How did the Packers do five in a row after starting 0-1?
As Aaron Rodgers pushed his way into the Soldier Field end zone from six yards at the end of the fourth quarter on Sunday, he not only sealed a 24-14 victory for the Green Bay Packers and his property of the Chicago Bears. He punctuated what is now a five-game winning streak following a 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week One.
A look back at the aftermath of that season opener highlights the confidence the Packers had in it and just how wrong many fans (myself included) have been about the direction of this team.
In the moments following the debacle against New Orleans, Matt LaFleur mixed up a few coaching clichés – “We have to take a long look at ourselves in the mirror” – with genuine frustration that the Packers didn’t come out and didn’t. not played as they believed they could. To LaFleur’s credit, he first pointed the finger. “It was a poor performance overall,” he said, “and it starts with me.” But he took comfort in the fact that Green Bay would be able to lace them 16 more times to try and make up for the initial loss.
Rodgers was a bit more balanced, refusing to give too much oxygen to the dumpster fire at the Superdome. He admitted he had played poorly but refused to double down on any negativity, reiterating that it was indeed only one game.
There’s no denying that the Packers were somewhere between terrible and atrocious against the Saints in Week 1. Still, it’s a testament to the team that they could seemingly put the performance behind them quickly, dropping to a point where they have a two-game advantage in the NFC North standings after just six weeks of the season.
How did Green Bay get here, especially given the growing injuries? Obviously, gamers deserve the lion’s share of the credit for going out and playing. But the work Brian Gutekunst has done in bringing in impact draft picks and veteran free agents cannot be overlooked. More importantly, he’s patched up his relationship with Rodgers enough to allow the quarterback to command this ship.
If the Packers can handle business in a very winnable game against the Washington soccer team this Sunday, they’ll be in a great position. A 6-1 record would match their debut in 2019 and be a better game than they were at this point a season ago. LaFleur’s first two seasons resulted in a 13-3 regular season record. Although there are now 17 games, a similar record certainly seems achievable. Several road competitions seem intimidating – among the Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens – mixed in with never-easy games against the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams. Jump into some NFC North battles that are yet to come, and this isn’t the easiest upcoming list, which makes the wins they’ve already racked up all the more critical.
Green Bay was not healthy until week 1, and things have not improved in that department since. Sure, David Bakhtiari could come back soon. Still, the Packers suffered the losses of several weeks from players like Elgton jenkins, Josh myers, Jaire Alexander, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Za’Darius Smith, Kevin king, and a host of others in the wake. If you had known after week 1 that players of this caliber were going to miss as much time as they would have had, no one would have imagined that they would find a way to get five straight wins. Yet here we are.
With 11 games to go, there’s an incredible amount left to decide in the playoff picture. But we’re starting to figure out who might claim a position later. The Cardinals still haven’t lost, and three teams – the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Rams – are 5-1 with the Packers. This quintet of teams appears to be class in the NFC right now. It might take 14 or 15 wins to be the only team to get a first-round pass, and the Packers would love to be in that position, even if it didn’t end the way they hoped against. Tampa. Bay a season ago.
Reaching that seed means racking up victories in every way possible. With a squad seemingly stacked atop the conference, Green Bay won’t have too much room for error in the final months of the season. Perhaps the best news for the Packers is that they aren’t even close to playing their best football yet. They’ve had some remarkable wins over the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals, and they’ll need to play better to beat some of the other contenders like Arizona or Los Angeles.
Green Bay can still improve markedly – red zone defensive efficiency, third-down conversions – and the hope is that injury odds will return to their favor after the carnage that took place in the first month and a half of the season. . The point is, despite everything, the Packers are still bona fide contenders in the NFC. At least on the surface, Green Bay thought it already was after losing by five touchdowns in Week 1, and after five straight wins, they showed the rest of us we should believe too.