Green Bay Packers defensive tackles Ryan Pickett (79) and Howard Green (95) are all smiles as they celebrate their victory over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011. The leadership from veterans like them are a reason for the Packers' success. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — There never was any doubt.
The Green Bay Packers knew they were going to win Sunday.
It didn’t matter that the New York Giants had snatched the momentum in the fourth quarter and tied the game with 58 seconds left. Never mind that the Packers’ perfect record was in jeopardy. Forget about the nearly 80,000 fans at MetLife Stadium who were screaming at the top of their lungs for the Packers to fail.
None of that mattered. The Packers knew what they needed to do and calmly, efficiently marched down the field for a last-second, game-winning field goal and 38-35 victory.
The Packers improved to 12-0 and won their 18th consecutive game dating to last season. They also inched one game closer to becoming only the second team in NFL history to go unbeaten.
Combine the Packers’ talent and confidence with their level-headed approach every week, and it’s an unbeatable combination. Winning isn’t just a goal for this team, it’s an expected result.
“That’s what we want to do, that’s what we train to do, that’s what we prepare all week to do is to win,” Packers receiver Jordy Nelson said. “We totally expect it from ourselves.”
It doesn’t matter what gets thrown at them. The Packers don’t just thrive in the face of adversity, they embrace it.
“This team, we’ve had to handle a lot of adversity in the past,” center Scott Wells said. “Going back to last season, I think we’ve been able to mature as a football team. That carries over into confidence.”
They have been through so much that nothing seems to rattle them anymore, even in a hostile road environment. Against the Giants, the Packers’ offense fought through several dropped passes and a critical interception. The defense gave up numerous big plays, including a game-tying touchdown and 2-point conversion late in the fourth quarter.
But it didn’t matter. Deep down, the Packers knew they would prevail. They always find a way to win and their confidence grows with each victory.
“We see how this team handles adversity in close games and tough situations, and we excel in it,” tackle Bryan Bulaga said.
“That starts from the top down with coach (Mike) McCarthy and all the coaches and trickles down to us. It’s the way it is. It’s a high-character group.”
Bulaga pointed to veteran leadership as a key to the Packers’ success.
“I think when you’re around such leaders like (Aaron) Rodgers and (Donald) Driver and (Greg) Jennings and guys like that, that kind of just rubs off on everyone,” he said. “When you have guys that are confident and are leaders like that, that confidence kind of (spreads) to everybody. You just see it in the huddle. You see it on the field.”
That confidence shows up in the standings, where the Packers are doing what no other team in Packers history has accomplished.
They clinched a postseason berth, clinched the NFC North Division title and have the inside track for home-field advantage in the playoffs. Besides the possibility of repeating as Super Bowl champions is the chance to go 19-0.
Not surprisingly, the Packers aren’t concerned with the hype that will accompany that quest. Nelson said their Super Bowl experience last February has prepared them for any media feeding frenzy that awaits them in the coming weeks.
“You can’t deal with more media than we did there (at the Super Bowl),” Nelson said.
They won’t ignore the unbeaten chatter, but they won’t dwell on it, either.
“We might have an opportunity for history, but if we don’t take care of next week, we won’t get there,” Nelson said.
They never get too high or too low. They stay the course and remain remarkably composed and even-keeled, no matter what the circumstances. They hold each other accountable, believe in one another and tune out distractions from outside the locker room.
When asked about a perfect season, Wells replied: “Right now, the objective is to win the next one. If we continue to do that, then you guys will have a good story.”
It’s a story that keeps getting better every week.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.