24

September

Packers Need a Signature Win to Get Back Over the Mountain

The Packers beating the Jets was a signature win in 2010.

It seems like forever ago when everyone pegged the Packers as the NFL’s next dynasty.

It was only natural for people – including many in the Packers organization – to talk about a dynasty after winning Super Bowl XLV. A young team with a budding superstar at quarterback had just won it all with a ton of players on injured reserve. Talk of a dynasty was justified.

All that dynasty talk disappeared after the Packers went 15-1 in 2011, only to suffer an embarrassing loss to the Giants in their first playoff game.

Potential to production
Let’s rewind even further, back before the word dynasty was even in the vocabulary of Packers fans. In 2009, the Packers went on a nice run in the second half of the season to make the playoffs before losing a wild-card shootout with the Cardinals.

The 2010 season was supposed to be when the Packers took the next step. All that young talent was primed and ready to go from promising to great. Potential was to be replaced with production. Rebuilding with results. Playoff failure with playoff victory.

After six games, none of that happened. Midway through the 2010 season, Green Bay was 3-3, beat up, and spinning its wheels — stuck near the top of the mountain, unable to vault over it.

Then the Packers rattled off four straight wins, overcame a rough patch down the stretch, made the playoffs, and won the whole damn thing. The Packers not only made it over the mountain, they occupied the mountain, planted a green and gold flag on it, and claimed the mountain as their own.

They even chiseled the faces of Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy into the side of the mountain to create their own Packers Mt. Rushmore.

Falling off the mountain
Throughout the entire 2011 season, whenever another team tried to climb Packers Mountain, the Packers kicked them back down.

Then the Giants rolled into Lambeau Field for a divisional round playoff game, kicked the Packers off their own mountain, and sprayed graffiti all over the faces on Packers Mt. Rushmore.

Oh well. It was disappointing, but it happens. Mountains are high and often have difficult terrain. Every now and then, you’re going to slip and fall off.

Things got off to a rough start as the Packers tried to climb the mountain again in 2012. The 49ers booted them further down in the season opener. Fail Mary almost caused the entire mountain to disintegrate. The Colts even managed to get in the Packers’ way back up the mountain.

Finally, the Packers trip back up the mountain started gaining steam later in the season. Unfortunately, it petered out too soon when the 49ers used Colin Kaepernick to launch an all-out assault and send the Packers tumbling back down the mountain with yet another lopsided divisional round playoff loss.

The Packers’ trip back up the mountain has been as frustrating – if not more frustrating – than their initial trip in 2010.

Where are the signature wins?
When was the last time the Packers had a signature win? I’m talking about winning a game against an opponent that is a) playing well, and b) considered a legit playoff contender on the same level talent-wise as the Packers.

I’d say it was against Houston in week six last season.

Obviously, any time you win in the NFL it’s a big win. No team should ever apologize for winning, even if you just beat the Jaguars. And yes, I understand that the Packers beat the Vikings in the playoffs last season, but when you pull out the book of “Packers Signature Wins,” the time they shut down Joe Webb and beat the Vikings won’t be in there.

Here is a rundown of signature win opportunities that the Packers have had since beating Houston:

  • Nov. 25, 2012 @ New York: Lost 38-10
  • Dec. 30, 2012 @ Minnesota: Lost 37-34
  • Jan. 12, 2013 @ San Francisco: Lost 45-31
  • Sept. 8, 2013 @ San Francisco: Lost 34-28
  • Sept. 22, 2013 @ Cincinnati: Lost 34-30

I can see an argument for calling the Week 15 win over Chicago in 2012 a signature win. Ditto for the week two win over Washington this season. I probably wouldn’t buy either argument, though.

Signature wins were everywhere as the Packers climbed over and claimed their mountain in 2010-11:

  • Finally beating Brett Favre, week seven, 2010
  • Shutting out the Jets, week eight, 2010
  • Winning their last two games of 2010 to make the playoffs
  • Winning four in a row on the road in the playoffs to win the Super Bowl
  • 2011 signature wins included the Saints in week one, Bears in week three, Falcons in week five and New York in week 13.

