As he rehashed his offense’s forgettable second half in Indianapolis, Mike McCarthy on Monday sounded perfectly aware that the Packers’ run-pass balance got out of whack.
But, unlike the Seattle game when McCarthy admitted he should have adjusted the offensive plan sooner, he emphasized that the Colts’ defense – playing without two of its top three cornerbacks – was inviting the Packers to throw the ball.
“A lot of our decisions are made on how they play us,” McCarthy said. “I thought they gave us some opportunities to go outside. They’re a football team that had a number of injuries, and like always, you look at matchups and you try to take advantage of those.”
Coming out of halftime with a 21-3 lead, the Packers called 12 pass plays and just three runs on their first three possessions of the second half, including seven passes in a row to start. A holding penalty and a sack didn’t help, and those drives produced an interception, a punt, two first downs and a missed field goal.
By the time the Packers got the ball for a fourth time in the second half, the lead was just 21-19, and any semblance of the offensive rhythm from the first half was gone. The Packers gained just 32 net yards on their next three possessions, with Aaron Rodgers getting sacked four more times in that span, before the offense finally rebounded with 96 yards on their last two drives. Those led to a touchdown and another missed field goal.
Alex Green’s 41-yard run late in the fourth quarter to set up the TD was the Packers’ biggest play of the game, and it was probably the insistence on throwing the ball that contributed to its success. But McCarthy viewed the early second-half passes as missed opportunities based on the Colts’ personnel and scheme.
“I thought we had some favorable matchups outside,” he said. “We don’t just line up sometimes and run it or just line up and throw it. We do a lot of things at the line of scrimmage. The way they play on defense factors if it’s run or pass.
“I don’t think you just line up and count your 10 runs and your 10 passes and that’s balanced. I don’t believe in that philosophy.”
The Colts, meanwhile, clearly believed in feeding receiver Reggie Wayne the ball, and the Packers couldn’t stop it. McCarthy said the Packers adjusted their coverage on Wayne in the second half after he caught six passes for 104 yards in the first half, but Wayne simply beat them. He caught seven more passes for 108 yards in the second half, including six for 54 and a TD on the game-winning drive.
“He was able to defeat our double that we had on him a number of times,” McCarthy said.
The loss left the team “disappointed,” McCarthy said, but still “confident” as they prepare to play what might be the AFC’s best team, the Houston Texans, on the road in a prime-time game.
The Packers will be without running back Cedric Benson, whose sprained foot is in a walking boot. He has already been ruled out for this week and further testing was being done on his foot Monday afternoon.
Defensive lineman B.J. Raji’s injured ankle is also in a boot, and tight end Jermichael Finley has a banged-up shoulder, but McCarthy gave both of them a “chance” to play this week.
At 2-3 and approaching perhaps a crossroads to the season, McCarthy sounded like a coach who was going to challenge his players on the practice field, beginning Wednesday.
“Our practice, frankly, is not quite what it needs to be, and I think it’s showing up on Sundays,” he said. “That was part of my message today, and I have to get that out of them. That’s my responsibility.
“We have to stay focused on our habits, our discipline, our preparation … the process leading up to Sunday night.”