Ryan Wood and Aaron Nagler talk Mike Daniels and Mike McCarthy after the Packers' listless effort against the Colts. (Nov. 7, 2016)
GREEN BAY — Things were more serene inside the Green Bay Packers’ locker room Monday, roughly 18 hours removed from a disparaging loss and the subsequent fit of rage from defensive end Mike Daniels.
With reporters in the locker room Sunday evening, after the Indianapolis Colts secured a 31-26 win, Daniels retreated to the showers and unleashed several weeks of frustration. He was dumbfounded over this recent stretch of instability, and the chosen method of expression involved diction choices unsuitable for print.
Daniels had calmed by the time he spoke to the media Monday afternoon, inasmuch as the team’s most fiery leader is capable of biting his tongue. His message remained sharp despite the softening in tone.
“That wasn’t singing in the shower," radioman Mark Daniels said.
“No it wasn’t,” Mike Daniels replied.
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His shower-stall hailstorm personified the malcontent flowing through the organization over the last two days. The Packers, a team chosen as the prohibitive Super Bowl favorite, were inexplicably reeling at the midway point of the season. A moment for top-to-bottom reassessment had hastily arrived.
As Daniels shrieked in private, his teammates bemoaned what they described as a lack of energy. The Packers trailed within 13 seconds as Jordan Todman ran 99 yards on the opening kick. What should have been a harsh awakening seemed to thicken their obstructive haze.
Said quarterback Aaron Rodgers: “We just started off with uncharacteristically low energy for whatever reason and then didn’t really respond well early in the game.”
Said wide receiver Davante Adams: “You can’t pace yourself through a game like this, especially at home and especially right before we’re going on the road for three games. You’ve got to do it. You’ve got to get it done.”
Said right tackle Bryan Bulaga: “We didn’t play with enough juice tonight, especially in that first half.”
It was a message echoed by coach Mike McCarthy during his halftime and postgame speeches, both of which, as it turned out, were delivered to the same morbid bunch.
The Packers, pegged by oddsmakers as seven-point favorites over the Colts, returned to the locker room with a 14-point deficit through two quarters. They exited with a sickening defeat two quarters later.
“I’m irritated with the fact that we were not sharp as a football team,” McCarthy said after the game.
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By Monday, however, McCarthy had softened his stance when it came to his team’s effort. After watching the film he thought “the energy was pretty good” and instead he found fault with smaller things like “attention to detail” and, once again, overall “sharpness.”
“I'm looking for speed, I'm looking for physicality, in the urgency, in the decisions,” McCarthy said Monday. “And a lot of that is body language, assertiveness, conversations, how things are corrected, how you're moving forward. So that wasn't 100 percent the way it needed to be in particular points of the game.
“If you want to capture that and put that in the category of … energy like I did to the team after the game, that’s the reality of what happened. Our guys played with a lot of energy, but we were not clean in a number of different situations and they took advantage of it.”
When you consider the totality of McCarthy’s description, he is coveting players who exert determination, aggression and passion, which is where Daniels reenters the conversation. After all, Daniels is the one who praised the re-signing of nose tackle Letroy Guion this past offseason because, as he said at the time, “you can’t win a Super Bowl with nice guys on defense.”
“He’s got a lot of pride, a lot of passion and it bothers him when things don’t go the way we want them to go,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “I’ll take that in any of our players. I have no issue with that whatsoever. I think the world of Mike as a leader and what he brings to our defense. You know anything he verbalizes, behind it is (a message) to hopefully help us out.”
Daniels admitted Monday that the postgame outburst was directed at some of his teammates, though he offered no further details. But there were other people inside that shower and they absorbed his expletive-ridden tirade.
He was furious because the pass rush fell flat against two offensive lines — the Colts' and Falcons' — that have been exposed on a weekly basis throughout the season. The Colts allowed 31 sacks entering Sunday’s game, most in the league through the first eight weeks, yet it was quarterback Aaron Rodgers who would be brought down the most.
“The matchups were there,” Daniels said. “You could see it on paper. We didn’t take advantage of it. Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing. We’ve got to be better. If it doesn’t piss you off, then that’s an issue. I think we have a lot of people who are pretty angry.
“We can't keep letting games get away from us. The type of talent we have in this locker room, you know, we've got to make the most of it. Right now we're not doing that and you know we've just got to play better.”
Their next opportunity is Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, and the black-and-white matchups appear considerably less favorable: Whereas Luck had been sacked more than 30 times, a handful above any quarterback in the league, the Titans have been medieval in their protection of Marcus Mariota. They’ve allowed 12 sacks in nine games while the league leaders — Cowboys, Raiders and Redskins — have yielded 11.
The Packers need a reaction, and Daniels is happy to provide.
“It's got to be a violent one,” he said. “It has to be noticeable, like this team is pissed off. They're angry. Somebody pissed in their Cheerios this morning, you know what I mean? That's what it's got to be when you step on to that field. It has to be noticeable, and if it's not? Then we're not getting it done.”