A win’s a win no matter how ugly or unconventional. Which is exactly what the Packers were at Lambeau Field Sunday afternoon as it took a blocked punt, a defensive touchdown and eventually overtime to survive a week 13 scare from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Regardless of how it looked, the Packers did what they had to do in order to grind out a win and keep their playoff window from shutting. Key losses to Atlanta and Carolina may have actually opened the window a little wider. Here are the winners from the Green Bay Packers Week 13 victory.
Packers Top Five Winners And Losers From Week 13
1. Mike McCarthy’s Decision
In a game the Packers had to win to stay alive in the NFC, they trailed late in the 4th quarter facing a 4th down against the Buccaneers after Jordy Nelson fell just short of the 1st down marker near the Buccaneer 5 yard line. Head coach Mike McCarthy made the decision to kick a field goal to tie the game rather than go for the first down or touchdown with a running game that had been the only thing working for the offense and trusting a defense fatigued from spending most of the 2nd half on the field. McCarthy was right. The Packers game-tying drive gave the defense the breather it needed as they were able to stop the Bucs on their next drive which was the last time they needed to be on the field. The Packers would win the toss and ultimately, the game, in overtime.
2. Pass Rush and Special Teams
The Packers defensive front was absolutely ferocious against the Buccaneers, recording 7 sacks, including 1 leading to a key defensive touchdown on a fumble recovery by Dean Lowry. They kept consistent pressure on Jameis Winston all day long. Clay Matthews looked like his vintage self, getting 2.5 of those sacks in his return from injury. Special teams shined as well, contributing a blocked punt from Kyler Fackrell. Kick Return man, Trevor Davis, averaged 30 yards per kick off as the unit rebounded from a lackluster performance last week.
3. Packers Playoff Chances
Getting the win against the Buccaneers on Sunday was only the tip of the iceberg. With losses coming to Panthers (8 – 4), Falcons (7 – 5), Lions (6 – 6), and Cardinals (5 – 7), the Packers (6 – 6) made up valuable ground in the wildcard hunt. Only two games back of a playoff spot with 4 to go, Green Bay heads to Cleveland with another golden opportunity to gain on the Seahawks (8 – 4) who will make a cross-country trip to take on Jacksonville while the Vikings will look to continue their winning streak against the Panthers.
4. The Running Game
In particular, Jamaal Williams, who’s been averaging 107 yards from scrimmage with 3 touchdowns over the last 4 games while filling in for the injured Ty Montgomery. He finished Sunday with 113 yards and 1 touchdown on 21 carries adding 10 more yards receiving and has been the most consistent part of the offense since the Rodgers injury. His partner, Aaron Jones, needed only 1 carry to make his presence felt as he scampered for 20 yards in overtime for the game-winning touchdown. Jones spent the better part of November recovering from an MCL sprain, missing the last 2 games altogether. December is off to a good start for the change of pace back as he looks to get back to producing like he did earlier in the year before getting hurt when averaged 99 yards with 2 touchdowns on 6.1 yards per attempt in 3 games in October.
5. Aaron Rodgers Chances Of Playing
The biggest winner from Sunday’s victory was Aaron Rodgers chances of playing again this year. After practicing Saturday, Aaron is right on schedule to return week 15 against the Panthers. Had the Packers lost to the Bucs, Rodgers’ come back would be in serious doubt. At 5 – 7, the Packers would have very little to play for holding on to the faintest of playoff hopes which would have led Green Bay to seriously consider shutting Rodgers down for the rest of the season. As it stands, the Packers still have the season in front of them and need to take care of business against the winless Browns in Cleveland. A game the Packers should win but that has all the makings of a “look – ahead” trap game.
1. Brett Hundley‘s Consistency
Coming off a masterful performance against the Steelers who rank 2nd in passing yards allowed and 3rd in total defense, the stage was set for Brett Hundley to showcase his ability to be a consistent passer versus an underachieving Bucs team with several defensive starters missing due to injury. It didn’t pan out that way. Hundley, returned to his inconsistent ways missing a wide open Geronimo Allison for a would-be touchdown in the 1st quarter and misreading Jordy Nelson on a deep throw down the middle resulting in an interception. His second half was no better, starting out the 3rd quarter with 3 consecutive 3 and outs which exhausted the Packers defense allowing Tampa Bay to rally and take the lead. Hundley finished 13 of 22 for 84 passing yards with 0 touchdowns and 1 interception. Fortunately, Hundley and the Packers backfield were able to make enough plays on the ground down the stretch to complete the comeback.
2. The Wide Receivers
Predictably, the Packers receiving numbers have taken a dip since the Rodgers injury in week 6. Aside From Devante Adams, who has emerged as Hundley’s favorite target but still struggled Sunday finishing with 4 catches for 42 yards, it’s been tough sledding for the rest of the group. Jordy Nelson has fallen off dramatically as the Packers made it a point to get him the ball against the Bucs with team highs in targets (8) and receptions (5) but managing only 17 yards in total, Randall Cobb wasn’t targeted despite being on the field for 41 of 55 snaps, and Geronimo Allison’s only target, a would-be touchdown, was overthrown.
3. Defensive Health
It wouldn’t be a Packers game without a defensive injury. Green Bay lost Inside Linebacker Jake Ryan to a neck injury in the 4th quarter and had Corners Damarious Randall (concussion) and Davon House (arm) miss time during the game for an already thin secondary. 2nd round pick Kevin King missed the game entirely out with a bum shoulder. The Packers will look to get healthy as they have their hands full next week game planning for newly reinstated Josh Gordon.
4. Home Field Advantage
Lambeau field has been anything but an advantage for the Packers since Rodgers went down. Losers of 3 straight home games coming into Sundays match up against the Bucs, the boo birds came out flying as Green Bay struggled to move the ball for most of the second half at the “unseasonably warm” tundra before finally breaking through in overtime. Should it break the Packers way, they’ll have a revenge game versus the Vikings with a healthy Aaron Rodgers in week 16 for their final home game of the season.
5. Packers Run Defense
To the surprise of most casual fans, the Packers defense came into Sunday’s game playing particularly well against the run allowing only 67 yards per game over the last 4 games and ranking in the top half of the league overall. Couple that with the Bucs inability to run this year, it was logical to think that Tampa Bay would have trouble moving the ball on the ground. It was the exact opposite. The Packers failure to move the ball in the second half left the defense out on the field allowing the Bucs running game to get going against a tired group. 2nd year Running Back, Peyton Barber, stood out for the Buccaneers rushing for 102 yards after coming in with 88 total rush yards for the year. Green Bay should be able to get back on track versus the Browns next week.
Four games remain in the regular season for the Packers as they travel to Cleveland next week to take on the winless Browns. They’ll look to keep their plans of winning out the final 5 weeks intact with Aaron Rodgers set to come back week 15 against Carolina. Clay Matthews summed it up best – “It was an ugly win, however, you want to call it, but it’s a win. On to Cleveland and we got 4 more to go”.