Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy stood in the middle of the locker room at halftime on Sunday, right in the center of the large ‘G’ on the green and gold carpeting, and had two words for his team.
Flat and sloppy.
That was McCarthy’s assessment of how the Packers played in the second quarter against the Buffalo Bills and the primary reason why his team was barely clinging to a 13-7 lead at Lambeau Field.
Actually, McCarthy used more than two words — not all of them printable — and wasn’t shy about speaking up.
“He likes to raise his voice; that’s his way of getting our attention,” Packers linebacker Brady Poppinga said. “I think for a lot of guys it’s probably the best way to communicate or otherwise they’re not going to listen. It’s just the human nature of us all. When he raises his voice and gives his little look, you tune in, you listen and you take what he says obviously very seriously.”
McCarthy gave his team a stern look, and his halftime message was unmistakable. The Packers’ lousy second-quarter performance was unacceptable, and it was time to drop the hammer.
“That’s Coach, he has a lot of fire in him,” running back Brandon Jackson said.
“Any time Coach McCarthy speaks, he gets our attention. It’s just like, you don’t want to disappoint him. You want to go out and play your best, play your hardest. He jumped on us a little bit, but we came out in second half and answered.”
The Packers transformed a lethargic second-quarter effort into a blowout 34-7 victory and in the process made their coach proud.
“That’s not the way we play,” McCarthy said of his team’s first-half swoon. “And we addressed it at halftime and our players responded.”
The Bills ran roughshod over the Packers’ defense in the second quarter to the tune of 62 rushing yards, seven first downs and a touchdown. Meanwhile, the sputtering offense produced minus-4 net yards, no first downs and two punts.
It got so bad that near the end of the first half, McCarthy didn’t bother to call a timeout to give the offense one final scoring chance. “I didn’t like the way we were playing at that particular time,” he said.
And he let his team know it in no uncertain terms.
“He came in here and you could see it on his face,” linebacker Nick Barnett said.
There’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned butt-chewing to get your blood boiling and your team motivated.
By McCarthy standards, this wasn’t nearly as bad as some of his past rants.
“In his younger days a few years ago, it was pretty much everything was pretty vulgar,” Poppinga said. “Nowadays I think it’s a lot cleaner. I think it would be PG-13ish. You know his tone. There’s a certain tone that he wants to get a message across that you need to listen to. And you listen, you tune in and make adjustments.”
The Packers came out of the locker room with ringing ears and fire in their eyes. The defense forced a turnover on the Bills’ opening drive, and the offense scored touchdowns on its first three possessions.
It was stunningly efficient, and the shell-shocked Bills never had a chance.
“We came in at halftime and it’s like, this is not the ball we play,” tight end Jermichael Finley said. “We’re trying to achieve greatness around here. We’re not trying to be average.”
Flat and sloppy isn’t going to cut it in McCarthy’s locker room.
Mike Vandermause is sports editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.