The Green Bay Packers had to feel pretty good about themselves heading into Week 7 of the NFL season.
They were 5-1 overall and 3-0 in arguably the toughest division in football. They were also on the verge of getting several key players back from injury, including top receiver Davante Adams. Their defense looked as good as it has in years, the running game was solid, and most importantly, Aaron Rodgers was starting to look like Aaron Rodgers again.
Fast forward to a week later, and the Packers have established themselves as the best team in the NFC North and one of the top teams in the league. The Packers defeated the Oakland Raiders by a score of 42-24 on Sunday afternoon to improve to 6-1 on the year. Even though it was missing Adams, the offense dominated behind a vintage performance by Rodgers. He was brilliant all game, silencing all doubters that may think he is not the player he used to be. He completed 25 of 31 passes for 429 yards and five touchdowns and had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 on the day. He also rushed for a touchdown. According to Pro Football Reference, he became only the third quarterback of all time to rush for a touchdown and throw for at least 400 yards and five touchdowns in one game. He also became the fastest player in NFL history to throw 350 touchdown passes, surpassing Drew Brees.
The injury situation for Green Bay seems to be improving as well. Wide receivers Geronimo Allison (chest/concussion) and Marquez Valdez-Scantling (knee/ankle), along with tight end Jimmy Graham (ankle) were limited in practice all week. They all turned in solid performances, combining for 10 receptions and 231 yards.
Head coach Matt LaFleur was impressed with the way the offense pulled it together. “We had a lot of guys step up, specifically Marquez and Geronimo,” he said. “Two days ago, we didn’t even know if they were going to play. Those guys came out and put together gritty performances.”
As for Adams, the team is optimistic that he may return from a toe injury next week in time to face the Chiefs.
The Green Bay offensive line deserves credit as well. They have been key in turning around the running game for the Packers and have been doing an extraordinary job of protecting the quarterback, only having allowed 7 sacks all year.
“The line played fantastic,” Rodgers said in his post game press conference. “It’s pretty remarkable the way those guys are playing. They gave me a lot of clean pockets to throw.”
The defense wasn’t as dominant as it has been, allowing three touchdowns, but one of them was with 1:32 left in the fourth quarter and the game already sealed. One key play happened with 1:49 left before halftime with the Raiders trailing 14-10 and driving down the field. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr rolled out to his right on second-and-goal from the two-yard line. It looked as though he would be able to dive and reach the pylon, but linebacker Blake Martinez hit him, jarring the ball out of his hands and causing it to roll out of bounds in the end zone. By rule, this was a touch back, gifting the ball to the Packers on their own 25-yard line. Rodgers worked his magic, hitting Jake Kumerow for a touchdown with 12 seconds left in the half. This completely flipped the momentum, as the Packers went into the locker room leading 21-10 instead of trailing 17-14.
“You talk about a pivotal point in the game,” said LaFleur. “That was absolutely critical. That was the turning point in the game, and it helped open it up for us.”
Regardless of how they felt before the game, the Packers can definitely feel good about this win. They travel to Kansas City next week for a Sunday night showdown with the Chiefs, who are missing star quarterback Patrick Mahomes. On the heels of an elite showing from Rodgers and with a possible Adams return on the horizon, the Packers are a force to reckon with as the season moves deeper.