Disappointed with loss, Packers aim for homefield
And they don’t seem to put much stock in the theory that a well-timed loss can help a good team focus going into the playoffs.
Still, there’s home field advantage to be clinched—and, ultimately, a Super Bowl left to shoot for—giving the Packers plenty to play for going into Sunday’s game against NFC North rival Chicago at Lambeau Field.
“Yeah, it’s disappointing, but at the same time, it’s not end-all, be-all,” safety Charlie Peprah said. “We’re still 13-1, still control our own destiny as far as getting home field. That’s what, really, we’re focused on. Feeling sorry for ourselves, we let that go already. Everybody’s back and focused.”
When the Packers returned to practice Wednesday, coach Mike McCarthy saw a team that was perhaps a little less boisterous than usual.
“They’re back at it,” McCarthy said. “It’s business as usual but a little more, I don’t want to say quiet, (but) focused.”
More focused? Perhaps, but Aaron Rodgers isn’t convinced Sunday’s loss at Kansas City will somehow be helpful to the Packers.
“A loss is not a good loss,” Rodgers said. “I don’t know what that means. To the outside world, people will probably think it takes pressure off of us and we don’t have to talk about ‘undefeated’ and that stuff. But I like the challenge of people talking about us and pulling for us to get beat and thinking we’re not going to be able to accomplish something. That’s kind of what made us great the last two years.”
And Rodgers definitely didn’t want to hear anything about how the Chiefs’ formula for winning—controlling the clock on offense while pressing receivers and pressuring Rodgers on defense—provided some sort of undiscovered blueprint that might help other teams beat the Packers.
“I think it’s baloney,” Rodgers said. “They have a blueprint for winning any game. If you control the football, you don’t turn the ball over and you can shut the other team down on third down and hold them to 14 points, you should win the game. Other teams have played similar styles of coverages and ideas of rushing four and dropping seven or rushing three and dropping or playing man with two high safeties and we beat those teams. We just didn’t execute well, they did. They controlled the football, they didn’t turn it over to our defense and I don’t care who’s playing who, that’s a recipe for success.”
The Packers no longer have a perfect season to shoot for but they do have plenty of challenges to face.
Starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga has been ruled out of Sunday’s game with a left knee sprain, while backup Derek Sherrod is out for the season with a broken right leg.
Veteran left tackle Chad Clifton returned to practice Wednesday on a limited basis. But he has been out since hurting his hamstring in the Oct. 9 victory at Atlanta, then hurting his back during the rehabilitation process, and his ability to play anytime soon remains unclear.
If Clifton is still out, the Packers would be left without three of their top four tackles going into the Bears game.
The Packers could play Marshall Newhouse at left tackle, Evan Dietrich-Smith at left guard, Scott Wells at center, Josh Sitton at right guard and T.J. Lang at right tackle. In that scenario, only Wells and Sitton would be at their natural positions.
For depth, Green Bay signed tackle Herb Taylor, who hasn’t played significant time since 2008 with Kansas City. He’ll have to be ready to play right away in the event of another injury.
“We’ll max out our time and preparation to get him ready,” McCarthy said.
The addition of Taylor indicated that the Packers apparently weren’t interested in bringing back veteran Mark Tauscher.
“We’re all very fond of Mark Tauscher here,” McCarthy said. “Just like any other personnel situation I’m not going to comment on those types of discussions and so forth.”
Beyond the offensive line injuries, wide receiver Greg Jennings remains out with a sprained left knee and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett was unable to practice Wednesday. He was inactive in Sunday’s loss to Kansas City with a concussion.
“He’s moving forward,” McCarthy said. “I don’t get into the specifics with what hurdle he’s crossed and so forth. We’re obviously being cautious with Ryan like we would with any of our players.”
And defensive lineman Mike Neal picked up a shoulder injury in the loss at Kansas City.
There was some good news for the Packers: Running back James Starks fully participated in practice after sitting out the past two games with knee and ankle injuries.
Even after their first loss and some mounting injuries, tight end Jermichael Finley doesn’t understand why anybody would get off the Packers’ bandwagon.
“One minute you’re on top, and the next minute you’re the worst team in the NFL,” Finley said. “It’s terrible to me. It’s like one week you’re God and it’s the next week you’re the devil. It’s crazy stuff. It’s ridiculous.”