GLENDALE, Ariz. – Aaron Rodgers clings to hope an offense that hasn't been itself in a very long time, will somehow come to life a week before the postseason begins.
"That's the beauty of the NFL. Teams match up different against different teams. You have to have leadership step up this week. Everything is in front of us as far as winning the division. Win a playoff game at home and then come back here," Rodgers said.
"Here" referred to a return trip to the Cardinals' nest, where the Packers absorbed a 38-8 pecking on Sunday. At halftime, it was 17-0. By the middle of the third quarter, it was over, 31-0.
The Packers visited the Cardinals for the first time since 2009 in a Week 16 matchup. Photos by Jim Biever, Packers.com.
Just when it appeared the Packers were getting hot for the playoffs, their offense got chilled by a lightning-quick Cardinals defense that sacked Rodgers eight times, forced four turnovers and covered the Packers' receivers as though Cardinals defenders had been in the Packers' huddle.
Hope for the postseason? What is it, Rodgers was asked, at least twice?
"Get healthy. That's a start. We're professionals. We have to hold ourselves to a high standard and play better. I can't turn the ball over like that," he said.
A week previously, following a 30-20 win in Oakland, Rodgers wasn't as encouraging in his postgame interview as he was following Sunday's loss in Arizona. He was clearly taking a leadership role on this Sunday and at a time when the Packers desperately need it.
"This is going to be a week we can show our resolve. Character is revealed. We feel confident we can get this thing turned around," he said.
"We don't hope. They're very good and we played poor. It starts with me. We have the opportunity to play our division opponent, Minnesota, and go out and win the game," Coach Mike McCarthy said when asked about finding hope for the future from what he described as an "ugly loss."
"These recurring things, we need to correct them," he said.
An inability of Packers receivers to achieve separation from defenders tops the list of "recurring things." Against one of the best secondaries in the league, none of the Packers' top three receivers caught more than half of the passes targeted for them.
"I'm not going to go into specifics," McCarthy said. "It's football. I have some hardcore opinions. You go watch the tape and take the emotion out of it. You adjust, change and emphasize."
"We have a standard we've set around here for a long time. We just haven't lived up to it. We had a chance with Mike (Daniels) picking that ball off. I threw that pick and the game went downhill from there," Rodgers said.
It has become a weekly refrain: The offense has to do better. The weeks have now numbered 16.
"We can do everything we want to do. It's a matter of getting it back together, get some guys healthy, get hot and get on a run," Rodgers said.
"I know what we're capable of. We have the opportunity to put it together for two halves and just haven't done it. We have guys who've played in big games, and in the playoffs you have to rely on that. We've won a lot of games here. I have confidence in those guys and myself," he added.
Hope was the Packers' best play on Sunday.