Mike McCarthy didn’t like the energy of his Green Bay Packers at times on Sunday, and he apparently didn’t like it at all on Monday.
“Let’s quit walking around like we lost the damn game,” McCarthy said of his message to the players to conclude Monday’s team meeting. “We’re 5-3 whether you like it or not, and we’re going to get better. That’s where we’re going.”
While it’s admirable in some respects for professional athletes to not be satisfied with a win they know had its share of flaws, it’s another to have that mindset bring down an entire team, and that’s what McCarthy was trying to shake with his blunt closing thought.
He felt the Packers’ defense and special teams played “pretty good football” in the 24-15 triumph over the Jaguars. The defense allowed just 108 yards and five first downs after halftime, and Mike McCarthy said the defense “won” more than 70 percent of the downs on the day. Meanwhile, the blocked punt on special teams was the play of the game.
Admittedly not perfect, those units had fewer hiccups than the offense, but it’s a reflection of the offense’s reputation – and the way it had played the previous two weeks – that a sub-standard day tasted so sour, even in victory.
The Packers’ 238 total yards marked their lowest total in two years, since gaining 237 on Halloween 2010 in a Week 8 road game against the Jets. Green Bay also won that game, incidentally.
“There was a lot of good football on that film,” McCarthy said of his team’s third straight win. “Offensively, our technical grade was poor. That’s where our focus is today after going through grading.”
The focus remains on the ground game, which sputtered for the second straight week. Feature back Alex Green gained just 54 yards on 22 carries (2.5 avg.), and while Mike McCarthy acknowledged that James Starks could be worked into the next game plan more, he sounded like he’s sticking with Green.
“Alex Green has earned this opportunity to carry the football,” McCarthy said. “That was not his best game yesterday. He’s seen the film, and the corrections for a young player will be applied as we move forward.”
McCarthy added that it didn’t help Starks that he missed practice last Thursday with an illness. He got in Sunday’s game and gained eight yards on one carry, but McCarthy said he had to pull him back out when situational play calls were needed that he hadn’t practiced.
While reiterating his desire for more “hard yards” from the running game, Mike McCarthy also called on Green to make more tacklers miss. Without mentioning the play specifically, he likely was referring to a third-and-one run in the third quarter on which the Packers brought in backup lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith as an extra tight end. With the play well-blocked, Green gained six yards but was brought down by Jacksonville safety Dawan Landry.
“Short-yardage runs are an excellent opportunity for big runs,” McCarthy said. “When the run-blocking unit gives the back the opportunity to be one-on-one with the safety, those are the type of runs you look for.”
The Packers were lacking explosive plays in general on Sunday, with passes of 20 yards to Jermichael Finley and 31 yards to James Jones the only gains longer than 14 in the game. By contrast, the Jaguars had a dozen plays of 15 yards or more.
That’s not the way that scale usually tips for the Packers, and it’s an area the team wants to flip back to normal with one game to go before the bye.
“We need to do a better job as coaches teaching and demanding. We don’t need to be going backwards,” Mike McCarthy said. “The players need to do a better job of preparing and performing. The second quarter of our season is coming to an end, and it’s very important for us to be 6-3 at the bye. That’s what we’re focused on.”