KANSAS CITY—Mike McCarthy regretted the lost opportunity to clinch home-field advantage.
“It hurts because that’s something special,” Driver said following the Packers’ 19-14 loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. “The perfect season is over now. We know we have five games left to win the whole thing.”
If there’s a positive in the Packers’ loss to the Chiefs, it’s that the goal is now clearly defined. It is singular. It’s not win the Super Bowl and go undefeated. It’s just: Win the Super Bowl.
When McCarthy addresses the media on Monday, he won’t be confronted by questions of whether or not he’ll rest his starters in the final two games. Had the Packers won in Kansas City, those questions would’ve not only been inevitable, they would’ve been epidemic.
That won’t happen on Monday. The loss to the Chiefs cancelled that drama, which was rapidly becoming an irritation. McCarthy need only speak of gifting the Packers fan base with a win over the Bears on Christmas night, which would clinch home-field throughout the playoffs – the Steelers could do that for the Packers by beating the 49ers on Monday night – and addressing the obvious and less-irritating question of whether or not he will rest his starters in the regular-season finale against the Lions.
All of that is not nearly as dramatic, or as annoying, as it would’ve been had the Packers been 14-0 on Monday. It’s almost refreshing that they’re not.
Will the loss help re-focus the team? Driver said it will.
“You lose a game you know you’re supposed to win. Get ready for the next games left and get ready for the playoffs after that. It’s been a year since we lost and that’s something special. We have something better to look forward to and that’s Super Bowl XLVI,” Driver said.
As it pertains to that pursuit, the Packers will have to look long and analytically at what the Chiefs did to win. The Chiefs married an aggressive, press pass-coverage scheme with an in-your-face pass-rush that forced Packers receivers to cut their routes short, and that disrupted the timing of the Packers’ precision passing attack.
“They challenged us. That’s the way you stop a team that can throw the football. They pressed us from the time we got off the bus,” McCarthy said.
Driver offered a slightly different slant.
“Their press coverage didn’t do anything. They pressured our quarterback. You could tell the receivers had to cut their routes down. We knew they were going to play aggressive,” Driver said.
“We have to make plays down the middle of the field when they have their safeties so wide,” Rodgers said.
The Bears, Lions and every team the Packers will face in the postseason are going to spend a lot of time with the tape of Sunday’s game. They’re going to see the press coverage and the pass-rush and they’re going to decide that’s the way to beat the Packers, and the Packers know they’re going to see the Chiefs’ game plan again, hopefully three more times in the postseason.
That’s the way it is in the copycat NFL.
It was, yet, another cathartic result of the loss to the Chiefs. You might say the Chiefs did the Packers a favor: They made what remains of the season crystal clear, in terms of what the Packers have to do and how they have to do it.
“The Super Bowl is the goal; 16-0 is just three games away from the ultimate goal,” Rodgers said. “It’s nice to go a calendar year without feeling like this. Hopefully, we’ll play the way we want to play.”Additional coverage - Dec. 18