OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Green Bay Packers clinched their franchise-record seventh straight playoff berth Sunday -- and they did it just 9 minutes into the first quarter of their game against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum.
The New York Giants’ 38-35 loss to the undefeated Carolina Panthers -- after the Giants’ furious second-half rally from 28 points down -- ended right around the time Packers safety Micah Hyde picked off a Derek Carr pass, setting up the Packers’ first touchdown of the day.
Green Bay came into Sunday needing either a victory or a combination of losses by Tampa Bay, the Giants or Washington to clinch a playoff berth. The Buccaneers’ loss to St. Louis on Thursday night, and the Giants’ loss Sunday did the trick.
The Packers and New England Patriots are tied for the longest active streak of playoff berths in the NFL, having both made the postseason every year since 2009. The Packers last missed the postseason in 2008, Aaron Rodgers’ first year as the team’s starting quarterback.
After their meltdown in the closing minutes of the NFC Championship Game at Seattle in January, the Packers have greater aspirations than merely reaching the playoffs. After an up-and-down start to the year -- a 6-0 start followed by losing four of their next five games -- they went into Sunday’s game against the Raiders aiming for a three-game winning streak and continued improvement heading toward the postseason.
“I think our mentality is, no matter what the situation was with the playoffs or not, every game’s important. Not for just the playoffs, but kind of get some momentum going these last few weeks so we can springboard into the postseason,” right tackle Bryan Bulaga said at midweek. “There’s really nothing much to talk about the postseason yet because we still have three big games left. [Making the playoffs] is an obvious thing that could happen, but we have to worry about this thing first and then play well and win this game. This is going to be a tough challenge for us.”