GREEN BAY—Mike McCarthy could barely force himself to answer the question.
How does it feel to tie Vince Lombardi for the second-most wins in Packers history, 98?
"It's an honor to coach here. I'm thrilled to coach here and be able to win games," McCarthy said following the Packers' 43-37 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.
It was out of deference to Lombardi that McCarthy elected not to compare himself to the greatest coach in Packers history. Aaron Rodgers spoke for his coach.
"Mike is a phenomenal coach. He doesn't have a big ego. He's not going to call attention to himself. He just goes out and does his job. He's a player's coach. I'm really proud to be a part of a lot of those wins," Rodgers said.
Such was the historical context of the Packers' win, which became far more difficult than anyone imagined it would be when the Packers took a 31-7 lead to the halftime locker room. At that time, this 13th game of the regular season had the markings of another Packers blowout victory.
"There may have been a slight relaxation there at halftime, up by 24," Rodgers said.
The present-tense impact of the Packers' win is that it keeps them a game ahead of the Lions in the NFC North title race, and tied with the Cardinals in the NFC homefield advantage race.
"Ten victories has always been a benchmark for us. It's tough to get to that. Eleven wins will probably be the benchmark this year. Defensively, it was a tale of two halves. You have to give Atlanta's offense credit. Our communication wasn't what it's supposed to be. We have plenty to clean up," McCarthy said as he reviewed the win.
In a nutshell:
- The Packers offense gained 502 yards. Rodgers threw for 327 yards, three touchdowns and a 123.3 passer rating. As the Falcons began to close on the Packers, Rodgers heaved a 60-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson that, for all intents and purposes, clinched the win.
- Green Bay's defense allowed 465 yards, as Matt Ryan threw for 375 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Julio Jones caught 11 passes for 259 yards and one touchdown.
"We didn't get the challenge done tonight. Julio was a big focus for us. Julio won that one," McCarthy said. "They hit us on a couple of double moves. Our boundary communication was poor. Our substitutions were poor in the second half. You have to find ways to win and we've been doing a good job of it at home."
The Packers are 7-0 at home this season. Four of those wins have been by 21 or more points.
"Maybe I could go back and look at what was said at halftime. We haven't played four quarters here much," McCarthy said.
Needing to kill the final 2:11 to secure the win, the Packers nearly scored in the process.
"It's the four-minute offense and it's been excellent," McCarthy said.
"I think everyone understands where we are. We have to go beat Buffalo," McCarthy added.
COMPLETE GAME COVERAGE
Green Bay hosted Atlanta in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football in Week 14. Photos by Jim Biever, Packers.com.