Packers want to see more consistency heading to playoffs
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) As Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy made clear after last week's victory at Oakland, winning, not ''style points,'' is what matters.
So, while the Packers are still looking for consistency on offense, they'll take a win any way they can get one on Sunday in Arizona.
The Cardinals (12-2) have the inside track to the No. 2 seed and a coveted first-round bye. If the Packers (10-4) can spring an upset, they'll extend that chase into the final weekend of the regular season.
Doing so won't be easy. With an offense that ranks No. 1 in yards and No. 2 in points, the Cardinals have been winning with ''style points'' throughout the season. That's how the Packers have won so often in seasons past, but not this season. That's led to a new buzzword for McCarthy: balance.
''This is a very balanced football team,'' McCarthy said. ''The offense has the ability to beat you, the defense can beat you, and the special teams can definitely make an impact. I don't know if I could have always stood up here and said that in the past.''
The passing offense, however, hasn't been beating teams with the regularity of past seasons. During Aaron Rodgers' first seven years as Green Bay's starting quarterback, the Packers' average passing game ranking was 6.6. This season, as they've struggled to cope with the preseason loss of star receiver Jordy Nelson, they are 26th.
After the Packers beat the Raiders, Rodgers didn't try to hide his disappointment, saying only, ''no'' when asked if he was happy about the offense's performance. Green Bay finished with 293 yards and had only one scoring drive of longer than 53 yards. The unit has played well in spurts, such as the week before against Dallas, when Green Bay won 28-7 behind 435 yards of total offense. That needs to happen with greater consistency, Rodgers said.
''We just hold ourselves to such a high standard,'' Rodgers said Wednesday. ''It was frustrating to not be able to finish that game off the right way. We were 1 for 5 on red-zone opportunities, (4-of-13) on third downs. That's just making it tough for us. And as well as our defense played, that should have been a three-score victory for us. I think when you set the bar high and you have high expectations, sometimes even a double-digit win can feel disappointing at times.''
Even with a vastly improved defense - the Packers' No. 5 ranking in scoring defense is their best since finishing No. 2 when winning the Super Bowl in 2010 - the offense is going to have to improve if the Packers are going to make a postseason run. Doing so starts with better production on third downs. Green Bay ranks 24th in third-down efficiency after never ranking outside the top 10 with Rodgers at quarterback.
''We know what we're capable of,'' receiver Randall Cobb said. ''We know who we're capable of being.''
NOTES: Julius Peppers, the Packers' 35-year-old outside linebacker, has 9 1/2 sacks. He wouldn't commit to playing in 2016, but said, ''If I was making the decision today, yeah, of course I can play another year. But we'll see. We'll see when the time comes.'' . McCarthy said he'd wait until Saturday's practice in Scottsdale, Arizona, before making a call on LT David Bakhtiari (ankle) and CB Sam Shields (concussion). Bakhtiari, Shields, OLB Jayrone Elliott (quad) and DT Letroy Guion (foot) didn't practice, with DT Mike Daniels (hamstring) returning after sitting out Wednesday. . Sunday's game is important, but not so important that McCarthy and his staff will be in their offices on Christmas. ''You can see it really starting last week and every night this week,'' he said. ''We've really been burning the midnight oil to make sure everything is done before we leave here today,'' he said Thursday.
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