Christmas came early and often for the Green Bay secondary against Cleveland. They delivered a great victory for Packers fans that added to the joy of the season for all that like to cheer for the Green and Gold. Some fans might have wondered if the white jersey with Mayfield on his back was really Santa in disguise. The gifts started early with a Darnell Savage interception and the gifts just kept coming out of Santa’s, err, Mayfield’s bag. He was even good enough to wrap the victory in a big bow to Rasul Douglas at the end of the game.
Usually when a defense creates four turnovers you will win in the NFL. You might even expect a blowout. On Christmas Day at Lambeau, four interceptions was just enough for a victory. Boom or bust was the theme of the game for Cleveland. The Browns only punted once. When Baker Mayfield wasn’t throwing passes to Green Bay’s secondary, Cleveland’s offense was owning the Green Bay defense to the tune of just under a 9 yard average per rushing play, and a game total 219 total rushing yards. The Browns pounded the Packers defense for 156 yards on the ground in the second half. The Browns were 7-12 on third down conversions and 1-1 on their only fourth down conversion attempt. Mayfield was 21-36 passing, meaning 25 of his 36 passes were caught. Unfortunately for the Browns, Mayfield decided to become Rasul Douglas’ not so secret Santa and gifted him two of the four interceptions by the Packer defense, the last one being the game sealer with less than one minute remaining in the game and Cleveland driving for a potential winning field goal.
Last week most writers and fans agreed that the Packer run defense missed Kenny Clark and that his absence was a major reason the Ravens ran roughshod over them. Clark returned, but he was literally no help for a defense that could only be described as porous. The Packers came up with big plays, including memorable Packer highlights that included Aaron Rodgers passing Brett Favre’s Packer touchdown pass record, and a nice video tribute from Brett. Rookie Eric Stokes dropped another 4th quarter gift from Mayfield but he did make a great play on the Browns two point conversion attempt. Without Douglas’ last second pick to seal it this record breaking game might have ended as a critical fourth quarter team collapse. But there would be no coal in any Packer fan stockings this Christmas Day.
On the Packers first possession, they quickly faced fourth and one and went for it on their own 34 yard line down 6-0. While they converted, the Packers failed to score on the drive and punted, again starting the game slowly as has been their trend. While Mayfield’s interceptions were the catalyst of all three Packer first half touchdowns, it may have been first time Brown kicker Chris Naggar that committed the critical Brown’s error. After the Browns first drive touchdown, Naggar missed the extra point. After Mayfield’s first interception the Packers took advantage driving for a touchdown. The drive culminated in a short sideline pass to Allen Lazard. Lazard took the catch and tightroped down the sideline diving forward while stretching the ball over the end line by touching the football to the pylon. An acrobatic effort worthy of a Packer record highlight. Naggar’s miss led to the Browns going for a two point conversion on their second score. The failed two point conversion left the score at a Packer advantage of 14-12. Those two failed conversions would end up being the difference in the final score. The conversion stop allowed the Packers next touchdown drive off Mayfield’s third interception to increase their lead to 21-12 at the half.
Rodger’s pinpoint accuracy in the first half included highlight throws to both Lazard and Davante Adams. The difference between Rodgers and Mayfield was apparent for a national audience and will probably lead to discussions about the viability of Mayfield’s future in Cleveland. Rodgers dropped perfect deep throws on multiple occasions in the first half but those connections disappeared in the second half. Two late drives in the second half ended on Davante Adams drops. While both catches would have been difficult, Adams has made his reputation and Pro Bowl status on catching those types of throws.
One nice takeaway was no negative plays on special teams. Finally. A Christmas miracle.
In the end the defense was required to seal the game just as they did in Baltimore and once again Rasul Douglas proved why he is the best in season pickup for the Packers in many years. Rodgers’ toe was obviously impacting him during the game. Cameras kept showing closeups of his foot being stepped on and his painful reactions.
The Packers now sit at 12-3 and lead the NFC. Next up is Minnesota. A win will seal the Packers playoff advantage and put smiles on every new year’s Packer fan at Lambeau. Let’s hope the offense gets sorted and the defense figures out how to stop the Vikings rushing game. And happy holidays to all of our Total Packer readers.