McCarthy stresses positives after loss to Vikings
As disappointing as their loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday had been — especially since it cost them the NFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye — the Green Bay Packers had no time to feel sorry for themselves.
With those same Vikings coming to Lambeau Field on Saturday night for an NFC wild card game, the work week is already underway. And coach Mike McCarthy as already stressing the positives.
"I mean, there's nothing but positives right now," McCarthy said at a 7:45 a.m. press conference, on a day when players were technically off but could come to the stadium if they wanted to.
"This is playoff football, and really, yes, we had every intention of winning the game in Minnesota (Sunday). OK, it didn't work. I'm not just fluffing it by, but you have to, because the door is open for the playoffs to begin.
"It's the playoffs. It doesn't matter who we play, where we play them. We feel confident that we're going to get it done and do whatever we need to get it done."
While the onward-and-upward theme was predictable — "We have no choice at this point," defensive tackle B.J. Raji correctly pointed out — it was also necessary with the shortened work week.
McCarthy said the team would practice Tuesday afternoon, then Wednesday and Thursday mornings, doing all of its normal installations. The players will have a mandatory weightlifting session Tuesday morning, and the team will gather at noon to officially kick off their week.
"We've been through some adversity this year, more so than probably in the past, and I felt like we dealt with it very well throughout the year," left guard T.J. Lang said. "Knowing these guys, these players, these coaches, we're going to be ready to go — get this game out of our minds and get ready to prepare for them next week."
It will help that the Packers will be prepping for the Vikings for the third time in a month. The Packers won at Lambeau Field, 23-14, on Dec. 2 before Sunday night's 37-34 loss.
"We know who our opponent is. The preparation for our opponent should be pretty clean," McCarthy said.
Whether or not the rematch is a good thing was a matter of opinion. In the visitors' locker room at the Metrodome, opinion had been mixed.
"We're in the playoffs now, so you play who you are seeded against. The road got a little tougher having to play on opening weekend, but we've got a home game and that's why you win the division," quarterback Aaron Rodgers replied when asked if he wanted a rematch. "You get to go back home and the game will be a different type of game. They won't have the home-crowd advantage and hopefully that will make a difference."
Others were anxious to get another shot at the Vikings and running back Adrian Peterson, who followed up a 210-yard effort on Dec. 2 with a 199-yard effort Sunday, which left him eight yards short of Eric Dickerson's 1984 NFL single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards.
"As long as we're in the playoffs, it really don't matter who we play. Obviously, it's a team we play twice a year so it's going to be a lot of recognition out there," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "We've got the Vikings next week, (so) bring them on. Bring them on. Obviously, they have to go to Lambeau and hopefully we can go out and put together a better performance that we did."
This isn't the first time the Packers have faced their Week 17 opponent the following week in the opening round of the playoffs. At the end of the 2009 season, the Packers went to Arizona for the regular-season finale and knew before kickoff that there would be a postseason rematch the following week. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt pulled his starters while McCarthy played his, and the Packers won the game that didn't matter. The next week, the Cardinals won in dramatic fashion, advancing with a 51-45 overtime victory.
It's also not the first time the Packers have faced an NFC North opponent in the postseason. In 2004, the Packers swept the Vikings in regular-season play but lost in the wild card round at Lambeau. And in 2010, the Packers split their regular-season series with the Chicago Bears before beating them in the NFC Championship Game to advance to Super Bowl XLV.
In that instance, the Bears could have kept the Packers out of the playoffs by beating them in Week 17 at Lambeau Field. Instead, the Packers won, and the Bears lived to regret it. McCarthy's task is to make sure the Vikings don't return the favor.
"It's different because there's a familiarity. There's a lot more tape. You're watching it over and over and over again. You can call out the plays just as soon as they start," McCarthy said. "Those are the things you have to be cautious of, but at the end of the day playoff football is about fundamentals.
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