GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy clings to his belief in his offense and in his team. It's what the Packers will take to Washington next weekend.
"Disappointing loss for us at home; that's stating the obvious. We didn't do enough to win a big game," the Packers head coach said following a 20-13 loss to the Vikings on Sunday night. It clinched the NFC North title for the Vikings, and with it the dubious reward of having to face the Seahawks in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
The Packers, the NFC's No. 5 seed, will play in Washington at 3:40 p.m. CT on Sunday. It's not that the matchup is daunting, it's that it comes with the sting of a season that has been unfulfilling, especially since the start of November.
"We need to turn the page. The playoff season is here. We know how to win. We know what it takes to win," McCarthy said in his postgame remarks.
He repeated the theme several times: "We know how to score points here. We need to do a better job. It's going to be important come Sunday night in Washington," McCarthy said.
For three quarters, the Packers offense managed only three points. In the fourth quarter, it came to life, triggered by its passing attack.
"We didn't run the ball with two tight (ends) and two backs, and that was disappointing," McCarthy said of a game plan that was bent on running the ball. Eight of the Packers' first nine plays were runs.
The game plan was possibly the reason for moving Josh Sitton from guard to left tackle, as starting left tackle David Bakhtiari was unable to play due to an ankle injury. Sitton is the Packers' best run blocker. He found himself matched up against defensive end Everson Griffen.
"In my opinion, he was playing against their best player," McCarthy said of Sitton. "We talked about it earlier in the week. We had a couple of combinations we repped. Josh was excited about the opportunity. We thought it was the best decision for tonight's game."
Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times. One of those sacks resulted in a fumble that was forced by Griffen and returned 55 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. It would be the game-winning touchdown.
Check out photos from Sunday night's Packers-Vikings NFC North title game. Photos by Jim Biever, Packers.com.
Rodgers rallied the Packers by throwing for 166 yards in the fourth quarter. He drove the Packers to the Vikings 13, where he faced a fourth-and-goal play with 2:18 remaining. His pass for James Jones was intercepted by Xavier Rhodes.
Prior to the play, Rodgers took a time out to avoid a delay-of-game penalty.
"I didn't have a good play called there. It was the right thing to do," McCarthy said.
The lost time out hurt the Packers the next time they got the ball, at their 42-yard line with :58 to play. The final play of the game was a Hail Mary that fell incomplete.
"I know it's important going into the playoffs playing well. You have to take care of the football. The coaches are responsible for giving our players a good scheme. With that, they have to make good decisions and execute. We believe in our football team," McCarthy said.
"We know what we did wrong tonight. We know what we did right. We have an understanding of how we want to play in Washington. We need to get healthy. Hopefully, we'll be a healthier team come Wednesday," he added.