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Mike Vandermause column: Players shrug off loss, look ahead to rematch

Dec. 30, 2012
 

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Green Bay Packers guard T.J. Lang walks off the field after a Packers turnover in the third quarter of Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media

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MINNEAPOLIS — Not everyone in the Green Bay Packers locker room was taking Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings hard.

“It don’t hurt at all,” said a defiant tight end Jermichael Finley. “We got to keep it rolling. We’re professionals and we’ve got to come to play (Saturday).”

The Packers’ 37-34 defeat at the Metrodome cost them a first-round playoff bye. It also means they must face the Vikings and all-world running back Adrian Peterson again on Saturday night, this time at Lambeau Field.

But things could be worse, and the Packers were trying to put a positive spin on their last-second loss.

“It’s not that big of a deal,” said cornerback Tramon Williams. “Obviously any game you come into you want to win, so that’s disappointing. But we know we’re in the show. That’s all that really matters at this point. We just have to go the hard way. We’ve proven we can do it before.”

The Packers won three consecutive road playoff games as the No. 6 seed two years ago on their way to a Super Bowl championship. At least this year they get to play one postseason game at home.

“You don’t ever want to take a loss lightly, especially when you have the chance to lock up the (No.) 2 seed and the bye,” said guard T.J. Lang. “It’s disappointing, but at the same time, you still got to hold your head up high. We still have a home playoff game. We’re still division champs, so we reached that goal for a reason. We’re a damn good football team. We proved two years ago playing right away could be good.”

While it flies in the face of logic and common sense, the Packers might be better off playing an extra playoff game and building some momentum.

Veteran defensive back Charles Woodson said as much two weeks ago in talking about potential playoff scenarios, and he’s been around the NFL long enough to know.

There’s something to be said for staying sharp, so lamenting the loss of a first-round bye is wasted energy.

“I don’t think this loss crushed our momentum we built up the last few weeks,” said Lang.

The Packers entered Sunday’s regular-season finale with nine victories in their past 10 games. Despite a sluggish offensive start and a subpar defensive performance, the Packers nearly won in a difficult environment against a desperate Vikings team.

Five of the last seven Super Bowl champions didn’t have the benefit of a first-round playoff bye, so this should hardly be considered a crippling blow to the Packers’ title hopes.

Finley is looking forward to a rematch against the Vikings.

“No doubt, in the backyard if we had to,” Finley said. “But we got to come out and jump on them at the beginning. We can’t let them hang around … we’ve got to put our foot on their throat ASAP.”

No one on defense relishes the daunting prospect of facing Peterson again, but if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.

“We can’t sit here and sulk and feel bad for ourselves when we have a home game next week at Lambeau,” said linebacker A.J. Hawk. “You don’t want to go and mess that one up. So we want to be playing 100 percent next week.”

If the Packers play up to their potential, they have as good a chance as any team to make a deep run in the playoffs. The opponents and venues shouldn’t matter.

Or as Williams put it: “As long as we’re in playoffs, we’re good.”

mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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