For the first time since week 17 of the 2005 season, the Green Bay Packers were not led out of the tunnel by Mike McCarthy. Instead, they were led out by interim head coach Joe Philbin. With Philbin at the helm, the Packers managed to do something they had not done in almost a month: win a game. The Packers played a complete game of football as they dominated the Atlanta Falcons 34-20. With the victory, the Packers move to 5-7-1 on the season, keeping their slim playoff hopes alive.
The Packers defense gave up a Falcons touchdown on the game’s opening drive. During that drive, Philbin used both of his challenges on catches by Julio Jones. Both were controversially upheld, forcing the Packers to play the last 58 and a half minutes of the game without any challenges. Thankfully for Philbin, the Packers executed the rest of the game.
On the Packers ensuing drive, Aaron Rodgers came out like a man on a mission. Rodgers threw for over 60 yards in a drive that ended with a Davante Adams touchdown. Starting fast has been a struggle for the Packers all season, so matching the Falcons’ touchdown with one of their own gave a much needed jolt.
One week ago, Mason Crosby missed a game-tying field goal as time expired against the Arizona Cardinals. One week later, Crosby connected from 48 and 50 yards, putting last week’s ending to rest. Sandwiched between the two Crosby field goals was Bashaud Breeland’s pick six off of Matt Ryan. The play by Breeland was the first time the Packers had returned an interception for a touchdown all season.
The capper on the day for the Packers was a 29 yard rushing touchdown by Aaron Jones, which put the Packers up 34-7 in the third quarter. The offense took their foot off the gas, while the defense did not give up the big play. Two garbage time touchdowns by the Falcons made the score look presentable. But in the end, it was a dominating victory by the Packers.
Some have thought the firing of McCarthy might have been premature, and that he should have been allowed to finish out the season after all he has accomplished. No matter what side of the coin people are on about that decision, it did put every member of the Packers on notice. If they failed to play up to management’s standards, they would join their former coach in the unemployment line.
Sunday saw a team willing to fight. When Rodgers got hit late on a slide, the entire offense came to his defense. The team showed a fire that hasn’t been lit for the past month. That fire might not be able to save their season. However, it might be enough to save the Packers from hitting rock bottom.