3 Takeaways from Packers' Week 16 Win

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 27, 2021

3 Takeaways from Packers' Week 16 Win

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    The Green Bay Packers took another step toward claiming the NFC's No. 1 seed on Saturday. It wasn't pretty, and the Packers needed a little good fortune to outlast the Cleveland Browns, but Green Bay picked up its 12th win of the season.

    Green Bay cannot take its foot off of the proverbial gas pedal, though. Three teams in the NFC have 11 wins, and the Packers cannot clinch the top seed until Week 18. The Dallas Cowboys pose a particularly dangerous threat as they have a better conference record.

    The Packers have lost two conference games, while the Cowboys have only one.

    Green Bay must win out to guarantee a first-round playoff bye. That's entirely possible with winnable games against the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions left on the slate. However, Saturday's narrow win did nothing to suggest that it's a foregone conclusion.

    Here's what we learned during the Packers' 24-22 win in Week 16.

This Is Still a Davante Adams-Centric Passing Attack

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    In Week 15, the Baltimore Ravens put a ton of defensive attention on star wideout Davante Adams. While Adams was held mostly in check—he finished with 44 yards and a touchdown—Marquez Valdes-Scantling picked up the slack with 98 yards and a score of his own.

    However, finding a consistent No. 2 receiver has been a struggle for Green Bay, and it's still an issue with two weeks to go. The Browns showed Adams single coverage in the first half, and he burned them repeatedly.

    The second half, however, was a different story.

    Adams racked up eight receptions, 88 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. In the second, he had two catches for 26 yards. The Packers offense largely stalled.

    To be fair, Aaron Rodgers only attempted 11 passes in the second half, but the Packers mustered only six first downs and three points in the final two quarters—when Adams was regularly bracketed by two defenders. Allen Lazard was the only other player to surpass 21 receiving yards in the game. He had two receptions for 45 yards and a score.

    Had the Browns blanketed Adams all game, things could have gone quite differently. That raises a concern heading into the postseason because a strong defensive performance or injury could potentially take Adams out of the equation.

    While the Packers have searched all season for a consistent No. 2 target, they simply don't have one.

Run Defense Is a Real Problem

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    The Packers defense had three interceptions and five sacks before Cleveland's final possession and still could have lost the game on that drive. It took a fourth interception—possibly aided by a missed pass-interference call—to put the Browns away.

    "Little bit of contact, but you can't bank on that being called," Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield told reporters of his last and fatal pick.

    Green Bay may be fortunate that no flag was thrown. It was even more fortunate that the ball was. The defense had no answers for running back Nick Chubb, who rumbled for 126 yards on only 17 carries.

    In all, the Browns amassed 219 yards on the ground and averaged 8.8 yards per carry. Had they taken the ball out of Mayfield's hands on the final drive, we might well be talking about a Packers loss.

    This isn't a new issue for Green Bay either. The defense surrendered 137 rushing yards to the Chicago Bears two weeks ago and 143 yards to the Baltimore Ravens last week. For the season, the Packers rank a dreadful 31st in yards per carry surrendered.

    This is a huge concern heading into the postseason because teams will look to grind out games against Green Bay. Rodgers—who became the franchise's all-time touchdown passer Sunday—is one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Sustaining drives and keeping him on the sideline will be a goal for postseason opponents.

    It's a goal that can only be obtained if teams can regularly gash the Packers on the ground. The problem is that teams do just that.

Green Bay Knows How to Win Tough Games

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    Saturday's game was too close for comfort, but here's the positive side. The Packers won. Last week, they survived a furious rally from the Ravens and won. Two weeks ago, they were down by 10 points in the second quarter and won.

    In Week 8, they played without Adams and won.

    Green Bay has only lost twice this season with Rodgers under center. They have shown some troubling tendencies in recent weeks—special teams has also been an issue at times—but they've also shown a knack for winning tough games throughout the season. That's huge heading into the postseason because there aren't going to be any easy games.

    On Saturday, the Browns totaled 408 yards and ran 66 plays. They were 8-of 13 on third and fourth downs. The Packers counted with relentless pressure, with sacks and with takeaways. Scoring three touchdowns off of the first three turnovers certainly didn't hurt—to be fair, neither did a missed extra point and a failed two-point try by Cleveland.

    Green Bay has largely figured out how to put teams away. The Packers got blown out by the New Orleans Saints in Week 1 and have lost two other games by a combined nine points. In games decided by a touchdown or less, Green Bay is 6-2 this season. Again, one of those games had Jordan Love under center. 

    If the Packers face a tight contest in January or February, they're going to have the confidence needed to perform at the highest level when it matters most.