Earning a perfect SAT score.
Catching a foul ball.
And the 2022 Green Bay Packers making the playoffs.
All of these have extremely long odds of happening. But the Packers kept their slim hopes alive Monday.
Green Bay got a pair of touchdown runs from A.J. Dillon, held the visiting Los Angeles Rams to 156 total yards and notched a 24-12 win. The Packers won consecutive games for the first time since Week 4, improved to 6-8 and kept their hopes for the postseason alive.
Green Bay maintained its hold on the No. 10 seed in the NFC, and according to ESPN analytics, now has a 12% chance to make the playoffs.
“You work year round to get into the dance to give yourself an opportunity,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “Because … everybody’s goal should be the same at the end of it, so I think we’ve got a long way to go and certainly you just take it one day at a time, one game at a time.”
Philadelphia (13-1), Minnesota (11-3) and San Francisco (10-4) have already clinched their divisions.
Someone has to win the NFC South (currently 6-8 Tampa Bay) and Dallas (10-4) seems locked into the No. 5 spot.
That leaves a handful of teams fighting for the final two playoff spots in the NFC.
The New York Giants (8-5-1) are currently the No. 6 seed, followed by Washington (7-6-1), Seattle (7-7) and Detroit (7-7).
Green Bay’s last three games are daunting — and it can’t afford another loss.
The Packers are at Miami (8-6) on Dec. 25, then host Minnesota (11-3) and Detroit (7-7). That trio has a 24-16 combined record (.600).
So while the odds of Green Bay experiencing postseason football remain long, there’s still a chance. And that’s all the Packers wanted when the night began.
“We’ve got a good opportunity in front of us, so just taking it one game at a time,” running back AJ Dillon said. “We all understand the urgency behind these games, so making sure we’re all dialed in, all on the same page, and I guess not conserving anything, just going all out as much as we can and playing together.”
Here’s the good, bad and ugly from Green Bay’s win over the Rams.
MR. DECEMBER: Packers coach Matt LaFleur has done a lot of good things since taking over in 2019. But LaFleur’s record in regular season games after November borders on mind-boggling.
Green Bay’s win Monday gave LaFleur a 16-1 record in regular season games played in December and January. Green Bay’s only loss in that time came in the 2021 regular season finale, when LaFleur sat many of his standouts during the second half of a 37-30 defeat at Detroit.
Aside from that, LaFleur went 5-0 in December and January regular season games in both 2019 and 2020, 4-1 last year and is 2-0 this season.
“I think anytime the weather gets cold and the field gets cold, naturally guys don’t move maybe at the same speed,” Rodgers said. “I feel like on our field, too, we have the advantage. We know where we’re going on a wet, cold field. That’s always been an advantage.
“Throwing the football has been an advantage for us in the weather as well. I can’t put a specific finger on it. Most of us are not from here, but we just get a little bit better used to being in the cold I think because we practice outside.”
A.J. DILLON: When the weather turns nasty, the Packers have leaned more and more on Dillon. And it’s easy to see why.
Dillon ran for a pair of touchdowns Monday and now has four TDs in his last three games. In the first 11 games of the year, Dillon had just one rushing touchdown.
Dillon’s big night could have been even better, but he left in the fourth quarter and was evaluated for a concussion.
“He’s a big body,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of Dillon. “He’s tough to stop. He’s been so consistent for us. Him and Aaron (Jones), guys you love lining up with, really smart, do their job all the time and make plays when they get opportunities.”
DEFENSE: Granted, these Rams looked nothing like the group that won the Super Bowl just more than 10 months ago.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford (neck strain spinal cord contusion) and star wideout Cooper Kupp (high ankle sprain) were out. The offensive line has been beat up. No. 2 wideout Allen Robinson (foot) also didn’t play.
But that wasn’t Green Bay’s problems.
The Packers’ much-maligned, disappointing defense needed a big game and they got exactly that.
The 12 points Green Bay allowed was its fewest since Week 3 at Tampa Bay. The Packers had five sacks, including two from outside linebacker Preston Smith.
The Rams finished with just 156 total yards and averaged only 3.6 yards per play. And Rams quarterback Baker Mayfield finished with just 111 passing yards and a passer rating of 67.8.
