Packers season going the way Aaron Rodgers envisioned after 4-8 start

It was so easy to kick Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers when they were down.

A 4-8 start, marred by a five-game losing streak, and it looked like Rodgers was at the end of his road as the NFL’s most elite quarterback. And it looked like the Packers, playoff mainstays of the past three seasons, were out of it in October.

Watch the Packers now after their resounding 41-17 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Rodgers and the Packers are one win away from making the playoffs against the Detroit Lions next week. And that could be scary for the elite NFC team that could see them early in the playoffs.

“It’s really special. It is,” Rodgers said after the Vikings win. “It’s been an interesting year. It hasn’t been my best football at times. to step up my leadership and be someone the guys can rely on to stick together.

Rodgers’ abilities have been questioned, and some have wondered if it’s time the Packers gave Jordan Love the keys to offense.

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Some knocked out the Packers in the weakest NFC we’ve seen in years, where the Eagles and 49ers are the elite, and others like the Vikings look dominant one week and can lose badly in another.

Some even thought it was time to end the Rodgers era.

When the Packers felt the brunt of criticism on their rocky start, Rodgers got it all. And he let his faith carry him and the Packers to a playoff game.

“I was resigned that some of these realities were possible,” Rodgers said.

“And when I took my mind there, I had peace about it,” he added. And I think that’s what I’m most proud of for me and our team: there were a lot of different things that could happen, and we pulled together, and we put ourselves in a position to do something Special.

Rodgers is right: A lot has been done in Green Bay to open the door for them to sniff out the playoffs. A week ago at Christmas, the Packers beat the Dolphins, while the Lions, Seahawks and Commanders and Giants all lost. This week, the Packers handled their business, while the Lions got back on track with a 41-10 victory over the Bears.

When the Packers were 3-6, Rodgers was confident they could beat the Cowboys or the Titans. They beat Dallas.

Rodgers knew the Packers could compete well with the Bears and Rams. They won both games.

Rodgers thought the Dolphins Christmas game was a “joker”. But they won in Miami.

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And with two games to go, in their building, with his reputation for winning in December and January, Rodgers was unwavering in his confidence in himself and his teammates.

Rodgers, of course, wasn’t going to share those thoughts with others or even during his weekly appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show.”

He kept them to himself and he was right.

“I had faith,” Rodgers said. “Sometimes you have to deceive yourself a bit to believe you have more. But I definitely had confidence that I was going to fall for sure. I believe in the power of manifestation. I believe in momentum. I strongly believe in the strength of the spirit. And when you start to firmly believe in something, miraculous things can happen.

Against Minnesota, Green Bay special teams overcame an early error, allowing a punt that led to an early field goal, with returner Keisean Nixon taking the ensuing kickoff 105 yards out for a touchdown.

Two practices later, the Packers defense came on strong when safety Darnell Savage intercepted an angled pass and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown to help Green Bay take a 14-3 lead.

It all happened as Rodgers completed just one pass for a yard, and his worst play in the first quarter was a sack he took for a loss of 16 yards.

“It was a huge, huge start for us,” Rodgers said. “The next thing you know, we have a 14-3 lead and we haven’t had anything to do in attack. For sure it’s a bit of a different feeling.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers thought Miami's Christmas Day game was a "joker." The Packers won and continued the team's journey to an eventual playoff appearance.

It was the perfect cushion for Rodgers and the Packers offense. And before the Vikings knew it, the Packers had an unanswered 41 points with five scored drives on offense that included a touchdown pass and a touchdown run for Rodgers.

“It gives us a lot of confidence,” Rodgers said. “It was the first game of the whole season where we were playing complementary football.”

The Packers don’t have the high expectations of last season to deliver this year. They’re not the No. 1 seed like they were last season, only to fall to the 49ers in the second round of the playoffs. Or in 2020, when they were the top seed and fell to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in the NFC title game. Or in 2019, when they were the second seed and lost to the 49ers in the NFC title game.

It almost feels like the 2022-23 Packers like to be the underdog, the afterthought, the team that could get pretty overlooked and show you that you were wrong to underestimate them.

Rodgers and the Packers’ offense are on pace, and the Packers’ defensive and special teams are gelling at the right time this season.

“We’re becoming a more dangerous team,” Rodgers said. “Now what are they going to say?”

There will be a lot to talk about when the Packers suffer their next loss.

So far, the Packers have shown they’re still a team to be feared.

USA Today

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