2020 Week 17 - That’s What Cheese Said

“This wasn’t our only goal, this was just the start of it.” 

The Green Bay Packers left Soldier Field clinching the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs was just another item off the list for the Packers. Win the NFC North, check. Win the No. 1 seed in the NFC, check. But there’s still more in front of Green Bay, and everyone at 1265 Lombardi Ave. knows it. 

“We will celebrate this, and we’re happy that the road to Tampa goes through Lambeau, but we also understand that there’s a lot in front of us and we’re gonna have to continue to be disciplined in our approach and take it day-by-day,” said Head Coach Matt LaFleur who now boasts a 26-6 record in his first two regular seasons as the 15th head coach of the Packers. 

It was almost poetic that LaFleur’s first game of his coaching tenure came at Soldier Field in 2019, and this season he watched his team clinch the No. 1 seed in the same stadium. Safety Adrian Amos, too, snagged an interception in both away contests against his former team. 

“There was a little bit of bend there but there was no break,” LaFleur said of his defense. 

While the Packers allowed the Bears to convert on 5-of-6 fourth down tries, they held Chicago to only 1-of-5 in the red zone, forcing them to settle for field goals. Even with short field position for a number of drives, Green Bay only allowed one touchdown on the night. 

“The one thing I’m really proud of our defense is, we’ve challenged them in terms of running to the football, getting multiple hats at the point of attack, and I think our guys have answered that,” said LaFleur. “They’re playing with more energy. More emotion. Playing together. Really focused on doing their one-eleventh, doing their job at the best of their ability.”

Beyond Amos’ interception, inside linebacker Christian Kirksey got the team’s only sack on Mitchell Trubisky, and Jaire Alexander forced a fumble early that was recovered by Rashan Gary. That’s not counting the handful of near misses from Packers defenders that could’ve been picks. 

After holding Derrick Henry in Week 16 to 98 yards and no score, all eyes were on the defense again to see how they’d respond to a much-improved Bears offense led by David Montgomery. 

While Montgomery did get the team’s only touchdown, he was held to 69 yards rushing with a long of eight on the night. 

“I think our guys have answered the bell,” LaFleur said of the defense and its emphasis on stopping the run, giving credit to defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. “That was a glaring blemish, if you will, prior to the last couple weeks, and our guys have answered it time and time again.”

On offense, it was another MVP performance from quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who at 37 years old just finished the best statistical season of his career. 

Rodgers threw four touchdowns against the Bears, bringing his season total to 48. That eclipsed his previous high of 45 TDs from 2011 and set a new franchise record. He also finished the season with a quarterback rating of 121.5, the second highest rating in NFL history, behind, you guessed it, Rodgers in 2011 (122.5). What’s more, Rodgers was only sacked 20 times in 2020, despite the offensive line shuffling for a good portion of the season. That’s the least amount of sacks he’s ever taken in a season. 

It was also a historic season for receiver Davante Adams, despite only playing in 13.5 games. Adams finished the year with 115 receptions, breaking the franchise record Sterling Sharpe held previously (112). Adams also hauled in one touchdown against Chicago, bringing his season total to 18 and tying Sharpe’s touchdown record. 

“Those guys are two special, Hall of Fame players,” LaFleur said of Rodgers and Adams, calling them the best at what they do.

Naturally, the duo spent little time on their own personal accomplishments, choosing instead to highlight the other’s achievements. 

“I just have a ton of respect and appreciation for him and what he’s accomplished,” Rodgers said of Adams still setting records despite missing playing time. “He’s just such a special, special player.”

“MVP should be locked up. There’s nothing else to really talk about,” said Adams, who also referenced the narrative that surrounded Rodgers for much of the offseason that he didn’t have weapons. “It’s pretty clear to me who the MVP of the season is.”

Beyond Rodgers and Adams, tight end Robert Tonyan also tied a franchise record after hauling in his 11th touchdown of the season on Sunday. That ties the record held by Paul Coffman for a Green Bay tight end in a single season. 

But looking even further than the offense’s regular contributors, another name emerged. Tight end Dominique Dafney, primarily a special teams player, caught the first touchdown of his career in Chicago. He became the 11th player this season to catch a touchdown pass, another franchise record for Green Bay. On the year, thirteen different players scored for the Packers (Rodgers and AJ Dillon with rushing touchdowns). 

“We don’t get enough credit for the depth that we do have,” Adams said in reference to players like Dafney. “I’ve got a lot of faith in every single position on this team.”

Dafney was the topic of quite a few post-game pressers, with LaFleur expressing that “the game’s not too big for him.” 

“I think we’ve got a resilient bunch of guys that love each other and love competing,” LaFleur said of his team. “It truly is a total team effort, and I couldn’t be more proud to be the head coach here and working with these guys.”

