MINNEAPOLIS – Now it’s all about sticking together and continuing to fight.
That’s how Aaron Rodgers described the perspective on these last five games of the regular season, fully knowing at 4-6-1 the Packers no longer control their own fate.
“We’ll see what we’re made of the last five weeks,” Rodgers said after yet another disappointing road loss, 24-17 at Minnesota on Sunday night. “We can stay together through these tough times or we can start splintering.
“I’d like to think the leadership is there that we’ll stick together no matter what happens. These last five weeks it’ll show.”
Rodgers feels there are no signs of fracturing, but there’s certainly plenty of frustration after another rough night on third down undid a strong start offensively that produced two early touchdowns.
It was practically a repeat of last Thursday’s game in Seattle, only the Packers never regained the lead after they lost it this time. The offense hit the skids for more than 2½ quarters after taking a 14-7 lead.
Both Rodgers and Head Coach Mike McCarthy mentioned how the Vikings came out with a different defensive alignment in the second half, playing with two deep safeties most of the time and providing coverage help on Davante Adams. But the reality is the Packers began stalling before the change, so it’s hard to say how much it mattered.
What did matter was Minnesota’s pass rush, which is always a factor when the Vikings play at home. Rodgers felt the team’s practices have been solid, but whether it’s been a missed throw or a missed block or a bad break, the end results have been sadly familiar.
Given the way the Packers have lost all four of their road games since the bye week, it’d be easy for the locker room to splinter. But Rodgers stressed how that can’t happen and shouldn’t.
Yes, in the big picture the Packers have only a small modicum of hope, but they might as well cling to it.
Down three games in the loss column to the NFC North-leading Bears (8-3), the Packers for all practical purposes are out of the division race. And with four second-place teams in the NFC all with six wins, including Sunday night’s victorious Vikings (6-4-1), the Packers are only on the edge of the wild-card picture.
“We’re going to need some help,” Rodgers said. “We need to win these five and then get some help.”
One at a time, as Head Coach Mike McCarthy said after the game, is all the Packers can focus on. Rodgers pointed back to the 2016 season when everyone wrote the Packers off at 4-6 but they went on their run.
That run was supposed to start Sunday night against their border and division rival, but because it didn’t, a sudden and sustained turnaround might not even mean anything in the playoff picture. As soon as two second-place teams get to 10 wins, that’ll be it.
Can 9-6-1, as crazy as it sounds to project for a team with four losses in a five-week span, get it done?
“I don’t know,” Rodgers said. “I can tell you 8-7-1 won’t get in, though, I don’t think.”
So yeah, it’s backs-against-the-wall and scoreboard-watching time. Not where the Packers wanted to be, but it’s all there is, so they might as well stay together, embrace it, and see what they can do.
“We’ve done it before,” Rodgers said. “We just have to find a way.”