To win the division...
...win within the division. We've been preaching it for awhile now and yesterday's Packers win was the most recent example. Regardless of what was going to happen in Chicago the Packers controlled their destiny. Now they're just two games away from winning the NFC North. And by beating Minnesota not only did the Packers place two games between themselves and the Vikings but Minnesota is now teetering on the brink of playoff elimination.
But before we get to playoff scenarios let's go back to yesterday's game. Certainly one of the keys was containing Adrian Peterson. But that's easier said than done. There's no doubt AP would get his carries and he would get his yardage. Giving up 100 yards wasn't going to be an issue. As it turned out the Packers gave up more than twice that amount but in the end it wasn't as damaging as you'd think. That's because the really important number from yesterday was 1. Yes, 1 as in 1 touchdown for Peterson. His 82 yard scamper was only his eighth touchdown of the year. It was vintage bend-but-don't-break defense. Go ahead and give up the yardage but don't let Peterson rack up touchdowns. It seems like that's how every team has been defending Peterson this season.
People are again asking, why isn't this offense flourishing like it used to? Again, I have to say, forget about 2011. That was an anomaly. Defenses are taking away the long pass and the window for the back shoulder fade seems narrower than ever. So the Packers must find new ways to move the ball and that means running it at a much higher clip than any time last season. The Packers can't be one-dimensional, especially with a patchwork offensive line, and they can't refuse to adjust to how teams are lining up against them.
So it was good to see James Starks and Alex Green running with early authority. The Packers also mixed in screen passes and keep plays early to take the heat off Aaron Rodgers. He was sacked twice but that seems to be the norm. And it should be noted that Rodgers still threw the ball 35 times so it's not as if the Packers are completely getting away from themselves. They're taking what defenses are giving them and as it turns out, that can be an effective way to win. And as we also learned, Don Barclay can hold his own. He may not be needed for the rest of the year but those kinds of individual performances can add up over the course of a season.
Now, back to the postseason. The Vikings not only suffered a crushing setback in the quest to win the division but they've now lost to the Packers, Seahawks and Buccaneers. So Minnesota would, for now, lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with all those teams, making it that much more difficult to get to the postseason. Looking ahead to next week, if the Packers beat Detroit and if the Bears lose in Minnesota the Packers will hold a one game lead over Chicago. A win over the Bears in Week 15 and the division will be clinched because the Packers will be up by two games with two games left and they will hold the all important head-to-head tiebreaker. So of course it is fitting that the Packers can seize the division by winning divisional games the next two weeks.