Eric Goska column: Home at holidays suits the Packers

Dec. 10, 2012
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The Green Bay Packers have won 11 straight December home games under coach Mike McCarthy. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media

Decembers to remember

Teams with the best regular-season home records in games played in December/January since 2006.



It’s December, a month dipped in holiday tradition. For the Packers, this time of year is customary for winning late-season games at home, a practice that gained traction 20 years ago under the guidance of a coach who, when early snows swirled, was nearly impossible to defeat.

Much will be made of Green Bay notching an 11th straight win over a division opponent as it did with a hard-fought 27-20 victory over the Lions at Lambeau Field on Sunday night. But in sweeping Detroit for the sixth time in the last seven seasons, the Packers also won their 11th straight regular-season December/January game at home, a noteworthy accomplishment in and of itself.

Regular-season games played after Nov. 30 (referred to here as December games going forward) impact who does and who doesn’t go to the playoffs. They determine division champions. They impact playoff seeding.

Years ago, Packers fans never could be sure what December would bring. Bart Starr’s 1980 club was 0-3 in that month. Forrest Gregg’s team of 1984 went 3-0.

That uncertainty all but disappeared with the arrival of Mike Holmgren in 1992. His teams posted winning December records in all but one of his seven seasons, including back-to-back 4-0 marks in the Super Bowl years of 1996 and 1997.

His winning ways (22-7 in December) have continued. Mike Sherman (22-7) and Mike McCarthy (21-9) kept the ball rolling as Green Bay is 67-26 (.720) in late-season games since 1992.

The team has been even more formidable in these late dates at home. The Packers have lost just six regular-season December home games since 1992. Their record of 41-6 (.872) over that span was constructed with care by Holmgren (13-1), Ray Rhodes (1-1), Sherman (12-2) and McCarthy (15-2).

The Lions, who have not won in the Badger State since 1991, appeared ready to dispense with tradition. They jumped to a 14-0 lead and outplayed the Packers for most of the first half.

Detroit scored on its opening position, a drive that saw quarterback Matthew Stafford throw a block on linebacker Frank Zombo on a reverse by wide receiver Mike Thomas that gained 22 yards. Stafford capped the advance with a 4-yard run, becoming the first Lions quarterback to score a rushing touchdown from more than a yard out against the Packers since Rodney Peete in 1990.

Detroit was stout on defense. End Lawrence Jackson forced an Aaron Rodgers fumble that linebacker Stephen Tulloch recovered.

Stafford then led a 79-yard drive highlighted by a one-handed catch by Kris Durham. Tight end Tony Scheffler’s 3-yard reception on a slant pattern gave the Lions a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.

But from there, Green Bay began to fight back. A 49-yard Mason Crosby field goal and a long fumble return by defensive Mike Daniels sent the Packers into the locker room down only 14-10.

A second-half field goal by Crosby, a 27-yard touchdown run by Rodgers and a 14-yard dash by DuJuan Harris sparked Green Bay in the second half.

Winning in the NFL is never easy. McCarthy got a rude welcome to December football when the New York Jets pounded his team 38-10 on Dec. 3, 2006, at Lambeau Field.

But McCarthy and his team regrouped and have done well in the years since. Their only other December home loss was a 24-21 heartbreaker to the Texans on Dec. 7, 2008, in which Kris Brown kicked a 40-yard field goal as time expired.

McCarthy’s Packers have ripped off 11 straight December home wins. It ties the 11 in a row with which Holmgren closed out his Packers career, the two streaks tied for second longest in team history behind the 12 straight the team registered under Rhodes and Sherman.

During its run, Green Bay has outscored its opponents 371-193. Six opponents had winning records coming into Lambeau. Six, including the Lions Sunday, were division rivals.

There have been two constants in Green Bay’s winning ways. The Packers always have compiled the better passer rating and have not had more turnovers than their opponents in all 11 wins.

On Sunday, Rodgers (80.7) edged Stafford (74.7) in passer rating. Green Bay had one turnover to the Lions’ two.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
579 votes
I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
862 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
1025 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
1278 votes

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Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports