What most would really love is the momentum that is propelling the Packers, as they barrel toward the finish. Sunday’s 30-27 win over the Chicago Bears proved equal parts thrilling and necessary for Green Bay's playoff chances.
The same Packers team that languished at 4-6 now sits 8-6, with two games -- two important NFC North games -- standing between it and an eighth straight playoff appearance. The Packers are a team that few, if anyone, would want to face in January -- as long as they get there -- and the fading Minnesota Vikings (7-7) don’t look like an outfit that can derail them when they limp into Lambeau Field on Saturday.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy’s team has its flaws; he even benched one of his most productive players -- former first-round draft pick Damarious Randall -- during Sunday’s 17-point fourth-quarter collapse. But what team, especially in Green Bay’s conference, isn’t pockmarked?
“We all know what 4-6 felt like; that was tough. We were playing badly. We were taking it on the chin, rightfully so, from the media," Rodgers added. "But we never stopped believing in each other, and we’ve stuck together. I give our coaching staff, our leadership, a lot of credit for that. I’m really proud of the guys for doing that.”
Sunday’s win over the Bears proved to be all of that wrapped up into one game. Montgomery helped stake the Packers to a 27-10 lead, thanks to a career-high 162 yards rushing and two touchdowns. With some help from Christine Michael, who added a 42-yard touchdown, the Packers’ 226 yards rushing was their highest since Week 14 of last season against the Dallas Cowboys (230).
Green Bay's defensive meltdown in the fourth quarter, part of which led to Randall’s benching after he gave up an 8-yard touchdown to Alshon Jeffery, should remind the Packers that they’re not without their flaws. A three-win Bears team pushed them to the limit, after all.
But their turnaround from the four-game losing streak that had everyone wondering whether something was fundamentally flawed with their operation -- and even with their quarterback -- has become a thing of the past.
“We’re getting stronger as far as our performance and our mentality,” McCarthy said Sunday. “But we need to get healthy, because we’ve got another rough one at home on Saturday.”
And that includes Rodgers, who limped through another game on his ailing right calf. Even so, he managed the game well enough and then made that one spectacular play to Nelson that perhaps only he could pull off.
“It gives you a lot of confidence, especially when it’s Aaron giving it his all,” right guard T.J. Lang said. “Definitely amplifies our urgency a little bit in protection, knowing that he’s limited moving around. He’s the leader of this team. Any time he’s out on the field, it definitely gives you a big boost, confidence-wise, and it gives you that extra spark. So he’s doing a great job of just fighting through his injuries and still playing at a high level.”
“Well, we’ve just got to worry about ourselves,” Rodgers said. “[A score of] 27-10 looked pretty good, let them get back in it with a couple real poor drives on offense, didn’t take any time off the clock. But when we had to have a play, we made it. It’s good to get the win, and everything’s right in front of us now.”