The Packers haven't given up the fight even when they could have
The Green Bay Packers didn’t have to play hard. They didn’t have to push the pile to force AJ Dillon into the end zone. Special-teams players getting no glory could be forgiven for not having their hearts in blocking for returners but instead chose to pave the way for Keisean Nixon to shine. Sure, the playoffs are still technically possible, but it requires so much more work, so much more winning and so much more help, it’s almost too esoteric to comprehend. The L.A. Rams stink; the Packers could have won with their C+ game. And while it wasn’t an A+ game for Green Bay, it was an A-level effort, proof Matt LaFleur still has the hearts of this Packers team.
At times this season, even before the year got away from a team meant to be Super Bowl contenders, effort waned. Tackling became optional. Focus lapsed, coverages busted, and the Packers couldn’t lock in. It indicted the players, the coaches, and the organization that even when the team still had a chance to turn around their season, to avoid having to scratch and claw their way into the postseason rather than cruise like their NFC North rivals to the West, they couldn’t do it.
But rather than letting that snowball, the Packers found a way to turn it around, thanks in part to Christian Watson to be sure, but also to a coaching staff that installed a culture led by its players. It’s taken leadership for a player like Darnell Savage to subvert his role and not have it become a problem. He was an ascending star not too long ago.
They cut Amari Rodgers for poor performance and Kylin Hill for a poor attitude. The old saying goes, “Adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it.” Well, the Packers are finding out now who their main characters are and who needs to be relegated to the chorus.
With Rudy Ford and Keisean Nixon on the field instead of Savage who played just one snap, the Packers held the Rams to 156 yards. They played faster, more confidently, and more downhill. The Rams might be bad—OK, the Rams are bad—but that’s a dominating performance. Preston Smith, working against the one actually good Rams offensive lineman, brought intensity, effort, and impactful defending. He’s under contract and with Rashan Gary out, the Packers can’t afford to move on from him this offseason. After competing for Super Bowls the last few years, it would be easy enough for him to give less than max effort.
He didn’t. That speaks to heart.
And scoff if you want to. These are NFL players. They’re getting paid millions. It wasn’t that long ago the Packers clearly quit on Mike McCarthy. The players looked disinterested, lacked fire, and opened seemingly every game by going down 10+ points because no one was excited to be there. Watch some of the middling and bad teams around the league on a weekly basis. Their hearts aren’t always in it.