The Packers ended Baltimore’s 13-game winning streak against NFC opponents with a 31-30 victory on Sunday, bringing Green Bay’s record to 11-3 on the season and clinching the NFC North for the third consecutive season. The Packers also got help from the Lions and Saints, as both teams won against the Cardinals and Buccaneers, respectively, giving Green Bay a one-game lead in the NFC with three games left to play.
“We’re just worried about trying to go 12-3 now,” Head Coach Matt LaFleur said when he was told the Packers are becoming tougher to catch in the NFC race. “We control our own destiny right now and that’s, you love to be in that position.”
The Packers have a quick turnaround now with another AFC North opponent, this time the Cleveland Browns, coming to Lambeau Field on Saturday. Then Green Bay will end the regular season with two final NFC North matchups.
“Nothing’s easy at this point in the season. It’s good to get these wins,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, adding that both the Browns and Vikings are fighting for playoff spots and the Lions just beat a 10-win football team.
In his unprecedented 17th season with the Packers, Rodgers continues to etch his name into the record books. On the day, he threw 23 completions for 268 yards and three touchdowns for a rating of 132.2. Those three touchdowns brought his career total to 442, tying Brett Favre for most in franchise history.
The tying touchdown went to Marquez Valdes-Scantling who led the team with 98 yards on five receptions, including the 11-yard score.
“That’s just a crazy accomplishment, and I definitely kept that football,” Valdes-Scantling said smiling. “That one’s not going anywhere. If it was broken I would’ve gave it to him, but that one’s mine. I think that’s just a great accomplishment for him, and I just love that I’m a part of it.”
For Rodgers, the game Valdes-Scantling had was one of the most significant parts of the win. “That’s the Marquez that we all know and love. Happy we got him going tonight. That was important, and that’s what we’re going to need,” he said, adding that if defenses will alter their schemes to cover Davante Adams, the Packers will need these contributions from the rest of the offense. “I love my teammates, I really do. I mean I care about them so much. I care about the redemption stories as much as anything for those guys.”
While the offense failed to score any points in the first quarter, the unit was still able to put up 31 points in the game’s final 45 minutes on the road in a hostile M&T Bank Stadium. Even without a score in the first quarter, the offensive playmakers feel like the arrow is pointing up.
“Yeah I mean we’re making steps in the right direction for sure,” Valdes-Scantling said of the offense’s production. “Obviously we want to score on every possession. That’s just the mindset.”
Defensively, the Packers hung on in the game’s final minute with rookie Eric Stokes breaking up a 2-point try to Mark Andrews that would’ve given the Ravens the lead. The incompletion was significant after allowing Andrews to haul in 10 catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns on the day.
“I think this is one of those games that later on in the season, we’ll look back on and be able to say ‘yeah we fought through a lot of adversity and we found a way to get it done.’ We’ve done that a couple times this season and I think that’s what great teams do,” said inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell. He had Green Bay’s lone sack and led the defense with 10 combined tackles.
Backup quarterback Tyler Huntley had an impressive day for the Ravens, throwing 28 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns and adding another 73 yards and two scores with his legs.
“This is the NFL. Everybody is good,” said Baltimore native Adrian Amos. “Any team can beat you. I always like to say the backups in the NFL will embarrass you if you don’t come to play, because everybody’s a professional.”
Adversity was a theme in the post-game pressers, with multiple players and the head coach acknowledging all that this Packers team has had to battle through without plenty of star players. That list also includes defensive lineman Kenny Clark who missed the game on the COVID-19/Reserve List.
“We’ve played a lot of good teams this year. A lot of close games, one possession games. But we always find a way to pull it out, and I think that’s the test of a good team,” said running back Aaron Jones, who rushed for 58 yards on the ground and hauled in a nine-yard touchdown through the air.
The Packers will have a short week to prepare for the 7-7 Browns on Christmas Day, but the team also plans to enjoy their new hats and t-shirts for at least a few hours.
“I love this team, I love this group. Just how they battle. How connected they are…” said LaFleur, who’s led the Packers to three straight NFC North titles and three consecutive seasons of double digit wins.
“I think in moments like this it’s important to, as much as you win with class, you have to savor these a little bit. These are special,” added Rodgers. “Everything’s right in front of us.”
The team also knows what’s at stake playing for the No. 1 seed in the NFC which includes the conference’s only playoff bye and home field advantage throughout the postseason.
“We all know the advantages of Lambeau and the climate that we play in,” said LaFleur.
“We’ve gotta win the next three and then get a chance to relax,” echoed Rodgers, mentioning how nice it would be to have another opportunity to win two at home and get to the Super Bowl.
It’s possible that Rodgers also takes sole possession of the franchise touchdown record in Week 16 on Christmas Day, throwing for No. 443 (and maybe more) at home at Lambeau Field. “There is something special about being able to do it at home,” he said.
Hang your stockings by the chimney with care. The Packers and Browns face off on Saturday, Dec. 25 at 3:30 p.m. CST.
Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack’s What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.
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