|Photo by Jeffrey Phelps, AP|
In my last post, I was wondering when the last time was that the Packers got off to a fast start. One word from me apparently was all it took. Against the Titans, the Packers led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter, 20-0 at the half, and 34-0 at the end of the third quarter. They went on to win 55-7, losing the shutout in the final two minutes of the game.
Not only that, but the Seahawks (yes, the same blasted Seahawks who almost screwed up the Packers' season with the Fail Mary game) went out and put a major hurt on the 49ers. Who knew the Seahawks were for real? But apparently they are, having scored 58, 50 and 42 in their last three games. This really shook things up. It put the Packers in the no. 2 seed for now, with the bye week that entails, it left the Vikings clinging to the no. 6 seed, but probably needing to beat the Packers next week to hold onto it, it moved the Packers-Vikings to the 3:25 pm (LFT) time slot next week, and it leaves the final NFC playoff spot to be determined in the Sunday night Cowboys-Redskins game.
Now comes the test for the Packers. After starting the season 2-3, I remember having discussions with family and friends about whether the Packers could even recover sufficiently to make the playoffs. Ten games and nine wins later, they have made the playoffs, won the division, will have a home game, and all they need is one last win against the Vikings to secure a first round bye.
I can think of seasons where the Packers had to depend on the outcome in another game in the final week to see if they made the playoffs. Sometimes it worked out (as in the miraculous Cardinals-Vikings game to close the 2003 season, when the final play of the game, on 4th and 24, knocked the Vikings out of the playoff and the Packers into the playoffs). More often it did not. I can recall some game in the late 1980's or early 1990's when the Monday Night crew, in the final game of the regular season, kept going for reaction shots to Don Majkowski's den, where he and several teammates were watching the Packers' playoff chances going up in smoke.
Without looking it up to find an example, I know there have been other years when the burden was on the Packers, to win in order to advance to the playoffs, or to win to better their position in the playoffs. In some of those cases, they came up short and failed. Well, they get another chance on Sunday, before a national audience, to go into the playoffs on a high note. The Vikings are playing better than I expected this year. True, they are last in the league in passing offense, as might be expected with Christian Ponder at quarterback, but they are third in the league in rushing offense, thanks to the marvelous year Adrian Peterson is having. Peterson needs 208 yards rushing to break the all-time single season rushing record, so he obviously has lots of motivation to play well, and the Vikings will probably need to win to get the wild card spot. So there is a lot on the line for the Vikings.
Packer fans might be a little gun-shy about getting a bye week, after last year's debacle against the Giants, but let's not kid ourselves. A week off to get healthy, at this time of year? Plus the opportunity to get to the Super Bowl after winning only two playoff games, instead of three? It is a no-brainer to try to get that bye week.
So, to spur the Packers along a little, let me offer this: I wonder when the last time was that the Packers came out and just shut down a top-notch running back, basically taking him out of the game as an impact player?