GREEN BAY, Wis. — Getting a week off sounds great to the Green Bay Packers.
It’s looking even better now, too.
The Packers moved up to the No. 2 seed in the NFC on Sunday with their 55-7 thrashing of the Tennessee Titans and Seattle’s victory over San Francisco. Beat the Minnesota Vikings next weekend, and the Packers (11-4) can spend the first week of the playoffs parked on the couch.
“Everything happens for a reason. We have 11 wins because of what we’ve put into it and we’re going to take whatever opportunity is in front of us,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’re going to play to win next week.”
The Vikings can consider themselves warned.
Aaron Rodgers threw for three touchdowns and ran for another against the Titans, Ryan Grant scored twice and the Packers made Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker look like a tackling dummy with seven sacks. It was the most points scored by the Packers since they put up the same number against Tampa Bay on Oct. 2, 1983, and their largest margin of victory since a 52-3 win over New Orleans on Oct. 9, 2005.
The 55 points were the most allowed by the Titans (5-10) since they were shut out 59-0 by the New England Patriots on Oct. 18, 2009. Tennessee was in danger of being blanked again until Kenny Britt’s 2-yard reception with 1:39 left in the game.
“They’re a good football team,” Titans safety Jordan Babineaux said. “They’re a playoff team for a reason.”
And there’s a reason all of the Titans should be concerned about their job security.
After finishing 9-7 and missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker last year, Tennessee has faded to the back of the AFC. This was the Titans’ sixth loss in eight games, and the second time this season they’ve given up 51 points or more. Yes, the Titans have been ravaged by injuries — they started their fifth offensive line combination Sunday and were without leading receiver Kendall Wright — but they were simply outclassed by the Packers.
“It got uglier than it needed to,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “We needed to make a stand somewhere and we didn’t. I would never have thought this possible because I felt we had been playing better. But today we did not. Obviously we took a step back as a team when you lose by that number. It’s only one loss, but it’s embarrassing to lose by that score.”
In addition to his seven sacks, Locker was picked off twice and finished 13 of 30 for 140 yards for a quarterback rating of 41.0. Tennessee managed to cross midfield just three times the entire game. After holding their last five opponents to an average of 17.6 points, the Titans had no answer for Rodgers and the Packers. Green Bay scored on nine of its first 12 drives — one of those misses was the end of the first half — and was six of seven in the red zone.
“It was important for us to go out and dominate the opponents late in the year,” McCarthy said. “We have momentum going for us, particularly what we’ve done over the last nine weeks, ten weeks, so we wanted to take the next step as a football team and I felt we were able to accomplish that today.”
Now the Packers can turn their attention to the Vikings. And locking up that No. 2 seed.
Green Bay won the Super Bowl two years as a wild card. Last year, the Packers got that first week off as the No. 1 seed and were promptly bounced out in the divisional round.
But there’s a different mentality to this group, which has been hardened by a rough start and a locker room that’s looked more like an infirmary what with all its injuries.
Charles Woodson (collarbone) missed his eighth straight game Sunday and Jordy Nelson (hamstring) his third, and the Packers were down to two running backs — neither of whom was on the active roster at the beginning of December — because of injuries to Alex Green and James Starks. The offensive line is being held together with bandages and tape, and injuries to ends C.J. Wilson and Jerel Worthy have left the defensive line thin, too.
“Me, personally, I’d love to have the bye,” said Clay Matthews, who missed four games with a hamstring injury. “This team is more mentally tough than last year and that we understand what we need to accomplish and we can’t just skate into the playoffs, which we did last year. We’re taking this victory, but even more so, we’re getting closer.”