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Aaron Rodgers Sees Packers Close To ‘End Of The Tunnel’ In Winning Their Division

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If you trusted they were what their records suggested before Sunday’s game, the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers might have been wise to expect another meeting come the postseason in January.

But after the Packers not only beat, but beat up the Rams, 36-28, in a game that wasn’t really as close as the score, it’s fair to believe one team will definitely find its way to the playoffs.

And the other team is the reeling Rams.

For the Packers, this victory was big because they continue to succeed and drive toward their goal of winning the NFC North, which means they would secure at least one home game in the playoffs.

So this result delivered exactly the good tidings the Packers wanted.

“This was an important one,” Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “You know, after the loss last week, to go to 2 1/2 up with six to play in the division, which is obviously the first goal of ours is to win the division. Today, with Minnesota losing and us winning, back to 3 1/2 up in the division now with five to play, obviously that puts the division squarely at the end of the tunnel, moving closer to that.”

Winning the NFC North and continuing a successful march after the coming bye would give the Packers (9-3) at least one home game at Lambeau Field and possibly home field advantage throughout if they can catch the Arizona Cardinals (9-2), which the Packers beat earlier this season.

“In the conference, obviously Tampa is going to be tough,” Rodgers said, continuing his assessment. “Arizona is leading it right now at 9-2. The Rams have a great football team, so there’s still a lot to be figured out in the conference.

“But I like where we’re at. I like our football team. This is shaping up. We’ve got more home games down the stretch. These are the type of winter games where we can and have effectively thrown the football. We’ve controlled the clock for almost 40 minutes. This is what makes it so difficult to play in Lambeau.

“So we have to win our division first, secure that home playoff game and then, you know, we’ve got the tiebreaker over Arizona so we’re right on their heels right now.”

The Packers somehow continue to succeed even as Rodgers is mulling toe surgery during the coming bye week. They’re winning without anchor offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins. They’re winning without cornerback Jaire Alexander or edge linebacker Z’Darius Smith.

The Packers are winning even though Rodgers hasn’t practiced in two weeks, first because of Covid-19 and then because of a fractured small toe in one foot.

Rodgers, by the way, reported the toe is feeling better and by that he meant he only had to take a pain-killer injection before the game and not before the game and at halftime like last week.

Despite the challenges, Rodgers completed 28 of 45 passes for 307 yards with 2 TD passes and 1 TD run.

“Hey, look, when I step on the field I expect greatness,” Rodgers said. “I think anyone who’s a great competitor feels the same way so I don’t lean on excuses, not practicing, little toe injury. I expect greatness when I take the field and it definitely isn’t the ideal situation not to practice but I can go out there and take mental reps and go through the plan and my preparation and feel good about what I’m doing and when I get out there I got to rely on my instincts.”

Rodgers can obviously rely on his teammates and coaches as well.

The Packers continue to get great work from backup cornerback Rasul Douglas, who had a 33-yard interception return touchdown, while Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams caught eight passes for 104 yards.

“Everything is right in front of us,” Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark said afterward.

That wasn’t quite the feeling in the Rams’ locker room.

They’re a team that has lost three consecutive games and in each of those the Rams have seemed to be the less physical team in the game. So is there trouble in paradise?

“Absolutely not, no,” coach Sean McVay said. “Because there’s still six games left for us. The only thing we can do is get ourselves back in alignment and have a good week of preparation and try to get back on track against the Jaguars.

“We got six left for sure and that’s a lot of football and this story isn’t written yet. We’ve got the pen and we’ve got to make sure we do a great job of controlling what we can control. We’re going through a little bit of adversity right now.”

After what seemed like a perfect marriage at the beginning of the season between McVay and quarterback Matthew Stafford, the duo’s results have gone a little sour of late.

This was the third consecutive game Stafford threw a pick six, a fact that seemed to rile McVay when he was pressed about it after the game.

“There’s a lot of different snaps, there’s a lot of things that he’s done at a high level,” McVay said. “When you want to just isolate those individual plays, of course we want to be able to play better. It’s not always exclusively on him.

“And so we got a guy who’s got great ownership. I have great confidence in this guy. I’m not going to sit here and criticize our players. I’m going to sit here and say here’s where we can fix it, here’s where we can correct it.”

In looking for corrections, McVay might want to also look in the mirror.

His first quarter — first quarter! — decision to go on fourth-and-1 from his own 29 yard line backfired when the Rams couldn’t convert a first down.

The Packers capitalized by kicking a field goal.

In the fourth quarter, McVay had no timeouts remaining with 53 seconds to play. And with his team at the Green Bay 21 yard line, and facing a third-and-1 situation trailing 36-25, McVay called a run play.

A run play!

It went nowhere and the Rams were forced to kick a field goal.

It wasn’t nearly enough.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

 

 

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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