Packers learning how to win

Eliminating mistakes, making plays down the stretch make all the difference

The Green Bay Packers have clearly learned that the difference between winning and losing this season can be seen by looking in the mirror. When the Packers have won, they have committed a minimal number of mistakes and turnovers. On the other hand, at least three of their losses have been the result of their own gaffes.

In a game where not too many Packers fans felt that their team would have enough mojo to beat the dreaded Minnesota Vikings, they did just that. How did they do that? The Packers dominated the Vikings much like they did against the Buffalo Bills a week earlier, but they didn't turn the ball over.

The tired cliché of "whoever makes the least number of mistakes will win" certainly rings true with the Packers this season. However, bad teams continue to find ways to mess up and good teams find ways to correct their mistakes. To their credit, the Packers found a way to beat the Vikings, and not let another winnable game slip away. While it is safe to say that the Packers are a long way from the elite level of the NFL, they have shown that the have all the potential to be good team, and are far from a bad team.

The Packers are finding ways to improve and eliminate potential turnovers, which is why they have won three of their last four games. It is very evident that the players and coaches believe in themselves, and it showed against the Vikings in a hostile environment.

"I'm just very proud of the way that we rebounded from Buffalo," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after his team's 23-17 win over the Vikings. "We played well in all three phases. I told them it was time we put our best foot forward, and I thought we did that today."

McCarthy was under fire all week from Packers fans for his play call on a first-and-goal from the 1 with less than five minutes remaining in the game a week earlier against the Bills. The pass play resulted in an interception, which resulted in a touchdown and the final score, 24-10.

Instead of caving in to the Vikings with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, the Packers buried the Vikings. A.J. Hawk, quiet last Sunday against the Bills, was outstanding against the Vikings, finishing with a game-high 13 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Hawk combined with linebacker Nick Barnett to sack quarterback Brad Johnson for the fourth time in the game early in the fourth quarter, forcing the Vikings to punt for the fifth straight time in the half. On Minnesota's next series, cornerback Patrick Dendy, who had gotten beaten deep on a few occasions earlier, picked off a deep pass by Johnson with 7:46 left in the game. The Packers played like a winner. The offense ate up time on the clock, moving from their own 23 to Minnesota's 11. Wide receiver Ruvell Martin made a difficult catch and withstood a hit by linebacker E.J. Henderson for a 20-yard gain in the drive, setting up Dave Rayner's 29-yard field goal for a 23-14 lead with 2:11 remaining.

Green Bay's defense bent a little against the Vikings, allowing a Ryan Longwell field goal in the final minute, but the Packers didn't break. Green Bay kept the Vikings out of the end zone. They played to win.

The Packers' win over Minnesota undoubtedly will enhance their confidence. With a home game ahead against New England and an away game at Seattle just ahead, the Packers are much better prepared mentally and physically to win, a far cry from where they were at early this season. That's progress.

Todd Korth

Todd Korth is managing editor of and Packer Report. E-mail him at

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