Game Notes: Big win in the Big Apple

-- What transpired for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday meant virtually nothing in terms of their season, but as quarterback Aaron Rodgers noted after the 44-38 overtime victory, there was more to play for than just draft position.

"It matters for pride, it matters for Joe," he said. "It matters for leadership purposes."

And he's right.

For the first time in a long time, it looked like Rodgers and his teammates were having fun. It may not have looked as much when they were down by 14 points twice, or when they were down by 15 entering the fourth quarter. But when they were battling back with 24 fourth-quarter points, the FOX cameras caught the signature Rodgers smirk multiple times. He was enjoying every minute of it, and after seeing body language critiques earlier this season, that's a welcomed sign.

But most importantly, the Packers won.

To play or not to play?

Rodgers made the decision to play against the Jets -- we assume -- and, logically, it wasn't the correct one. But where's the logic in anything these days?

He gets paid to play this game, and he's a grown man making a grown man's decision to put his body on the line for his team. It's fairly obvious the Packers needed any semblance of a momentum boost to close out the season and carry that winning attitude into what will be Rodgers' age 36 season next year. These players aren't going to "tank," especially not if it means moving up an extra two or three spots in draft position. It's not worth establishing a losing culture in your locker room.

And, at the same time, these extensive reps with rookie wide receivers Equanimeous St. Brown and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are worthwhile under these circumstances. Young players are given the opportunity to play in a regular-season atmosphere against starting caliber defenses; no back-ups, no undrafted walk-ons (unless that's who the other team lines up on the opposite side of the line, of course). Nothing can compare to a real, live game atmosphere that matters.

St. Brown had five catches for 94 yards before leaving the game with a concussion and Valdes-Scantling finished with five catches and 75 yards. Both contributed significantly and both offered even more reason to be optimistic for their respective development heading into 2019.

On top of all else, Rodgers has preached leadership more than anything else. He wanted to send his teammates one message by playing in these final two games:

"That it matters. Even when the record isn’t great, you’re not going to the playoffs, that it still matters. And I have a lot of pride; I love competing in anything. Like I said on the field after the game, I don’t want to look back in 20 years and wonder, 'What if I maybe have played that game could something special have happened? What would it look like to my teammates if they knew if I quit on them?' I hope my teammates know I’ll never quit on them."

Mike Pettine is safe. Ron Zook? Not so much.

The Packers' defense was bad at various points today, and they've been bad here and there throughout the season. But consider what Mike Pettine inherited when he was hired on as the Packers' defensive coordinator. No standout edge rusher, a pair of rookie cornerbacks where one is more of a project than the other and a starting free safety who was scared to get his jersey a little dirty. Considering what he had to work with, he's impressively transformed the Packers' defense for the better, and I, personally, can't commend him enough for that.

The guy made Kyler Fackrell a player, for Christ's sake. He's turning Tyler Lancaster into a force to be reckoned with along the interior. The worst scenario here would be for the Packers to have three different defensive coordinators in three years, and while finding that defensive mind wouldn't be too tall of a task, you'd ultimately prefer to have that sense of familiarity and continuity season-to-season. If it isn't broken, don't fix it.

However, there's the possibility of a new head coach wanting to hire his own staff. If that ends up being a reality, Pettine's job security with the Packers could be in danger.

Ron Zook on the other hand... Well, his special teams unit has been abhorrently bad the last two years. Their struggles seem amplified now more than ever, simply because, well, it's been that kind of year. In his defense, officiating on special teams has been bad across the league on different levels. But the Packers are an undisciplined group in that phase of the game, and they can't afford to struggle there when it's such an underrated but sizable factor in success. Andre Roberts returning a kickoff for a touchdown on Sunday in New York may have been the final nail in Zook's coffin.

Fourth quarter excellence

The Packers trailed 35-20 entering the fourth quarter. They had been up-and-down for most of the game, but special teams and their defense had dropped the ball and let Sam Darnold -- a rookie quarterback -- have his way with the game up to that point.

What ensued was foreign in comparison with the theme of the Packers' season.

They scored 24 points, six of which coming from an overtime touchdown to Davante Adams to seal the win. The Packers had scored 26 points in the fourth quarter of their previous eight games combined, dating all the way back to their meeting with the Los Angeles Rams in October.

There's no doubt that had the Packers not been able to sustain drives in the fourth quarter, or, Hell, just the second halves of games this season, they'd be playing for a lot more than pride and leadership right about now. They'd likely be competing for a playoff spot or even more had they already clinched one. Those 26 measly points and their second-half shortcomings are the differences that have made negative impacts in their record this year, potentially even above all else.