The outlook
So the Packers have gone from talking about a dynasty to once again having to fight and scrap to climb back up and over the mountain, just like they had to do in 2010. Many of the faces are different this time around, but the circumstances are similar.

  • Rodgers and McCarthy are still at quarterback and coach, respectively.
  • It’s a young team that banks on many rookies and second-year players to contribute.
  • They’re beat up and injured.
  • Questions are swirling about the team’s ability to come through in the clutch and perform in big games.

Are we in some type of green and gold “Back to the Future” sequel? If we are, I hope it ends like it did back in 2010.

Fortunately, there’s time for the plot to change in that direction. We’re only three games into the season, plenty of time for the Packers to get healthy and figure out how to execute better down the stretch in important games.

There’s a good chance next Sunday will be a signature win opportunity against Detroit. There should be one more the following week in Baltimore.

If the Packers can get their next signature win out of the way early, this team will be moving right back up the mountain. Once they get rolling back up that mountain, you never know what might happen.

They just might climb over it, take it over, and start carving another version of the Packers Mt. Rushmore while the rest of us start talking dynasty again.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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41 Responses to “Packers Need a Signature Win to Get Back Over the Mountain”

  1. Outis says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

      ^what a jerk.

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      • Outis says:

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        • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

          Pretty small-minded thinking. You don’t just appear in the conference championship game by accident. A season is a long journey, highs and lows. The highest highs propel you forward towards your goal. that’s what a signature win is. To blow that off is, as I said, is pretty small-minded.

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          • Outis says:

            It depends upon how one defines success, doesn’t it? If the Packers blow-out Detroit and Baltimore, get back on their winning ways, win the division but lose the first playoff game, would the victories over Detroit and Baltimore be considered “signature wins” or would they simply be forgotten. Similarly, in his post, Adam calls the last 2 victories in the 2010 regular season, “signature wins,” but they would be forgotten and wouldn’t have mattered had the Packers lost the first playoff game at Philadelphia or the next at Atlanta. We won’t know whether a win is just a “win” or a “signature win” until the end of the season. To me, a successful season for the Packers is getting into the SB, but I do recognize that making it into the NFC Championship game is quite an accomplishment. For some teams, just getting into the playoffs defines success. Some teams, though, like some fans, are willing to settle for less.

            Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

            • Adam Czech says:

              You judge what is or is not a signature win in the moment. Just because you may not “remember” a win, does not mean it’s not a signature win.

              And someone’s definition of success has nothing to do w/ the signature win discussion.

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              • Batavia Greg says:

                So, if I understand you correctly,Adam, a “signature win” is judged as such “in the moment” and not within the context of the whole season and whether that season has been successful or not. By your criteria, was Cleveland’s victory over Minnesota a “signature win”? Or, was Carolina’s 38-0 victory over the Giants a “signature win”? If both teams were to lose every game for the remainder of the season (assuming that they don’t play each other), I would call their respective victories “upsets” or anomalies. By your definition, there must be an awful lot of “signature wins” in the NFL each season.

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              • Adam Czech says:

                Greg:

                My post and signature win definition was about the Green Bay Packers. If you want to talk about the Browns or Panthers, I’m sure there are blogs out there dedicated to those two teams.

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            • Rob says:

              Adam defined “signature win” in his article: “winning a game against an opponent that is a) playing well, and b) considered a legit playoff contender on the same level talent-wise as the Packers”.

              Under these definitions, a win against the 0-16 Lions would not be considered a “signature win”, whereas a win by the Chiefs against the 15-0 Packers would be. A “signature win” could also be defined as c) a win establishing a team as a serious playoff contender.

              A team could conceivably make the playoffs without ever really being tested [easy schedule] or even with a losing record [was it the 7-9 Seahawks?] and not be considered a serious contender.

              I believe there is a valid argument within Adam’s article–although football is a very physical oriented game, you can’t rule out the mental and emotional aspects of the game. The 2010 Packers believed in themselves, especially as they started to pile up “signature wins.

