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A week unlike any other needs to end right

Packers looking for “signature win”


GREEN BAY – Weeks like this don't occur often around 1265 Lombardi Ave.

A heartbreaking road loss, a lot of turmoil over how it ended, some discord in the locker room, two veteran players getting shipped out at the trading deadline, and another road trip to face another elite team, this one with a Hall of Fame quarterback calling the shots.

That's anything but business as usual. To call this a challenging week for the Green Bay Packers would be the understatement of the season.

What matters now, though, is where the Packers go from here. Weeks like this can fracture a team or galvanize it, weigh a team down or lift it up.

"I feel good about the locker room. I think we've got good leadership," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "Nobody's been hanging their head. We're obviously disappointed about the result on Sunday. I wouldn't say anybody's discouraged, though. We're a tight-knit group.

"You have to stick together. You have to stick together through the losses, through the decisions that are made that are out of our control, and keep moving forward with the same vision."

By all accounts, the Packers are sticking together. The night after what was probably the toughest loss around here since the 2016 NFC title game in Atlanta, the players got together for a Halloween party. That's as good a way to move on as any.

When they returned to work on Wednesday, the focus seemed forward. The personnel changes had been made, and there was no need to rehash them.

To see all that work that went in over the bye week and beyond to beat the Rams come up short was a tough pill to swallow. But the message was now that the preparation had reached a certain level, and it had translated awfully well to the field, the rewards are well within reach.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy has stressed all year long that it's not about what the opponent does, it's about what the Packers do. That couldn't have been more true in L.A.

"Every year, a team needs to learn how to win," Rodgers said. "Although we didn't win on Sunday, I think we learned a lot about ourselves, and hopefully we can take that confidence we started that game with and play with it for 60 minutes."

It goes for both sides of the ball. Converting just two of nine third downs was the key piece that prevented the offense's 27-point performance from being much bigger. On defense, two plays in the third quarter – a third-and-10 and second-and-19 – were missed opportunities that led to Rams touchdowns.

The league's reigning offensive (Todd Gurley) and defensive (Aaron Donald) players of the year were held in check until some clutch moments late. The Packers performed at crunch time to pull out wins over the Bears and 49ers, but those were at home, and this was the unbeaten Rams on the road, and this week it's the perennial AFC powerhouse Patriots, also on the road.

"We have to take something away from this last game," linebacker Clay Matthews said. "Obviously not the outcome we wanted, but as far as the momentum, the big plays, getting after the quarterback, stopping the run for the most part. We just need to continue that moving forward and hopefully hit our stride with these next several games."

The Packers have found their stride before.

In 2012, they waded through the Fail Mary and a second-half meltdown in Indy to dominate previously unbeaten Houston on the road in prime time, the beginning of a stretch of nine wins in 10 games.

In 2014, they were run out of the Superdome in New Orleans in late October, only to recover with back-to-back 50-point showings to kick-start a five-game winning streak.

In 2016, "run the table" started just in time with a road win at Philadelphia, in prime time.

What about 2018?

"We all felt after the game, based on the record of the L.A. Rams, if that's the best team in the league, we're not far off, because we played them tough," Rodgers said. "We had a chance to win that game. But that doesn't mean anything if you can't go out and do it against one of the best teams in the AFC.

"It's tough to win on the road. We haven't done it yet. But we've done it in the past. We've won big games like this, we've won big games on national TV like this, and it gives you a ton of confidence, and that's what we need right now in this stretch. We need to have one of those signature wins midseason."

A signature win. One over the Patriots would qualify anytime, but in these circumstances, signature might not serve as an adequate description.

"You have to beat this team," McCarthy said of New England. "This team is not going to beat themselves."

The Rams certainly didn't. They committed two penalties and did not turn the ball over. The Packers matched them with just the two penalties but turned it over with two minutes left.

It's within reach. It's time to grab it.

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