A forward-looking Mike McCarthy says the Packers will rise to the occasion for Saturday's rematch.
By PAUL IMIGFS Wisconsin
GREEN BAY, Wis. --Packers coach Mike McCarthy wanted a first-round bye in the playoffs. But 13 hours after losing Sunday to the Minnesota Vikings and missing out on the right to bypass the postseason's opening weekend, McCarthy wasn't dwelling on his team's demotion to the NFC's No. 3 seed.
"There's nothing but positives right now," McCarthy said Monday morning. "This is playoff football, and really, yes, we had every intention of winning the game in Minnesota. It didn't work. I'm not just fluffing it by, but you have to because the door is open for the playoffs to begin.
"We're one of six teams that have the opportunity to fight to go to New Orleans, and that's what we're focused on."
The Vikings are also one of those six teams with a chance to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, a spot they earned by winning their last four regular-season games. But the Packers won't have to wait long for a rematch with Minnesota as the division rivals will meet Saturday night at Lambeau Field.
"This is a whole different deal," McCarthy said. "This is the time of year that our players live for, work for. We have a high percentage of players in the locker room that have been there every year the last couple of years, so they know what this is all about. This is what we start back in the OTAs for; it's the playoffs.
"It doesn't matter who we play, where we play them, we feel confident that we're going to get it done and do whatever we need to get it done."
Green Bay's defense will have to play much better than it did Sunday in order to advance past the Vikings. Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 199 yards, but some level of success should be expected from such a dominant player. Allowing second-year quarterback Christian Ponder to throw for 234 yards with three touchdown passes and no interceptions -- while only being sacked once -- is something else entirely.
"We'll make our adjustments to get our team ready to go," McCarthy said. "But this is about playoff football, and you've got to do all the little things all the time for four quarters, and that's one thing we can learn from yesterday."
This will be the third time in five weeks the Packers and Vikings will play. The first game, a 23-14 Green Bay win on Dec. 2, dropped Minnesota to 6-6 and one loss away from being eliminated from postseason contention. Now, one of McCarthy's biggest challenges in preparation for Saturday night's game is facing a team that is very familiar with everything the Packers do.
"Like I tell the team, it doesn't matter who comes out of that tunnel," McCarthy said. "I don't care what color they have on, we'll know what their tendencies are. We're going to make them line up a certain way on offense, and on defense we're going to line up the way they line up. It's about fundamentals, matchups and that's what we're focused on."
McCarthy also had a message for Packers fans.
"Someone said something about you selling tickets; don't do that," he said. "I want you out in full support. It will be a great environment; Saturday night football in Lambeau Field. The Vikings obviously have done a great job to get into the tournament, and we respect that. But this is a different deal.
"This is what everybody's been fighting for, and this is what we're excited about."