3 Takeaways from Packers' Week 8 Win
The Green Bay Packers dethroned the Arizona Cardinals from the ranks of the unbeaten Thursday night.
Green Bay produced the victory without Davante Adams, Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Adams and Lazard are on the COVID-19/reserve list, and Valdes-Scantling is working his way back from injury.
Aaron Rodgers was not fazed by the offensive absences, as he relied on Aaron Jones and Randall Cobb to get the ball into the end zone.
Green Bay's defense did not have a great game, but it did enough over four quarters to contain Kyler Murray in the passing game. Murray did not have a touchdown pass and threw two interceptions, including the game-winning pick from Rasul Douglas.
The Packers did not make life easy on themselves in the final four minutes. Head coach Matt LaFleur failed on a risk he took to go for it on 4th-and-goal at the 1-yard-line, but the gamble wasn't punished thanks to Douglas' interception with 15 seconds left.
Green Bay's win pushed it to the top of the NFC over Arizona. The head-to-head tiebreaker could be vital for the Packers if they remain on the same record as the Cardinals.
Aaron Rodgers Did More with Less Again
Aaron Rodgers won the last three games for which he did not have Davante Adams available.
Rodgers and the Packers offensive staff tailored Thursday's game plan to suit the players he did have at his disposal. Green Bay called on Aaron Jones to shoulder a heavy workload, and Randall Cobb was immense in the red zone with a pair of touchdown catches.
Although Rodgers did not have his top three receivers available, he still found comfort in the pocket with the players he trusts the most. Jones led the team in targets, receptions and receiving yards, while Cobb was massive inside the red zone with two touchdown catches.
Rodgers also called on tight end Robert Tonyan for three catches and 49 yards before he became the latest passing-game target to go down with an injury.
The quarterback even found some comfort throwing to Juwann Winfree, Equanimeous St. Brown and Josiah Deguara, all of whom are not regular targets in the Packers offense.
Thursday's performance speaks to how well Rodgers can adjust to adverse situations, and it installed more faith that the Packers can make a deep run regardless of which players are on the field.
Matt LaFleur's 4th-and-Goal Gamble Was the Right Call
Green Bay faced all sorts of difficulties on its final offensive series in the red zone.
Jones appeared to cross the goal line on first down, but he was ruled just short of it after a review. He was then stopped by Dennis Gardeck and Jordan Hicks on second down. Rodgers rushed for four yards on third down after a delay of game pushed back the team.
LaFleur could have opted for a field goal, but that would have been the wrong call with Kyler Murray receiving more than three minutes to drive down the field.
Instead, the Packers dialed up a pass play in which Rodgers targeted Cobb. The pass fell incomplete, and Arizona was forced to start on its own 1-yard-line. The Cardinals drove the ball down to the Green Bay 5-yard-line before Douglas' interception.
The ease with which the Cardinals made it that far reinforced LaFleur's decision to go for it. If Green Bay settled for a field goal, Arizona would have driven down for a potential touchdown and would have taken a one-point lead with little time left on the clock.
LaFleur was playing to put the game away. The move did not pay off right away, but it was the right call.
Thursday's Win Is Massive for NFC Playoff Race
Green Bay should be the favorite to capture the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
The Packers own a valuable head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cardinals and enter the weekend with a better conference record over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys. They also have a firm hold on the NFC North, so they will likely be on top of the NFC for the rest of the regular season.
The NFC North leader has a potential tricky road trip to Kansas City ahead in Week 9, but it will have a significant rest advantage over the Kansas City Chiefs since they play Monday night.
Green Bay still has to play the Los Angeles Rams, but that game comes at Lambeau Field in Week 12. A victory in that game would give the Packers all the possible head-to-head tiebreakers they need over fellow NFC contenders given they do not play Tampa Bay or Dallas.
As long as Green Bay takes care of its divisional foes and beats the Rams and Seattle Seahawks at home, its conference record will be superior to those of the Bucs and Cowboys.
If everything goes to plan, the NFC race to the Super Bowl will once again go through Lambeau Field. Thursday's result will be a major reason why.