GREEN BAY—Everything about the picture TV broadcast to America on Sunday night was pretty. Lambeau Field, the snow, hearty fans bundled against the cold and warmed by their enthusiasm; it was football on a Christmas card.
“When it was 14-0, I was thinking this would be the waste of a beautiful day,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers explained to a media that was struggling to understand how the Packers could have been so dominated by the Lions statistically, and still have won the game, 27-20.
“I feel real good. I kind of did some foreshadowing. This is how some of these games are going to go. They’re going to be ugly from time to time. It’s about the win,” Rodgers said.
If you like stats, and you’re a Packers fan, this wasn’t your kind of game. The Packers were outgained, 386-288, allowed 27 first downs and gained only 15, and possessed the football 14 ½ minutes less than the Lions did.
It gets worse.
Rodgers’ 35-game Lambeau Field touchdown-pass streak ended and the best quarterback in the game today didn’t even reach the 200-yard passing mark. Sunday night, you didn’t want him on your Fantasy team.
This was a bad game if you like pretty games, but it was a great game if you like winning games. That’s what the Packers did. They won a game the old-fashioned way, which is to say with grit and determination.
The team that moved the ball in effortless, big chunks of yardage last season is gone, for now. This team is struggling to score, yet, its quarterback and its coach were in their comfort zones as they addressed the media following the win over the Lions.
Rodgers talked about the disappointment of last season, which teased us with a 15-1 record that quickly became 0-1. The bitter taste of that one-and-done is clearly still on Rodgers’ lips.
“The numbers and the wins are nice, but it’s all about championships,” he said. “We’d like to be a more explosive offense, but we’re going to have to win some games like this.”
They’re winning with timely heroics. Rookie defensive lineman Mike Daniels’ 43-yard touchdown return of a Matt Stafford fumble was the turning point in Sunday night’s game. Until then, the Lions were dominating the action.
“It’s all about keeping them out of the end zone and we did a good job of that tonight,” McCarthy said of his defense, which did a very bad job of that in the first quarter, when two trips out into the snow resulted in a 14-0 Detroit lead.
The Lions would not score another touchdown.
The more it snowed, the more Rodgers took over the game. He didn’t do it by burying the Lions in a drift of completions, he did it with disciplined game management.
“Aaron did a very good job of keeping us in clean plays,” McCarthy said. “He’s our guy. He’s our ace. It’s built around him.”
Interestingly, the Packers’ ace made a point of singling out young, journeyman running back DuJuan Harris during the quarterback’s postgame TV interview. Rodgers even used the word “special” in speaking of Harris.
So what’s so special about a 5-8 running back from Troy that spent time with two other teams and wasn’t special enough to stick with the Jacksonville Jaguars?
“I think he brings something extra there,” Rodgers said. “He has unique agility. He’s able to make those jump cuts.”
Maybe Harris is the missing link? Maybe he’s the guy who’s going to give the Packers the running-game threat they need to bring that eighth defender up into the box.
It happens that way for hot teams. Late in the season, they find weapons they didn’t know they had. Here’s something else that happens to hot teams: They get healthy.
To that end, it’s important to note that the following announcement was made to the media prior to McCarthy stepping up to the podium: “There are no injuries to report for tonight’s game.”
The Packers need Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews and Jordy Nelson to return to action. They will, and the sum of those returns will also help make the Packers a hot team.
“Everything is lining up the way we want it,” Rodgers said.
The stats sure don’t tell that story.
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