As great as securing the No. 1 seed feels, the Packers know everything is still right in front of them. 

“This wasn’t our only goal, this was just the start of it,” said Amos. “Our goal was to win the North and then once we won that, our goal was to be the No. 1 seed. And then we have goals coming forward, so it’s ‘be happy, celebrate now’ but when we get home, it’s time to rest up, fix the little things that we’ve done wrong, and get prepared for whoever the next opponent is.”

The Packers will have a week to rest for the first time since the Week 5 bye, and then either the Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or Washington Football Team will come to town for the Divisional Round of the playoffs. 

“It’s not gonna be easy but it gives us a tremendous amount of confidence knowing we’re at home...I’m just really proud and happy that we’re in this position,” said Adams. “Everything is in front of us and we control it all, so we’re in a good spot.”

While Green Bay has looked flat coming out of previous bye weeks, Rodgers doesn’t feel that’s the case this year, and it wasn’t the case in last year’s Divisional Round against Seattle. 

“I’m not worried about any rust or anything. We’ve been real solid all season in situational football, and we were again today on third down, in the red zone, so I like our chances moving forward.” 

The coaching staff will do some preliminary scouting during the week and then get to work prepping for whoever Green Bay’s opponent is on Sunday. 

“We all have a greater goal here and that’s to hopefully at the end of this thing, hoist that Lombardi,” said LaFleur. “We know that every game from here on out is going to be a challenge.”

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (13)

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PatrickGB's picture

January 05, 2021 at 02:31 pm

I think that many people think that the next real threat in the playoffs is Tampa. And based on how they are performing I get that. They were the only team all season to shut us down. They are this years Niners. Except this year our defense is better and Tampa has shown how to disrupt our offense and that was with Bak in the lineup. Yet I expect that if we do meet it will be a different story. It will be different because of the players mentioned in this article.

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Cubbygold's picture

January 05, 2021 at 04:19 pm

The high temp in Tampa on gameday was 90. Heat index on the field must have been at or above 100. Packers just don't do well after practicing and playing in cooler weather all fall. Would expect the reverse to be true if they get Tampa in 10 degree weather.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 05, 2021 at 07:36 pm

Thanks for that reminder. I remember thinking that day, we never play them well in warm weather, almost never And that Tampa thrives on our sluggish play there. But in Green Bay, whole different story, it totally flips. I don't know but I'm feeling like '97 here. Nobody wants to play us here, especially when we have the team to back it up.

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PewAuKeeFan's picture

January 05, 2021 at 09:40 pm

Packers were gassed out by the second half in Tampa Bay due to the high temps there. That will not be the case in Green Bay. The same energy in the first half will continue in the second half, while some of the Bucs players will definitely suffer in the cold.

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murf7777's picture

January 05, 2021 at 06:09 pm

I think the most concern isn’t that we lost that game,but that Brady is, we’ll Brady and he is comfortable playing in the cold.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 05, 2021 at 07:38 pm

Tampa may not even make it.

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Lphill's picture

January 05, 2021 at 03:31 pm

I want it be Tampa , the first meeting a few negative plays and the offense stalled, Pettine has to pressure Brady and you can't do that with 2 D lineman, I hope Pettine learned something from the Titans game .

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Cubbygold's picture

January 05, 2021 at 04:14 pm

The sacks being the lowest of Rodgers career is certainly due to great OL play, but it's also the play calling and the system they're running. The ball is out before anyone could get to him. Far cry from Rodgers taking 7 or 8 sacks in Seattle a few years ago.

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Cubbygold's picture

January 05, 2021 at 04:15 pm

Amazing that Rodgers will win an MVP after, supposedly, the worst NFL draft of all time. Where does WR fall on the 2021 draft board?

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Jared's picture

January 05, 2021 at 07:20 pm

I believe depth for the front 7 on defense is greater than the need for WR. AR can make a receiver good.

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HankScorpio's picture

January 06, 2021 at 05:45 am

Rodgers certainly was amazing.

It had nothign to do with the rookie class or the talent at WR after Adams. It is a mistake to conflate overcoming an obstacle with the obstacle not being there.

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PatrickGB's picture

January 05, 2021 at 04:41 pm

I don’t know exactly what it was but Tampa and even Carolina seemed to have found a way to fool with Rodgers head a bit. Unscouted looks,I suppose, might have played a part. As to the weather issue, uncomfortable is uncomfortable regardless of weather. Yet I do see an advantage with the ball. It’s a simply different ball unless of course Brady has a friend mess with it.

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murf7777's picture

January 05, 2021 at 06:10 pm

I really liked MLF’s comment that our corners need to press more!

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