The Green Bay Packers held on to win 24-22 on Christmas Day. Later in the night, the Arizona Cardinals lost to the Indianapolis Colts, officially eliminating the Cardinals from the chase for the NFC’s top seed. With 12 wins, the Packers still own the best record in the NFL and control their own destiny going into the last two weeks of the regular season. It was a night of history made by Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Matt LaFleur, but also a night that showed gaping holes in the Packers’ defense. That all being said, here are three takeaways from the narrow victory over the Browns.
#1- The Packers Need a Healthy Kenny Clark and Kingsley Keke
Kenny Clark returned to the Packers late in the week after missing time on the COVID list. Kingsley Keke, however, was a healthy scratch. Clark did not record a sack of his own last night, but commanded so much attention that he opened the door for others to pile on Baker Mayfield.
The problem, though, was in the run game. Up until this game, the Green Bay Packers had not allowed a single rusher to go over 100 yards against them this season. Cleveland’s Nick Chubb torched the defense for 126 yards on 17 carries. Cleveland as a team rushed for 219 yards and an 8.8 yards per carry average.
To give an idea of terrible that is, as if it didn’t sound terrible enough, the Packers defense allowed 6.8 yards per carry when they lost the NFC Championship Game to San Francisco two years ago. Clark being back was nice, but Jack Heflin, TJ Slaton, and Tyler Lancaster are just not going to get it done. The Packers need a healthy Clark and Keke in order to remain effective in the run game.
#2- Rasul Douglas
What more is there to add at this point? Rasul Douglas was once a Super Bowl champion with the Philadelphia Eagles. This year, he was cut by the Las Vegas Raiders and Houston Texans before the season even started. Once he was signed by the Arizona Cardinals, he could not rise above their practice squad.
Now, with the Green Bay Packers, he is has been named an alternate to the Pro Bowl. Douglas ranks fourth in the NFL with five interceptions, and leads all defensive players with two touchdowns. Oh, and he has only played in ten games.
Against the Cleveland Browns, Rasul Douglas had two interceptions, including one in the final minute to put the game on ice for the Packers. It is not the first time he has done that this year. He had a similar pick against the Cardinals earlier in the season.
After the game, Aaron Rodgers went as far as to call Douglas a superstar. When told of Rodgers’ comments, Douglas said there are two superstars on the team: 12 and 17. While Douglas is certainly right about their superstar status, Rodgers is correct about Douglas’ too.
#3- Special Teams Is Capable of Not Making Mistakes
Were the Green Bay Packers special teams the difference yesterday? Absolutely not. However, in such a close game, the blunders that they have become known for this season could have cost them the game. However, the Packers’ special teams played an error-free game and kept the Browns on their own side of the field to start drives.
Another aspect of the Packers’ game that has gone unnoticed the last few weeks has been the consistency of Mason Crosby. Over the last four games, Crosby is 6/7 on field goals and 16/16 on extra points. Perhaps what was wrong earlier this season was not with Crosby himself, but him getting used to a new placeholder and long snapper. In any case, Crosby is making kicks now with much more regularity. This is a great sign heading into the playoffs.