GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers is resting his hopes for the playoffs on a passing game that came to life in the fourth quarter of Sunday night's loss to the Vikings.
"I felt good. We were being aggressive, throwing the ball downfield. James (Jones) did a nice job. Davante (Adams) made some plays. We just have to come up with a score there," Rodgers said.
The night ended disappointingly, with a 20-13 loss that halted the Packers' division-title streak at four. As the Packers shifted gears from a loss that capped a winless home season against NFC North opponents, to a playoff game in Washington next Sunday, they spoke of hope and belief and all of the feelings that go with a football team, especially an offense, that is unaccustomed to defeat.
"I'm hanging my hat on the football team. We're a playoff team. There's not a big difference, trust me, between one and six," Coach Mike McCarthy said, referring to the six seeds in the NFC. The Packers are the No. 5 seed and will play the No. 4 seed, the Redskins.
"You gotta have confidence in yourself and your teammates. Back when we went on a run in 2010, I don't know there was anybody in the locker room who believed we could do that," Rodgers said.
At times on Sunday night, Rodgers made it look easy. He was playing pitch and catch, again. Then, suddenly, the ball was being knocked from his grasp, and it was being returned for a touchdown, the game-winning touchdown.
Will the real Packers offense reveal itself? Is there any chance the real Packers offense revealed itself in the fourth quarter, or was that merely a result of a Vikings team with a 17-point lead playing more protectively?
Nobody knows. All we can do is hope.
"Each team has different makeup and character. We just have to find a way to put it all together. We're 16 games in so you are who you are, but we have to find a way to put it all together," Rodgers said.
A couple of times in the second half of this season, the Packers have put it all together, but it was after they had fallen behind on the scoreboard. They were down 22 points in Carolina when they came to life on offense, and nearly forced overtime. They were down 20-0 in Detroit when they came to life, and won on the final play of the game.
Each time, the hope was the Packers had found themselves, their old selves, the ones that moved the ball up and down the field with ease.
"I think we find it every time we put ourselves in these situations. We get aggressive and start throwing it downfield. We kind of threw caution to the wind and made some plays," Rodgers said.
They came a play away from tying the Vikings, but they didn't get it done, and that's what's most troubling for Rodgers.
"We have to prove to ourselves we can win the big games. There's belief there, but we have to prove it to ourselves," Rodgers said.
"We were 5-3 on the road this year. We had some good wins there. The defense is playing great right now. We can't give up points on offense. We have to be more consistent. If we do that, we have a chance to make a run," he added.
Call it hope, or call it belief. Most of all, the Packers need to make it reality.