Now we'll see how they respond.
If Michael John McCarthy and these Green Bay Packers have any pride whatsoever — and the evidence suggests they do — the Minnesota Vikings should be in for a rude surprise at Lambeau Field this coming Sunday. The Packers are sitting at the top of the NFC wild-card race, a game ahead of everyone else, and are one game out of the division lead with five to play.
But after the Packers got hammered on national TV by their worst rival outside their own division, conventional wisdom and comforting statistics take a backseat to gut feeling.
Even with injuries sidelining Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Greg Jennings, Brian Bulaga and half a dozen other key players, it's hard to escape the conclusion that this is just who Mike McCarthy's Packers are. The issues of toughness, physicality, etc. thrown up in that 38-10 butt-whupping are not anything new.
Can't run the ball. Can't rush the passer. Finesse team. Gets pushed around by more physical, rougher, nastier teams. Dazzling offense, reliant on Aaron Rodgers to make plays, gets overwhelmed by sacks when the enemy plays Cover 2 defense and McCarthy tries to spread the field.
This team is built on its great receivers and great quarterback play, like the New York Giants themselves. But the team that has bedeviled the Packers for five years and two playoff losses is also built on the overwhelming strength and physicality of its defensive line. Even taking injuries into account, the Packers simply don't have a comparable strength on their own defense. Dezman Moses, Erik Walden, Jerel Worthy, Mike Neal and the rest of Clay Matthews's supporting cast might be there in a year or two. But for now, the Packers got their second whupping in 11 months at the hands of a Super Bowl-class team.
As Matthews, Woodson and Sam Shields return for the stretch run, the defense should improve. A two-time Pro Bowl receiver is returning on offense. T.J. Lang and Evan Dietrich-Smith should only get more comfortable at their new positions on the line. Everything McCarthy and his team said in the post-mortem press conferences indicates that this will serve them well as motivation next week and beyond.
To make a serious Super Bowl run in the next two months, though, the Packers will need to beat the kind of rough, experienced, physical teams they've lost to so often this season. The 49ers in Week 1. The Seahawks in Week 3. The Giants last night. Even the Bears in Week 2, dominated though they were, still held Green Bay's mighty offense in check.
Can these Packers solve their rivals in the playoffs, assuming they get there? I sure hope so. They got pushed around in every possible way by New York. Right now, it's hard to argue that the same thing won't happen yet again in a hypothetical playoff rematch.