The Packers pulled off the seemingly unthinkable last night. No, not defeating the defending Super Bowl champs, looking good while leading from beginning to end – but the Packers managed to outshine the biggest pop star in the world.
Yes, Taylor Swift was in attendance last night – but the real eye-catching star of the night was the suddenly surging Green Bay Packers, claiming yet another upset win, 27-19, and making the Kansas City Chiefs scream "Is It Over Now?" Two months ago, the Packers were borderline unwatchable, unable to string together scoring drives – much less first downs – and unable to stop much of anything on defense. Fans were debating whether or not the team should pack it in and flop for the highest possible draft pick. Now, Jordan Love looks like a confident NFL quarterback, the receivers and running backs are making plays, and the defense can hold up respectably against even the most feared offenses. Don't look now – but if the season ended today, there's a blank space for that final playoff spot where the Packers could write their name. And not only would they be in the postseason, they'd be a team others wouldn't want to play.
Sorry, I need to calm down. Let's not get too far ahead ourselves – and instead soak in a smackdown so noteworthy and impressive that Taylor Swift's thinking about writing her next iconic ode to heartbreak about it. Here are several takeaways from last night's enchanted win over the Chiefs – 13 takeaways, in fact ... for no particular reason.
1. Ready for it?
Sunday night was the biggest game of the year for the Packers ... until about three hours before kickoff when it was revealed that it would actually be a Taylor Swift appearance with some people playing some game nearby. The pop star wasn't in the state for long – and amazingly wasn't on screen much either, as NBC mostly resisted the urge to cut to her Lambeau booth during the broadcast. Maybe there was a separate Swift Cam broadcast on Peacock ... or maybe there just wasn't much reason to cut to her cheering because she didn't have much to cheer about thanks to the Packers' impressive effort.
2. I don't know about you, but I'm feelin' 52
Sure, Taylor's Lambeau arrival got more cameras and attention – but Rashan Gary clearly had the best entrance, getting a special birthday shoutout on his way into the stadium. He would get the greatest birthday gift of all a few hours later: a primetime W over the Super Bowl champs, complete with a half-sack on his stat sheet.
3. She's cheer captain and not in the bleachers
Even if Taylor Swift didn't make it to Lambeau, Sunday night's clash was already going to be a star-studded affair thanks to the gymnastics GOAT making her now regular appearance on the sideline, cheering on Jonathan Owens and the rest of the Pack. She didn't just get a win, though, as famous fan Frozen Tundra Man gifted her multiple pieces of headgear as an early Christmas present. And now I would very much like to see her do a balance beam routine with a foam goat perched on her head.
4. They knew Green Bay was trouble when they walked in
“What a drive.” -@waynelarrivee
“Now that’s the way to start a football game.” -Larry McCarren
“That was a spectacular drive.” -@kuhnj30
LISTEN: https://t.co/GIRhNHHGsYpic.twitter.com/AXmnZX9puN — 97.3 The Game (@TheGameMKE) December 4, 2023
Remember when the Packers were a team that couldn't score in the first half? Who wouldn't start playing an offense until the third quarter? I bet the rest of the NFL fondly remembers that team and wishes they'd return, because now Green Bay looks great out of the gate. After scoring 20 points in the first quarter along last week, Love and company started Sunday night's game with a beautiful, confident and surgical drive going 13 plays across almost eight minutes, ending with an easy touchdown pass to ... Ben Sims? Don't know who he is, but I love him now – and love that the Packers went from a team where nobody could score to a team where anybody can score.
5. A marvelous time ruining everything
The Chiefs may not be quite as imposing as in past seasons – but they still have Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and a lot of guys who can do a lot of damage to an opposing defense. You wouldn't have gotten that impression watching last night's game, though, as the Packers made the Chiefs look down right pedestrian for the most part. Mahomes barely threw for more than 200 yards while getting hassled to the tune of three sacks – several coming on key third-down stops. Meanwhile Kelce led the team in receiving yards, but only with 81 and rarely feeling like an impact player on the field for any of it. Joe Barry has earned plenty of criticism this season (*glares at Steelers game*) but you hold the Chiefs to under 20 points? You probably merit a break from the #FireJoeBarry chants ... at least for a week.
6. Shake it off
Christian Watson seemed to be in the midst of a fairly brutal sophomore slump earlier this season – but now, he suddenly never misses a beat and is lightning on his feet! Watson caught seven passes for 71 yards in Sunday night's spat – two of those catches for touchdowns and one of them of the 50/50 "go on up and get it" variety that he struggled with just a few games ago.
