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Winning on top of Packers' mind entering final stretch

After the bye, Green Bay plans to do its part during late-season push

Team huddle
Team huddle

GREEN BAY – At the moment, the Packers aren't concerned with playoff odds, scenarios, or probabilities.

Coming off an emotional comeback victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Green Bay has one thing on its mind entering the final four games of the regular season: Getting more W's.

As long as there's an opponent on the schedule, winning is the only thing the Packers are focused on from now until their regular-season finale against Detroit.

"I think it's a culture thing. I think winning's a culture thing," said General Manager Brian Gutekunst on Monday.

"I don't think we ever roll out there … without the intention of winning. This place has a long history. Accomplishing that winningest franchise of all time was cool (Sunday) and rightly so. I just think that's what this place has always been about and at least while I'm here it's always going to be."

Sitting at 5-8, the Packers need help to catch the New York Giants (7-4-1), Seattle (7-5) or Washington (7-5-1) in the NFC Wild Card race. But any hope of a late-season rally begins with Green Bay doing its part coming out of the Week 14 bye.

Admittedly, it's been a long and arduous march to the Packers' December break, including a five-game skid midseason where Green Bay played four times away from Lambeau Field.

At the beginning of that stretch, quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke the thumb on his throwing hand on the last play in a 27-22 loss to the Giants in London. What's more, the Packers' plans to replace Davante Adams were sidetracked by their top five receivers all missing multiple games.

That included second-round pick Christian Watson, who sat out most of training camp after undergoing knee surgery in the offseason and then missed three games due to hamstring injuries and a concussion. While Watson has come on over the past month, his emergence has coincided with rookie Romeo Doubs missing a month with an ankle injury.

"I think obviously when you're a rookie, you got so much on your plate to begin with, and then when the injury things come in, it's that much more," Gutekunst said. "I think it takes time to develop trust within the offense and to gel. When you're not out there, it just makes it that much more difficult."

Defensively, a unit with sky-high expectations got off to a solid start before injuries took their toll. A week after All-Pro linebacker De'Vondre Campbell went down with a knee injury in Buffalo, leading pass rusher Rashan Gary and 2021 first-round pick Eric Stokes were both lost for the season during Green Bay's 15-9 loss to Detroit.

The Packers came out of Sunday's game against Chicago OK on the injury front aside from the emergency appendectomy that sidelined left tackle David Bakhtiari. Rodgers appeared to leave Soldier Field no worse for wear with the rib injury after being hit just twice.

Rodgers plans to play as long as the Packers are alive in the playoff chase but said recently he'll keep an open mind about whether to shut it down for the season if Green Bay is eliminated at any point. Backup quarterback Jordan Love performed well in the wake of Rodgers' rib injury in Philadelphia, completing 6-of-9 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.

Gutekunst acknowledged questions of Love's potential playing time are a good problem for the Packers to have. When asked whether Green Bay needs to see Love play down the stretch before deciding on his fifth-year option this offseason, Gutekunst said that's not necessarily the case.

"We're really pleased with his progression and what he's been able to do," said Gutekunst of Love's development. "I think that it would be really good for him (to play), the growth that you need to go through, seeing things for the first time, making those mistakes that you need to make. But I think from our end of it, we've seen what we need to see."

Whatever happens over the next five weeks in regard to the playoffs, Gutekunst fully expects the Packers to do everything in their power to win until the end of the season because "there's a bunch of guys in that locker room that deserve that."

Players feel likewise. The Packers didn't quit during their midseason doldrums and don't plan on throwing in the towel now.

"I think what it says about our team is we haven't given up," said receiver Allen Lazard after Sunday's comeback win in Chicago. "This whole year hasn't gone our way. A lot of our losses have been one-possession games, for the most part. A play here, a play there, a turnover there or not being able to make a turnover in some certain situations.

"That's just kind of been the thing that's been holding us back, so to speak. I'm just proud of everything. We didn't quit. We played hard (in Chicago) and I'm expecting the same results these last four weeks."

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