For the first time in a long time, the Green Bay Packers played a complete football game, and the performance came in what was essentially a playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings on New Year’s Eve.
“Really proud of our team tonight. I thought that was a complete football game really in every phase for four quarters,” head coach Matt LaFleur said following a 23-point win on Sunday.
To help get the team back to .500 and in the driver’s seat for a spot in the playoffs, the offense dropped 33 points on what was a top-10 scoring defense thanks to a four-touchdown outing from Jordan Love, a second-consecutive 100-yard rushing game from Aaron Jones, and a breakout performance from Bo Melton.
The defense also held up its end of the bargain on the heels of an abysmal three-game stretch. After allowing the likes of Tommy DeVito, Baker Mayfield, and Bryce Young to have career-days, the Packers were lucky to face fifth-round rookie Jaren Hall. The Vikings’ last-ditch effort to find stability at quarterback quickly backfired when they fell into a 23-3 hole in the first half. Before being benched for Nick Mullens, Hall completed just 50 percent of his passes, was sacked three times, and threw an interception.
Ultimately, a halftime change at quarterback wasn’t enough to save Minnesota. They still went on to get outgained by 259 yards on offense while losing in time of possession by over 15 minutes and coming up short in the turnover battle.
Green Bay punted only twice — tying their season low — and their only blunders were a failed fourth down conversion that slipped through the hands of Melton and a muffed punt by Samori Toure that set up the Vikings’ lone touchdown in the fourth quarter.
It was Green Bay’s most complete game since their 38-20 win over the Chicago Bears to kick off the 2023 season. In that game, Love threw for three touchdowns, Jones scored twice, and the defense recovered a fumble and sacked Justin Fields four times before sealing the victory with a late pick-six.
But between Weeks 1 and 17, the Packers were an enigma. During the early part of the season, the defense kept them in games against the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos, but the offense’s inexperience and lack of identity cost them dearly in devastating losses.
LaFleur said the turning point for his offense wasn’t until their Week 10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I really think the turning point was in the Pittsburgh game,” said LaFleur. “And I know we didn’t win that game, but I was kind of cautiously optimistic when we came out of that game from an offensive standpoint that we were executing things and (Love) was making some plays.”
Love and the offense have been on a tear ever since. However, the defense has let the team down in some pivotal games.
The aforementioned DeVito and the New York Giants handed LaFleur his first December loss as the Packers’ coach in demoralizing fashion in Week 14. The following Sunday, Mayfield became the first opposing quarterback to have a perfect passer rating at Lambeau Field. Then, Young threw for a career-high 312 yards and nearly propelled the Carolina Panthers to their third win in a game that would have essentially ended Green Bay’s season.
Basically, complimentary football was nonexistent for this Packers team until Sunday. Love and the offense clicked for all four quarters, and the defense made Hall and Mullens look like the low-tier quarterbacks they are.
Of course, it will all mean nothing if Green Bay doesn’t take care of business in the season finale against Chicago. The Bears have won four of their last five and would love nothing more than to spoil the Packers’ playoff hopes, just like the Detroit Lions did a year ago.
Green Bay already had one complete performance against Chicago. Now, they just have to do it again.