GREEN BAY — Five down. One to go.
It was five weeks ago that Aaron Rodgers told reporters that he felt the Packers could run the table despite an 18-point loss to Washington plummeting the team to 4-6 on the season.
Concentrating strictly on the next team on the schedule, the Packers have clawed their way back into the playoff chase and now face another NFC North championship showdown following Saturday’s 38-25 win over Minnesota.
Next Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions will mark the fourth straight year the Packers will play a Week 17 game with the division title on the line.
The Packers responded to Rodgers’ statement and the positivity of Head Coach Mike McCarthy with a five-game winning streak to put themselves in this position and don’t plan on letting off the gas.
“It’s a testament to the guys in this locker room, the coaching staff,” receiver Jordy Nelson said. “As a coaching staff, they can go two different ways, as well. Mike (McCarthy) didn’t get all negative and start cussing everyone out.
“He stayed positive and understood that the games weren’t turning out the way we wanted, the scores weren’t even close in some of those games, but we weren’t far off. We had to fine-tune some things, take care of the little things and now we’re reaping the rewards.”
Nelson fashioned another marquee performance against the Vikings with nine catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns, putting him at a league-best 14 TDs on the season.
All but two catches for nine yards came in a first half in which Rodgers was nearly perfect with 19-of-22 passing for 268 yards and four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing).
His first touchdown strike to Nelson with 7:13 left in the first quarterback actually marked the 58th touchdown between the two playmakers, setting a franchise record.
Nelson says he appreciates the individual accolades, but won’t let it distract him from the bigger picture. He acknowledged it was special to share the accomplishment with Rodgers, though.
“Obviously he’s a brilliant mind at this game,” Nelson said. “It’s an honor to play with him. It’s a blessing that not a lot of guys in this league get to play with one of the best, if not, the best to ever play this game.
“What he does for this team, for our offense as a leader, as a quarterback – he’s playing incredible football. I don’t even want to try to guess what his numbers are the last five games.”
Rodgers’ numbers have been outer-worldly since he spoke confidently about the team’s ability to rally back from a four-game losing skid.
He’s completed 115-of-161 passes (71.4 percent) for 1,367 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions (119.8 passer rating) during the Packers’ five-game winning streak.
Despite being without receiver Randall Cobb (ankle), Rodgers spread the ball across eight different receivers against Minnesota, including undrafted rookie Geronimo Allison (four catches for 66 yards).
“If we’re clicking on all cylinders and we put it in our minds that we can accomplish something, I don’t feel like anybody can stop us,” said tight end Jared Cook, who had three catches for 37 yards. “We’re good all-around. It’s hard for teams to be right (on defense, against us) when guys are coming together and playing full throttle.”
Receiver Davante Adams also bounced back from a tough outing against Chicago with four catches for 44 yards and a 20-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
With the score, Adams and Nelson became only the second receiving duo in team history to have 10 or more touchdowns in the same season, joining Nelson and Cobb in 2014.
The offense has jelled during the second half of the season with contributions across the board. After sticking together during the dog days of the season, the Packers are only one game away from accomplishing their regular-season goal.
“He’s a prophet,” said Adams of Rodgers. “He told you guys a couple years ago to relax and then went out there and balled out. Now he said run the table and we’ve been running that damn table so far. We just have to keep going, keep our foot on their neck and then we’ll make some noise.”
In the club: Nick Perry never questioned whether he’d be back on the field after injuring his hand earlier this month against Houston.
The only thing the Packers linebacker wasn’t sure of was what kind of impact he could have if he needed to play with a club over the hand going forward.
After a two-week layoff, Perry returned to the field and recorded two second-half sacks despite playing with a large club on his left hand, pushing push his season total to 10 in 13 games.
“After the first couple of plays I was out there, I kind of knew I could give a little more,” said Perry, who always strived to have double-digit sacks in a season. “I’m still strong at the point of attack, so I just did what I could in those situations.”
Perry and the training staff tested out the club in practice this week. Both believed he could play without too much discomfort, which is what ultimately led to him rotating in with the rest of the Packers’ pass-rushers.
He has some previous experience playing with a device on his hand. He wore protective padding due to a broken finger that he played through late last season.
“It may be a little sore tomorrow, but I’ll be fine throughout the week,” Perry said.
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