Late Drive, Like Record: Perfect

Rodgers-Driver (Al Bello/Getty)

The Packers clinched the NFC North while on the way back to Green Bay, but that barely caused a stir for a team with much loftier expectations. At 12-0, the Packers do have some injury issues with Oakland coming to town.

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are playing so well that they can even pull off a last-minute, game-winning drive with relatively little drama.

Tied with the New York Giants on the road and starting at their 20-yard line with 58 seconds left Sunday, the Packers moved down the field quickly. Rodgers threw to Jermichael Finley for 24 yards, then hit Jordy Nelson for 27 yards.

After the only hiccup of the drive, a short pass to running back Brandon Saine that lost 1 yard, Rodgers found Greg Jennings for an 18-yard gain to set up Mason Crosby's 30-yard field goal to win the game.

No dicey third-and-long conversions, no flinging the ball out of bounds under pressure. Just boom, boom, boom, boom.

''That was as clean of a two-minute drive that I think I've been a part of,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday.

Now the Packers are 12-0 — and NFC North champions after Detroit lost Sunday night, as players found out on the flight home.

Packers football administration coordinator Matt Klein made the announcement as the team plane taxied to its gate. And in an indication of the Packers' approach to this season, news of clinching the division didn't exactly kick off a wild celebration.

''I don't think anybody blinked, to be honest with you,'' McCarthy said. ''I don't know if they were tired, or they already knew, just with the internet and so forth on the plane. But I think pretty much everybody knew about it by the time we landed. It's just the first goal. It's the first mile marker that we set out to hit on this journey, and now we're on to the next one.''

Next up is Oakland at Lambeau Field on Sunday, and the Packers are dealing with a few more injuries.

Backup tight end Andrew Quarless is out for the season with what Packers coach McCarthy described as a ''significant'' knee injury. Quarless appeared to hurt his right knee Sunday, and will need surgery.

Charles Woodson left Sunday's game with a concussion and is going through the NFL-mandated protocol to receive medical clearance. McCarthy said the team's medical staff is optimistic Woodson will be able to play Sunday.

''I haven't seen Charles,'' defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. ''I understand that he'll have to go through the normal procedure. Obviously, we're hoping that that all works itself out. Obviously, we'd like to see Charles back.''

Running back James Starks sustained another ankle injury and his status is unclear. Three players who missed Sunday's game — linebackers A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop, along with guard Josh Sitton — will be tested again before practice Wednesday.

After another big win, McCarthy again found himself fending off talk about how he might handle his team if it continues to close in on a perfect season.

But McCarthy did acknowledge that having to pull off a last-minute victory was a healthy situation for his offense to be in, just in case the Packers face a similar test as the season goes on.

''We needed that as an offense,'' McCarthy said. ''We needed that opportunity. Aaron's an excellent manager at the line of scrimmage, let alone his ability to play the position. And it was great for us to do that, especially in that environment. That's something we can definitely draw from.''

McCarthy said the Packers spend part of their Thursday quarterback meetings discussing plays they might use in two-minute drives, differentiating between situations where they have more than a minute or less than a minute left to move the ball. McCarthy talked about Rodgers working ''right off the script'' Sunday, although he said his play calls in the two-minute drill are not strictly scripted.

''There's no absolutes,'' McCarthy said. ''I've lived in that world where you try to script the first 15 plays and to me, they're more, the first 15 thoughts. There are things that can happen during the course of the game — you may have run that play three times already in the course of a game, or two times, so you maybe don't want to go back to it. We have a long list.''

McCarthy didn't want to downplay the significance of clinching the division; he said players will get commemorative hats and shirts, joking that he didn't get his yet but is ''sure you can get them'' in the team's retail store.

Still, McCarthy made it clear that his team has plenty more to play for.

''There's so much more in front of us to accomplish,'' he said. ''And that's why we continue to stay focused on what's that (next) point, and that point is the Oakland Raiders.''


Follow Associated Press writer Chris Jenkins on Twitter at twitter.com/ByChrisJenkins.

PackerReport.com Recommended Stories