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              • Batavia Greg says:

                Interesting comment, Rob. IMHO, a team that is 1-2 and that has some obvious weaknesses simply needs a “W.” In time, we can debate whether it was a “signature win” and whether it (in the words of Jersey Al) propelled the team towards its goal, which I assume is another SB. Where I differ with Adam is his assertion that the determination of whether a “W” is a “signature win” is judged “in the moment” and is not dependent upon how one defines the team’s subsequent success. I would tend to judge the relative significance of each victory within the context of the whole of the season and what each meant toward the attainment of team goals.

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  2. palmda says:

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  3. NYPACKER says:

    I think we win 7 of our next 8 games & all this doom & gloom talk is forgotten.

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  4. Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

    We’ll finish strong. GB is still the class of the NFCN. So that’s 5 or 6 wins right there. They’ll get to 10-6 at least. I’m encouraged by the running game and the run D.

    Let the season play out.

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    • Dobber says:

      Agree with you and NYPACKER. People are doom-and-glooming a little much. As some said earlier, the schedule is looking less daunting as teams actually play. Barring catastrophic injury, this Packer team will still win 10 games.

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  5. Dobber says:

    “I’m talking about winning a game against an opponent that is a) playing well, and b) considered a legit playoff contender on the same level talent-wise as the Packers.”

    The issue here is that if you consider yourself an SB contender, there are virtually no opportunities for “signature wins” because the likelihood that even 1 other SB contender is on your schedule is pretty low, and earning one of these wins in the playoffs is a necessity, not a jumping-off point.

    I would rather see the Packers play with more consistency on both sides of the ball and string wins together than worry about the “big win” and a potential letdown loss a week later against the Weak Sisters of the Poor.

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    • Adam Czech says:

      I see your point, Dobber, and I don’t necessarily disagree.

      But the Packers have had SB contending teams on their schedule over the last year and have come up short every time, including in the playoffs (sorry, I still don’t consider the Vikings playoff win a “signature win”).

      It just concerns me a little bit. It doesn’t mean the Packers are a cut below the rest and incapable of improving, it’s just time to stop losing these games against other contending team.

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      • NYPACKER says:

        Adam, why is the Vikes game on the last week of the season a “signiture win opportunity” when it didn’t mean anything, but the next week in a playoff game it isn’t?

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        • Adam Czech says:

          It actually meant a lot. A win would’ve meant a first-round bye, keeping a division rival out of the playoffs, and a divisional playoff game at home instead of on the road.

          Also, the Vikings were playing well, were a legit playoff contender, and had their No. 1 QB.

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          • NYPACKER says:

            Fair enough, although the year before securing all of those things didn’t do us any good.

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        • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

          Joe Webb at QB. You knew you were winning that game, no matter what…

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  6. Tarynfor12 says:

    IMO, a ‘signature win would be taking down a ‘big boy’ later in the season if one is on the schedule. I said last week in a post the Packers needed a ‘validation’ win and that was the Cincy game and we didn’t get it done. Losing this game casts serious doubts as to whether we could be a serious wild card much less a division winner.

    Yes, many will sit back and rave above all that looks promising after each loss, but promises don’t get the wins needed or the fortitude to win the ones you must as just witnessed.

    We have a star who decided to sit out a half for what he said was a ‘preventive’ thing while his team could have used even a part of his talent on the field if not just the moral leadership.

    Before you can even ask for a ‘signature’ win where you put your mark on another power in the hunt, you need first to be validated as being legit to be in the hunt and not just a contestant.

    I won’t award a signature win to Cincy for their win over the Packers this past Sunday but they certainly were validated by taking us down with their resilient play while we again ebbed back to a level of mediocrity.

    After the bye week, fans shouldn’t be concerned with labeling wins a ‘signature, validation’ or whatever but just a win on top of a win to earn back the respect that has been erased to gain the possible rating as ‘sleeper’ come playoff time.

    I am not a writer and did not sleep in a hotel to make me feel as such but I am a fan who isn’t blind :)

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    • Batavia Greg says:

      What a very thoughtful comment. Right now, victories over Detroit and Baltimore should be viewed simply as “wins.” We can debate about whether they are “signature wins” when we analyze in retrospect a completed, successful season.

      By way of comparison, look at Carolina’s recent 38-0 victory over the NY Giants. It is now premature to call it a “signature win.” But, if the Panthers build on that victory and go on to have a winning season and make the playoffs, I can see how such a characterization would be reasonable. Before that time, though, it is just blather, conjecture and opinion.

