“T.J. usually does the talking,” center Corey Linsley recalled. “He’s like, ‘This is how we write our checks. This is why we get paid to perform. It’s four-minute, run out the clock. This is when team calls on us.’ It was awesome. In the huddle, we all came together. Aaron said, ‘This is what we needed to do,’ and we did it.”
Did it, indeed. And because of the offensive line helping Eddie Lacy run out the clock, the Packers won 24-21 to move into first place in the NFC North.
“It was on us,” left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “‘We know what we’ve got to do. This is the way we want to win the game. This is how we can win the game. Are we going to do it?’ We were getting a little jacked up. ‘Let’s go.’ It was a toughness-building scenario and we were able to go out there and kind of flex on them and we were able to move the ball effectively on the ground and we put the game away.”
Needing to run out the clock, coach Mike McCarthy sent out Lacy, fullback John Kuhn, tight ends Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers and receiver Jordy Nelson in a “jumbo” package. On first-and-10, Lacy ran for 3 yards. On second down, he ran for 5 more. The Vikings called timeout with 2:31 to go. It was third-and-2, with a stop, Minnesota would have the ball with 2 minutes remaining and needing a field goal to send the game to overtime.
Instead, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers in shotgun, Lacy took a quick-hitting play up the middle and the Vikings didn’t have a chance, with the hard-charging Lacy gaining 4 yards and a critical first down, with the clock winding down to the two-minute warning.
“It was a called play,” McCarthy said. “It’s just kind of normal in those situations, Aaron and I talked about two plays. That was a play that he preferred and I just kind of chuckled because it’s usually the other way around. It was the right call in that situation. We got the defense we were expecting and it was well-executed.”
Rodgers said the line played a role in what was called.
“We had a play that we’d run a couple times for first downs actually earlier in the game,” he said. “The way that Eddie was running the football, and the line -- you have to give the line a voice. Those guys know the pulse of the game there, especially late in the game. They felt like a run was something we could get. Came to the sidelines and kind of had the choice there, but I liked the play to Eddie, the inside handoff, and he did a good job of getting the necessary yards.”
One first down down, one to go.
On first-and-10, Lacy gained 5 yards. The Vikings called their final timeout with 1:51 remaining. The scenario was simple: The Packers, if they could gain 5 yards on the next two plays, would win the game. If not, the Vikings would have one last chance.
Lacy and the line needed just one play. Lacy got the ball, ran left and rode a surge from the offensive line for a 10-yard gain.
“You go four-minute offense and you’ve got a chance to go run the clock out, that’s what we get paid for, man,” Lang said. “That’s what we take a lot of pride in is being able to run the ball when everybody in the damned stadium knows you’re going to run it. We take a lot of pride in what we do up front, and that’s our time to really shine and make sure we’re doing our job and giving Eddie or whoever’s carrying the ball plenty of room to get some first downs and run the clock out. It’s a very satisfying way to close a win out.”
Added left guard Josh Sitton: "It’s a hell of a feeling, man. It’s probably the best feeling in football for an offensive linemen. We don’t get touchdowns and stats so that’s about as good as it gets for us."
After fighting for more than 56 minutes in a hotly contested NFC North game, the game all boiled down to the final three-and-a-half minutes. For months, McCarthy had been calling this offensive line potentially best of his nine seasons. Whether that’s true or not will be determined over the next two months. But when it counted, it was the best unit on the field on Sunday.
“It was awesome,” Linsley said of Lacy rushing for the clinching first down. “I just remember running out of the pile up and next thing I know I see John Kuhn and he’s just screaming and we butt heads. That’s the way you want to finish the game as an offensive lineman.”
Added Lang: “That’s just satisfaction. You go through 59 minutes of a hard-fought game and to go out there, especially when we’re coming off a touchdown to make it a three-point game, you get that last first down, you know they’re out of timeouts, you know the game is pretty much wrapped up. It’s satisfying. To be able to run the ball like we did when it’s an obvious running situation and go out there and get 27 yards to close it out by taking a knee, for an offensive lineman, you’re probably not going to find a much more satisfying feeling.”
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