With Saturday evening's 24-16 win over the visiting Carolina Panthers, the Green Bay Packers moved to 11-3, increased their lead atop the NFC and moved ever closer to clinching homefield advantage for the first time since 2011.
But from the sound of MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers' postgame musings, you wouldn't know it.
"This is one of those disappointing wins the way that we played in the second half. So I have a sour taste in my mouth how we played in the second half," Rodgers told NFL Network following the victory. "We've got to get back to the drawing board. That kind of football is not going to beat a lot of teams. We won the game, we're 11-3. It's been a successful season so far, but we've got plans about making a run and the way we played on offense we're not going to beat anybody in the playoffs."
If life in the NFL is about how you finish, not how you start, then Rodgers is right to be displeased with Green Bay's display on Saturday night.
The Packers enjoyed a dominant first half against Carolina, reaching the end zone on their first three drives and entering halftime with a three-score 21-3 lead. But Green Bay's offense stalled in the later frames, going three-and-out on three second-half drives and enjoying just one march of at least five plays, a 10-play drive that ended with a field goal outside the Panthers' red zone. Meanwhile, Green Bay's defense allowed Carolina to sneak to within one possession by the early fourth quarter, and the Panthers had the ball with the chance to tie the game late in the proceedings.
All this left a rotten taste in the mouth of Rodgers, who on Saturday should have been celebrating after becoming the first QB in NFL history to record three seasons of at least 40 passing TDs.
"I think we just haven't put together a four-quarter game," Rodgers added in his postgame presser. "We've had some really good stretches, I think, in that stretch, just not four quarters of football way too many times. Tonight we had a couple good quarters and a couple stinkers. That's just not consistent winning football, so we've got to figure out offensively what happened there in the second half and get ready for a good football team coming in."
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, Green Bay can afford such stinkers. The Packers now have a half-game lead in the standings on the 10-3 New Orleans Saints, who host the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday afternoon. Green Bay also has the higher ground in the race for the NFC's top seed because of their win over New Orleans earlier in the season. A Saints loss to K.C. would put the Packers in position to clinch the conference with a win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 16 and some help in the NFC West.
But Green Bay can't get away with subpar or merely average play in the postseason. The Packers learned that the hard way against San Francisco in last year's NFC Championship Game. The last thing they want is to suffer that same type of embarrassment again, this time likely at home in the Frozen Tundra.
"We'll look at all of it. It is frustrating, but we're 11-3, we won the game. That's a good problem to have," Rodgers said. "We just know that type of football in the second half is not going to get it done in the playoffs. That's where we're going, that's the trajectory that we're on. We're going to at least host a home playoff game. We win these next two, we're going to be the one seed, so we need to play better these next two weeks."