We learned a little something about the Packers on Sunday. We’ll learn a lot more about them next Sunday.
What we learned by watching their convincing win over the Falcons was that they weren’t quite ready to fold their tent and call it a season. Offensively, they looked sharper, with Rodgers getting the ball out of his hands quickly, converting third downs and leaning on Aaron Jones in the second half. Defensively, we saw an actual pick six and a unit that contained Matt Ryan for most of the afternoon. There weren’t even any major special teams gaffes.
Much of this was expected following the debacle against the Cardinals and the subsequent removal of Mike McCarthy. Joe Philbin showed he was up to the challenge of taking the reins and calling the plays, despite the calamitous start which saw both challenges used up in the opening drive (I still don’t understand how the Packers lost the first one. The second one should not have been challenged).
Even the scrum that broke out after it appeared Rodgers had gotten hit in the head area while sliding was a breath of fresh air, showing this team still had some fight in them and was ready to stand behind its leader.
This was the kind of December home game that we’ve come to expect: 34 unanswered points against a team that is running out the string. But it was only the second home game all season where the result was determined relatively early in the afternoon.
It looks like the Packers came out of this game relatively unscathed. Seeing Kenny Clark on the ground clutching his arm was the most worrisome moment. But he returned to the game and finished–albeit without really making his presence felt–he didn’t show up in the box score. Jake Kumerow had more tackles than he did.
More often than not, teams represent well in the games after an in-season firing of the head coach. What happens next will be much more interesting. The Pack heads to Soldier Field to face a Bears team that announced its legitimacy with a defensive masterpiece against the Rams on Sunday night.
They will be uber motivated to knock off their rivals; to officially end their season and get a measure of revenge from their second half meltdown in the season opener at Lambeau. They are 5 and a half point favorites to end an eight game losing streak at home to Rodgers and the Packers. If the Pack can make it nine in a row, well then we can say the team has come out of their funk. It would probably be too late for any post-season fun, but it would provide a nice spring board to whatever comes next in 2019.