The Green Bay Packers have been juggernauts under the coaching excellence of Matt LaFleur, but this season brought a changing of the guard and the Packers have had to learn to win in a different way. In 2020 and 2021, the Packers blitzed the competition as they racked up 13 wins on their way to becoming the number one seed in the NFC. Those campaigns ended in disappointing fashion for LaFleur’s side as they exited the playoffs in the NFC Championship and Divisional Round.
This season has gone in the opposite direction, as Green Bay started slowly before going on to win their next four games to set-up what is in essence a playoff game against division rivals the Detroit Lions on Sunday night. A game the Packers head into red-hot and battle-hardened after a relatively chaotic season.
Green Bay started the season without All-Pro wide-receiver Davante Adams for the first time since the 2013 season. Adams was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders in the offseason and his departure left a gaping hole in the Packers offense. The wideout was Aaron Rodgers’ favourite target over the past two seasons, recording 238 catches, 29 touchdown passes and nearly 3000 receiving yards as he helped Rodgers win back-to-back MVP awards.
Although the Packers offense failed to excite in the opening four games, the loss wasn’t so keenly felt at the start of the season as Green Bay won three of their opening four matches. However, LaFleur’s side began to collapse as they lost their next five matches, their worst losing streak since 2008, falling to 3-6 on the season.
Starting cornerback Eric Stokes suffered a season-ending ankle injury in a clash against Sunday’s opponents the Detroit Lions in week nine, star linebacker Rashan Gary also suffered an ACL injury during the same game, All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari missed multiple games due to his recovery from an ACL injury and an appendectomy. Even Rodgers was battling a fractured thumb earlier in the season.
All hope looked to have evaporated for Green Bay before a promising win against the Dallas Cowboys helped inspire belief. Rookie wide-receiver Christian Watson broke out during the Cowboys game, posting a statline of 107 yards receiving and three touchdowns as the Packers edged Dallas in overtime. Watson went on to catch seven touchdown passes during the four-game stretch, showing his growing chemistry with Rodgers.
However, the win was overshadowed by back-to-back defeats against the Tennessee Titans and the Philadelphia Eagles, leaving Green Bay’s playoff hopes on life support heading into their bye week with a 4-8 record. LaFleur’s side stared adversity in the face and came back strong, beating fierce rivals the Chicago Bears in Chicago 28-19.
The game summed up the Packers season in one word: adversity. Green Bay rallied from 10-19 down at the end of the third quarter as Rodgers led the Packers on three scoring drives in the final period.
The win swung momentum in the Packers favour as they went on to beat defending Super Bowl champions the Los Angeles Rams 24-12 to keep their playoff hopes alive. The win moved the Packers to 6-8 on the season, but bigger tests awaited as Rodgers and co headed to Miami to battle the Dolphins on Christmas Day.
The Packers defensive backfield faced the daunting task of squaring off with arguably the best wide-receiver pairing in the NFL in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. LaFleur squared off with former colleague and friend Mike McDaniel for the first time in his head coaching career. After trailing 13-20 at halftime, LaFleur’s side outdueled the Dolphins in the second period, leaving Miami’s explosive offense scoreless in the third and fourth quarters. Green Bay went on to intercept three passes from Tua Tagovailoa as they went on to win 26-20 in South Beach.
The win moved Green Bay to 7-8, but their biggest test was yet to come as they battled the high-flying Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings headed into the game as winners of four in their last five, as NFC North champions and with receiving yards leader Justin Jefferson recording a whopping 479 yards in the previous three games combined. The matchup looked one step too far for the Pack.
However, the Packers produced their best performance of the season as they intercepted three passes from Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, held Jefferson to just five yards receiving and put up over 40 points against Minnesota to set-up a ‘win or go home’ game against the Detroit Lions.
Rodgers and co will stamp their ticket to the playoffs with a win against the Lions, which would cap off a remarkable turnaround for Green Bay. The Packers will face a tough test at Lambeau Field as they face an electric Lions offense that is averaging 27.1 points per game.
Jared Goff has thrown over 4000 passing yards and as well as 29 touchdowns this season, former Packers running back Jamaal Williams has run for almost 1000 yards and has 15 rushing touchdowns on the year. Lastly wide-receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is currently 12th in the league’s receiving yards.
However, following Green Bay’s four-game winning run they are battle-hardened and know how to win when their season is on the line. That mentality could see the Pack cement their place in the postseason this Sunday and should they prevail no one will want to face this Green Bay team come playoff time.