MINNEAPOLIS – One win changed everything.
The Packers are back in control of the NFC North following a 30-13 win over the Vikings on Sunday. The two teams are tied for the NFC North lead, but the Packers hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Vikings. Had the Packers lost, the Vikings would’ve effectively held a “three-game” lead over the Packers.
Big game? It’s the biggest of the season.
“I feel very good about how we played in all three phases. We got back to playing the style of football we like to play,” Coach Mike McCarthy said.
It was the first time in a month McCarthy’s postgame press conference followed a win. Three consecutive losses left the Packers the target of criticism from media and fans.
“If you could bottle it, I wouldn’t be standing here talking to you, that’s for sure. It’s a game of ebb and flow. There are a lot of variables that go into being successful each week. Our guys rose above the challenges today,” McCarthy said in explaining the difference between Sunday’s performance and the team’s play in last week’s loss to the Lions.
The difference is punctuated by the performances of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and running back Eddie Lacy. Rodgers was his old self in throwing for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Lacy topped the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time this season.
A reporter suggested the Packers’ win was a gut check.
“I don’t think it was a gut check internally at all. This is going to be the toughest stretch of schedule this season, hopefully. These guys stayed the course. The way we practiced, I’m happy they had success today, because they’ve been putting out the whole time. This is a group that’s close and accountable,” McCarthy said.
“The most important thing is stopping Adrian (Peterson). He’s a great back. You have a chance to play downhill in the passing game,” McCarthy said.
The Packers defense held Peterson to 45 yards rushing on just 13 carries. A 10-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Randall Cobb with six seconds to play in the first half staked the Packers to a 16-6 halftime lead and helped force the Vikings to pass more often.
With the Vikings left to pass, the Packers turned up the heat and sacked Teddy Bridgewater six times. Bridgewater attempted 37 passes.
“We answered the questions. Things didn’t go well. We stayed the course. Aaron has done a good job managing the game. Eddie got the touches today. It gave us a chance to have run/pass balance. This is the way we want to play. The way our offense performed today is what we’re looking for,” McCarthy said in capsule assessment of the Packers’ resolve in overcoming a three-game losing streak.
If this is to have been Lacy’s breakout game, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“He’s hitting his stride. Hopefully, he can bounce back quickly for Thursday,” McCarthy said.
The Packers host the Bears on Thanksgiving. The Vikings have a rugged finishing schedule, including games against the Seahawks, Cardinals and, of course, at Green Bay on the final day of the season.
“We played well, but I’m not naïve to the fact there are things we can do better. The players stepped up. It showed up today,” McCarthy said.
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