Against all odds, the Green Bay Packers are officially in control of their own destiny for the final NFC playoff spot.
Faced with an elimination game Sunday against a Minnesota Vikings team that dominated them in the season opener, the Packers stepped up in all phases of the game to force a win-and-in game against Detroit on Jan. 8 -- but none more so than the much-maligned defense. With the rest of the unit forcing Kirk Cousins into three interceptions and a lost fumble during the 41-17 win, cornerback Jaire Alexander honed in on proving his provocative claim that Justin Jefferson's nine-catch, 184-yard game for two scores in Week 1 was indeed a "fluke."
"I was able to follow him," Alexander told Tracy Wolfson during the CBS postgame. "I was able to go to his side all game. I'm the type of person, I'm going to match intensity, so that's what I did all night. Hats off to him. He's still on my top three receivers. He's still a great receiver. But I'm confident in myself and I said what I said, and I meant what I said."
Instead of leaning on the zone coverage they got torched on in the teams' prior matchup, the Packers gave Alexander an opportunity to back up his talk. He lined up across from Jefferson on 20 of his 31 routes, 13 of which came in press coverage, per Next Gen Stats. Alexander didn't allow a reception to Jefferson on two targets as the nearest defender, and the league's receiving-yards leader entering the week managed just one catch for 15 yards in total.
Alexander set the tone early for the lockdown performance when he physically walked the walk -- or more accurately hit Jefferson's signature "Griddy" -- after smothering Jefferson on a comeback route and knocking the incoming ball down midway through the first quarter.
It was a move that could've been called for taunting and could've easily come back to haunt the two-time Pro Bowl corner considering Jefferson had 479 receiving yards in his past three games, but neither came to be.
"I thought it was taunting, really," Jefferson said postgame, via Andrew Kramer of the Star Tribune. "That was first of all. I thought that was a taunting call. But I mean, it is what it is. He does stuff like that trying to get in my head and stuff like that."
Alexander admitted to reporters in the locker room postgame that he planned on doing the dance all week.
Whether or not he succeeded with his efforts to shake Jefferson with his antics, he and his Packers teammates had the number of everyone on the Vikings all night.
After scoring the opening salvo on a field goal despite starting the drive on the Green Bay 2-yard-line, Minnesota surrendered 41 straight points, including a 105-yard kickoff return by Keisean Nixon and a 75-yard pick-six by safety Darnell Savage.
Aaron Rodgers didn't set the world on fire, going 15 for 24 for 159 yards and a touchdown, but he didn't have to with the Aaron Jones-A.J. Dillon tandem combining for 152 rushing yards, and the turnover-hungry defense snuffing out any Vikings possession that gained momentum (three of four turnovers came inside the Packers' 37).
Now, after their most dominant win of the season, the Packers have transformed from a 4-8 team at the end of November to an 8-8 squad in control of its destiny when it hosts the Lions next Sunday.
"It goes back to the speech I gave after our last loss," Alexander said. "What I said was, 'We're going to see who really cares' after our last loss. And everybody's been picking it up."
If the Packers pick up a fifth straight win against Detroit, they'll be peaking at just the right time for a trip to Super Wild Card Weekend.