Packers climb atop NFC North thanks to yet another Lambeau Field victory
Green Bay Packers News – It was the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, and Arizona and Jacksonville before that. In fact, the Green Bay Packers have beaten 18 of the past 19 teams that have teed it up at Lambeau Field.
That’s right: Eighteen of 19.
That, my friends, is a 94.7 winning percentage, an impressive hot streak that spans more than three seasons worth of regular-season home games.
In Las Vegas, a Packers’ home victory might be the closest thing to a sure thing. In Green Bay, it has become expected as much as anticipated, at least to those fans that see the faults but are blind to the big picture.
They should take a step back: The big picture looks mighty fine.
Green Bay’s 23-14 victory over the Minnesota Petersons (6-6) means the Packers, 8-4, control their destiny. They host the Detroit Lions (4-8) on this week’s Sunday night game before a Dec. 16 showdown with second-place Chicago (8-4) at Soldier Field.
The Packers survived despite being unable to corral the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson. The NFL’s leading rusher showed why by shredding Green Bay’s defense to the tune of 210 yards in 21 carries.
To the Packers’ credit, they took the Vikings’ best shot – which is Peterson at his best – and still lived to talk about it.
“They had a good day on the ground,” Packers’ cornerback Tramon Williams said. “We knew we had to stop (Peterson), we knew it was going to be tough, and it was. Obviously when they tried to pass we kind of limited them from doing that. AP got his no doubt about it, but we got the job done.”
Certainly, the Packers’ tug-of-war with the Vikings provided plenty to nitpick. The Packers had too many penalties (10 for 78 yards), they yielded too many rushing yards (duh!), and if not for some awful decisions by Vikings QB Christian Ponder, they might have lost.
Furthermore, injuries to right tackle T.J. Lang (ankle) and receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring) mitigated receiver Greg Jennings’ return.
Still, there is lots more to like than not.
** Led by safety Morgan Burnett, the Packers’ defense did little to stand its ground until the red zone. Once backed inside its own 20-yard-line, the Packers’ defense stiffened. Burnett’s two interceptions snuffed out Vikings’ drives and kept Green Bay in control.
It was Burnett’s second two-interception game and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. With safety Charles Woodson, linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Sam Shields all sidelined, Burnett stepped up like the ascending pro he’s become.
“I thought Morgan Burnett’s interception in the third quarter in the end zone was the key play of the game,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. “It shifted the momentum.”
** The Packers’ 18-play, 73-yard drive that spanned 11 minutes was an impressive display of focus and execution by an offense that struggled. The drive was set up when Burnett stepped in front of Vikings’ tight end Kyle Rudolph for a diving interception at the Green Bay 13.
The Packers took over to start the fourth quarter, and proceeded to grind out the 11-minute drive, the longest in the NFL this season. It was capped by a 31-yard Mason Crosby field goal that gave Green Bay a two-possession lead (23-14) with four minutes to play.
“We haven’t had one of those in a while,” Rodgers said. “We haven’t been able to control the clock like that and it says a lot about the toughness of those guys. It wasn’t the prettiest drive. We made the most of our third down opportunities.”
** Crosby is back, and right tackle Don Barclay has emerged.
Crosby, the struggling Packers’ placekicker who had connected on 6 of 11 field goal attempts coming into Sunday’s game, appears to have regained his winning form. Crosby made three of four field goals, including one from 47 yards after a Minnesota timeout when McCarthy kept his offense on the field. Crosby had missed a 53-yard field goal try at the end of the first half, and appeared to rile McCarthy when he opened the second half with a kickoff that sailed out-of-bounds. It gave the Vikings great field position at the Minnesota 40.
Burnett bailed out Crosby with his end zone interception, and Crosby responded by nailing the 47-yard try after McCarthy called the offense to the sideline and elected to have Crosby kick it.
Crosby’s day began with a 30-yard field goal that caromed in off the right upright, and ended with a 31-yarder that made it a two-score game.
Meantime, right tackle Don Barclay held up after Lang left with an ankle injury. It will be interesting to see if McCarthy leaves Barclay at right tackle, and re-inserts Lang at left guard (for Evan Diedrich-Smith), once Lang’s ankle is healthy.
** The Packers’ running game produced 152 yards on 36 carries and a touchdown. It wasn’t Peterson-like, but it was better than it’s been, and it was enough.
** Rodgers, who turned 29 Sunday, celebrated by throwing a touchdown pass in his 35th straight regular-season home game. It is the NFL’s longest such streak since Miami’s Dan Marino threw a touchdown pass in 39 straight games from 1983-88.
Rodgers’ excellence at Lambeau Field, coupled with the team’s home dominance, should set up at least one home playoff game.
Then, the Packers can look to start another home winning streak, this time in the post-season.
Last week’s prediction: Packers 27, Vikings 20 (Packers, 23-14)
This week’s prediction: Packers 35, Lions 21
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’ MVP Parties the evening before home games.