Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy would seem to be facing a decision he’ll have to make for his team’s final game of the regular season: Rest starters for the playoffs, or go for the win?
It was a question McCarthy wasn’t ready to answer following the Packers’ 35-21 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night at Lambeau Field. The win clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and set a franchise record for the most wins in a season. Sunday’s win also made the New Year’s Day game against the visiting Detroit Lions relatively meaningless.
“We’re going to play to win the game next week. I’m not real comfortable with a division opponent coming in here and not thinking we’re going to play to get win No. 15,” McCarthy said, but he then added that the health of his team heading into the postseason is a concern, which suggests McCarthy will rest key players.
One of those key players would seem to be quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who threw five touchdown passes in the win over the Bears. Rodgers has thrown 45 touchdown passes this season and is five touchdown passes shy of Tom Brady’s single-season record, 50.
Asked if he would like to have a chance to pursue Brady’s record, Rodgers said: “That’s probably safe.”
When Rodgers was asked about yielding to backup quarterback Matt Flynn next Sunday, Rodgers said: “I wouldn’t mind seeing him play a bit.
“I think we need to get healthy. That’s the main thing. Now that we have the top seed sewed up, the priorities may shift a bit,” Rodgers added.
It must be remembered that the Packers could find themselves playing against the Lions in consecutive games. Should the Lions win in the wild-card round of the playoffs, the possibility exists they could play in Green Bay in the divisional round of the playoffs on Jan. 14 or 15, which would be the Packers’ first playoff game.
All of this will be carefully considered by McCarthy over the next several days. For the next 24 hours, however, McCarthy and his players wanted to savor the joy of a holidays season that arguably caps the greatest year in Packers history.
In 2011, the Packers won the Super Bowl, more games than in any other year in Packers history, lost only once, scored four wins over their rivals from Chicago and put themselves in prime position to defend their Super Bowl championship.
“Any time I can stand up here and talk about a record that belongs to the great Green Bay Packers, that’s special,” McCarthy said of the 14-win standard. A win over the Lions, of course, would kick that record up a notch, to 15 wins.
Everything about the Packers’ win over the Bears was glorious, except 441 yards allowed by the Packers defense to a Bears offense that came into the game ranked 24th in the league. Especially discouraging was 199 yards rushing by the Bears, which resulted in more than 10 minutes time of possession advantage. That’s not playoff football and McCarthy said it has to be fixed.
“Their ability to get yards on our defense; we need to get that flipped. They did a very good job of running the ball on us,” McCarthy said.
The play of the Packers’ offensive line, however, was definitely reason for Christmas cheer. Rodgers wasn’t sacked and seldom hurried.
“I can’t say enough about our offensive line,” McCarthy said. “We won big. That’s the bottom line.
“We wanted the path (to the Super Bowl) to go through Lambeau. We have a big advantage playing in front of our fans,” McCarthy added.
Only one goal remains to be achieved. Additional coverage - Packers vs. Bears