Playoffs still within reach for Packers
They did know this: Despite Sunday night’s tough 31-27 loss at New England, the Packers still are virtually assured of a playoff spot if they win their final two games.
Even after watching yet another close game go the wrong way—all six of the Packers’ losses this season have come by four points or fewer—Packers coach Mike McCarthy generally was upbeat about the way his team played in a road game against the NFL’s hottest team with Rodgers on the sideline.
“You get angry, and you don’t sweep anything under the rug,” McCarthy said Monday. “There was a lot of positive aspects of the game last night that would lead to a very high performance level, and there’s some things that we need to do a better job in, particularly in critical points in the game.”
Rodgers sat out Sunday night’s game a week after sustaining his second concussion of the season. McCarthy said he will have more information on Rodgers’ availability Wednesday.
“We’re still going through our medical process now with all of our players,” McCarthy said.
Backup Matt Flynn played well in Rodgers’ place, throwing for 251 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He nearly rallied the Packers late in the fourth quarter, but a late drive ended with a sack.
“It’s a tough one to swallow,” Flynn said after the game. “It makes you sit there and think what you could have done different, make a play here, just things that kind of eat you up that you can’t stop thinking about. It’s definitely tough to swallow, but we’ve got to look forward. We’ve got two games left and we’ve still got things in front of us.”
Flynn credited Rodgers with helping him out during his first career start.
“Me and Aaron talked all week,” Flynn said. “He just told me to cut it loose and have fun out there, trust your preparation, trust your reads. He was with me the whole time on the sideline, talking to me. He was a big help to me.”
Flynn said his inexperience wasn’t a factor on the final drive.
The Packers were driving toward what could have been a game-winning touchdown, but got bogged down after a sack forced them to burn their third timeout with just under a minute remaining. A third-down pass from Flynn to Donald Driver came close to the first down marker, but the Packers lost valuable time while waiting to officials to determine if it was first down or fourth down.
They ended up a yard short. Flynn got one last snap off with the clock running down, but was sacked on the final play.
“That third-down play, we couldn’t really tell if we got the first down or not,” Flynn said. “We would have gone up and clocked the ball and had an opportunity to call a better play, but once they spotted it late, it was fourth down and we just had to go. I don’t feel like it was inexperience. I’ve been around the game and we work 2-minute drills all the time.”
McCarthy said the sack earlier in the drive hurt the Packers’ ability to manage the clock, but the coach wasn’t critical of the way Flynn handled the final two plays.
“I thought that Matt did fine with the operation of the third-down to the fourth-down play,” McCarthy said. “They went with a three-man rush, Matt tried to extend the play—which you like to do there—and he was sacked.”
Should Rodgers return to practice this week, it would give the Packers a big boost going into their final two games. The Packers host the New York Giants on Sunday, then face the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field a week later.
They’ll likely have to face the Giants without defensive end Cullen Jenkins, who has missed the last two games with a lingering calf injury. McCarthy hopes Jenkins will be able to return for the regular season finale against Chicago.
McCarthy seemed optimistic about safety Nick Collins, who left Sunday’s game with a rib injury. And he said outside linebacker Frank Zombo could return from a knee injury after sitting out Sunday’s game.
Win both games, and the Packers are virtually assured a playoff spot.
“That sounds good, but we’ve got to win a close game,” cornerback Charles Woodson said. “And we haven’t done that. We haven’t shown that we can do that yet.”