2019 Week 16 - That's What Cheese Said

The Packers are NFC North Champions, and the locker room knows this is only step one in getting where the team wants to go. 

Za’Darius Smith said it best before the game; all he wanted for Christmas was a hat and a t-shirt. Well, he got just that as the Green Bay Packers are officially the 2019 NFC North Champions, beating the division rival Minnesota Vikings 23-10. The Packers are also now 5-0 in the division in 2019, with a chance to make it 6-0 next week. 

“Our number one objective was to win the North, and those guys accomplished that tonight,” said Head Coach Matt LaFleur at his post-game presser. “I’m so proud of this group. Now it’s time to reassess and have new goals. We took care of the first goal.”

The first half didn’t necessarily go as expected for the Packers, as a team notorious for forcing turnovers all season entered halftime minus-three in turnover differential. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw one interception (his third of the season), and both Aaron Jones and Davante Adams lost fumbles. 

That said, the defense kept things close and allowed Green Bay to go into halftime only down one point. While the Vikings scored 10 points off two turnovers, those were their only points of the night, thanks largely in part to the work of the D-Train. 

The Packers sacked Kirk Cousins five times, with Za’Darius Smith tallying 3.5 of them on his own. Green Bay also forced a turnover of its own with a Kevin King interception in the third quarter. 

As a whole, it wasn’t a great night for the quarterbacks, with Rodgers completing 26-of-40 passes for 216 yards and one pick with no touchdowns for a rating of 68.3, and Cousins completing only 16-of-31 attempts for 122 yards and one touchdown with an interception of his own for a 58.8 rating. 

Was it an ugly win though? Not really. At least not if you ask the players. 

“The adversity that we’ve overcome all year long in every single game has only told me one thing,” said guard Billy Turner. “And that is that it doesn’t matter what we’re up against, that this team is capable to pull through and win football games.”

After compiling a 0-3 record at U.S. Bank Stadium, it was cathartic for the players to clinch the NFC North in the same stadium that’s eluded them for so long. 

“We haven’t won in this building in three tries. Feels pretty good,” said Bryan Bulaga, who midway through his interview placed his “NFC North Champions” hat on his head. 

“We haven’t won in this building. It means a lot for us,” said Davante Adams who had 13 receptions for 116 yards. 

Despite Adams’ nice day through the air, the real star of the show was Aaron Jones and the Packers’ ground game. 

Jones finished the day with two rushing touchdowns and 154 yards on 23 attempts, good for a 6.7 yard average with a long of 56. 

Whether the Packers are putting up yards through the air, on the ground, or the defense is forcing turnovers, this team is finding ways to string together victories. 

“We’ve won a lot of tight games this year and we’ve won so many different ways throughout the course of the season,” said LaFleur. “And that’s what this game’s about. It’s about winning. It hasn’t always been pretty for us but that’s okay. We find a way. I think it builds belief and confidence that no matter what happens out there, we’ll find a way to get the job done.”

The Packers have one week left to “get the job done” to secure at the lowest, a second seed in the playoffs. If Green Bay beats the Detroit Lions on Sunday, they’ll earn a first-round bye in the playoffs and host a home game at Lambeau Field in the divisional round. 

“There’s really nothing like checking that first box on the goal list of winning your division,” said Rodgers. “Obviously secures a home playoff game, and now we’re playing for even more coming up next week.

“I was hoping for something like this, for sure. Nobody expected us to be in this position, to be 12-3, to win the North, other than James Jones probably.” 

While the Lions will be without Matt Stafford on Sunday, no one is overlooking the importance of finishing strong against a division rival.

“Obviously you wanna be one of the last two teams left,” David Bakhtiari said in reference to the Super Bowl. “In order to do that, you have to go 1-0 every week.”

Still, though, a victory at U.S. Bank Stadium might’ve been just what this team needed to propel themselves forward into the playoffs. 

“You take 50 guys into a place where it’s 100,000 purple against you, and you dominate in someone else’s house like that. Can’t beat that,” said King. 

“Being part of that 2010 team and having to win three games on the road, that’s a tough way to go, especially with how deep this playoffs and the NFC is. It’s nice to have a chance to have some games at home,” said Rodgers. “I think I said this earlier in the season, just getting in gives you a legitimate shot. But knowing we could have two home games to get somewhere special changes the whole dynamic.”

