GREEN BAY – The Packers are shutting out the doubters.
It’s a strange position for Green Bay as the postseason begins this week. Not that the Packers have been a Super Bowl favorite every year, but rarely, if ever, have they been so lightly regarded by outside observers heading into the playoffs.
Six losses in 10 games, and two straight defeats to end the regular season, will do that. So will an offense that has been inconsistent at best and, lately, turnover-prone at worst.
Those aren’t the prevailing thoughts inside Packers headquarters, though. They aren’t thoughts at all prior to Sunday’s wild-card matchup at Washington.
“What we do in here, that’s what matters,” said veteran kicker Mason Crosby, one of six players elected playoff captain by his teammates. “We can galvanize as a team going into these playoffs and make sure that we don’t listen to the noise outside this building and go about our business.”
Among the half-dozen or more offensive starters that spoke with groups of reporters at their lockers on Wednesday, every single one expressed confidence in the unit and the team.
The sources of that confidence lie in different places. The running backs pounded out nine carries for 36 yards on the opening drive last Sunday. Tight end Richard Rodgers found the end zone again. Receiver Davante Adams is coming off a four-catch, 54-yard game that included a 24-yard tackle-breaking catch-and-run. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers suggested it’s a performance Adams can build on for a potential playoff run.
The rub, of course, is avoiding what Mike McCarthy referred to as the “anomaly mistakes,” such as drive-killing penalties and, more crucially, three sack-fumble-TDs by opposing defenses in the last two weeks.
A healthy offensive line would help, and while left guard Josh Sitton (back) sat out practice but gave no indication he’s in danger of missing the game, left tackle David Bakhtiari (ankle) remains in wait-and-see mode.
“I’m very confident,” veteran receiver James Jones said. “I come in here and watch film every day on some of the plays we left out there that probably could have blasted the game wide open.
“It’s time to flip the switch for the playoffs, and hopefully we can go out there and put some points up.”
Perhaps the greatest source of confidence for the offense is actually the defense, which has more than held up its end. It hasn’t surrendered more than 24 points in a game since Week 9, so for all of its struggles, the offense isn’t heading to the nation’s capital feeling as though it has to suddenly light up the scoreboard for four quarters in order to win.
“We’ve got a great defense, probably the best that it’s been since I’ve been here,” Sitton said. “They’ve played great all year, kept us in games that maybe we shouldn’t have been in, given us a chance to win games late.
“If we can just be good on offense and score 20, 23 points, I feel like we can win a lot of games. We just have to do that.”
Rodgers sounded as resolutely confident in that as McCarthy did earlier in the day. A playoff captain for a seventh straight year, Rodgers vowed to bring all the leadership the team needs, and he expects to play well.
Despite absorbing 13 sacks in the last two games, he said physically he’s feeling good after 16 games, certainly better than he did a year ago at this time. He’s also feeling good about the defense’s ability to make it meaningful, beginning Sunday, if the offense can simply stabilize and find a spark.
“That’s what we want,” Rodgers said. “We want to be a balanced team, and when our defense has been at their best, that’s when we’ve made our runs. Hopefully it all comes together.”
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