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This victory has more value than it appears to

Posted Dec 3, 2017

Finding different ways to win can help Packers during stretch run

GREEN BAY – Sunday’s victory did not follow a tried-and-true formula for winning in December.

But in the Packers’ current circumstances, that’s sort of the point.

Getting a win any way you can is what it takes sometimes without a quarterback as all-world as Aaron Rodgers, and it’s what it’ll take for the Packers to get on the winning streak they need to keep their eight-year postseason streak alive, even if/when Rodgers comes back.

Brett Hundley threw for only 84 yards in the 26-20 overtime triumph over the Buccaneers. He threw an interception on the first play of a second-quarter drive. The offense went three-and-out three straight times to start the second half.

Yet, the Packers gave themselves a chance because they weren’t totally reliant on the quarterback to keep them in the game.

A deflected punt on special teams gave the offense the ball on the plus side of the field. The defense scored a touchdown, piled up seven sacks and got two stops in the red zone.

All of the above, good and bad, left the Packers down only three points with six minutes left.

“It helps a lot,” Hundley said of the big plays the team’s other segments made when the offense was scuffling. “Today all three phases really played their butts off.”

The offense finally found itself with the game on the line, but it wasn’t Rodgers-esque, which actually has value, too.

The ground game powered its way to 199 rushing yards, including 66 by Hundley himself on scrambles and two surprise read-option keepers down the stretch. Rookie Jamaal Williams continues to show a contagious toughness, and the possibilities with fellow rookie Aaron Jones back in the mix certainly look intriguing.

Hundley’s two read-option runs, one each on the game-tying and game-winning drives, were good for 32 yards total. Hundley said there have been plenty of read-option calls over the last several weeks, but he has just handed off all but maybe one or two times.

Early in the game on a read-option he handed off again, and the Packers liked what they saw from the defense in order to call it again later.

“It added a lot, especially today, when everything was not clicking,” Hundley said of keeping it on his two big runs. “We weren’t in a rhythm in the second half, and to be able to find something like that and put it in there, it made something happen.

“It probably threw them off a little bit.”

It most certainly did, given the open space Hundley found to run. It’s a look Cleveland’s defense will have to respect next week, which could mean good things for Williams and Jones.

The Browns are the next, and possibly last, team Hundley needs to find a way to beat. And that’s really all it comes down to, finding a way.

An experience like Sunday’s is one the Packers might need to draw on next week, or later this month against playoff contenders like Carolina or Minnesota, even if Rodgers is back at the helm.

Throw an interception? Block a punt. Need to keep momentum? Get a sack and turnover. Gotta have a crunch-time drive? Have something simple but unexpected in your back pocket.

Style points don’t matter. Team psyche points do.

“Any time you win, it’s confidence. How you win gives you maybe more confidence,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “You can win a different way. When you find different ways to win, it only galvanizes your football team and spreads the confidence throughout the locker room.

“We’re a better team today not only because we won the game, but because of how we won.”



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