The 2019 regular season finale for the Packers will take place at Ford Field at 12:00PM on Sunday. There’s still plenty at stake for Green Bay, but winning the NFC North yesterday sure was a great place to start.

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV, podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said, and hosts a weekly live show called Happy Hour through Game On Wisconsin. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (6)

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Samson's picture

December 24, 2019 at 03:22 pm

Thanks Maggie... Your positivity & all the player quotes make your articles worth reading & rereading. --- It has something to do with a factual vision of season 2019.... Real analysis can't be beat.

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Lare's picture

December 24, 2019 at 04:50 pm

“Our number one objective was to win the North, and those guys accomplished that tonight,” said Head Coach Matt LaFleur at his post-game presser. “I’m so proud of this group. Now it’s time to reassess and have new goals. We took care of the first goal.”

Statement win on a National stage against a rival achieving your season goals. Hope this doesn't lead to a letdown game next week.

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Lphill's picture

December 24, 2019 at 05:11 pm

The Packers have improved since last season or the last several seasons beyond my expectations. They are trending up , didn’t expect this. Go pack go !

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ShooterMcGee's picture

December 24, 2019 at 06:22 pm

I must admit to being critical of the team despite the winning. I thought we would lose to a hot Bears team and was wrong. Then figured our odds to were not good against the Vikings in their building. Wrong again. The win in Minnesota was a dominating performance by the defense. The offense has room for improvement but certainly can play well enough to beat anyone. Thank you Packers for dishing me up some humble pie, yum.

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murf7777's picture

December 25, 2019 at 08:58 am

In my book there are no such thing as winning ugly all wins are pretty:)

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SeaPacker's picture

December 26, 2019 at 08:45 am

Defense won another one in Week 16. Lets thank them. Offensive line playing great now, keep it up. One win (against the Lions) and GB is well seeded.

Now the bad and ugly. Offense (except OL) had one of the worse 1st halves of football by a playoff contender. I made notes. 1st possession, Jones fumble sets up Vikes in GB territory resulting in a good defense stand and only a field goal. 2d possession; GB goes empty backfield on 3d and 1. Why not just announce that you have no intention on running the ball? 2nd quarter: AR underthrows pass which is intercepted deep in GB territory and results in Vikes only TD of the event. 2d quarter; GB is 2nd and 5 and fails to run the ball resulting in 2 failed passes and a FG. With 4:00 left in the half, GB running ball well and in a running situation decides to throw to Adams who makes the catch and then fumbles for the 3d turnover of the half. After GB stops Vikes 4th down attempt shortly before halftime, with plenty of time left and timeouts in its pocket, GB goes 3 and out on 3 incomplete passes with no run attempts. At about 1:10 left in the half, CB Williams intercepts pass but officials rule it incomplete. No booth review! Replay showed Williams made clean interception and controlled the ball to the ground. It wasn't until he rolled over than the ball come out. Bad call. At about the :50 sec. mark, Graham fumbles but GB recovers the ball. Would have been the 4th turnover of the half. And finally, with just seconds left in the half and one timeout in their pocket, GB has the ball on the 2 yard line. With the timeout, they have time for 2 shots at the endzone (including the option to run the ball). For some unknown reason, GB fails to get to the line timely, finds the play clock running down and decides to take their last timeout!!!!! No more chance to run the ball. So they throw an incompletion to Adams and settle for a field goal. Reminded me of the redzone incompetence that cost them a Loss to Philly earlier in the season.

Second half much better. GB still reluctant to run the ball even when the running plays are working. Even though Vikes are generating very little pass rush, an occasional screen play would help keep them honest. GB did not run a single screen pass in the entire game. And they seldom use this historically proven play while other teams run it successfully 2-3 times per game. And finally, GB chance to go up 14 points and Mason misses and extra point.

Out offense will have to play much better in the post season. Way to many mental errors, drops, and impatience in the running game. Is it possible that AR continues to audible out of running play and into passing plays because he wants to do more than just hand the ball off to a running back? He needs to let the coaches call the plays and realize its his job to execute the play that is called. Of course, an occasional audible is correct when made for the right reason.

With all this said, defense is looking very good but offense has been in this funk all season. With playoff caliber opponents an offense that cant find its way and relies too heavily on their defense can not make a deep playoff run. Either way.... thanks boys for giving us a lot of joy in 2019.

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