ST. LOUIS—This is the Packers' chance to make hay.
They completed a rugged five-game stretch of schedule on Sunday. It's a stretch of schedule that began with a gut-wrenching loss in Seattle, rebounded with a rousing win at home against the Saints, suffered through an inexplicable second-half collapse in Indianapolis, rallied behind a season-saving victory in Houston, and returned home on the heels of a 30-20 win over the Rams that confirmed what the win in Houston suggested: The Pack is back.
Now, with home games against Jacksonville and Arizona standing between the Packers and their bye week, this is a chance for the Packers to eliminate the disappointment of the early season and position themselves for a run to the playoffs.
Aaron Rodgers helped put it all in perspective.
"We've played better offensively the last two weeks. It's a good win for us. Get on the right track going into the bye," Rodgers said.
Yeah, 6-3 sure sounds nice.
They will play five games against NFC North opponents in the final seven games of the season. That'll be the crunch-time part of the Packers' schedule. The team's fate in 2012 will likely be decided in those games. The next two games would set the table for the final two months of the season and a run to the playoffs.
The good news is the Packers are playing their best football of the season right now. The defense is on the rise and young players such as Casey Hayward, who has intercepted four passes in the last three games, are asserting themselves. Cornerback Davon House made his return from a shoulder injury he suffered in the preseason opener, and broke up a pass early in the win over the Rams.
Positive signs abound, but there are none more welcome and encouraging than the roll Rodgers and the Packers' passing game is on. It is the passing game that is this team's identity, and it has overmatched the Packers' last two opponents.
Two 80-yard touchdown drives provided the Packers' signature moments in the win over the Rams. Holding a slim 10-6 lead at halftime, the Packers took control of the game with an 80-yard touchdown drive to begin the second half. Then, after the Rams cut the Packers' lead to seven points with about 9 minutes to play in the game, challenging the Packers offense to respond, the Packers offense did just that; it responded with a game-clinching 80-yard touchdown drive.
"I told Tom Clements that the drive to start the second half was our best drive of the season. In the second half, when we needed scores … it was good for us," Rodgers said.
"That's what you're looking for. I think that says a lot about your football team. There was no panic in our football team," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "That's a drive we'll probably talk a lot about."
The Packers' confidence has grown following each of the team's last two wins. The win in Houston was a turning point. The win in St. Louis proved it was a turning point.
An October of three consecutive road games now turns to something friendlier, which is to say consecutive games at Lambeau Field, followed by the always welcome bye week.
The Packers are on the rise. The pain they brought home from Seattle is fading. The frustration they found in Indianapolis is forgotten. Good times have returned.
"I'm expected to be consistent week in and week out," Rodgers said.
Yeah, he's the biggest reason for good times having returned. The quarterback is on fire, and he has a history of staying that way for long stretches.
"We've had good plans, been aggressive, I've played better," he said in detailing the reasons for the improvement. "We're starting to see what a successful team can look like."
They're beginning to look like themselves, again.
Additional coverage - Oct. 21