Don't kid yourself, their season was on the line.
Through an eye that only a few minutes earlier had spent time with Malcolm Jenkins' finger, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers surveyed 57 yards of beautiful Lambeau Field grass ahead of him. It was the distance that stood between the Packers and victory, maybe even between the Packers and hope for the 2012 season.
"This was an important win for us," Rodgers said, mouthing the words in a way that gave them extra meaning, but careful not to say something that might attach too much meaning to a win in only Week 4 of the season.
He knew what the importance was. A loss would've left the Packers at 1-3 and facing three consecutive road games. Week 4 or not, this one was big. They were 57 must-cover yards, and Rodgers went to work as Packers fans have come to expect from the league's MVP.
With a right eye that bore the scar of a scratch down Rodgers' right cheek, the Packers quarterback completed four straight throws, the last of which was a nifty shovel pass to Randall Cobb that covered 17 yards to the Saints 11-yard line. Rodgers then threw safely out of bounds in the direction of Donald Driver, and then screwed one into Jordy Nelson's chest on a crossing route and the Packers had the lead.
Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy talked on and on about the adversity his team overcame to win this game, which began with a wee-hours-in-the-morning flight back from Seattle after a replacement official named Lance Easley had claimed his 15 minutes of fame. Make that infamy.
The Green Bay air was thick with adversity this week, but it's always thickest for the quarterback. He's "The Man." He's the hero, or he's the goat. Rodgers knows the drill.
This wasn't just another game for him. This was a game against the other quarterback. You know, the guy who broke the NFL's all-time passing-yards record. Yeah, Drew Brees, the NFL offensive player of the year. This was a showdown between the OPY and the MVP.
Don't kid yourself, competitive men think like that.
When hasn't Rodgers responded? He did it in Seattle. On one of the worst nights of his football life, after having been sacked eight times and shut out in the first half, Rodgers rallied himself and his offense to drive 81 yards in 16 noisy plays to score what should've been, would've been the game-winning touchdown, had it not been for Easley's 15 minutes.
The Packers are wearing a 2-2 smile of survival on their faces this evening because their quarterback, scratched eye, cheek and all, got it done at crunch time.
"Jenkins got his hand inside my facemask. I didn't have any depth perception immediately after," he said. "The offense played more like we're accustomed."
The offense got back to making big plays at big times in the game. It reminded us in a small way of 15-1, but not at all of the four losses that followed 15-1. Against a winless team that's struggling on the defensive side of the ball, the Packers offense got its mojo back.
"I thought it was our best performance of the year so far," said McCarthy, who expressed his confidence in his quarterback and in his offense on the final series of the game, as the Packers attempted to kill off the final 2:49.
"We were going to play to win on third down," McCarthy said. "I still can't believe he threw a back-shoulder with the game on the line, but I'm glad he converted it."
"It was actually a fade-stop route," Rodgers said. "This was a big win for us; 2-2 and a lot of season left."
"We'll find out a lot about our team in these next five weeks," McCarthy said. "Three games in a row on the road; that's what it is now."
The Packers found out a lot about their quarterback on Sunday. They found out he's still the guy in whose hands they want the ball with the game on the line, scratched eye, cheek and all. Additional game coverage - Packers vs. Saints