Aaron Rodgers never actually defined what “run the table” meant. The last six games of the regular season to ensure another playoff berth? Or all the way to Houston for Super Bowl LI?
Whatever his intent, the Green Bay Packers and their quarterback own the longest active winning streak among the NFC playoff teams, and whether momentum is anything other than some undefined intangible, perhaps the most important thing for coach Mike McCarthy’s team was the confidence that permeated through the visitors locker room after Sunday night’s 31-24 victory over the Detroit Lions.
“I believe in myself and my abilities, but I also believe in this team,” Rodgers said. “This wasn’t just a shot in the dark. It was an optimistic belief in my teammates that we were going to start handling adversity better.”
Rodgers somehow infused that into just about everyone around him with great performances from Ty Montgomery, Davante Adams, Jared Cook, Mike Daniels and more.
As much as anything, and that includes Rodgers’ own stellar play during the six-game winning streak, that feeling could be the best thing the Packers have in their favor as they head into Sunday’s playoff opener against the New York Giants at Lambeau Field.
The Packers have momentum, and Rodgers called that “contagious.”
“You have that feeling now when you enter a game that you don’t have during a losing streak, where you expect to win,” he said. “You expect to win when you take the field, and that’s an exciting energy that you can feel in the locker room and on the field pregame, and guys are sticking together.”
Several times during the streak, Rodgers has praised his teammates for not “making comments [or] being an unnamed source or saying derogatory things about teammates,” and coach Mike McCarthy last week described the team had “a little bit of an edge to them” that he noticed even before the streak began.
It was at the very least noteworthy — if not telling — that McCarthy described the reaction in the postgame locker room after winning the NFC North this way: “It wasn’t the best celebration we’ve ever had.”
“But this team has an energy, has an edge, has a confidence that was evident very early in our preseason,” McCarthy added. “And I’ve always believed in that and they believe in that. So maybe that’s why we’re not doing cartwheels right now because we have, like I said, our plan’s to try to win it all. We’re one of six that gets to go battle it out in the NFC and we’ll tighten our focus to the Giants. But we never lost sight of where we wanted to go.”
The number of players still around from the Super Bowl XLV team dwindles each year, but there are some key components of that team still around, Rodgers and Clay Matthews among them. And this team, the No. 4 seed in the NFC, might be similar to the 2010 wild-card club in at least one way.
“I don’t know if in 2010 we had all the pieces,” Matthews said. “I just think we got hot and no one wanted to play us then. Hopefully that’s the case this year.
“You need to be playing well toward the latter part of the season, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. I feel like we’re capable of getting back to where we want to go, and that’s the Super Bowl. So hopefully that’s the case.”
It would take a 10-game winning streak to do so. The six already off the table might have been the easy part.
“We have bigger aspirations,” McCarthy said, wearing an NFC North Champions hat. “So this is the first step.”