GREEN BAY—The Packers concluded the most daunting part of their schedule with a 42-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night, leaving the Packers at 3-2 overall, 2-1 in the division and with a sense of relief.
"Excellent team victory. The defense broke the game open with the takeaways. Clearly a dominant victory. We're glad these three games are over," Coach Mike McCarthy said.
The games to which McCarthy was referring are three consecutive division games the Packers have faced in the last three weeks. It's a stretch of schedule that began with a loss in Detroit that triggered a firestorm of fan and media criticism, reversed course with a rousing win in Chicago this past Sunday, and peaked with a ridiculously easy win over the Vikings, in a game the Packers led 42-0 after three quarters.
Needless to say, the last five days have reversed the Packers' course for the 2014 season.
"To have three division games that early, and all in a row, that caught our attention," McCarthy said of what struck him when the schedule was announced last spring. "We knew it was going to be a tough stretch. We went 2-1."
Feel good returned to Green Bay this week.
"It's preferred. I like the way it went tonight," McCarthy added.
Here's how it went:
- Eddie Lacy rushed for 105 yards on just 13 carries, by far his best performance of the season. He's back on track after early-season struggles that included a concussion he sustained in the season-opener in Seattle.
- Aaron Rodgers became the second-fastest quarterback to reach 200 career touchdown passes. He threw three on Thursday against the Vikings. Heading into a three-game stretch that'll take the Packers to the bye week, Rodgers is one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league.
"I'm very proud of Aaron. It seems like every week he's breaking records. He's a special player," McCarthy said.
- The defense turned in a dominant performance that included six sacks and two interceptions, one of which was returned 49 yards by Julius Peppers for a touchdown. Peppers became the first player in NFL history to record 100 sacks and 10 interceptions.
- Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb continued the one-two receiving punch they began in Chicago, when Cobb emerged as the playmaker Nelson has been since the season began. Each caught a touchdown pass on Thursday.
"I thought he was a beast in the open field," McCarthy said of Lacy. "We blocked well and Eddie ran well."
With that assessment of his football team, McCarthy led them into a long weekend of rest, satisfied they've survived what most believed would be the most difficult stretch of their schedule. Should the Lions lose to Buffalo on Sunday, the Packers would even find themselves tied for the division lead.
Talk about feel good.
COMPLETE GAME COVERAGE
The Green Bay Packers returned to Lambeau Field to play the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night. Photos by Jim Biever, Packers.com.