1.) Momentum Trumps Perspective
In winning six of their last seven games, with their only loss in that stretch coming on the final play at Pittsburgh, the Packers are one of the hottest teams in the league heading into their final regular season contest and the playoffs. Their offense is scoring points at a furious pace and their defense — save for one game — has played like one of the league's elite. If recent history has taught us anything, it's that the team with the most momentum, not necessarily the team with the best record, gets to the Super Bowl. Last season, the fourth-seeded Cardinals made it to the Big Game, where only a miracle catch by the Steelers' Santonio Holmes kept them from claiming the Lombardi Trophy. In 2007, it was the New York Giants advancing to the Super Bowl as a No. 5 seed after their shocking upset at Lambeau Field in the NFC Championship Game.
But before we get too worked up about Green Bay's chances of getting to Miami, it's important to keep perspective on who it's beaten on its way to 10-5. Only two teams with winning records — Dallas and Baltimore — are on the list. The remaining victories have come against Chicago twice (6-9), Detroit twice (2-13), St. Louis (1-14), Cleveland (4-11), San Francisco (7-8) and Seattle (5-10). That's not quite a murderer's row of opponents, but in beating the league's have-nots in impressive fashion, Green Bay is on the kind of roll that makes it capable of beating anyone — and maybe everyone — in the playoffs.
2.) For At Least One Week, Crosby is Back
Thanks to an offensive penalty that wiped out a 1-yard touchdown by tight end Spencer Havner, kicker Mason Crosby was able to get off the schnide with a 29-yard field at the end of the first half. Normally, that's not a reason to celebrate. But considering he missed from 34 yards the week before and had missed kicks in four straight games, it was a definite relief. Crosby would make a more impressive 52-yarder in the fourth quarter that would've been good from another 5 yards. That put the Packers up 41-3 and drew a thunderous ovation from the home crowd. While neither kick came in a pressure-packed situation, that they both went through the uprights instead of wide to the right may signal that Crosby has righted his personal ship and has regained some much-needed mojo.
"It felt good, felt good to get that in there," Crosby said. "It showed some confidence, a little booster there, and we've got to have that rolling into the playoffs here. It was the coldest game of the year and I felt like I hit the ball really smooth today, so I was happy with that."
3.) Jackson Can Do More Than Pick Up the Blitz
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Jackson had just 26 carries and 16 receptions coming into the day but ended the afternoon as the first Packers back since Samkon Gado (Nov. 13, 2005, vs. Atlanta) to hit paydirt three times – doing so on just eight touches. After scoring on a 13-yard screen to start the game, he tacked on two more in the third quarter. On a 6-yard run, he bounced to the outside and outran linebacker Will Herring and safety Jordan Babineaux to the corner. His last score was a 4-yard power run up the middle out of the fullback position.
4.) The Best Turnovers Are the Ones You Can't Eat
Against a frustrated Matt Hasselbeck, the Packers gobbled up four turnovers of the leather variety, giving them a league-leading 27 interceptions on the season. It's five more than they had in last season's "pick fest" and marks the third time this season they've hit the quadruple, having done so in Week 1 against Chicago and Week 12 against Detroit.
Linebacker A.J. Hawk – a surprising Pro Bowl alternate — got things started when he intercepted Hasselbeck on Seattle's first drive and returned it 29 yards, setting up Brandon Jackson's touchdown off a screen pass. It was Hawk's second interception of December and matched the career high he set as a rookie. Joining Hawk was safety Atari Bigby, who grabbed two — including one in the end zone — and beleaguered nickel back Jarrett Bush, who notched his first career pick when Hasselbeck was hit by linebacker Clay Matthews during his release.
5.) Jolly Had A Hand (Or Two) In This Victory
Johnny Jolly, the Packers' 6-foot-3, 320-pound left defensive end, has a large gold- and diamond-encrusted medallion he occasionally sports around his massive neck. It's shaped like the emblem on Superman's chest, but the trademark "S" has been replaced by two staggered "J's." It's the kind of flash that costs what the average fan earns in a year and would have some of them hunched over from the weight. But in a season where off-field troubles could've taken away from his on-field performance, Jolly's been Kryptonite for opposing passers – especially those throwing too low — and a game-changer for the Packers' defense.
Jolly got his hands on two of Hasselbeck's passes, giving him a record 11 batted passes for the season. Right defensive end Cullen Jenkins' nine deflections in 2007 was the previous record, which Green Bay began tracking back in 1980. Jolly came close to intercepting his first batted ball of the day, leaping with both arms raised to deflect a short dump-off pass and then nearly catching it as he fell to the ground. Later, the former sixth-round pick from Texas A&M had a second deflection that did result in an interception. With Seattle facing third-and-6 from the Green Bay 8-yard line in the second quarter, Jolly altered the path of a Hasselbeck ball just enough to allow a diving Atari Bigby to pull it in at the goal line.
W. Keith Roerdink has covered the Packers since 1992. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.