Tom Oates: Packers' grit, resourcefulness on full display in hard-fought win over shorthanded Chiefs

Tom Oates: Packers' grit, resourcefulness on full display in hard-fought win over shorthanded Chiefs

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Aaron Rodgers - Packers Chiefs

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws a pass during the first half of the Packers' 31-24 win over the Chiefs on Sunday night in Kansas City, Mo. Rodgers completed 23 of 33 passes for 305 yards with three touchdowns as Green Bay improved to 7-1. 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There are seasons in sports where all the breaks seem to go your way and there are seasons where just the opposite occurs.

The Green Bay Packers are having one of those seasons where they seem to be leading a charmed existence, where the football is bouncing their way more often than not.

Entering their game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium with a 6-1 record, the Packers had undeniably received more than their fair share of good fortune.

In the season opener, Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy abandoned the run for no apparent reason. The Packers caught notoriously hot-and-cold Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins on one of his worst days in the second week. They went to Dallas, where the Cowboys were forced to play much of the game without their starting offensive tackles.

The Packers might not have beaten Detroit had not Lions defensive end Trey Flowers been flagged for two highly questionable hands-to-the-face penalties late in the fourth quarter. And they benefited from a bonehead play by Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr when he tried to reach the ball over the pylon for the go-ahead touchdown on a run just before halftime and instead fumbled into the end zone, resulting in a touchback.

It would be easy to say the Packers' run of good luck continued going into their game with the Chiefs, thought by many to be the only team capable of challenging the New England Patriots in the AFC. Back in August, a game against the Chiefs at Arrowhead was considered the Packers' toughest assignment of the season.

When the active rosters were announced Sunday, however, it was apparent the Packers had a golden opportunity staring them in the face. The Chiefs were without six starters, including quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the reigning most valuable player in the NFL, plus the left side of the offensive line and three starters on defense, including the best two pass rushers.

Having to go against 35-year-old journeyman Matt Moore instead of Mahomes seemed like a break of unimaginable proportions for the Packers. Moore was making only his 31st start in his 11-year NFL career.

Anyone who expected the Chiefs to be a pushover was sadly mistaken, however. While they may have been crippled team, the Chiefs played more like the talented, blindingly fast, well-coached team everyone knows them to be.

Indeed, the Packers' 31-24 victory over the stubborn Chiefs, while it had its ups and downs, was as impressive as any they have had in this season of surprises. The Packers improved to 7-1 at the midpoint of the season, but had to go to the wire with the Chiefs, who fell to 5-3. More than that, they showed they've become a very good team, one to be reckoned with in the second half of the season.

There was no luck involved in a hard-fought game that went to the final play. The Packers had to show grit and resourcefulness against a high-quality team, one that Chiefs coach Andy Reid said took its game up a notch to make up the difference of playing without its starting quarterback.

Remember, Reid has a track record of keeping his team afloat even with his starting quarterback on the sideline. He never flinches in such situations and won in Philadelphia with the likes of A.J. Feeley, Jeff Garcia and Kevin Kolb playing in place of starters. After sitting out the 2018 season, Moore didn't join the Chiefs until Aug. 26, yet he executed the Chiefs' short-passing game crisply, keeping the Chiefs in the game.

The game was a true measure of the grit the Packers have displayed this season. They jumped out to a 14-0 lead and it looked like the Mahomes-less Chiefs were ready to get blown out. Instead, Moore started getting the ball to the Chiefs' breathtakingly fast perimeter players and the Chiefs rebounded to take a 17-14 lead at halftime.

The second half was back and forth until Packers nose tackle Tyler Lancaster recovered LeSean McCoy's fumble late in the third quarter and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers fired an incredible, what-the-heck pass to running back Jamaal Williams in the corner of the end zone for a 24-17 lead. Moore marched the Chiefs down the field to tie it up again, but Packers running back Aaron Jones turned a bubble screen into a 67-yard touchdown and the Packers held on to win.

The Packers also showed how resourceful they've become under first-year coach Matt LaFleur. Ever since No. 1 wide receiver Davante Adams went out with a turf-toe injury, LeFluer has involved his backs more and more in the passing game.

Against the Chiefs, Rodgers completed seven passes to Jones for 159 yards and two touchdowns and three passes to Williams for 14 yards on one score. To show how much things have changed, it was the first time in Rodgers' career that he threw three touchdown passes to running backs in a game.

"I think it just shows how resilient our guys are, just to keep fighting and then also the confidence that if it gets down to crunch time, we’re going to find a way," LeFleur said. "And, remarkably tonight, it didn’t always feel like it was going that way, but we found a way."

Somehow, the Packers keep finding a way. And by now we should know that there's nothing lucky about it.


Photos: Green Bay Packers grind out victory over Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium

Contact Tom Oates at toates@madison.com

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