At the height of their mid-2000s dominance, the New England Patriots coined a term for games like today’s.
They called them “t-shirt and hat games.” Nothing beats winning a “t-shirt and hat game.” The Green Bay Packers had a chance to do that today at Soldier Field.
Check and check.
The Packers are now back-to-back NFC North Champions as a result of their 21-13 win over the Chicago Bears. Here are my takeaways from the victory:
- NFC North Champs. Why don’t you go ahead and say that again. Damn it feels good to say doesn’t it? This was written last week, but it’s worth saying once more – after a heartbreaking defeat in Indianapolis in week five, it felt like this team was going to need a whole bunch of breaks just to scrape its way to eight or nine wins. What we got instead was eight wins in nine games.
- The level of intestinal fortitude within this organization is something to behold. Which really is just a fancy way of saying this team has balls. Tough as nails.
- And that’s a good thing because, really, Green Bay made this one a lot tougher than it needed to be. This should have been a 27-10 no doubter.
- It sure sounds like Mike McCarthy is going to stick with Mason Crosby. That doesn’t surprise. But it’s absolutely the wrong call. Crosby’s two misses Sunday were a huge reason the Bears were in the game until the bitter end. Each and every week Crosby is costing this team points. His failures, single-handedly, are changing the complexion of these games. Yes, the Packers continue to win. But at some point, you have to think he’ll really cost them. And we’re heading rapidly towards January.
- Also, Mike – DON’T EVER CALL A PUNT RETURN TOSSBACK LIKE THAT AGAIN. EVER. The worst call of his career there. No reason for it.
- Charles Tillman has a knack for knocking the ball out. We all know that. But if Ryan Grant wants to keep his place in this three-man backfield, he has to be better than that. That simple.
- Start faster. Slow starts are becoming a major issue for this team. Do that in a playoff game and it could be over before you blink.
- Are those all the major negatives? (Looks at list) Yep, that’s about it. See, not so bad. Now let’s get to the positives, shall we?
- Clay Matthews returns and – hey what do you know? – the pass rush returns, as well. Great game from him, in multiple facets, really. There just aren’t many guys like him in the league. His new contract can’t be too high. But that new sack dance…well, let’s just say I wasn’t a fan.
- Then again – I’m not the audience he’s aiming for with that.
- Mike Neal’s return was key for the pass rush, also. He’s quietly becoming a key component on this defense.
- I know he had help, but Tramon Williams turned in an outstanding day on Brandon Marshall. Two really good weeks in a row for him. He’s back now. You can not overstate the importance of that.
- Ditto for Sam Shields.
- B.J. Raji is officially in beast mode now. The big man seems locked in. You noticed him on almost every play, many of which he was damn near unblockable. Like Matthews, there just aren’t many guys like Raji.
- Probably about time we talk about that fella playing quarterback, huh? This was one of Aaron Rodgers’ best games in awhile. He made so many plays today on the move, reaching “work of art” level more than a couple of times. He also had more time today, seemingly, than he’s had in awhile – something that could prove lethal once Jordy Nelson returns.
- I’ll just go ahead and guess that T.J. Lang being back at left guard has a lot to do with that.
- James Jones – congrats on the hat trick. He’s proving to be the second most reliable target on the team at the moment.
- Which is saying a lot about how good Randall Cobb has been. This kid is special, folks. I’m kind of running out of things to say about him.
- I want to see more DuJuan Harris.
- You knew Jay Cutler was going to give them one, at least. And it wasn’t really that surprising Casey Hayward was the one to get it.
- The Packers are officially in the tournament. Seeding now becomes the issue. Green Bay has a two-game lead on the Giants and Redskins (and maybe the Cowboys as their game is still ongoing at the time I write this). So barring anything crazy, the Packers should be no worse than the No. 3 seed in the NFC. They probably can’t catch Atlanta for the No. 1 overall seed – the Falcons are two up on Green Bay – but they could definitely catch San Francisco (or maybe Seattle) for the No. 2 seed.
- Regardless, this team still has a lot to play for. There will be a January in Titletown. Let’s celebrate.