It was much more stressful than it needed to be but the Green Bay Packers are the 2021 NFC North Champions.
The team gave its fans a coronary after a 31-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter turned into a razor-thin 31-30 lead as the Baltimore Ravens lined up to go for two points and the lead (not the WIN as many outlets are reporting. There were 46 seconds left on the clock, an eternity for Aaron Rodgers).
Thankfully, after having a career bad day, Darnell Savage was able to knock the ball away on the attempt and forced Baltimore to try an onside kick that AJ Dillon thankfully recovered.
After special teams and the defense were gashed routinely, both units came through when it counted and the Packers won their third straight division title. It also kept them in the driver’s seat for the NFC’s top seed, so while the win was exhausting it was no less satisfying. The Packers knew before their game that the Detroit Lions stunningly (and handily) beat the Arizona Cardinals to give them a buffer over them for the lone bye and home field advantage.
The fun wasn’t over after the Packers won either as the New Orleans Saints shut out Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9-0 on Sunday Night Football. This in effect gives Green Bay a two game advantage over both Tampa Bay and New Orleans with three games left.
With the division secure, that is where the Packers’ attention is now focused and Green Bay now has to keep their eyes on the Dallas Cowboys who hold the conference record tiebreaker currently over the Packers should Green Bay drop one more game and Dallas wins out.
Back to yesterday’s game, the bottom line is Green Bay survived after nearly giving the game away. There might be trends to keep an eye on (Mark Andrews going Supernova and the defense being torched by a backup QB albeit a gifted one) but for now, let’s just enjoy an NFC North championship edition of cheese curds.
First off, credit to Ravens coach John Harbaugh playing for the lead. It was an aggressive and smart decision given how the Packers’ offense was performing. That being said, the defense got the stop when it had to.
With Davante Adams being blanketed by two and even three defenders all game, Marquez Valdes-Scantling came up big when his team needed him the most. Wounded for part of the season including this game, MVS caught Rodgers’ record-tying 442nd career touchdown pass and it wasn’t even on the deep ball. More games like this might make him change his initials to MV$ come free agency.
Sunday not only saw Green Bay’s home field chances improve significantly but Rodgers’ case for a second straight MVP got a boost as well as Brady struggled mightily against the Saints (sound familiar?). Rodgers should be the favorite right now but it’s a much tighter race than it was a year ago.
Meanwhile in Baltimore, Harbaugh’s gamble didn’t pay off but it really was the smart decision. Take a one point lead and even if the Packers get close enough for a field goal, we all know Green Bay’s kicking game has been very shaky to say the least. Had the game gone to overtime, the Packers may have won the toss and marched down the field for the winning touchdown. A sound decision by a good coach, it just didn’t work out this time.
I really think the Packers should bring this couple to every game the rest of the way. Maybe their luck will rub off on the team.