Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley signals for a first down after making a catch in the third quarter of Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans at Lambeau Field. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media
Flex scheduling announcement
The NFL has moved next Sunday's regular season finale between the Packers and Vikings to 3:25 p.m. That game is at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
NFC playoff picture
1. Atlanta Falcons 13-2
2. Green Bay Packers 11-4
At Vikings (9-6)
3. San Francisco 49ers 10-4-1
4. Washington Redskins 9-6
5. Seattle Seahawks 10-5
6. Minnesota Vikings 9-6
7. Chicago Bears 9-6
At Lions (4-11)
8. Dallas Cowboys 8-7
At Redskins (9-6)
9. New York Giants 8-7
There’s playing well, and then there’s winning in an epic mismatch.
The Green Bay Packers destroyed the Tennessee Titans 55-7 on Sunday at Lambeau Field. It was one of the most dominating wins in team history and comes in late December, with the first playoff game only two or three weeks away.
Coach Mike McCarthy’s team can’t carry over any of those points to next week’s game at Minnesota or to the postseason. But the Packers seem to believe that this overwhelming performance matters more than just chalking up another win, even if it comes against a bad NFL team.
“It was important for us to go out and dominate the opponents late in the year,” McCarthy said after the game. “We have momentum going for us, particularly what we’ve done over the last nine weeks, 10 weeks. So we wanted to take the next step as a football team, and I felt we were able to accomplish that today.”
At 11-4, the Packers have won nine of their last 10 games and wrapped up at least the No. 3 seed in the NFC. But after the Seattle Seahawks routed the San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1) on Sunday night, the Packers are eyeing the No. 2 spot and a first-round playoff bye.
The Packers hold the No. 2 seed by a half-game going into next week’s regular-season finale at Minnesota, which was moved to 3:25 p.m. by the NFL’s flex scheduling announced Sunday night. The 49ers play Arizona (5-10).
The Packers might be more ambivalent than most teams about the value of the bye considering their recent history. In 2010, they squeaked into the playoffs as the No. 6-seeded team but were in the middle of a roll that took them to a Super Bowl title. Then last season, after winning the No. 1 seed with a 15-1 record, they were badly beaten after their playoff bye by the New York Giants.
“Either way,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “If we’re able to get the 2 seed and get a week off, it’d probably help a couple of our injured guys. If not, a couple years ago we went the distance playing every week and making that work. We’ll just wait and see.”
McCarthy said: “I would definitely prefer the (No.) 2 over the 3 seed, but the 3 seed’s fine.”
The Packers’ win was one of the most lopsided in their history and highlighted two teams going in different directions. The Packers are headed to the playoffs for the fourth straight season on a high behind the play of the NFL’s reigning MVP in his prime and a mostly seasoned team. The Titans are missing the playoffs for the third time in the last four years and fielding a nonfunctional offense because of a young quarterback (Jake Locker) who has serious shortcomings in throwing accuracy and awareness, and an offensive line that’s been wiped out by injuries.
The Packers’ 55 points tied for the third-most in the team’s history in the NFL, behind only their 57-25 win over Detroit in 1945 and a 56-3 win over Atlanta in 1966. The 48-point margin of victory also tied for the third-most in the team’s NFL history, behind only that 53-point win over the Falcons and a 52-3 win over New Orleans in 2005.
“They have a lot of young talent,” cornerback Tramon Williams said of the Titans. “Definitely was expecting a better game.”
The Titans’ problems were obvious by their second offensive series, when they had a chance to hit the Packers with a big play, maybe even an 85-yard touchdown, after receiver Nate Washington streaked down the left side of the field uncovered on a blown coverage. But Locker underthrew him so badly Washington couldn’t come back to make the catch. Then the Titans failed to convert third-and-15, and the rout was on.
The domination was total. The Packers scored on nine of their next 11 possessions. They outgained the Titans 460 yards to 180 yards. Rodgers’ passer rating (125.1) was three times higher than Locker’s (41.0).
The Packers quarterback completed 71.1 percent of his passes (27-for-38) for 342 yards and was sacked only once; Locker completed 43.3 percent of his passes (13-for-30) for only 140 yards, was sacked seven times and appeared baffled by Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ blitzes. The most effective one regularly sent linebacker A.J. Hawk (two sacks and three quarterback hits) and cornerback Casey Hayward (one quarterback hit) in combination, and usually one or the other had a free run at Locker.
The Packers’ two interceptions of Locker, both in the first quarter — one by cornerback Sam Shields, another by outside linebacker Erik Walden off a dropped pass — were less game-turning. But they were more icing for a Packers defense that’s drastically improved from the one that gave up the most passing yards in the NFL last season.
“We have a lot of depth (in the secondary),” Williams said. “If we can stay together and stay healthy, all of that can factor in. Our front seven is playing well, you have guys coming in, what (defensive lineman) Mike Neal is doing. You obviously have Clay (Matthews), and other guys are showing up. That’s what we need now.”
The Packers go into a regular-season finale at Minnesota that means something. They’ll be fighting for the No. 2 seed while the Vikings will be trying to improve to 10-6 to make the playoffs as a wild card.
That’s unlike last season, when the Packers had the No. 1 seed wrapped up going into their finale against Detroit and used that weekend to get extra rest for key players. They won that game with backup Matt Flynn at quarterback, but then lost in their playoff opener two weeks later, rendering meaningless a 15-1 season.
“Last year was nice to be able to relax that week,” Rodgers said. “Might not do that again in my career. It was nice for that and nice to get Flynn some playing time.
"It’ll be a good game. Obviously, a rivalry game for us and the Vikings. There are some other subplots, with (halfback) Adrian (Peterson) trying to get the record. I’m sure they’ll be trying to get him the all-time (single-season rushing) yards record, and they’re trying to get into the playoffs. We can do a number of things next week: Potentially clinch the No. 2 seed, keep them out of the playoffs and, not sure if it’s possible, hopefully keep (Peterson) under 2,105 (yards).”
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @petedougherty.