GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers’ playoff hopes remained mostly intact following Sunday’s blowout loss at the New York Giants.
“Everything we want to accomplish is still in front of us and that’ll be our focus,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said following the 38-10 loss. I believe in what we’re about as a football team.”
In a departure from normal protocol, McCarthy did not conduct his customary day-after-the-game news conference Monday.
As ugly as the performance might have been against the same team that ended its 15-1 season with an NFC Divisional Playoff victory at Lambeau Field last Jan. 15, the Packers still have ample opportunity to win the NFC North title and set themselves up for a playoff run. They might not land a first-round playoff bye like they did last year. Then again, that didn’t do them much good anyway.
The Packers (7-4) fell one game behind the Chicago Bears (8-3) in the division. They’re tied with the Giants (7-4) for the fourth-best record in the NFC, behind Atlanta (10-1), San Francisco (8-2-1) and the Bears. If the season ended today, the Packers would be the NFC’s No. 5 seed and would return to MetLife Stadium to face the Giants, who have a two-game lead in the NFC East.
While the loss ended the Packers’ five-game winning streak, four of the Packers’ final five games are against division opponents, including home games next Sunday against Minnesota and Dec. 9 against Detroit and a road game at Chicago on Dec. 16. The Packers enter that three-game stretch at 2-0 in division play, thanks to their 24-20 victory at Detroit on Nov. 18 and their 23-10 victory over the Bears at Lambeau Field on Sept. 13.
“When you look at the last two games, we played two good opponents on the road. You want to win every game, but to be able to split those two, we put ourselves in position,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who finished the night having completed 14 of 25 passes for 219 yards, with one touchdown, one interception, five sacks, one lost fumble and an 81.9 quarterback rating.
“In December, we have five games and we’ve got to make the most of them. We have three of them at home, four (in the) division. It all lays out right in front of us. This team is going to stick together. We’re going to regroup and go back home and hopefully get some home cooking.”
The Packers certainly have things to correct. The offensive line allowed Rodgers to be sacked five times and did little to create holes for the running game. The defense surrendered 390 yards, including 147 on the ground, and managed just one sack of Eli Manning.
“You have to stop the run, you have to pressure the quarterback,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “A guy like Eli, you’ve got to get in his face and try to get some turnovers. We didn’t get any. It’s tough to win when you don’t do that.”
The loss was the Packers’ most lopsided defeat since a 35-7 loss at Chicago on Dec. 23, 2007. It was the worst loss the Packers have absorbed since Rodgers’ ascension to the starting quarterback job, surpassing a 51-29 loss at New Orleans on Nov. 24, 2008. It also tied for the second-largest losing margin of the McCarthy era, behind a 35-0 whitewashing by New England on Nov. 19, 2006 - McCarthy’s first season.
“Maybe it’s a good reminder of what happens when you don’t come to play,” veteran defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. “I’m telling you, we’re going to take this as a positive. We didn’t have enough energy. They played harder than us. That’s not going to happen again. If we lose, it’s not going to be because a team played harder than us.
“That’s just not going to happen. It’s not acceptable around here. It definitely won’t happen again. This will be motivation for us the rest of the year.”
The Packers also have key players who are getting healthy. Two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Greg Jennings, who missed his seventh straight game with a lower abdominal muscle injury that required Nov. 1 surgery, should be back Sunday against the Vikings; outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury, should be back this week or next; and safety Charles Woodson (broken collarbone), cornerback Sam Shields (ankle) and running back Cedric Benson (Lisfranc foot sprain) should return sometime in December.
“It’s one game,” Rodgers said. “When you win five in a row, everybody’s happy but, like I said last year during the (undefeated) run, there’s things that kind of go under the radar that need to be handled. Sometimes it takes a loss to handle those things.
“Hopefully, we’ll remember this feeling and not let this kind of embarrassment to happen again. We’re better than this. We’re going to regroup.”