|Packers say their season started to turn around with loss to the Patriots||02.02.11 at 11:15 pm ET|
When it came to the 2010 Packers, the turning point in their season came on the night of Dec. 19 at Gillette Stadium.
Green Bay was coming off an ugly loss to the Lions, a defeat that saw starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers get knocked out of the game with a concussion, his second of the season. The Packers also had several players limited in practice over the course of the week, a group that included linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Charles Woodson. Rodgers was ruled out late in the week, and an already struggling Green Bay team was given little chance at winning.
But even at less than their best — including a botched sequence late in the game that prevented them from what might have been an attempt at a game-winning touchdown — the Packers hung tough and nearly matched the Patriots. Without Rodgers, Green Bay pushed New England to the limit, but eventually fell 31-27, a loss that dropped them to 8-6 on the season.
In a game that will be remembered around New England as the night Dan Connolly delivered one of the most memorable kick returns in franchise history, for the Packers, the contest was a tribute to their depth. Green Bay — which eventually landed 16 players on injured reserve over the course of the season — got 251 yards passing from backup quarterback Matt Flynn, while other players also stepped up and made big plays at key times in the contest.
While the phrase “moral victory” is tough for players to stomach when it comes to explaining away late-season losses, the defeat to the Patriots galvanized the Packers, and showed them what they were truly capable of. If they could go on the road and almost knock off New England with a backup quarterback, well, there’s no telling what they could accomplish.
“You don’t win games off of moral victories, but you can take a lot away from them. What we took from that game was we have a lot of guys who are going to step up and fight despite of who’s playing,” Green Bay wide receiver Greg Jennings said Wednesday when asked about the December loss to the Patriots. “That is why we are here today — because of guys being able to step up and fill voids.
“Matt came in and he played phenomenal. We just weren’t able to pull it out for him. It was definitely one of those turning points in the season where we were like, ‘We have a nucleus of guys that can get it done anywhere.’”
“That game showed that even without Aaron, we are still a competitive team,” said wide receiver James Jones. “It gave us a boost of confidence.”
The Packers are still enjoying the benefits of that boost. Buoyed by that performance against the Patriots — and still in control of its playoff fortunes — Green Bay won the last two regular-season games by a combined score of 55-20. After that, they have rolled through the postseason, picking up three consecutive playoff road wins by an average of 13 points, including a 48-21 blowout in Atlanta over the No. 1 playoff seed in the NFC, the Falcons.
And now, while they now stand on the cusp of Super Bowl glory, they certainly don’t forget how they got there.
“We certainly had a disappointing stretch in those two games, especially when we went to Detroit and then going on the road and having to compete against a very good ball club at their place in New England,” Jennings said. “Dropping those two games really hurt us, but at the same time we were still in control of our own fate. That is all you can ask for going into the latter part of the season, trying to make the playoffs — that you can control your own destiny. We were able to control our own destiny by making sure we got those last two wins that we needed to have.”
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