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  7. Kurt the Turk says:

    “Signature win” = “momentum!!!” = “stuff TV announcers say to keep casual fans from flipping the dial”.

    Yes. It is sports. Anything can happen. We’ll all be watching and hoping GB will somehow make the SB this year. But most years the cream really does rise to the top.

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  8. Big T says:

    Signature” win, hell I will take a low down dirty, nasty, lucky piece of pooh win at this point and time…

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  9. Archie says:

    Gee, I thought it was a great article, at least until the very end when the green and gold glasses came on.

    Think about it, the signature wins in 2010 were followed by a SB victory. The signature wins in 2011 were not. Why not? Well, for one, those wins came early in the season with the exception of the NYG. They also preceded KC’s late season victory over the Pack where Romeo Crennel defeated the Packers with a winless team. He showed the world that night how to beat the Packers. We saw the same formula employed on Sunday. The NYG used it in the playoffs that year to knock us out of the 1st round despite despite our 15-1 record. Then in 2012, we continued to struggle, though we gutted out another Divisional Championship, we had no signature wins other than the defeat of Houston and they later proved to be paper tigers. The lack of signature wins was followed by another early exit from the play-offs. TT/MM finally saw the light and realized the Packers had to have a run game that kept defenses honest or their days of beating good teams with good defenses was over.

    Here we are in 2013, 1-2 but 0-2 in signature games. We did not run teh ball well in the first half of the 49ers game but we began to do so in the 2nd half. We continued to do so ever since. Then why didn’t we defeat CINCY? Our RB options got low in the 2nd half. Had Lacy and Starks been full speed, we probably win that game. Instead, both were on the sidelines nursing injuries. Franklin did great but he is not the kind of RB that can get tough yards up the middle when a good defense knows the run is coming (MM’s play calling was brain dead to even try).

    So, I say don’t despair. Lacy will be back vs DET as might be Starks. I don’t know if I am willing to call DET a signature game, or even the Ravens the following week, both games are necessary wins to stay in the hunt. If GB can win those two games and not suffer any serious injuries doing so, then this train is back on the track and then the Bears games and the ATL game can be viewed as signature games. If the Pack can sweep DET & MINN and win 2 of 3 from CHI/ATL, then Pack will have turned things around despite their somewhat subpar OL. Those are big IFs but they remain possibilities, depending on how good our run game gets and good our play-calling becomes. Our defense and our passing game needs help and the only place to get it from is our run game.

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  10. Wayne Crannell says:

    Look, this team is playing just about where it should be playing. A superstar QB, four or five really top players, and a roster of WalMart greeters. Until TT admits, which he never will, that draft and develop is 80% of a winning philosophy instead of 100%, it will always be a house of cards that relies on too many guys performing beyond their real abilities.

    The season is not over, and the doom and gloomers are out early, but I’m not sure why any of this is such a surprise. Any team that goes into a game with two RBs, a kick returner who can’t catch, and the best tackler their punter should not be shocked when they start 1-2 and can’t win a game when it really matters. You only get one season like that SB year, but we’ve built a franchise philosophy on that.

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  11. Batavia Greg says:

    This post and the above discussion have left me confused. In his post, Adam defines “signature win” as a win against a team that 1) is playing well; and, 2) is considered a legitimate playoff contender. “Playing well” is a purely subjective opinion and, since 12 of the NFL’s 32 teams make the playoffs and usually 15 to 18 are in the hunt to do so during the final weeks of the regular season, any victory over one of about half of the teams in the league seemingly could qualify as a “signature win.” But, in his reply to “Outis,” Jersey Al said, “The highest highs propel you towards your goal, that’s what a signature win is.” That implies that the win propels the team onward towards other victories and the goal of a successful season. Isn’t a successful season, no matter how it is defined, the “goal” of all of the teams? And the ultimate success is a SB victory? So, one could infer that one looks back upon the completed season to assess the game or games that propelled the team towards success. Those would be the “signature wins.” Not so, according to Adam. In a different reply, Adam said that a signature win is “decided in the moment” and isn’t dependent upon what one defines as success. In other words, a team could defeat another that is “playing well” and is a legitimate playoff contender but then lose every game thereafter, yet the victory would still be considered, at least by Adam, as a “signature win” even if it didn’t propel the team to achieve a goal or reach any measure of success.

