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Tuesday, September 23, 2008 2:44:43 PM(UTC)
[img_r]http://i.packers.com/images/action/080922grant215.jpg[/img_r]Wins and losses are always the bottom line, but if there's one thing a head coach wants to see regardless of the final score, particularly early in a long season, it's improvement on a week-to-week basis.
But the Packers did not improve from their second game to their third, Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday, and fundamentals were the primary culprit.
"The thing that was disappointing from a coaching standpoint, and we have to take accountability for it, was we just weren't as detailed and as clean in some areas as we needed to be," McCarthy said of the 27-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. "I thought our football team played with tremendous energy. There was a lot of positive plays on the field, but the mistakes that were made, they definitely capitalized on them."
One key mistake McCarthy kept referring to was a defensive misalignment that led to Felix Jones' 60-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that put Dallas ahead for good. Another was missed blitz pickups that led to sacks.
"Most of our problems encountered not doing the little things," McCarthy said. "Not being in the proper leverage, not playing to your help, not finishing a block. Just all the fundamentals, and that's what coaching is about, and we need to do a better job getting it out of our players."
Several times during the course of his coaching tenure, McCarthy has taken additional time out during practice to focus on fundamentals. This week could be one of those times, with four more games (including three against 2007 playoff teams) coming before the bye week.
McCarthy did think his team responded to the adversity it faced in the game, particularly with injuries mounting and players substituting regularly. As for the adversity of the first loss of the season, McCarthy doesn't doubt his team will bounce back, but he's also remaining realistic with 13 regular-season games remaining.
"I don't think that this is the most adverse situation that we're going to encounter this year," he said. "I hope it is, because I think it will be really good days for the Green Bay Packers."
Red zone and third down
[ul]The Packers' two biggest failures offensively against the Cowboys were in the red zone and on third downs, and those elements converged at critical times.
For the game, Green Bay converted just 4-of-14 times on third down, with Aaron Rodgers getting sacked three times on third-down pass plays. Two of those third-down sacks came in the red zone, forcing the Packers to settle for field goals when they had moved inside the Dallas 10-yard line.
"When you get that close to the end zone, you definitely don't want to settle for three points," receiver James Jones said. "We're fixing things, we'll come back strong for Tampa Bay and get them corrected."
The Packers did not make good on a red-zone trip until late in the fourth quarter, when Rodgers scored on a quarterback sneak.
The third-down failures also contributed to just 21 rushing attempts total for the Packers. McCarthy said the goal was to run the ball around 30 times, but the inability to sustain drives took away opportunities for more running.
"We had four yards per carry, but the third-down conversions hurt us," McCarthy said. "We had some favorable third downs that we didn't convert, third-and-2, third-and-4. I thought the running game was effective, I thought it was OK, if you're looking for a grade, but we had zero explosive gains, so that's not what you're looking for there. We thought we'd have some opportunities for the ball to come out."[/ul]
Line may change
[ul]McCarthy didn't commit to returning Scott Wells to his starting center position and shifting Jason Spitz back to guard, but he said the coaching staff would be talking about that possible move during game-planning over the next couple of days.
Wells was inactive the first two games of the season with a pinched nerve in his back. He was healthy and active on Sunday against Dallas but did not play, as the Packers stuck with Spitz at center and Tony Moll at right guard.
McCarthy said in grading the film, Moll had his ups and downs and the coaching staff would begin discussing the offensive line on Monday night.[/ul]
[ul]In the secondary, cornerback Al Harris, who had cramping as well as blood in his urine during Sunday's game, was still having tests done at the time of McCarthy's press conference, so there was no update on his status. Fellow cornerback Charles Woodson didn't seem to be any worse off with his toe injury than prior to the game, and safety Nick Collins has a bruised lower back.
Meanwhile Jones sprained the same knee he injured during the preseason and was also having a wrist injury checked out. He didn't know yet if the wrist injury is a fracture or a sprain. Linebacker Nick Barnett also has an elbow strain.
The only new injury McCarthy reported on Monday was a hamstring strain for running back Kregg Lumpkin. McCarthy didn't think it was anywhere near the concern that Ryan Grant's hamstring has been.[/ul]
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