Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) reacts after Jordy
Nelson (87) drops a pass during the second half of an NFL
football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014,
in Orchard Park, N.Y.
GREEN BAY — The
Green Bay Packers are in playoff mode, even after a disappointing loss
Breaking from the
norm, coach Mike McCarthy had his players elect playoff captains on
Monday, six days ahead of a game at Tampa Bay. Usually, that voting
isn't conducted until the Monday after the conclusion of the regular
at this game as really the start of our playoff approach, playoff
mind-set," McCarthy said Wednesday. "This is a road game
that we have to have. We clearly understand the importance of winning
in December, but we feel like we need to take it up a notch as a
football team to make sure that we improve not only as a team but,
most importantly, in the win column. This is a playoff-type
preparation. We discussed it in the team meeting."
Rodgers and receiver Jordy Nelson were selected on offense, linebacker
Julius Peppers and Morgan Burnett on defense, and receiver Randall
Cobb and cornerback Jarrett Bush on special teams.
Of course, the
Packers won't need playoff captains if they don't play better than
they did during the 21-13 loss at Buffalo. If Green Bay wins at Tampa
Bay and either Philadelphia loses to Washington or Dallas beats
Indianapolis, the Packers will clinch a playoff berth. Beat Tampa Bay
and then Detroit, which is tied with Green Bay for the NFC North lead,
and the Packers will earn the division title and a first-round playoff
starts with Rodgers bouncing back after what statistically was the
worst game of his career. The Packers, who entered last week with the
most points scored and fewest giveaways in the league, managed only
one touchdown while turning over the ball twice.
"I think it's a
mind-set of dealing with adversity in a positive way and pushing
through it, and when the going gets tough, they say the tough get
going," Rodgers said. "(Being) mentally tough, I think, is a
trait that allows you to overcome some rough performances, and that's
what I rely on after a poor performance is my mental preparation and
my mental fortitude."
The Packers dropped
six passes after entering the game with only 17 for the season,
according to STATS. The receivers didn't do any more ball drills than
usual, Nelson said, and the only recourse was to "move on."
"The focus level
and guys working hard and trying to continue to improve (are the
keys)," said Nelson, who dropped what might have been a 94-yard
touchdown. "Even though it's late in the year, you can't start
settling for where you're at, and there's always areas to improve each
and every week, whether it's individually or as an offense. I think
we've got professional guys in here that take a lot of pride in our
work, whether it's in practice or if it's in a game."
That pride has shown
up this season. After the Packers' three losses, they've bounced back
to win by an average of 23 points. With a healthy Rodgers, the Packers
haven't dropped back-to-back games since October 2010. That starts
with the leadership, McCarthy said, which is why he decided to elect
playoff captains now rather than waiting a couple weeks. He's looking
toward his leaders to "take the responsibility" of pushing
this team past last week and into the postseason.
"It's that time
of the year. It's the playoff time of the year," said Peppers, a
quiet veteran who was added during the offseason. "So, yeah, if
you want to say it's that time to turn it up, then you can say