Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers should have been feeling satisfied.
With Sunday’s 46-16 rout of the Oakland Raiders, the Packers brushed aside a playoff contender by halftime to win their 19th straight, clinched a first-round bye and moved a game away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs – and at 13-0, they kept the possibility of a perfect season squarely in sight.
Instead, Rodgers seemed concerned about the health of star wide receiver Greg Jennings, who left the game with an apparent left knee injury in the third quarter.
”Well, it didn’t look very good,” Rodgers said. ”So we’ll see what the MRI says tomorrow. And hopefully, we’ve got a bye wrapped up, so he really has close to five weeks before our (playoff) game.”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy was more guarded, classifying the injury as a sprain and saying that it warranted further evaluation.
Jennings’ injury put a damper on what was otherwise one of the Packers’ most complete performances of the season. Rodgers threw for 281 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in less than three quarters’ worth of work, Ryan Grant had two touchdowns rushing and Charles Woodson picked off a pass against his former team.
McCarthy still isn’t interested in talking about the possibility of the Packers going 16-0, but his level of confidence is clear.
”(If we’re) taking care of things and keeping our focus on improving the quality of play, I don’t think we can be beat,” McCarthy said. ”You could have asked me that six years ago, I would have said the same damn thing. That’s the way we think around here.”
Rodgers got an early rest in the blowout, as backup Matt Flynn took over late in the third.
”This is the kind of game you want to play going into the playoffs,” Rodgers said.
Carson Palmer threw for 245 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions for the Raiders (7-6), who looked like anything but legitimate contenders in the AFC West.
”I’m not going to let this team keep going backwards,” coach Hue Jackson said. ”The last two weeks, we haven’t come close to playing or looking like the football team we’ve been.”
Oakland was without injured running back Darren McFadden, along with wide receivers Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore. And the Raiders made plenty of mistakes to help an opponent that doesn’t really need it.
”You are not going to beat a high school team with the penalties and mistakes (like) the ones that we made,” linebacker Aaron Curry said. ”You make a lot of mistakes, you lose.”
Palmer threw an interception on the Raiders’ first possession, and Oakland committed eight penalties in the first half alone.
And while the Packers’ play has been far from perfect for most of the season, especially on defense, this one was total domination. Things got out of hand so quickly that the Raiders tried a fake punt in the second quarter. As was the case for most things the Raiders attempted Sunday, it didn’t work.
Grant rediscovered his big-play ability for the Packers, breaking a 47-yard run two plays after Palmer threw an interception to rookie linebacker D.J. Smith on the Raiders’ first possession.
The Packers were without injured running back James Starks, who had surpassed Grant in the Packers’ rotation. Until that play, Grant hadn’t looked like his explosive old self for most of the season.
After a defensive stop, Rodgers directed a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard scoring pass to Ryan Taylor – the rookie’s first career touchdown.
Trailing 31-0 with about six minutes left in the half, the Raiders tried the fake punt. But Shane Lechler threw high to Rock Cartwright for an incompletion, and the Packers took over at the Oakland 28-yard line.
The Raiders finally got on the scoreboard in the third quarter when Michael Bush ran for a 2-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 34-7.
Packers outside linebacker Erik Walden scored on a fumble return late in the third quarter. Walden has been in trouble off the field and was charged Wednesday with misdemeanor disorderly conduct-domestic abuse following an altercation with his girlfriend.
Rodgers – who took three sacks and was hit hard several other times as the Packers rotated offensive linemen – figured his day was done after that.
”I’m sure tomorrow I’ll be a little sore, and Tuesday as well, but nothing that I’m worried about,” Rodgers said.
Now the Packers are looking forward to the chance to clinch home-field advantage at Kansas City next Sunday.
”Obviously, there’s no other team that can say they’re 13-0 right now and on the precipice of doing something great,” Clay Matthews said. ”But there’s still a lot left that we need to accomplish. If you really want to look into it, the regular season does mean a whole lot if you get to the playoffs. So we’re setting ourselves up nicely.”
Notes: McCarthy said defensive lineman Ryan Pickett and running back Brandon Saine both sustained concussions. … The Packers set a franchise record with 466 points, topping the previous record of 461 points in 2009. … The Raiders ran into an odd spell of bad luck on the second-half kickoff, when Green Bay’s Randall Cobb appeared to step out of bounds during a 50-yard return. Officials said the replay system was malfunctioning, and the Raiders couldn’t challenge.