With a four-game losing streak buried in Philadelphia, you’d think the Green Bay Packers would be a more jovial bunch.
Not so much.
“Everybody’s grouchy,” coach Mike McCarthy said on Tuesday evening. “Hell, they didn’t get any sleep last night. Too many cheesesteaks on the plane, a few guys were complaining about.”
OK, that’s a good joke. But here’s what not a joke: The Packers remain alive — if not well — in the NFC playoff chase after playing their best all-around game of the season in a 27-13 win over the Eagles. Offensively, Green Bay scored three touchdowns against a team that had allowed three touchdowns in four previous home games. Defensively, after the worst four-game stretch in 60 years, the Packers allowed their second-fewest points of the season — they allowed only 10 against Chicago, which was down to its third-team quarterback. And the special teams thoroughly outplayed the Eagles’ premier kicking units.
Through the physical and mental pain of a four-game losing streak that was marked with maddening inconsistency, McCarthy consistently backed his players. He raved about the leadership, work ethic and resolve.
For one night, at least, all of that showed up once the game kicked off.
“Players just want to know, ‘Hey, is everything OK? What are we going to do to win?’ It’s as simple as that,” McCarthy said. “Let’s not get too far away from that. I think our locker room and the leadership of our locker room was outstanding because we never got too far away from that. We know what went wrong. ...
“I don’t think there was a man in that locker room that didn’t think we were going to win in Philadelphia. I don’t think there was a guy that didn’t think we were going to win the four games before that. That tells you about the team. So that’s where the team is it. It’s the reality. We expect to win every week, regardless of what people think about us, what they say about us. Personally, I like it when they don’t like us. It’s hard not to have people like you. Hell, we’re the Green Bay Packers. We’re the Green Bay Packers. So, we take that with a lot of pride. We know our fans were upset with what’s going on but, hell, there’s no one more upset than those men in the locker room. That’s the reality of it. We all want to win. We’re doing everything we can to win, I can promise you that. This group is committed but, hell, we’re 5-6.”
And that’s the stark reality. The Packers saved their season on Monday night but they’ll have to do it again on Sunday against Houston and perhaps every weekend for the rest of the season. The Packers’ backs aren’t against the wall. At least if there’s a wall, there’s something to lean against. The Packers’ heels are against the edge of a cliff. One more step backward might mean the quick and deadly fall of a season that started with championship aspirations.
Key to that was quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and we’re not talking about only his 30-of-39 performance against one of the NFL’s top pass defenses. Rather than talking gloom and doom and about “must-win” games, Rodgers last week talked about “running the table.” Talk of a team that had won four of its first 10 games suddenly winning six in a row would have seemed preposterous had the quarterback not sounded so convinced it was truly possible.
“It’s been a rough stretch,” Rodgers said after the game. “We’re human. You lose a few in a row and doubt starts to creep in on whether or not you can actually finish one of those games off. You’ve got to push through it and realize it’s still in front of us.”
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And that’s how McCarthy viewed the losing streak. He hopes the light at the end of the tunnel is a string of meaningful games in January rather than an oncoming train.
Adversity “brings out the best in people,” he said. “I think you really get to find out about each other, your commitment for one another. I think the character and the confidence and really the energy in the locker room this past month has been exemplary. It needs to equate to wins because, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s about. I think we have a lot to build off of.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.