For anyone who thinks the NFL is predictable, ponder this: Green Bay loses and Indianapolis wins.
On the same Sunday.
At about the same time the Colts’ plummet toward ignominy — and 0-16 — ended with a victory over Tennessee, the Packers’ pursuit of perfection also was stopped. Yep, the winless won and the undefeated fell.
The Packers’ 19-game winning streak, second longest in NFL history, was snapped with a 19-14 loss at Kansas City, a team that was routed by 27 points last weekend, then fired its coach. Defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay (13-1) won’t have to put up with questions about an undefeated season any more.
"I personally always viewed the undefeated season as, really, just gravy," coach Mike McCarthy said. "The goal was to get home-field advantage and win the Super Bowl. That’s what we discussed."
The Packers already own the NFC North title and still have the edge in the conference, two games ahead of New Orleans and 2 1/2 in front of San Francisco, which hosts Pittsburgh on Monday night. Losing to an AFC opponent, even one that is only 6-8 after this victory and replaced Todd Haley with Romeo Crennel after that debacle at the Jets a week ago, wasn’t particularly damaging. Nonconference games have little effect on postseason tiebreakers.
"I think our goal ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl. The next step is getting that No. 1 seed in the playoffs," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had one of his least-productive performances in the last year. Rodgers was 17 of 35 for 235 yards, threw for a touchdown and ran for one. "We’ve got a home playoff game — we’ve got a bye secured."
McCarthy has said for weeks the Packers will confront 16-0 when they get to 15-0. They won’t be getting there, emulating the 1998 Broncos, who also won 13 in a row and then lost. Those Broncos repeated as NFL champs.
"We were fortunate enough to be in the position to possibly achieve the undefeated season," McCarthy added, "but we still have the primary goal in front of us, and that’s to get home-field advantage."
Indy’s primary goal in this lost year was to avoid a completely lost season, as in 0-16. That humiliation won’t happen after the Colts stunned Tennessee 27-13 following 13 straight defeats.
Yes, the Colts finally won one without Peyton Manning.
"I’m happy for a lot of people on this team, for a lot of people in this organization," said Dan Orlovsky, the latest replacement at quarterback for Manning, who hasn’t played all season after neck surgery. "It’s a lot better than the feeling we’ve had lately."
Only one team, the 2008 Lions, went 0-16. Orlovsky played for them, too.
"I think in my career, I’ve learned not to take (wins) for granted," Orlovsky said, drawing polite laughter.
Sunday was the third time in NFL history that a team without a loss was beaten and a team without a win was victorious on the same day at least 11 games into a season. The previous two: Dec. 13, 1953, with Cleveland falling after 11 wins, and the Chicago Cardinals winning after going 0-10-1; and Nov. 18, 1984, when Miami lost after an 11-0 start, and Buffalo won after going 0-11.
"It means a lot, but we’re a proud ballclub, so one game out of 13 or 14, we still have a ways to go," Colts defensive end Robert Mathis said. "Everybody held the fort today. We just kept chopping wood and the tree fell today."
Despite the victory, the Colts still have the inside track for the top overall pick in the draft, which many believe will be Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. St. Louis and Minnesota have only two wins, though, so if Indy finds another victory — the Colts finish home for Houston and at Jacksonville — the Rams or Vikings could sneak into the top spot.
The league’s overall top spot still belongs to Green Bay; no one else has as few as two defeats. Green Bay finishes with home games against division rivals Chicago and Detroit, and might have a renewed focus after the flop in KC.
McCarthy certainly will be asking his players all week how their first loss since 31-27 at New England last Dec. 19 feels.