybody else to raise the level of their performances. Most of all, it’s time for a gut check.
That’s what Sunday’s game is. It’s a gut check for a team whose season is on the brink of something, either the brink of elimination or the brink of resurrection. A loss to the Falcons would throw more dirt on the Packers’ hopes. A loss to the Falcons and a Lions win in Philadelphia would be the kill shot.
There is another scenario: a Packers win and a Lions loss. It would leave the Packers a half game out of the NFC North lead and with hope that a healthy Rodgers would lead a Lambeau revival.
It can happen, but only if this team, especially everybody else on this team but the quarterback, reaches down inside its gut and finds the grit to win in December, in the cold and with their backs to the wall.
A dome team from the south in Lambeau Field in December? No less than the Packers’ age-old identity as the team of ice is on the line. It’s gut-check time.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Falcons.
1. Get off those hot seats—Make your own heat. Do it with a fever for victory.
2. Run the ball—The Falcons are No. 30 against the run. Loading the box hasn’t been effective for them.
3. Rush Matt Ryan—He’s been sacked 30 times.
4. Hit—It’s how you break the spirit of a 3-9 team from the NFC South that hasn’t played anything remotely resembling a cold-weather game this season.
5. Play for the tape—This is a profession, and the last few tapes don’t promote a lot of job security.
6. Block Osi Umenyiora—He was tough on the Packers when he was with the Giants, and he leads the Falcons in sacks.
7. Double Tony Gonzalez in the red zone—He’s still Ryan’s go-to guy.
8. Tackle Steven Jackson—He’s experienced a little bit of a rebirth recently, but at 3.5 yards per carry, he’s not LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson or Reggie Bush. It’s time for the Packers to stop the run.
9. Be conservative—Expectations for the quarterback position should be tempered. A workmanlike performance should be good enough. Put the onus on everybody else.
10. Play with desperation—This is it. This is possibly the last chance to get back into the NFC North title race. Everything is on the line.Additional coverage - Dec. 5