If the Packers, fresh off a huge victory over New England, have a letdown against Atlanta on Monday night, it would be a strong departure from the norm.
“I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that,” receiver Jordy Nelson said on Thursday.
The Packers simply haven’t played many Clunkers — bad games against bad teams.
During games started and finished by Aaron Rodgers over the past six seasons, the Packers have lost 20 games. Only two of those losses have come against a team that finished with 10-plus losses — Washington in 2010 and Tampa Bay in 2009. In fact, the Packers have lost to only four teams that finished the season with a losing record since the start of the 2009 season. (New Orleans, at 5-7, could make that five teams with a losing record, and it would mark the Packers’ first loss to a losing team since falling to the 7-9 Chiefs in 2011.)
“This is a very consistent football team,” coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday, a day after the 26-21 victory over New England. “That’s something I told them Saturday night in the team meeting. Every year, you get to a point where you feel like you have an understanding of the type of team that you have and there’s always one characteristic that jumps out more than the others. I think this is clearly our most consistent football team in my nine years here, just from the fact that the way they prepare, you don’t have a bunch of personalities that go up and down. It’s a very focused, disciplined group.”
Not riding the rollercoaster is one reason why the Packers have avoided the pitfalls that trip up just about every team at some point in the season. Beating New England was huge but the players seem to understand that it won’t mean a thing once the ball is kicked off on Monday night.
“I don’t think guys get too high or there are guys who get freaked out when things might not be going the right way,” Nelson said. “I think it’s just the maturity level. We have some older guys here now compared to always being the younger team, and I think it’s on the leaders to show that. Obviously, with what Aaron (Rodgers) said earlier in the year, when you have your leaders say something like that, everyone else feels comfortable. We know we’ve just got to work and make sure we’re ready to do.”
Rodgers’ “relax” comment, coming off a lackluster loss at Detroit, will be the defining word of the season. Since then, the Packers have won eight of their last nine games to surge to the top of the NFC standings and become the favorite to win the Super Bowl.
For Rodgers, he won’t act any differently this week getting ready for the Falcons than he did last week in getting ready for the powerful Patriots.
“It's got to be the same,” Rodgers said on Thursday. “The guys want to see you acting the same every week. Obviously, there's an urgency that goes along with football in November and December. As things start to shake out, you start to realize the opportunity's there in front of you. There's maybe a heightened focus and urgency, but the guys want to see your confidence level stay the same, and you be the same guy in the locker room every day. That's my challenge and my goal. You've got to continue to bring the energy and the enthusiasm.”
It’s also Rodgers continually driving the team. For instance, in the opening question of his postgame press conference, Rodgers was asked if there was anything special about beating the Patriots. It took him just three sentences to lament the team’s struggles in the red zone.
If the Packers were supposed to “relax” after a 1-2 start, they’re not supposed to relax now that they look like the best team in the NFL.
“It’s just guys being professional,” Nelson said. “We’ll hold each other accountable throughout the week. It will be Monday night; I think that will help make sure guys are focused. We know what we have in front of us, we have a four-game stretch here. Detroit is right behind us. We can’t let up at all and we need to make sure we take care of business.”firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.