Packers Move On to the Next 'Table.'Posted:Jan 2nd, 2017 2:44 pm
The table has been run.
The next table, the playoff table, has 12 places set and the Packers have earned their seat. The season ending six game winning streak seemed unthinkable to all but the most Gerbschmidt-like fans, along with Aaron Rodgers, of course.
The Pack's QB has placed himself squarely in the MVP conversation, with an amazing stretch to close the season that saw him toss 15 touchdowns and no interceptions as he willed his team to the post-season. Sunday night, he was once again faced with a shaky ground game that relied mostly on fullback Aaron Ripkowski (channeling Zach Zenner).
With Darius Slay shadowing Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb still nursing his ankle injury, Rodgers had to really spread the love, and he found eight different receivers throughout the game. None had a more prolific night than the emerging rookie Geronimo Allison. The improvisation in the end zone on his touchdown catch showed us all we need to see. He's the real deal and will be counted on heavily moving forward--playoffs and beyond (and could make Cobb expendable).
No matter whether the Pack is one and done, or goes on an unlikely Super Bowl march, Rodgers' 'run the table' declaration will live forever in Packers and NFL lore. It's one thing to stand in front of reporters right after your team dropped its fourth straight game to fall to 4-6 and your own performance is being scrutinized like never before--and then say you think your team could run the table. It's quite another to then deliver a six game masterpiece that helps capture a fifth division title in six years.
For those of us in the Twin Cities, it's about as satisfying a division title as we can recall. Let's go back to early October, when fans of the Purple were loudly and proudly searching high and low for their team's first loss. They quickly learned to be careful what you look for. They also learned you can't make a living on turnovers and big returns. It was a doomed season from the start, but their fans' early season bravado was annoying to all of us 'round these parts.
To be fair, injuries robbed the Vikes of much of their hope, but the Pack had to deal with a solid share of their own injuries, which explained much of their midseason malaise. But Rodgers took the lead, picked them up and carried them to the promised land. And we all know the offense will have to continue to carry the day the rest of this season.
The Pack has a serious issue at cornerback, with Rollins likely done and Damarius Randall banged up again. Even Mackinton Dorleant went down Sunday night. Dom Capers will have to mix and match and move guys around like never before. The Pack's opening opponent, the Giants, are the polar opposite, with as impressive a CB trio as you'll find in the league in Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and rookie Eli Apple.
It will be up to the front seven to make things difficult for Eli Manning. They did a so so job against Matthew Stafford, with Blake Martinez shining. Disappointing was the follow-up performance by Clay Matthews, who was unable to shake loose from the extra attention he was getting. The dropped interception led to a Lions touchdown, which gave them the lead in the second quarter.
We'll have all week to discuss and chew on the rematch with the G-men. Their recent January success at Lambeau will be a dominant storyline. But for today, let's savor what we just witnessed: the best six-game closing act the Packers have delivered in 75 years.
The Packers have some warts and some injury issues. But they also have the best quarterback this side of Boston. And week after week, year after year, we are privileged to watch him perform his magic every Sunday. Now we get another Sunday, and it's at Lambeau Field. You can bet Rodgers is looking for some January payback.
Anyone care to bet against him?