Packers Are Super No. 2: Many Ways to Win
Note: With an 8-2 record at the bye, the Green Bay Packers are a prime contender to be playing in Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2 in Miami. This is part of a six-part series – three on why the Packers will get to the Super Bowl and three on why they will fall short.
When the Packers won the Super Bowl in 2010, they did it behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a defense that finished second in the league in points allowed. When the Packers frittered away the NFC Championship Game in 2014, they advanced that far behind Rodgers, a powerful running game led by Eddie Lacy and a defense that ranked seventh in points allowed over the second half of the season.
The Packers have emerged as championship contenders this season because, like those seasons, this team isn’t only about Rodgers. They’ve won games because of Rodgers’ brilliance. They’ve won games with a superb running game. They’ve won games behind a sometimes-stingy, sometimes-opportunistic defense.
“The process has been really understanding the offense as a whole and learning how to win in different ways,” Rodgers said after decimating Oakland. “If you learn how to win in different ways, then you become a lot more dangerous of an offense because you have more things to throw at people. We’ve been able to run the ball effectively and win with that. We’ve been able to not turn the ball over and make smart decisions in the passing game. And today, we obviously wanted to use the passing game and be aggressive. That’s what makes you a truly dangerous offense.”
A week later, after a narrow victory at Kansas City in which running back Aaron Jones was the star, Rodgers said: “We’re finding ways to win these games. The really good teams find a way to win when adversity hits. The defense did a good job holding them to a field goal at the end of the first half, and then obviously the turnover turned out to be pretty big.”
Well-rounded teams, obviously, are tougher to knock out than teams that depend on one player or one phase of the game to carry the day. In 2015, the Packers started 6-0 but fizzled behind a team almost wholly dependent on Rodgers after Lacy lost his battle with the bulge. In 2016, the Packers rallied to the NFC Championship Game despite a hit-and-miss running game and the league’s 31st-ranked pass defense. In 2017, the team crumbled without Rodgers.
To be sure, the 2019 version of the Packers is flawed. There is no consistent passing-game weapon opposite Davante Adams. The defense has been too dependent on red-zone stops and big plays. Too much field position has been given away on special teams. Then again, every team has some sort of flaw.
These Packers can win with Rodgers. They can win with the one-two punch of Jones and Jamaal Williams. They can win by a defense that has made the key plays when necessary. With Rodgers, Jones, Adams, Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, the Packers have players on each side of the ball capable of producing the one play necessary to win a game.
Will it amount to a championship season? Who knows, but general manager Brian Gutekunst and coach Matt LaFleur have the team in a better position than it has been in years.