GREEN BAY – Well, it’s here now.
The three-game road swing the Packers knew was coming since the schedule was released in April is upon them.
Green Bay didn’t envision being 4-4 at this stage, which significantly reduces the margin for error with three straight road games ahead, two of them in prime time after this Sunday’s mid-day affair at Tennessee.
But it’s up to Green Bay to regroup. With two home losses already, the Packers have to make up for some lost time, starting this week.
“It’s going to be tough,” Ty Montgomery said. “But it’s nothing we can’t handle.”
The Packers have gone on the road for three straight in the regular season once before in the Mike McCarthy era, back in 2012. Ironically, that stretch started with a maddening loss to the Colts, whereas this year the road swing has been preceded by a frustrating defeat to Indy.
It was then, with the Packers 2-3, that the remaining road trips to Houston and St. Louis jump-started a streak of five straight wins, and nine victories in 10 games.
The Packers must once again use a Colts game as the “no mas” juncture, in all three phases.
The offense can’t continue to stumble coming out of halftime. The Packers have averaged between seven and eight points per game in the first, second and fourth quarters. They’ve averaged two points in the third and have just one touchdown in that period all year.
The defense can’t keep giving up points in the final two minutes of the first half, which has happened in every game so far. Twice it was demoralizing touchdown drives of 96 and 97 yards.
The special teams can’t cost the Packers 13 points in one game again, like they did last week, with two long returns that surrendered 10, plus a missed field goal.
Road trips can forge an us-against-the-world mentality for teams. Aaron Rodgers has talked often about how fun the plane ride home can be after a big road win, and how the next time you’re on a plane, you want to come back feeling the same way again.
This is a crucial stretch for the Packers but also an opportunity. Road victories change perceptions. They can help make other tough tasks seem far less insurmountable.
When the Packers won their first road playoff game in 2010, they hadn’t won on the road since before Thanksgiving, yet it had to start somewhere.
“It’s easy to be rah-rah when everything is going your way, but I think the good character teams, they know how to pull together when you’re going through adversity, and I feel we have the guys in this locker room that are going to do that,” veteran safety Morgan Burnett said.
“Going on the road, you especially have to be tight. Well, our crowd does travel pretty well, so we’ll have some fans cheering us on, but still, it’ll take all 53 men, 46 men on the sideline cheering each other on.”
The second half of this season includes five games against teams the Packers are directly competing with for playoff positioning in the NFC. If the Bears have a strong November, that’ll make it six.
The only way for the Packers to have a strong November is to start chalking up road wins. The first one needs to be Sunday in Nashville to get back above .500. It has to start somewhere.
“We’ve got November and December football, which is where you really figure out where you’re slotted coming down the stretch,” Rodgers said. “We have to make sure we’re putting ourself in position to be in the conversation.
“It starts with this week, and we’re not going to look past any team moving forward. We’re going to start better, and hopefully start this week and go on a run.”