GREEN BAY, Wis. – When the Green Bay Packers hosted a divisional playoff game last year against Seattle, almost 79,000 fans filled Lambeau Field. When the Packers hosted the Los Angeles Rams in a divisional game on Saturday, fewer than 8,500 socially distanced fans were scattered throughout the bowl.
Their presence made the 32-18 victory over the Los Angeles Rams all the more special for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
A season unlike any other due to COVID-19 has led to a familiar spot for Rodgers. For the fifth time as the team’s starter, the Packers have reached the NFC Championship Game. For the first time, though, the game will be played on the Packers’ home turf. And while the stadium won’t be filled, the 8,456 people in attendance made their presence felt from the opening snap.
“We were talking about that in the locker room,” defensive tackle Kenny Clark said. “It was great to have the fans back, hitting the signs on the stands and just the noise period. Their snap count is a huge part of their game and I couldn’t hear their snap count. Having the fans there and having all that noise, that helped us out a lot. It was good to be on third down and get the crowd energizing us so we can get a big stop.”
The crowd was at its loudest midway through the fourth quarter. With Green Bay clinging to a 25-18 lead, Rodgers fired a deep ball to Allen Lazard. Lazard dropped a potential long touchdown in the third quarter but not this one. His 55-yard touchdown put Green Bay up by two touchdowns. A defensive stop on the next series sent the crowd into a frenzy.
“It felt like 90,000, honestly. The fans, they were huge,” Lazard said. “For me, being able to just see more than a couple hundred people for the first time in I don’t know how long was a cool experience, just being able to feed off their energy was huge. I think that played a huge role in our win today. I’m going to be looking forward to those guys coming back out and doing the same thing next week, because we’re going to need them. We’re going to need them for sure.
After his on-field interview with Fox, Rodgers jogged to the locker room. As he approached the tunnel, he was serenaded by “MVP” chants. Victory was his. The MVP probably will be his. The elusive second trip to the Super Bowl is just one homefield victory away.
“The fans were special. The energy was special tonight. There is a homefield advantage,” Rodgers said. “It is meaningful to have fans at the game.”