Defiant at Reliant: Turning-Point Victory

The Packers were sick of hearing about their demise and took their anger out on the previously undefeated Texans. The passing game was back, the defense was excellent and the killer instinct returned as the Packers earned what amounted to a must-win at Houston.

Everything's bigger in Texas.

Including Week 6 wins, apparently.

The Green Bay Packers quite likely saved their season with their 42-24 drubbing of the previously undefeated Houston Texans on Sunday night at Reliant Stadium. Four losses would have been tough to overcome. The NFC is loaded, with seven teams having reached four wins and another four having won three games. The combined record of the Packers' remaining schedule is 30-26, including five games against teams that have won four games. At 2-4, the team's obituary could start being penned.

"I never like to use those words (must win) but I know what you mean," Rodgers told reporters after a masterful performance. "This was an important game for us. We've had a couple not go our way, games we should have won, and 2-4 would have been very difficult. You can't add up too many losses early in the season. Especially the way that Chicago's playing right now, we can't get too far behind them."

From the outside, the Packers looked like a team getting perilously close to sliding down the drain of the sink. Last year's high-flying offense was barely mediocre. Last year's horrible defense was reaching for mediocrity.

From the inside, however, the Packers remained steadfast. The day after watching his team blow an 18-point lead in a loss at Indianapolis, coach Mike McCarthy said his team was "confident." For a coach who values "real confidence," that statement almost seemed laughable. However, coming on the heels of last year's 13-0 start to the season but one-and-done postseason, the Packers were well aware that it's not how you start but how you finish.

What was striking were comments made by Rodgers and Charles Woodson to NBC's crew on Saturday. The day before the game, Woodson told the network broadcasters that the Packers knew and the Texans knew that the Packers were the better team.

That certainly was not empty talk.

Offensively, Rodgers played his best game of the season. It took him until his fourth game of the season to throw his sixth touchdown pass; on Sunday night, it took him three quarters and 14 seconds to throw his sixth touchdown pass.

"We were just tired of answering questions about what happened to the Packers, what happened to me," Rodgers told NBC after the game. "It was a good team effort tonight. The offensive line blocked great, we ran the ball with effectiveness and guys made some plays down the field. Just getting back to the way we're capable of playing. We haven't gone anywhere."

Most important was the offense's ability to answer. That was a hallmark trait of the 2011 team, which seemingly led 14-0 at kickoff and never let the scoreboard operator take a break. The Packers lost last week because Rodgers and Co. failed to answer Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne in the second half. On Sunday night, the Packers answered the Texans' first touchdown with a touchdown of their own. When the Texans pulled within 28-17 late in the third quarter, McCarthy dialed up a third-and-1 pass out of a run-heavy formation that resulted in Tom Crabtree's 48-yard catch-and-run touchdown that essentially put the game away.

"It was kind of what we did a lot last year was being able to put teams away and answer when we needed scores," Rodgers said at his press conference. "Continue to keep that two-score or three-score advantage, because mentally that's a big edge. We talked about that this week. We were up 18 last week against Indy and had a chance to really close the door there in the first half and the first possession of the second half. We corrected that. We had big drives in big situations. We didn't turn the ball over. We got in the end zone in the red zone and played a more complete game."

Meanwhile, the defense played a fantastic game. Houston's ability to run and pass looked like double trouble against a defense that couldn't stop the run in any of the three losses and couldn't stop the pass the last two weeks.

Instead, star running back Arian Foster was stymied throughout. The tone for the game was set in the first quarter, when Foster had five carries for 5 yards. Foster finished with 29 yards on 17 attempts, his third-lowest production since becoming a starter in 2010. With Foster in check and Rodgers rounding into MVP form, the defense collected three sacks and three interceptions.

"The criticism, it's warranted," Woodson told reporters. "We played some bad football in stretches. We had opportunities to win games and came up short. Today we were able to get on top of a team and stay on top of a team."

The Packers have alternated losses and wins all season. Was this the turning-point victory needed to get Green Bay rolling?

"I think so, I really do," Rodgers said. "We talked about this week getting some momentum against a very good football team that was undefeated who's been probably at the top on most people's rankings as far as best team in the NFL — that's what kind of the talk's been. To win in their place was big for us. Now we've got to keep this momentum going. We've got a team that had a close loss today in St. Louis. They're very well coached. They play very well at home. It's going to be important for us to go down there and get another win."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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