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Vic Ketchman

Vic Ketchman is a veteran of 40 NFL seasons and has covered the Steelers and Jaguars prior to coming to Green Bay.


Homefield next, then comes the big one

Posted Dec 11, 2011

The Packers are a win away from a clean sweep of their goals, except for the one big bonus goal to which the nation’s attention will turn over the next three weeks: Will the Packers become the next team to challenge an undefeated season?

At 13-0 following a 46-16 beat-down of the Oakland Raiders, the Packers will clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with one more win; it can happen as soon as next Sunday in Kansas City. An undefeated season, of course, goes beyond preseason goals; it’s something no team has achieved in the 19-0 era.

“It’s all about Kansas City. This is the target. This is the next mile marker. That’s where my mind is. It’s about the Chiefs,” Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said following the win over the Raiders, a victory so lopsided that the second half was little more than an exercise in clock expiration.

The Packers enjoy a three-game lead with three games to play in the NFC homefield race. No one thinks the Packers will collapse in what’s left of the season; the pursuit of an undefeated season would seem to be the realistic challenge and, even at that, the final two games of the regular season will be played at Lambeau Field.

“We were in control of the game the whole second half. We’re happy with the victory,” McCarthy said of a win that included five takeaways and a fumble return for a touchdown by the Packers defense. “You want to get the heck out of there; play smart, be smart with the clock, keep your players in clean plays.

“I thought they were flying around,” McCarthy said of his defense, which played without linebackers A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop for a second consecutive week. Hawk was available to play but McCarthy decided to give him another full week of rest when the game got out of hand.

“The final score represents my assessment. Very impressed with all three phases in the first half,” McCarthy said.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 281 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 96.7 passer rating that is his lowest of the season. He was also sacked three times.

If those numbers paint a picture of something less than a dominant performance by Rodgers, then they aren’t telling the whole truth. Rodgers buried the Raiders under an avalanche of early-game completions and his lone interception was the result of a pass in the end zone that bounced off tight end Jermichael Finley’s chest and could just as easily have been Rodgers’ 40th touchdown pass of the season. Rodgers needs 11 touchdown passes in the final three regular-season games to tie Tom Brady for the most touchdown passes in a season, 50.

Rodgers led an offense that used the no-huddle exclusively in the first half, as the Packers continued to increase the pace of their offensive attack.

“Our quarterback is outstanding at handling the no-huddle. He has the best seat in the house. We’re playing at home. We knew our defense would have a chance to go out and jump on these people,” McCarthy explained.

The Packers’ main concern following the game was for the severity of a knee injury wide receiver Greg Jennings sustained in the second half. Jennings gave fans a thumb-up signal as he left the field on a cart.

“I do not have a feel for the severity of his injury,” McCarthy told reporters. He classified it as a “knee sprain.”

“It didn’t look very good but we’ll see what the MRI says tomorrow, but we have a first-round bye wrapped up so he has five weeks,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers added another receiver to his list of pass-catchers this season, as rookie tight end Ryan Taylor caught a four-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. It is Taylor’s first reception as a pro.

“My style has always been to go for the open guy. It’s fun to see that many guys get into the end zone,” Rodgers said of having thrown touchdown passes to nine players this season.

Jordy Nelson caught a 37-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. It gives Nelson the team lead with 10 touchdown receptions.

Additional coverage - Packers vs. Raiders

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