KEISEAN NIXON: How was Amari Rodgers ever the No. 1 return man on this team?
Nixon became the Packers’ primary returner midway through the season and has added life to a group that has been lifeless for decades.
Nixon averaged 31.7 yards on kickoff returns Monday, highlighted by a 52-yarder. He also averaged 18.0 yards per punt return.
“He’s been so important for us changing the kicking game,” Rodgers said of Nixon. “For a long time here, and I don’t mean this as disrespect but it’s just the facts, for a long time when that ball’s up in the air on a kickoff, I’m thinking, ‘Stay in. Stay in. Don’t bring it out.’ Because not a lot of good stuff happened. But I always tell Kei when he’s about to go out there, ‘Bring it out. Bring that out.’ Just because he brings an extra type of juice to our football team.”
KINGSLEY ENAGBARE: Green Bay’s rookie outside linebacker played just 155 snaps in the first nine games of the year. Packers standout Rashan Gary suffered a torn ACL, though, in Week 9, and Enagbare has played 180 snaps in the last four games.
On Monday, Enagbare showed again why his future is bright.
On the Rams’ second series, Enagbare sacked quarterback Baker Mayfield on first down. Then on third down, Enagbare perfectly read a screen for tight end Tyler Higbee and nearly had an interception.
Enagbare’s lacks great speed (4.9), but he’s extremely instinctual and has filled in admirably for Gary.
WINNING TIME: The Packers ran the final 8:51 off the clock thanks to an extremely impressive 15-play, 82-yard drive.
Green Bay was 2-for-2 on third and fourth down on the march, moving from its own 14-yard line to the Rams 4.
A NOT SO PERFECT 10: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw his 10th interception of the season, the third-most of his career. Rodgers overthrew wideout Allen Lazard right into the waiting arms of safety Taylor Rapp late in the first quarter.
Rodgers threw 13 interceptions in 2008, his first year as a starter. He also threw 11 in 2010 when the Packers won the 45th Super Bowl.
Rodgers has had five seasons with five interceptions, or fewer, since he became the starter in 2008. He also had just nine interceptions combined the last two seasons (2020-2021), when he won back-to-back MVPs.
But Rodgers has been more careless than usual with the ball this year. And it’s resulted in his first double-digit interception season in 12 years.
RASUL DOUGLAS: Green Bay’s cornerback clearly didn’t watch the New England-Las Vegas highlights from Sunday.
The Packers’ cornerback intercepted a Baker Mayfield pass early in the fourth quarter and returned it to the Rams’ 20. Instead of going to the ground, though, Douglas flipped the ball 10 yards behind him to no one in particular.
Fortunately for Green Bay, safety Adrian Amos recovered the loose ball. But the lapse in judgement by Douglas — and his carelessness with the ball — was inexcusable.
THIS AND THAT: Aaron Jones had a critical fumble in the fourth quarter at the Rams’ 18. Green Bay led, 24-12, at the time and was looking to put the game away when Jones fumbled. … Safety Rudy Ford wasn’t using his head and was flagged 15 yards for unnecessary roughness after hitting running back Cam Akers after he was well out of bounds. It was Green Bay’s sixth unnecessary roughness penalty of the year. … Green Bay’s run defense has been dreadful all season, so it was no surprise that Rams running back Cam Akers had his two longest runs of the year — 19 and 15 yards. … Green Bay linebacker Jonathan Garvin was called for holding, which negated a 49-yard kickoff return by Keisean Nixon.
DAVID BAKHTIARI: It’s certainly no fault of Bakhtiari’s that he suffered an appendectomy on Dec. 2. But it’s just the latest chapter in Bakhtiari’s bad luck story.
Bakhtiari tore his ACL and suffered meniscus damage on Dec. 31, 2020. Green Bay has played 34 games since then, and Bakhtiari has played in just nine of those (26.4%).
Bakhtiari signed a four-year, $105.5 million deal in Nov. 2020, that made him the NFL’s highest paid left tackle. Since then, though, he’s rarely been available.
Monday was just the latest roadblock.
“It is what it is,” Bakhtiari said. “I’m just rolling with the punches now at this point. I can’t really control these certain things. It’s unfortunate.”