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (26)

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Lphill's picture

December 24, 2018 at 11:18 am

Nobody quit in this game they played like it meant something, the Jets have a very good defense and Rodgers got in a groove , when he is smiling it’s a good sign we did not see many smiles this year, let’s have a good draft and bring in the right personnel and win the North back and more next season.

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ILPackerBacker's picture

December 27, 2018 at 03:38 pm

Nobody quit? Go back and watch Tramon on running plays.
Try and find CM3 on any play not 'sistering'. Thank god he was basically benched in the second half.
Blake M should kick both of them right in the A$$. He did not quit. The only question is whether more jets had quit or not.

I can not decide if Bryce quit or is just that bad. And I don't have a preference either. I just want him off the field.

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I bleed green more's picture

December 24, 2018 at 12:02 pm

I have to say winning is more fun than losing. A lot of guys really played at an elevated level.

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Lare's picture

December 24, 2018 at 12:08 pm

Any professional athlete that is Ok with tanking to move up a couple draft spots may be an athlete, but they're certainly not a professional. That is why we saw the entire Packers team playing hard yesterday.

Randall and HHCD coasted the last few games last year, I hope that works out well for them now that they're no longer in Green Bay.

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stockholder's picture

December 24, 2018 at 12:35 pm

Professional, what Bull! These guys make life changing money. Quote "It matters for pride, it matters for Joe," he said. "It matters for leadership purposes." And the stats matter to Arron. You saw how the packers should play. Grow! And my comments were dead on prior to the game. The Money is why they play this game now. They don't care about trophies, awards, or even a ring anymore. If money is involved in anything. It's about that now. professional shhhhh.

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Lare's picture

December 24, 2018 at 05:41 pm

While some people like yourself may only do your job (if you have one) for money, I think the vast majority of people in the world (including professional athletes) also take pride in doing their job well, to the best of their ability and for the benefit of their employer.

You get back what you put into your life. Some people are content being burger flippers, others work hard to be more than that.

Hope Christmas adds some positivity to your life.

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stockholder's picture

December 24, 2018 at 08:32 pm

Their Jocks. Don't damage the reputation. They say this is a business. The NFL keeps moving teams. Example: Los Vegas. It's all about the money. Pride is not the word to use. Difference maker is. (Others want to succeed). But they still feel they can make that difference.\ Players hang around to get the money. Regardless if they hurt the teams chances or not. Regardless if they milk an injury? You don't see 1 player on the packers giving back money. But yet they must cut them. Did they sit the bench for pride? Would they give it back? No. They bend rules. Take drugs. And when their caught, they ask for union protection. The owners want the money they can make with a jock. The players what guaranteed money. The problem is some just aren't jocks anymore. Pride had nothing to do with the Jets game.

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Bert's picture

December 24, 2018 at 12:27 pm

I was actually hoping for a loss but I am pleased the team showed some heart and got the win. Nice to see moving forward that we have players who take their job seriously and have some pride. A much better omen than tanking.

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Skip greenBayless's picture

December 24, 2018 at 01:41 pm

What would have been so wrong with showing heart playing backups like Kizer and losing the game while still trying to win? Nothing that I can see. When people say "tanking" nobody is stupid enough (well I'm sure there's a few here) to actually believe the players out there are purposely not going to give it 100% effort. You can't pretend to play hard unless you are B.J. Raji playing in the Pro Bowl (that was ridiculous). I think many that are Pro Draft simply wanted Philbin to play the backups giving them valuable experience while at the same time hopefully increasing your odds of losing the game while going up against the starters of another team. Going all out with your starters was a total selfish act and did absolutely nothing except increase Aarron Rodgers ego and pad his stats against a horrible team. It also has now given many gullible people here a false sense of security that "Aaron is back". He's not. Nitschke, Mojo, Stockholder, Oppy and others had some great comments about that.

How would losing by a point today change anyone's life here or on the team? It wouldn't. You felt good for about 10 seconds they won yesterday but you would have felt much better for the rest of the year had they simply played some backups, gave it their all and still lost with Packer pride but moved up in the draft in all rounds. There's too many here that are hanging Aaron Rodgers jock straps over the fire place hoping Santa will fill it with 3 more years of "Jets" play. Don't be surprised if your jock strap is filled with a small lump of coal. Merry Christmas everyone!!

The Riprocks

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Bert's picture

December 24, 2018 at 01:36 pm

My jockstrap got filled with a banana and two walnuts!!

Merry Christmas to the Riprocks!!!

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Skip greenBayless's picture

December 24, 2018 at 02:13 pm

Good for you Bert. With the exclamation points it sounds like Santa knew exactly what you wanted and needed for Christmas.

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edp1959's picture

December 24, 2018 at 01:39 pm

To bad, sounds like you and some of your other buddies listed in your post got your feelings hurt because you can't realistically trash on Rodgers today. By the way, Boyle is garbage.

