Stop me if you've heard this one before this season: What was supposed to be a showcase star quarterback duel on the Packers schedule instead became a back-up QB audition. Stop? OK, but what about this: The Packers had a lead but it evaporated only for Green Bay to still come out on top thanks to a very clutch ... oh, I should stop again? But what about the special teams being bad and – OK, yeah, you definitely know that part all too well.
Indeed, Sunday's Packers 31-30 victory against the Baltimore Ravens played all the hits: a high-profile quarterback matchup disappointingly decimated by injury or infection, an ending way too close to be comfortable, special teams making things more interesting than necessary and – the greatest hit of them all, and the only thing that matters in the end – a W on the scoreboard. Green Bay now has the NFC North locked up, a playoff spot secured and even the top seed in the entire league – meaning home field advantage throughout the playoffs – in their grasp. And that's all despite not yet playing their best football and not being remotely close to healthy.
While it's a holiday week for most, that's not the case for Packers fans as they'll be back in action early with a Saturday spat against the Browns on Christmas Day. (That is, if Cleveland can stop being a hot zone for a hot second.) But before we jump ahead to that special holiday football feast, let's savor this playoff-clinching, North-winning victory just a little longer with these nine key moments, plays and images from yet another stressful but successful Sunday for the green and gold.
1. Surely this won't come back to haunt them, no sirree
I can understand the logic behind the current craze of going for any and all fourth downs. A touchdown is more valuable than a field goal. There are only so many offensive possessions in a football game. You would think your offense would be capable of picking up a handful of yards – especially in the modern game where the rules tilt the field in favor of offense and points. There's plenty of reasons why this decision from early in the game makes sense and is defensible. But while you can defend the decision, unfortunately for the Ravens, their fourth-down play call was even easier to defend – and considering that the Ravens lost by one, I can think of three reasons why Baltimore's coaches might've preferred a field goal in retrospect.
2. Double (not so) trouble
Despite the Ravens coping with a handful of injuries and COVID-related issues on defense, Davante Adams had a fairly pedestrian day by his ridiculous standards with just 44 yards on six catches. That being said, even Davante off-days come complete with impressive moments like this touchdown grab that burned not one but two Baltimore defenders – a point head coach Matt LaFleur made sure was not lost on anyone.
3. Aaron Rodgers: good at football
At no point in this play does the Packers receiver appear to be actually open. And yet, Aaron Rodgers turned this into a big gain, threading the needle on a beautiful pass that would be easy to take for granted if we didn't see how Jordan Love did against the Chiefs earlier this season. Rodgers ended the game with 286 yards, three touchdowns and a 132.2 quarterback rating – yet another impressive showing in yet another impressive season that could end in yet another MVP award. (Especially since his biggest rival for the title – Tom Brady – made exactly one good throw during his game Sunday night: when he chucked his Microsoft tablet in anger on the sideline.)
All is forgiven, Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Sunday's team leader in receiving yards put all of his 6'4" frame into getting Aaron Rodgers this touchdown pass – tying Brett Favre's franchise record – and, most importantly, getting the Packers a comfortable two-possession lead in the final quarter that surely the defense wouldn't cough up. That doesn't sound like the Packers we know and love this season at all, nooo ...
5. On the hunt(ley) for a comeback
Complaining about a Packers win when they've clinched a playoff spot and the NFC North – not to mention on the same day that the Cardinals lost to the lowly Lions and the Bucs couldn't manage a single point against the Saints – feels silly. BUUUT while the Packers are certainly a good team, they're still not exactly confidence-inducing as the Packers once-stout defense got roasted on Sunday for four total touchdowns – and not by former MVP Lamar Jackson but back-up quarterback Tyler Huntley. And because the Packers refuse to make things easy on anyone, they squandered a late 14-point lead and were a two-point conversion away from this being a very different game recap. (Oh, and their sad special teams department did more sad special teams department things.)
They may have the best record in the entire NFL, but there's still plenty of work to be done. That being said, I'd rather have to do that work from the top of the standings rather than the bottom.
6. Too close for two points
The Packers defense spent most of late Sunday afternoon getting demolished by star tight end Mark Andrews, who went off for ten catches, 136 yards and two touchdowns. But when the game was on the line, Green Bay's defense finally managed to seal him off. And, incredibly, the special teams unit ACTUALLY managed to recover the ensuing Baltimore onside kick, giving the Packers yet another victory – and also helping fans survive yet another heart attack.
7. Quick change
Limping into the locker room on his broken toe, victorious Aaron Rodgers says “get me my hat!” The NFC NORTH CHAMPS are getting some apparel tonight pic.twitter.com/4zOfbLy5F2 — Dave Schroeder (@SchroederWBAY) December 20, 2021
If I had that mop of a hairdo, I too would be hunting for a hat to cover it up at all times. But jokes aside, add this moment to the ever-increasing list of memorable Aaron Rodgers quotes from the 2021-22 campaign.
8. King of the North ... and beyond
Looks like some last-minute Christmas gift ideas just dropped! The new NFC North champions hat: the perfect gift for the Packers fan who already has everything (though, Santa, what we REALLY want this holiday season is a healthy offensive line).
9. Meanwhile ...
While the Packers' win was obviously very critical, some of the most important developments pertaining to their postseason happened elsewhere on Sunday. First, the once top-ranked Arizona Cardinals lost to the Detroit Lions, officially dropping their record below Green Bay. (Plus, I think losing to the Lions automatically disqualifies a team from the postseason.) Then, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – also in hot pursuit of the NFC's top spot – not only failed to win Sunday night but failed to score a single point against the New Orleans Saints, causing Tom Brady to do his best "Aaron Rodgers chucking a tablet meme" impression. As a result, with just three games left, the Packers now have sole possession of the NFC and control their own destiny, with even a little room to spare. Talk about Christmas coming early.
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.