    Totally confusing and probably sophistry. Give me the good old days when a “W” was simply a “W” and Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Today’s Packers need to remember that.

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    • Adam Czech says:

      You really want to talk about bad teams or teams that are going to go on some long losing streak, don’t you?

      I’m talking about the Packers. The Packers are a good team. They will not beat the Lions then lose their next 12 games.

      My definition about what constitutes a signature win has to do with the Packers and the Packers only. Not the Browns, the Colts, the Bengals, the Steelers or the Toledo Mud Hens.

      The Packers.

      I don’t know how I can make my definition any more clear.

      If you have your own definition of what constitutes a signature win, that’s cool.

      You and I may not agree on what a signature win is, but it sounds like we both agree that the Packers haven’t had one for a while.

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  12. Batavia Greg says:

    I hope that you’re right, Adam. I hope that the Packers do beat the Lions and not lose the next 12 games. But, how do you know? Isn’t that’s why they play the games? It is possible, isn’t it? AR could get injured and lost for the season. Would you still, “in the moment,” call a victory over the Lions a “signature win” if that occurred? What if they don’t lose all 12 games but only 5 of them, finish 9-7 and not make the playoffs? Is it still a “signature win”? IMO, one has to put each victory into the context of the whole season to weigh its importance. As Jersey Al said a “signature win” “propels” a team towards its goal. What is the Packers’ goal? Every fan knows what it is.

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  13. Adam Czech says:

    It’s easy to judge things in hindsight. The NFL is a week to week business.

    I see what you mean, though, Greg.

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  14. Barutan Seijin says:

    A signature win is when you kick their asses and write the “Packers did this to me” on them.

    Kinda like the ’96 team outside of the KC, Minnesota & Dallas games.

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    • Adam Czech says:

      Remind me to make sure my belt is fastened extra tight and all markers are hidden if you ever kick my ass in something.

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  15. GBPDAN says:

    I know what Adam is getting at and I agree with him. Whats fueling this article is the big games the Pack has been losing lately against quailty opponents In big game that would help establish the swagger that they had after winning the SB. Cincinnati and SF this year, SF in the playoffs last year. At Minnesota in week 17 to wrap up home field. Getting Crushed again by the Giants last year. Getting crushed by SF in the opener last year. All these losses took their toll . Other teams saw weakness in the Pack, which builds confidence for the other teams. It also does something to the momentum and the confidence of the Packer team. After the Pack went and beat a good hardnosed jets team, on the road, in 2010, you could feel the confidence and momentum build moving forward. It also sent a message to the league to not take the Packers lightly. I dont think the Pack has that prestige anymore.

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    • Batavia Greg says:

      As Jersey Al noted, a “signature win” propels the team on towards achieving its goals. The win has to have significance upon the outcome of the whole of the season. If the goals are not met, what’s the point in calling it a “signature win”? The term is cheapened. I suppose we could call all victories against playoff contenders “signature wins.” That’s like a teacher giving 50% of her class “A” grades.

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  16. I think a signature win is a game in which players (and coaches) gain confidence in their own play but also gain confidence in their teammates’ ability and knowledge of the scheme (i.e. that their teammates are capable and will be assignment sure). Football has individual match-ups, but it also is very much a team game.

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  17. GBPDAN says:

    My statement wasn’t necessarily geared towards the term ‘signature wins’ . I’ll let you guys try and define the term. All I was saying is the Pack has been coming up short lately in big games that would help establish the them as The Team to Beat. Last year that team was SF. This year its Seattle and Denver. The Pack has done nothing in the last few years to put fear into the elite teams in this league. The Pack has a losing record latley against good teams. This has to change. They need to be over 500 in these games in the regular season and much better than that in the playoffs. This is not happening and it needs to change. Calling these big game wins ‘signature wins’ is ok with me, but it doesn’t really matter what you call them…just start winning some of them.

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