Forced to fight to the end, Packers found yet another way to win

The margins are forever small in the NFL

211219-editorial-2560
Baltimore Ravens QB Tyler Huntley

Nothing's ever easy, right?

Anyone who thought a Ravens team playing with its backup quarterback and an injury-ravaged secondary was going to be an easy mark for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers doesn't know the NFL.

While the Packers certainly could have made it easier on themselves in the 31-30 triumph Sunday in Baltimore, these are the kinds of games everyone comes to expect, no matter the opponent.

"That's every week. This is the NFL, everybody is good, any team can beat you," safety Adrian Amos said. "I always like to say the backups in the NFL will embarrass you if you don't come to play. Because everybody is a professional. Each and every week have to go out there and play ball.

"This is a week-by-week league, you have to come out and show up to play."

It's a cliché because it's true. Just ask the Cardinals, who took their 10-3 record to Detroit only to see the Lions notch just their second win of the season.

Or the Buccaneers, who saw multiple key offensive weapons go down with injuries as they lost for a second time this season to a Saints backup QB, getting blanked at home of all things.

Those results have suddenly given the Packers, at 11-3, a one-game lead on the rest of the NFC in the race for the top spot, an advantage they were thisclose to failing to earn.

All that said, the Packers were also just one play away from burying the Ravens with about nine minutes left. After Green Bay's defense got a turnover on downs in Baltimore territory, a 23-yard catch and run by tight end Marcedes Lewis gave the Packers a first-and-goal at the 6.

With a 28-17 lead, the Packers were in prime position to make it a three-score game and avoid all the drama. That goal-to-go series went south, though, and a field goal kept Baltimore in it. Which illustrates a couple of things.

One, how small the margin can be between winning comfortably and fighting for your life. And two, how any missed opportunity can turn into a major regret.

The Packers scored 30-plus points for the fourth game in a row, yet every week they're talking afterward about a few points they left out there. Rodgers hasn't practiced for over a month, but there's still the sense the offense is working toward its peak.

"I feel like we've been trending for a while," said the reigning MVP, who is putting himself in the conversation for his fourth such award. "It's always one of those things where you talk about trending, you talk about playing your best football, you talk about playing a four-quarter game and you kind of have this ongoing dialogue about it.

"But I felt like the last two games, we've played some pretty damn good football on offense."

211219-pro-shop-north-champs-2560

Shop NFC North Championship gear!

Browse the division championship hat, shirts, and collectibles!

That they have, and in a league where playing top-notch defense is the hardest thing to do on a consistent basis, and with the Packers' special teams continuing to be more liability than asset, it isn't lost on Rodgers how much could fall on him when the season is on the line.

"I think there's times that we're going to have to do that – we're going to have to outscore teams," he said.

The Packers did Sunday, barely, and that one missed chance midway through the fourth quarter led to the Packers playing their seventh game this season decided by just one score.

Nobody can win all the close ones, but the fact the Packers have won five of the seven (five of six with Rodgers at QB) also speaks to the type of team they have.

As frustrating as the 34-31 loss at Minnesota was a month ago, it's the only one the Packers truly let get away that seemed theirs for the taking. The only time they didn't make the play they absolutely had to make at crunch time to get a win.

Rodgers expertly directed the drive for a walk-off field goal in San Francisco. The Cincinnati kicking craziness culminated in Mason Crosby's ultimate redemption. Rasul Douglas got the end-zone pick in Arizona, and Kenny Clark's fourth-quarter sack of Rams QB Matthew Stafford proved pivotal.

The Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens faced off in America's Game of the Week on Dec. 19, 2021.

Sunday, with the defense reeling, it came up with the play it had to have on Baltimore's gutsy two-point conversion attempt. Had it not, Rodgers would have had 42 seconds and a timeout to try for another walk-off, but thankfully it wasn't necessary.

"Those guys on the other side get paid as well," running back Aaron Jones said. "That's a good team. We've played a lot of good teams this year, a lot of close games, one-possession games, but we find a way to pull it out. That's the test of a good team."

That's what the Packers have, and the results prove it. It's worth remembering that amidst the weekly madness of the NFL that can chew up and spit out any team at anytime.

"I think that's what this game is all about is just finding ways to win," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "Any time you can consistently do that, I think it builds up that resiliency, it just builds up that mentality that hey, no matter what happens, we're going to find a way and I think our guys truly believe that."

They have every reason to, and as LaFleur said, they'll continue to.

"I love this team," he said. "I love this group, just how they battle, how connected they are."

Related Content

Advertising