Unfortunately, in classic Wisconsin sports luck, as soon as Watson was getting into a groove, he appeared to injure himself, falling to the ground and reaching for his hamstring while scampering for more yards on his final catch. He seemed in good spirits after the game, so hopefully it's not serious – because the Packers needed his field-stretching ability even when he was struggling. They'd certainly love to have it while he's excelling too.
7. Romeo, save me
I'm not sure this fourth-down conversion was a great play – you don't LOVE a playcall where Jordan Love is almost immediately under pressure and looks like he's just chucking up a prayer on a critical down – but it was certainly a great result! Needing a response after the Chiefs cut the lead down to 14-12 out of halftime, this well-placed heave to Romeo Doubs kept the drive alive, leading to a Christian Watson touchdown catch and a two-possession lead just two plays later. The Packers offense used to have no momentum; now they're capable of making sure the opposing team doesn't build any.
8. The man
Quadzilla's numbers don't seem monstrous on the page – just 73 yards on almost 20 carries – but those numbers don't give his impact justice. Once again as essentially the lone lead back, Dillon powered through the Chiefs, pushing ahead for solid gains and regularly putting the Packers in healthy short-yardage situations. Obviously the team misses the injured Aaron Jones out there – gotta have the lightning to go with the thunder – but with Dillon's recent rugged play, Green Bay's offense hasn't desperately noticed his absence as much as fans originally feared.
9. It's him. Hi. He's the problem; it's him
When you're game-planning for the Chiefs, you scheme for Mahomes, for Kelce ... and for Isiah Pacheco? Indeed, the most consistent offensive star for Kansas City on Sunday night was their running back, gouging the Packers line for more than 100 yards on 18 carries and serving as their most reliable weapon while their typical aerial assault was grounded. It turns out the only guy who could stop Pacheco ... was Pacheco, getting himself ejected for the Chiefs' last-gasp effort thanks to throwing a post-play punch.
10. Look what you made me do
As the Raiders last week and most of the their postseason opponents can attest, you can't give Mahomes and company oxygen. Doesn't matter if they've looked like trash for three quarters; they will come back and beat you if you give them the opportunity. Thankfully, the Packers didn't – whether the offense would put together a solid drive to keep some distance between themselves and Kansas City or the defense would get a stop just as the Chiefs seemed like they were figuring things out. Even when it seemed like the Chiefs were preparing Packers fans for a late heartbreak, holding the Packers to a field goal and five-point lead before getting a late drive going with a dubious pass interference call, Keisean Nixon came through with a massive play, smoothly picking off the very next pass and smothering Mahomes' comeback attempt before it could even really begin.
11. Love story
Is Jordan Love the quarterback of the Packers' future? Baby just say yes!
After some rocky growing pains – surrounded by tough situations, poor pass potention and messy connections with his young receivers – over the past three games, the first-time starter now looks like a confident NFL regular – and against tough foes at that. The Chargers and Lions have a lot of talent, while the Chiefs might've sneakily been one of his toughest tests yet, a team secretly held up by its defense while its flashy high-octane offense fires in fits and starts. And yet Love looked tremendous, finding and hitting open receivers, calmly letting plays develop and smartly guiding the offense down the field for points. For most of the game, he even looked far more confident and comfortable than Mahomes moving the ball and matriculating down the field. Safe to say things have changed a bit from the last time he started against the Chiefs.
This just in: Tackling a quarterback in bounds is no longer allowed in the NFL. (Or at least if it's a quarterback of Mahomes' stature, apparently.) The Chiefs got a big helping hand from the dudes in black and white on their final drive, handing Kansas City 15 bonus yards because Jonathan Owens dared to hit the quarterback while he was still in bounds and still trying to gain yardage. A few plays later, though, those pesky refs would miss a pretty glaring defensive pass interfence call/mugging on Green Bay on a deep throw that would've placed the Chiefs even closer to the goal line and closer to tying up the game. Some might've called the missed DPI a bad call; I call it karma.
13. End game
Even with a whole lotta ref show breaking out, the Packers kept their cool and kept their lead, deflecting the final Hail Mary from Mahomes and securing the surprise win at Lambeau. Some might've called it an ugly win. Considering nobody would've predicted a Packers victory tonight – much less a competitive game – just a few weeks ago, I call it a beautiful result.
And now, after all the mess and misery of the early weeks, the Packers are somehow not only in the playoff picture but commanders of their own destiny. They currently hold a playoff spot and an exceptionally favorable upcoming schedule featuring the New York Giants and whatever 17th-string quarterback they have to drag out onto the field, the middling Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then the Carolina Panthers, aka the worst team in football – now without the burden of having a head coach. I guess even in an off rebuilding year, the Packers never go out of style.
And with that, I'm done with the Taylor Swift references and on to the next game: Welcome to New York! (Dang it, NOW I'm done.)
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.