GREEN BAY – The Packers have been taking themselves seriously in the playoff chase all along.
Now everyone else is going to as well.
The Packers played their best game of the season Sunday when they absolutely had to have it, dominating the NFC West-leading Seahawks 38-10 in front of 78,057 loud, snow-covered fans at Lambeau Field.
“We needed a game like that,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said moments after his team won its third straight. “A big chunk of confidence comes with this, but we’re 7-6 and it’s on to Chicago.”
With three games left in the regular season, all against NFC North foes, the Packers stayed two games back of the division-leading Lions, who are 9-4 after squeaking out a close home victory over the Bears.
Green Bay will need to pull within a game of Detroit before the two teams meet in Week 17 in order to have a chance to take the division title.
All the Packers can do right now in that respect is keep winning, and they looked unstoppable for much of Sunday.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers put up a near-perfect 150.8 passer rating (18-of-23, 246 yards, three TDs) and the defense took the ball away six times, including five interceptions of Seahawks QB Russell Wilson.
Rodgers fired deep to Davante Adams for a 66-yard touchdown on the game’s third play, and the Packers were off and running.
It was a flip of the script from the Packers’ earlier four-game losing streak, when the Colts (99-yard kickoff return TD) and Titans (75-yard TD run) began games in similarly stunning fashion.
“It’s a lot different,” Rodgers said of being the team starting a game that way. “The energy is different, the feeling is different.
“Obviously, the defense played excellent today, with the six turnovers and five interceptions. It gives them confidence that we’re going to hold up our end of the bargain.”
Adams was on his way to a 104-yard day, while Jordy Nelson (six catches, 41 yards) added two TD receptions and two Packers – receivers Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis – got their first career rushing touchdowns.
Rodgers, already dealing with a bum hamstring, injured his calf on the early TD to Adams but played through it until giving way to backup Brett Hundley with the game in hand in the fourth quarter.
He was sacked just once while Wilson was brought down three times and harassed throughout. Wilson (43.7 rating) missed some open receivers early and then never really looked comfortable dealing with the Packers’ defensive front. Green Bay held the running, scrambling QB to just 19 yards on the ground.
“This was a big man’s game,” McCarthy said. “We knew the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball was going to set the tempo. That was going to set the way this game was going to go.
“I thought we clearly, clearly won the game at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.”
Safety Morgan Burnett and cornerback Damarious Randall made great plays on the ball for the Packers’ first two interceptions, and then the bounces started going Green Bay’s way as Seattle’s receivers didn’t handle the winter conditions well.
The next three picks were all off deflections that Quinten Rollins, Randall and Micah Hyde were johnny-on-the-spot to snag.
“That’s the way turnovers are, sometimes they come in bunches,” McCarthy said. “I’ve talked about this religiously up here, first you have to get in position to make those plays.
“We made the plays. We train it, it’s an emphasis and we converted tonight.”
Minus-5 on the season in turnover differential coming into the game, the Packers jumped to plus-1 with the big takeaway night. More important, they converted three of the interceptions into touchdowns to keep extending the lead.
“I know Mike’s really happy about that, it’s a stat he always talks about,” Rodgers said of the turnover ratio. “He mentioned it in the locker room after the game.”
McCarthy also no doubt mentioned the Packers will need to continue blocking out the noise as this December stretch rolls on.
A win like this will have everyone talking about the Packers making a statement and announcing themselves as contenders, but just as they stayed tight internally during the down times, the same reaction is needed here.
“We’re improving through December. That’s a very important factor I’m staying focused on,” McCarthy said.
“We needed to get this seventh win, and we all understand what’s in front of us.”
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