GREEN BAY – Nothing’s getting easier for the Packers.
Coming off a dramatic, last-second victory in Chicago, Green Bay now has to prepare for another NFC North rival in Minnesota on a short week, figure out who’s healthy and who’s not, and keep the cold-weather playoff push going.
“To control your own destiny is what you want,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday, as the Packers can win the division with victories in their last two games over the Vikings and Lions.
McCarthy also reiterated to the players that there’s no talk of playoffs until the team gets to 10 wins.
“That’s all we’ve really focused on,” he said. “We know we’re at eight, we have to get to nine, and next week I’ll be answering the question the same way.
“Not to be cliché-ish, but we’re staying true to what’s right in front of us. We have plenty to focus on. A six-day schedule is a challenge. We don’t need to waste any time worrying about the other stuff.”
On the injury front, McCarthy said the early indication is quarterback Aaron Rodgers (calf) is “better today than he was going into the game.” There are also no major concerns about starting guards T.J. Lang (back) and Lane Taylor (hip), who had to come out right before Rodgers’ 60-yard heave to Jordy Nelson to set up the game-winning field goal.
The coordination of the chaos down the stretch was made to look seamless. Jason Spriggs and Don Barclay jumped right in for the third-and-11 bomb. Led by Rodgers, everyone stayed calm as the clock ticked down for the spike, and no one flinched in a situation where a false start would have resulted in a 10-second runoff and sent the game to overtime.
“I can’t say enough about the whole boundary operation,” McCarthy said. “The protection, the route combination, Jordy setting that angle for Aaron to throw him open, and it’s obviously a great throw.”
It was made possible by Micah Hyde’s pass break-up at the goal line on the Bears’ previous possession, which was somewhat chaotic, too.
The Packers’ defense made a substitution error, so Letroy Guion was running down the sideline (to stay onside) and cutting back into the field of play to give Green Bay 11 defenders.
Hyde wasn’t distracted, and McCarthy said he not only recognized the Bears’ route combination at the goal line but then broke on the pass to Cameron Meredith at just the right moment.
“Micah’s clearly a very instinctive player,” McCarthy said. “That play speaks volumes about our defense, especially after the way it was going in the fourth quarter.”
Chicago had scored two touchdowns with relative ease, as the Packers pulled top cornerback Damarious Randall in the midst of a bad game. The Bears then settled for the tying field goal with 1:19 to play.
McCarthy said the defense gave the Bears too many “soft coverage opportunities” and Chicago made them pay for it.
On the other side, the Packers took advantage of Chicago’s trouble defending tight end Jared Cook, who had six catches for 85 yards, plus a couple other opportunities that missed connecting.
“Jared Cook is a matchup concern,” McCarthy said. “It’s obvious when you line him up in different spots how they react to him.
“It was evident when he came back (from injury) against Washington. He’s a tough guy to handle.”
So were running backs Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael, who combined for 207 of Green Bay’s 226 rushing yards with three rushing touchdowns.
Between Montgomery being “stronger than people realize” and Michael’s “natural running ability,” McCarthy and the coaching staff counted 19 broken tackles in the game, many in the ground game.
“That’s a huge day,” McCarthy said. “Those guys obviously had a lot of them.”