Mike Vandermause column: Offense goes into playoffs with momentum

Jan. 1, 2012

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Packers-Lions postgame analysis: Rob Demovsky and Pete Dougherty talk about Matt Flynn's surprising performance Sunday against the Lions and the backup QB's prospects in free agency.
Sunday's game seemed like a playoff game to Green Bay Packers guard Josh Sitton (71). The Packers defeated the Detroit Lions 45-41 at Lambeau Field. Packers guard T.J. Lang (70) is at right. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette


The Green Bay Packers have a quarterback controversy on their hands.

That was the joke that began in the locker room soon after the Packers’ 45-41 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Backup Matt Flynn’s jaw-dropping six touchdown passes and team-record 480 passing yards in just his second career start had his teammates snickering at starter Aaron Rodgers’ expense.

Rodgers, who is a strong candidate to earn NFL MVP honors, was given the day off and watched Flynn produce the game of his life.

It didn’t take long for the ribbing to begin, with teammates labeling Rodgers “a system quarterback.”

“You won’t get a big head in this locker room,” said receiver Jordy Nelson with a smile. “We’ll deflate it right away.”

It’s a good thing Packers players don’t take their offensive exploits too seriously. If they did, it would be easy for them to get arrogant.

Playing with the inexperienced Flynn and missing injured starters Greg Jennings and Bryan Bulaga, the Packers thrashed the Lions’ defense for 550 total yards.

If Flynn was capable of inflicting that kind of damage on the Lions, it’s plausible Rodgers might have produced 600 passing yards and eight touchdown throws and broken every NFL passing record known to man.

We’ll never know, and that’s the way the Packers wanted it. Coach Mike McCarthy had the luxury of sitting his two best players on offense (Rodgers and Jennings) and defense (Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson).

Despite the absence of all that talent, the Packers managed to overcome the pass-happy Lions in the best shootout at Lambeau Field since their 48-47 victory over the Washington Redskins on "Monday Night Football” in 1983.

It was a perfect postseason tune-up, at least on the offensive side of the ball.

“At the end, the way it played out, it kind of seemed like a damn playoff game out there,” guard Josh Sitton said.

“It was pretty fun. I think everybody’s excited right now. Everybody is looking to get healthy and get some rest. I think that’s the biggest thing. That’s probably what’s on everybody’s minds right now.”

As the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the 15-1 Packers have earned a first-round bye and won’t have to play for two weeks. They will be well-rested and emboldened with momentum. They also get to enjoy the comfort of playing at Lambeau, where they haven’t lost in nearly 15 months.

McCarthy said he likes the mindset of his team heading into the playoffs. “We’re really focused on improving as a team,” he said.

The Packers’ defense, which allowed 575 total yards and five Matthew Stafford touchdown passes, definitely needs improvement.

But as it has consistently done this season, the defense forced turnovers and made a key stop at the end of the game. The return of Matthews and Woodson also will provide a spark.

“It’s a very accountable group of men,” McCarthy said of his team. “But the most important thing is in two weeks when we step out on Lambeau, we play our best football.”

The record-setting Packers offense, which helped shatter the single-season team scoring record, is on top of its game, even when not at full strength.

“You want to go into the playoffs with momentum,” receiver James Jones said. “Last year we went in with momentum and played well all the way through the Super Bowl, so it’s definitely good to get some momentum going. Now, it’s on to the real season.”

mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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