GREEN BAY—The Packers lost the battle of the red zone but won the game, 26-21, and now find themselves in control of a first-round playoffs bye and, with a little help, the Packers could claim homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

“Offensively, we had a lot of productivity. The point total was enough to win the game. The defense did a lot of good things. The end of the game is what you’re looking for as a coach. You need to make plays down the stretch,” Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said following his team’s win over the New England Patriots.

The play down the stretch that resonated the loudest is Mike Daniels’ and Mike Neal’s shared sack of Tom Brady, on a third-and-9 play when the Patriots were threatening to score the go-ahead touchdown.

“If you would’ve told me we’d hold them to 21, I’d probably feel pretty good about winning the game,” McCarthy said in complimenting his defense. “Let’s be real. We beat a heckuva football team tonight.”

The Packers beat what most consider to be the best team in the AFC, and they beat a quarterback for the ages.

“Hey, you’re playing against one of the greatest quarterbacks, certainly in this generation,” McCarthy said, referring to Brady.

The Packers also took down one of the greatest coaches in modern football history.

“He was very gracious. He has set the standard for an NFL coach during my time in the league. Nobody does it better than he’s done it,” McCarthy said of Patriots Coach Bill Belichick.

McCarthy and Belichick waged a football strategy war in this game, moving players around to force matchups that might favor each team. The Patriots opened by having star cornerback Darrelle Revis against Packers receiver Randall Cobb, and McCarthy countered by using Cobb in a variety of positions, from running back to slot receiver.
“It was a matchup game. They were changing their matchups,” McCarthy said.

Aaron Rodgers was the star of this game. His 368 yards passing and two touchdown passes – he also had one dropped by Davante Adams – overmatched Brady’s 245 and two. Rodgers might have taken the lead for the league MVP with his performance against the Patriots.

The only thing lacking for the Packers was efficiency in the red zone. They were 0-for-4.

“We had some opportunities in the red zone but didn’t convert. The most important thing is we were getting down there,” McCarthy said. “I thought Aaron played extremely well.”

At 9-3, the Packers will win the NFC North title and no less than the No. 2 seed for the NFC playoffs should they win their final four regular-season games. The Cardinals, 9-3, are currently No. 1, but they have a punishing finishing schedule and are playing without their starting quarterback.

“It’s about stacking successes. It’s our ninth win. Our goal is always to get to 10 wins and then take a look around,” McCarthy said. “This thing is getting better each and every day. These types of wins are valuable.”

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