GREEN BAY—Mike McCarthy pronounced his team ready for the postseason.
“It was important for us to dominate opponents late in the year. We wanted to take the next step and I thought we accomplished that today,” the Packers head coach said following a 55-7 win over the Tennessee Titans that was every bit the blowout the final score would suggest.
At 11-4, the Packers have one game remaining before they turn to January and the postseason. Only one issue remains to be decided between now and then: Will the Packers enter the playoffs as the NFC’s No. 2 seed or No. 3 seed?
“Everything happens for a reason. We’re going to play to win next week,” McCarthy said of the regular season finale in Minnesota, which would have special meaning for the Packers if Seattle was to defeat San Francisco tonight. Should that occur, the Packers could clinch the No. 2 seed with a win in Minnesota.
“At the end of the day, you want to play your best football, and we have to do that next week in Minnesota. I’d rather have the No. 2 seed, but if it’s No. 3, that’s fine,” McCarthy added.
More important than the Packers’ seeding position is the undeniable fact the Packers are playing their best football of the season. Aaron Rodgers threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns, the Packers got a 109 yards rushing and 28 carries from their two backs, and the defense sacked Titans quarterback Jake Locker seven times and so dominated the Titans that the statistics were an embarrassment for the visitors until they were permitted to mount a 53-yard scoring drive in the final six minutes of the game.
“I really like the look of the way our defense is playing,” McCarthy said.
His defense didn’t have that look a year ago, when the Packers breezed into the playoffs 15-1 and the No. 1 seed in the NFC. It is the greatest difference between last season’s one-and-done team and this year’s version of adversity’s darlings. Last January, the Packers entered the playoffs with the NFL’s worst defense. This season, the Packers have a defense that is threatening the top 10.
Offensively, Rodgers’ control of the offense seems to increase on a weekly basis, and McCarthy went out of his way to praise Rodgers for his play-calling at the line of scrimmage.
“Tennessee challenged us and Aaron did a very good job of taking what was there,” McCarthy said.
The Packers’ first touchdown might’ve been a perfect example of the stamp Rodgers is putting on his offense. With an empty backfield and a five-wide look from the Titans’ 6-yard line, Rodgers scored on a quarterback draw. It was a play that had Rodgers’ stamp all over it.
“We’re focused on sweeping the division two years in a row,” McCarthy said of what the Packers will do with a win in Minnesota next weekend.
Running back DuJuan Harris was a surprise starter, though Ryan Grant did the bulk of the running with 20 carries for 80 yards. Harris scored on a 7-yard run to give the Packers a 27-0 lead in the third quarter, and Grant scored on runs of 7 and 9 yards to officially make the game a blowout in the fourth quarter.
“It was a good 1-2 punch,” McCarthy said.
“That’s the way we want to look. That the way we want to play,” McCarthy added, referring to his offense’s mix of run and pass and its up-tempo style of play, which included 10 no-huddle possessions, which McCarthy said was a pregame goal.
What’s so good about the way the Packers look, McCarthy was asked?
“Score!” he said. “The ability to stop the run and make a team one-dimensional. That’s what we’ve been able to do the last two weeks. Offensively, we’ve been able to play run and pass. Those are the things you’re looking for in your football team.”
The Packers were also looking for their kicker, Mason Crosby, to break out of his slump, which he did by converting both of his field goal attempts, one from 26 yards and the other from 48. The second one used the right upright to bank the ball over the crossbar. The first of the two, the 26-yarder, got a thunderous cheer.
“Mason is our kicker. I don’t know how long I have to keep saying this. Kicking in Lambeau is different. I was happy for him personally that he was two-for-two. He’s our guy,” McCarthy said.
Even the kicker is hot. Additional coverage - Packers vs. Titans