Coming off their most lopsided loss in almost five years, the Green Bay Packers are humbled but not shaken.
The Packers can get back on track with a fifth consecutive victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Green Bay’s five-game winning streak ended in ugly fashion last week with a 38-10 road loss to the New York Giants. It was the Packers’ worst defeat since a 35-7 loss at Chicago on Dec. 23, 2007.
“Maybe it’s a good reminder of what happens when you don’t come to play,” defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. ‘We’re going to take this as a positive. This will be motivation for us the rest of the year.”
Though Green Bay (7-4) dropped one game behind the NFC North-leading Bears, it still holds the first wild-card spot. Four of the Packers’ final five games are against division opponents, with a showdown in Chicago on Dec. 16.
“Everything we want to accomplish is still in front of us and that’ll be our focus,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I believe in what we’re about as a football team.”
McCarthy, however, also knows his team must improve after the prime-time debacle.
Aaron Rodgers was 14 of 25 for 219 yards with a touchdown, interception and a lost fumble. The Packers couldn’t protect him as he was sacked five times.
Green Bay yielded 147 rushing yards and allowed Eli Manning to throw three TDs while giving up its highest point total of the season.
“You win five in a row and everyone is happy, but like I said last year, there are things that go under the radar that need to be handled,” Rodgers said. “Sometimes it takes a loss. … We need to remember this feeling and not have this kind of embarrassment happen again.”
Green Bay ranks 13th in the NFL with 24.8 points per game after leading the league at 35.0 last season. The offense, though, could get a boost with the expected return of Pro Bowl receiver Greg Jennings who has missed the last seven games with an abdominal injury.
It’s uncertain if linebacker Clay Matthews will be back after sitting out the past two contests with a hamstring injury, and run stopper C.J. Wilson called himself a “long shot” to play after suffering a knee injury. That may especially hurt with Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s leading rusher, coming to town.
“It’s a horrible feeling knowing I won’t be able to play Sunday and help the team with my defense, to stop this beast,” Wilson said.
Regardless of who is on the field, the Packers appear to have a good chance to bounce back as they seek a fifth straight home victory. Green Bay has won two in a row and five of six at home versus Minnesota (6-5), which fell 45-7 at Lambeau last Nov. 14.
Rodgers has completed 72.0 percent of his passes for 1,181 yards with 13 TDs and two INTs during the Packers’ four-game winning streak in the series.
Set to face a second straight division opponent that’s coming off a lopsided loss, Minnesota had two weeks to prepare for a Bears team that fell 32-7 to San Francisco on Nov. 19. The Vikings, though, didn’t put up much of a fight in a 28-10 defeat at Soldier Field last Sunday.
Minnesota dropped numerous passes, committed two turnovers that led to touchdowns and allowed the Bears to convert on 11 of 19 third-down chances.
“I was (surprised),” said Peterson, who recorded his fifth straight 100-yard rushing game with 108 on 18 carries. “We had a great week of practice. We just came out and couldn’t get anything going. We’ve just got to shake it off and move forward.”
Though the Vikings are tied with Seattle and Tampa Bay for the final NFC wild-card spot, they’ve lost to each team and would need to finish with a better record than both to make the playoffs.
Averaging 147.4 yards and 7.4 per carry in the last five games, Peterson hopes for a better performance after he was held to 51 yards and a TD on 14 carries at Green Bay last season.
Not helping matters, the Vikings will again be without Percy Harvin who has been ruled out due to a sprained ankle. Harvin, among the NFL leaders with 62 receptions despite missing the last two games, did some drills Friday but hasn’t been able to fully practice and did not travel with the team for this game.
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