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Skip greenBayless's picture

December 24, 2018 at 02:05 pm

This was not a Aaron Rodgers trashing piece. It was simply a cautionary piece to not put all your eggs in one basket based on playing one of the worst teams in the NFL. Many other great people here that don't get the respect they deserve are saying similar things. Nobody "hates" Aaron Rodgers. Just different viewpoints regarding handling these last two games.

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dobber's picture

December 24, 2018 at 03:35 pm

Didn't seem like you were talking about eggs for awhile there...

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edp1959's picture

December 24, 2018 at 06:55 pm

Respect, you mean the kind of respect I have seen you and other so called fans give a player that has carried this team on his back for 10 years. Calling him trash, washed up and needs to be traded. What have you and the so called others you feel deserve respect done for this team. Sure he hasn't played like we are used to seeing him play this year. There may be very good reasons for that, some don't have anything with him. So I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt because he has earned it. The only respect each one of you deserve is the same kind you have shown.

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Lare's picture

December 24, 2018 at 05:51 pm

I talked to Jed, Granny, Elly May and Jethro today, they all agreed that it was a good decision to have Rodgers play and win the game.

Of course, they're just Packers fans that enjoy seeing them win.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

December 25, 2018 at 08:43 am

Too funny Lare!

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HankScorpio's picture

December 24, 2018 at 02:23 pm

Did two people write this with only one byline?

First this:
"as quarterback Aaron Rodgers noted after the 44-38 overtime victory, there was more to play for than just draft position."

Then this:
"Rodgers made the decision to play against the Jets -- we assume -- and, logically, it wasn't the correct one. But where's the logic in anything these days?"

The answer to where is the logic in playing Rodgers was already given--ie there was more to play for than just draft position. If you accept that is true, playing Rodgers is perfectly logical. If you don't accept that is true, playing him becomes illogical.

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Samson's picture

December 24, 2018 at 03:47 pm

Play to win is really the only approach. -- This is a mega-bucks sport & winning is everything all the time no matter the circumstances.
However, if anyone believes that an OT win against a lousy team like the Jets actually means something going forward ..... well .... I have some ocean-front property in Iowa I'd love to sell ya.
The Pack are headed toward a completely new coaching staff and probably the biggest turnover in roster in 10 years or more. --- This game won't be remembered by anyone (or next week's game against the Lions).

Time to focus on the draft, free agency & season 2019.

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Lare's picture

December 24, 2018 at 06:05 pm

"However, if anyone believes that an OT win against a lousy team like the Jets actually means something going forward ..... well .... I have some ocean-front property in Iowa I'd love to sell ya."

See, that's why this whole discussion is so meaningless. It's not up to the fans to make that decision, it's up to team management and the players. And if any posters here and their little group of freinds think their opinion means diddly squat in the team's decision, I have some excellent development property in Adams County you may be interested in.

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HankScorpio's picture

December 24, 2018 at 06:54 pm

It doesn't matter if you, me and everyone else thinks they just had to sweat it out vs a lousy team they should be beaten easily.

It matters what the players on the team take from it. I doubt the guys on the field will forget so easily.

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Spock's picture

December 25, 2018 at 04:50 am

I will NEVER advocate that the Packers "play to lose" for draft picks or any other reason. I am astonished at the people who have brazenly advocated "tanking" to possibly move up a few draft spots. That's a "loser" mentality and IMHO is shameful. I've spent a large portion of my life watching bad Packer teams followed by a more enjoyable portion of my life watching winning seasons. I'll take any win, any time. This is my team and I support it proudly, win or lose, but much prefer winning :) . Two non-playoff seasons have turned a lot of the comment section into whiners. That saddens me. Well, anyone who is a fan is welcome to their opinion, but I find this latest bandwagon type trash talking of decent human beings and advocating "tanking" to be "disappointing" at minimum. Just my two cents.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

December 25, 2018 at 07:05 am

Logically, players have no economic incentive to want the team to move up in the draft. It might not be a consideration for guys with big contracts or those who are very good - that is, players who are locks. Draft picks tend to replace current players. And the better they are, the more likely they are to be a threat.

However, this is the NFL. Every snap played goes on tape for coaches and scouts in player personnel around the league to see.

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tincada's picture

December 25, 2018 at 08:54 am

It took an overtime to win one on the road. Oh boy, now that's impressive. Sneaking past a 4 /11 team now that's something to add to be proud of and add to the repertoire

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tincada's picture

December 25, 2018 at 08:54 am

It took an overtime to win one on the road. Oh boy, now that's impressive. Sneaking past a 4 /11 team now that's something to add to be proud of and add to the repertoire

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PatrickGB's picture

December 25, 2018 at 09:40 am

Play to win, Each and Every Game!

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