It was a historic day for the Packers on Sunday, climbing to 3-1 after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers reached 420 career passing touchdowns, tying Dan Marino for sixth all-time. And kicker Mason Crosby is up to 24 consecutive field goals, a new franchise record eclipsing his previous high of 23 from the 2010-11 seasons.
“I thought the energy was there, the effort was there,” Head Coach Matt LaFleur said of his team’s two-score victory. “Every win you get in this league you earn.”
It was a successful day for Green Bay in all three phases, starting with the offense converting 9-of-15 third downs and getting the running game going for a total of 131 yards.
Second-year pro AJ Dillon led the way with 15 carries for 81 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. His usage picked up significantly in the fourth quarter as the Packers looked to burn the clock and close out the game.
“He’s been like this since day one,” LaFleur said of the way Dillon has prepared, saying it was never about him stepping up but more about him finally getting his opportunity. “He’ll continue to be a big part of this football team.”
On Dillon’s lone reception for 16 yards a first down, LaFleur mentioned that he initially called the play thinking Jones was in the game, adding that it’s a “luxury” regardless of playcall, to feel confident executing plays with either back on the field.
“He’s that cold weather Green Bay back that we’ve had over the years,” Rodgers added of Dillon, calling him a smart player. “He’s really taking that step and becoming a three-down back.”
Another player that stepped up in a big way on offense was returning fan-favorite Randall Cobb, who had two touchdowns and 69 yards on five receptions. It was the first time he scored a touchdown with the Packers since Dec. 9, 2018.
It was also the offense’s turn for player introductions pre-game, and Lambeau Field was electric as Cobb ran out of the tunnel.
“The love and respect that everybody has, not only from the outside but from within our locker room, for him is pretty special. He’s a great player, great person, and means a lot to this football team,” said LaFleur.
Cobb’s contributions were minimal going into Week 4, but with Marquez Valdes-Scantling on injured reserve, he knew he’d have his opportunities to contribute. So far through four games, six of Cobb’s eight receptions have moved the chains for first downs.
“I pride myself in being a third down guy,” said Cobb, adding that the receivers room operates with a “next man up” mentality and he’s just one piece of the puzzle that makes this offense work.
“There’s a knack to playing in the slot,” Rodgers added of Cobb, who’s been one of the best in the NFL during his career playing that role.
Once again, the young offensive line held up against a Steelers front LaFleur called “one of the better pass rushes in this league.” Rodgers was technically sacked three times on the night, but both he and LaFleur disputed a few of them and felt the line had a great game.
“Our mentality every week is to go 1-0,” said the offensive line’s only veteran Billy Turner.
Defensively, the Packers forced two turnovers for the third straight week. The first was a strip sack from Kingsley Keke that fellow defensive lineman Kenny Clark recovered.
“It was huge for my confidence,” Keke said of his big play. “My head is right. I’m feeling good. My confidence is back.”
The second turnover sealed the victory for the Packers, with rookie Eric Stokes picking off Ben Roethlisberger late in the fourth quarter.
“I think he’s contested really well,” Rodgers said of the way Stokes has been playing these first few weeks.
“I was really proud for him,” added LaFleur, saying Stokes is “wired the right way” and will continue to get better.
The defense finished the night with two sacks, with third-year pro Rashan Gary getting the team’s second.
“We know what we have in our front,” Gary said of both he and Keke getting sacks tonight. Both players know the added opportunities they have to make plays with All-Pro Za’Darius Smith on injured reserve.
Once again, inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell led the defense in tackles with nine, bringing his total through four games to 40. He also had one pass defensed against Pittsburgh.
“He’s bringing the juice, flying around, and he’s making us a better defense,” Gary said of Campbell.
“He’s been an exceptional leader,” LaFleur added.
“I’m just happy that I’m finally getting the opportunity to showcase what I can do,” said Campbell. “I’ve always kind of been the Robin to somebody else’s Batman in everybody else’s scheme. I’ve always felt like I’ve been a good player but now I’m actually having the opportunity to showcase my talents.”
While LaFleur felt there were a few opportunities to close out the game the Packers didn’t capitalize on, like going scoreless in the fourth quarter, the team’s confidence is continuing to ascend after a 3-1 start to the season.
“Today was a huge step forward for our defense and we’ve just gotta keep moving forward, stay locked in, and stay the course,” said Keke.
Rodgers couldn’t understate the significance of beating a talented football team like the 49ers, a team Green Bay has struggled against in recent years, and then going up against a stout Steelers front and leaving victorious.
“If you would’ve told me early in the season, we’d be without arguably two of our best linemen for a couple games and play those two fronts, I would’ve been ecstatic with two wins and here we are three and one, beating two fronts without Dave and without Elgton.”
On a three-game winning streak, the Packers are confident that Week 1 is officially behind them.
“Us being humbled Week 1 really opened our eyes. This isn’t a cakewalk, it’s the NFL,” said Cobb. “After that first loss we just kind of reset our mind; we didn’t lose confidence in who we were.”
“I think that’s the measure of a good football team,” added Rodgers. “We faced adversity right away. We made proper adjustments. We didn’t freak out. And we focused on the little things and the details. I think we just, after that win in Detroit, took a collective deep breath.”
The 3-1 Packers sit alone atop the NFC North with two road games next on the schedule. First up is a Week 5 trip to Cincinnati to face off against the 3-1 Bengals. That game will kick off at 12:00 p.m. CT on FOX.
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.